After a taxing weekend, you deserve some fun...and there's plenty on the calendar this week in Colorado. A few areas are still making a splash up in the mountains, while in Denver organizers are getting ready not just for Earth Day, but for what's become an unofficial state holiday: 4/20. Keep reading for the 21 best events in and around town this week.
Tuesday, April 17
Wu-Tang Clan founder and producer RZA remembers watching Lau Kar-Leung’s 1978 martial-arts movie The 36th Chamber of Shaolin for the first time with his cousin, Ol’ Dirty Bastard. The film, which chronicles a group of Chinese villagers warring against a repressive governmental regime, struck a chord. “Growing up as a black kid in America, I didn’t know that that kind of story existed anywhere else,” RZA says. So he created a live score to accompany the film, and he'll perform it in person at a screening at the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Place, on Tuesday, April 17, at 8 p.m. Get more information and tickets, $36 to $49, at altitudetickets.com.
The Arvada Center’s Main Stage Theatre ends this season on a poignant note with the Stephen Sondheim musical Sunday in the Park With George, a lush reflection on life and art that focuses on the musings of master pointillist Georges Seurat and his grandson. The show opens at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 17, and runs through May 6 at the Arvada Center, 6901 Wadsworth Boulevard in Arvada. For tickets, which start at $53, and a sneak peek at the just-announced 2018-’19 season, visit arvadacenter.org.
Wednesday, April 18
Mid-century modern architecture might be one of the finest contributions ever to the design world, with its space-age industrial lines and new ideas in sculpting spaces. Swiss architect Albert Frey, mentored by Le Corbusier himself, was a modernist pioneer and a major player in the development of the desert mecca of Palm Springs. A free screening of the new documentary Albert Frey: The Architectural Envoy (Part I), which follows Frey’s career from its European beginnings to his early inroads in America, will start at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 18, at the Denver Art Museum, 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway; the evening will be hosted by the DAM’s Design Council. Space is limited, so RSVP at denverartmuseum.org or call 720-913-0130. And be on the lookout for Part II, now in production and set for release in 2019.
Thursday, April 19
From the zoot suits of the ’40s to the tough and sexy modern cholo/chola looks, Latino-American fashion styles have long expressed cultural pride, resilience and personality. They're also an important aspect of Pachucos y Sirenas, an artistic bow to the Pachuco/a era now on display through May 26 at the Museo de las Americas. In conjunction with the exhibit, the Museo is hosting the Viva la Sirena Fashion Show from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 19, showcasing original retro designs by local designer Alejandra Peralta and jewelry artist Xencs L. Wing, with makeup by Cha Cha Romero. With the show as backdrop, models will hit the runway at the Museo, 861 Santa Fe Drive; purchase tickets, $20, at eventbrite.com. Learn more about the event and Pachucos y Sirenas at museo.org.
Libraries are temples of knowledge that practically demand hushed whispers — a quality that makes Denver's Park Hill Branch, at 4705 Montview Boulevard, an ideal venue for solitary reading but an unlikely venue for standup. Every once in a while, though, comedy-loving librarian Tara Bannon Williamson refashions this branch's basement into the Park Hill Underground Comedy Club and invites a well-curated selection of Denver's best comics to entertain her bookish crowd. The performance series continues on Thursday, April 19, with Comedy Works regular Nancy Norton. Formerly a registered nurse, Norton is a fearlessly funny comedian whose scatterbrained style has won her hordes of local fans. Showtime is 7 p.m. and admission is free; visit the Park Hill Branch Library Facebook events page to learn more.
Start your weekend early and right at Rock the Night. This benefit concert for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society features Commerce City Rