The first full week of fall is upon us, bringing with it appearances by old friends, the emergence of new clubs and an abundance of harvest festivals and early Halloween frights. Keep reading for the 21 best things to do in Denver through October 1.
Tuesday, September 25
A stage musical with more on its mind than hummable tunes and show-stopping dance numbers — though rest assured, there's no shortage of either — Dear Evan Hansen is a fearlessly honest journey through adolescence. Steven Levenson's tale of a socially anxious teen who gets caught up in a reputation-burnishing web of lies earned critical acclaim and heartfelt appreciation for its unflinching depictions of teenage years marred by social pressures, mental illness and the tragedy of young suicide. Winner of six Tony Awards, the Broadway sensation will be at the Buell Theatre, in the Denver Performing Arts Complex, from Tuesday, September 25, to October 13. The premiere performance starts at 7:30 p.m.; find tickets, $40 to $145, and details at denvercenter.org.
The Black Actors Guild might sound like a frumpy group, but the local improv troupe — comprising old friends from Denver School of the Arts who joined forces around 2009 — is anything but. See for yourself when the multi-talented cadre of actors, comics, musicians, writers and artists brings Show Ya Teef, a showcase of ten to fifteen improv games starting at 8 p.m. Tuesday, September 25, to BarFly Denver, the boozy joint at Alamo Drafthouse Sloan's Lake, 4255 West Colfax Avenue. Headlining the night will be Iowa comic Edward Bell. The guild, which cemented its place in Denver’s improv world with Show Ya Teef, uses comedy to confront the biggest social issues of the day, from identity politics to social media. While you should expect to laugh, you won’t do so without confronting the grimmer side of humanity. Find out more at facebook.com/blkactorsguild.
Wednesday, September 26
Ana María Hernando pays homage to women's traditional crafts by intertwining them — literally. The Argentina-born Boulder-based artist weaves textiles, such as hand-crocheted petticoats of Andean villagers and fabrics embroidered by cloistered nuns in Buenos Aires, into mesmerizing installations. Museo de las Americas and the Clyfford Still Museum have partnered with Alamo Drafthouse Sloan's Lake, 4255 West Colfax Avenue, to present a screening of undomesticated, a film about Hernando's life and work, at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 26. Hernando and co-directors Amie Knox and Chad Herschberger will converse with the audience after the film. Tickets are $5 at drafthouse.com; learn more at clyffordstillmuseum.org.
Thursday, September 27
Kat Melheim is all about coffee; when not thinking about and drinking the stuff, the career barista, roaster and erstwhile Cat and Cloud podcaster is pulling together her coffee community with Coffee People Zine, a trade-talk and arts publication you can find online or at select java emporiums around town. Are you a coffee person? Then drink in the Issue 03 Zine Release Party, which offers a unique component — a mini film festival of DIY videos made by coffee professionals — on Thursday, September 27, from 6 to 10 p.m. at Allegro Coffee Roasters, 4040 Tennyson Street. Films include documentaries, shorts, animation and horror. Admission ranges from $8 to $50 with different perk levels at eventbrite.com; the new zine, which mixes poetry, art, comics and coffee into a potent blend, is $12. Proceeds benefit Cherry Roast, an all-women coffee competition.
Artist and RedLine resident Kenzie Sitterud has been working her way through an imaginary house, room by room, in an installation series that turns each space topsy-turvy while confronting gender-identity issues. Her latest addition is The Bedroom, on view through through October 3 at 808 Projects, 808 Santa Fe Drive, but for one evening only, the installation, along with Sitterud’s The Kitchen Table, will serve as a site-specific performance environment for dancers Ondine Geary, Laura Ann Samuelson and fellow RedLiner Kate Speer. Get a front-row seat in an intimate setting on Thursday, September 27, from 7 to 9 p.m. at 808. Admission is free, but donations are welcome. Learn more about The Bedroom at 808projects.com.
A sex-positive celebration that's taken dirty movies off of laptops and brought them into communal gatherings since 2005, the Hump! Film Festival will screen the sweaty efforts of randy amateurs at the Oriental Theater, 4335 West 44th Avenue, for a weekend of surprisingly sweet-natured smut. A collection of five-minute shorts carefully curated by advice columnist and LGBTQ activist Dan Savage, Hump! inspires filmmakers and performers of all shapes, genders, orientations and ethnicities to explore their kinks and fetishes or live out elaborate fantasies on camera. Showtimes are 7:15 and 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 27, and Friday, September 28, and 6, 8:15 and 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, September 29. Visit humpfilmfest.boldtypetickets.com to buy tickets, $20, and learn more.
The show must go on for Denver video producer Gio Toninello’s Action Figure Stop-Motion Film Festival (formerly known as the GI Joe Stop-Motion Film Festival, until Hasbro hit the indie showcase with a cease-and-desist letter). The fest pops back up for its thirteenth iteration on Thursday, September 27, from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Bug Theatre, 3654 Navajo Street, with a new name and a slate of new films starring its original muse, G.I. Joe. Help the fest kick off a world tour at the Bug, and get your fill of childhood war-games revelry on an adult level (no one under seventeen will be admitted). Admission is $15.56 at actionfigurefilmfestival.com.
This past spring, Su Teatro presented a rehearsed reading of Ask a Mexican, a script adapted by Anthony Garcia from the syndicated column by Gustavo Arellano. Since then, the play has morphed into Interview With a Mexican, which will have its world premiere on Thursday, September 27, at 7:30 p.m. at Su Teatro, 727 Santa Fe Drive. “The ultimate Chicano nerd has placed his trust in making the transformation of his experiences three-dimensional in the hands of a 46-year veteran of sarcasm and cultural enlightenment,” Garcia promises. The show runs through October 21, but Arellano, who hasn’t yet seen the finished production, will be on hand opening night and on Friday, September 28, to talk with the audience after the show; you can ask the Mexican himself how he likes seeing his life up on stage. To buy tickets, $17 to $20, and learn more, go to suteatro.org.
Art disciplines collide gracefully at Lemon Sponge Cake Contemporary Ballet's GONE, a pop-up installation that rewrites the language of movement and examines humanity through a bold yet emotionally vulnerable lens. Spearheaded by choreographer Robert Sher-Machherndl, GONE unites music, dance and spoken word in the freshly redeveloped Boulder Junction at Depot Square Station, 2490 Junction Place in Boulder. Sher-Machherndl's performance will be accompanied by cellist Yoriko Morita's interpretation of new works by composer Daniel Kellogg and interspersed with readings by actor Michael French. Local art lovers will have just two opportunities to see it for themselves — at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 27, and Friday, September 28. Visit lemonspongecake.org to buy tickets, $22, and learn more.
Tom Papa is a standup veteran who remains as vital as ever. Throughout his two-decades-plus career, Papa has recorded three standup specials (most recently 2016's Human Mule) and appeared in films such as Top Five, Behind the Candelabra and The Informant! and on shows including Inside Amy Schumer, The Marriage Ref and The Knick. He also starred in an NBC sitcom and a Sirius XM podcast called Come to Papa, because who could resist using a pun so nice twice? Papa's back in Denver, and he's got a brand-new bag of jokes; come see one of the world's finest observational comics during a weekend-long engagement at Comedy Works South, 5345 Landmark Place in Greenwood Village; the run kicks off at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 27, and winds down on Saturday, September 29. Showtimes vary; get tickets, $25 to $30, and find out more at comedyworks.com/comedians/tom-papa.
Friday, September 28
Halloween decorations are on the shelves — and that means it must be corn-maze season! Maize in the City offers all of your essential corn-maze needs, from the mandatory maze itself — a twenty-acre monster that you can navigate either solely by your wits or with help from a customized smartphone trivia game — to a child-sized maze for little ones, a barrel train, a petting zoo, a pick-your-own pumpkin patch, a pumpkin bounce pillow, a corn-ear-toss competition and other requisite fall-season romps. Maize in the City opens Friday, September 28, and runs through the end of October at 10451 McKay Road in Thornton; base admission is $8 to $12 (kids ages four and under admitted free), with add-ons as you go. Plan your day at maizeinthecity.com.
Saturday, September 29
Start planning your Halloween decorations in creepy, crawly style at the Morbid Curiosities Fall Event, an expo overflowing with vendors of taxidermy, artisan goods and other oddities, supplemented by such arcane entertainments as hearse and vintage ambulance rides, lectures on macabre subjects and fire-sword battles. The event, hosted by StevO’s Pizza & Ribs and the Denver Hearse Association, rises from the dead on Saturday, September 29, from noon to 6 p.m. at StevO’s, 800 South Havana Street in Aurora. Learn more and buy tickets, $5, at eventbrite.com or at the door.
Head for the hills for the inaugural Central City Plein Air Festival, produced by Central City Opera, where more than twenty artists will capture the beauty of the old mining town and its surroundings over the weekend. While visitors are invited to interact with working artists all three days of the free fest, artsy activities begin at noon on Saturday, September 29, with the “Quickest Draw Competition,” with artists gathering on Eureka Street to create new paintings in just ninety minutes. On Sunday, September 30, Lorenzo Chavez, a festival judge and acclaimed Colorado artist, will lead a painting demonstration at noon; the final works will all be on display at an open reception from 5 to 8 p.m. that day at the Gilpin County Art Association’s Washington Hall Gallery, 117 Eureka Street. And if you want to be in line first for a chance to buy one of the sixty-plus pieces painted over the weekend, $50 buys a ticket to the Plein Air Festival Preview Party and Sale from 4 to 5 p.m. in the same location. Find out more at centralcityopera.org.
The long wait for a new enterprise from the folks behind Five Points standby Cold Crush, which the city shut down two years ago, is over: Rock Steady, a collaboration with the Curtis Club, has opened its doors at 2100 Curtis Street. To celebrate, the new club and restaurant is throwing a community-friendly Rock Steady Block Party on Saturday, September 29, and Sunday, September 30, with DJs, live music, food trucks, vendors, a game tent and parties galore, starting at 3 p.m. and running until 1 a.m. on both days. Admission is free; get details on the event's Facebook page.
Light up your weekend (as well as your Instagram feed) at the Water Lantern Festival, an evening aglow with memorable images and symbolic meaning. A tradition with roots in the ancient Sukhothai Kingdom — where floating lanterns originated as offerings to the Buddha — invites participants to imbue the waterborne candles with their own meaning, wishes and sentiments. The materials involved, mainly wood and rice paper, are biodegradable and flame-resistant, so guests needn't fret about the fest's environmental impact (plus a portion of ticket proceeds go directly to site cleanup). Admission, $40 to $50, includes a floating lantern and a marker to decorate it. The celebration begins at 4 p.m. on Saturday, September 29, with live music, food trucks and family-friendly activities; once night falls, everyone will send their lanterns into the lake at Thornton's Carpenter Park, 3498 East 112th Avenue. Visit waterlanternfestival.com/denver.php to buy tickets and learn more.
Only smart-aleck Denver author Mario Acevedo could have dreamt up a character like Felix Gomez, an Iraq War veteran and vampire detective whose adventures have taken him from the wastes of Rocky Flats to outer space and back again. Acevedo will launch his latest — Steampunk Banditos: Sex Slaves of Shark Island, a new walk on the wild side with Gomez, who somehow lands in Aztlán to battle dinosaurs, sharks and steampunk henchmen — during a reading and book signing on Saturday, September 29, from 4 to 6 p.m. at BookBar, 4280 Tennyson Street. Admission is free, and Steampunk Banditos will set you back a painless $17.99. Learn more at bookbardenver.com/event, and catch up with the author at marioacevedo.com.
Because it takes bucks to run an art district, especially one on the rise, Lakewood’s 40 West has been throwing its Riot fundraisers for the past six years, since its inception in 2011. But for this year’s event, the district is changing direction — and locations — for something a little different. The 40 West Riot VII Pop-Up Cocktail Party on Saturday, September 29, from 7 to 9:30 p.m., moves to a vacant building at 7310 West Colfax Avenue in Lakewood to offer adult beverages, light-bite stations, vintage-seating vignettes, live music, and a silent auction and art wall. And the “riot” part? That comes in the guise of live-art experiences happening spontaneously around the space. Find information and tickets, $35 (which includes two drink coupons), at www.40westarts.org.
Groupmuse, a national group that organizes classical-music house concerts, occasionally goes full-bore with big parties in the same vein. Untold: Denver's Next Massivemuse, happening on Saturday, September 29, at 7 p.m. at the Savoy at Curtis Park, 2700 Arapahoe Street, takes the Groupmuse ethos to the next level, pairing a performance by Congolese-American artist and storyteller Brenton Weyi with live musicians to revisit the life of composer Fanny Mendelssohn, the unsung sister of Felix; that will be followed by a performance of Weyi’s musical My Country, My Country, told and sung in the voices of Patrice Lumumba and King Baudouin, both heroes from Congolese history. Floor-sitting is encouraged, and it’s bring-your-own blanket. Get more information and tickets, $20, at groupmuse.com.
The Arapahoe Philharmonic commences its 2018-’19 season with a bit of capital-R Romanticism at an opening concert on Saturday, September 29, at Denver First Church of the Nazarene, 3800 East Hampden Avenue. The Phil's first program of the year deftly segues from the French impressionism of Maurice Ravel's Daphnis et Chloé Suite No. 2 to Charles Ives's American transcendentalist anthem "Decoration Day" before concluding with the German Romantic composer Robert Schumann's "Rhenish" Symphony No. 3. Tickets are $5 to $30, with season passes available for $25 to $140. Arrive prior to the 7:30 p.m. performance for a pre-concert talk with conductor Devin Patrick Hughes at 6:45 and a Classic Children’s Corner presentation at 7:10. Get details and tickets at arapahoe-phil.org.
Sunday, September 30
Eat, drink and be very merry at Feast, Westword’s annual celebration of Denver’s restaurant scene, which will return to the McNichols Building from noon to 3 p.m. on Sunday, September 30. One bountiful bite at a time, you can sample dishes from forty of our favorite eateries, including Roaming Buffalo Bar-B-Que, Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs, Il Posto and Biju’s Little Curry Shop. Wash down your Feast feast with spirits samples, beer, wine, artisan coffee and other beverages while you enjoy live entertainment; the fun will even spill outside into Civic Center Park. General admission tickets are $35, but if you really want to treat yourself, grab a VIP ticket for $65. Not only do VIPs get in the door an hour early, at 11 a.m., but throughout the event, they’ll have access to a special VIP area with an open bar and delicious dishes from Matsuhisa. For more info and to buy tickets, go to westwordfeast.com.
Monday, October 1
Fans of The Presets waited five years for the Australian electronic duo of Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes to drop their latest effort, Hi Viz, an energetic collection of imaginative, forward-thinking techno that flirts with genres including indie rock, funk and occasionally hip-hop. The catchy song “Beethoven” — which does little until the last moments to evoke classical music — serves as an homage to Ludwig Van himself, as a deep booming voice sings “When we kiss, I like to listen to Beethoven” again and again over a straightforward techno pulse. The act will play at 8 p.m. Monday, October 1, at the Bluebird Theater, 3317 East Colfax Avenue. Also on the bill: two-piece British rock act Blood Red Shoes. Tickets are $22 in advance, $25 the day of the show, at bluebirdtheater.net.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.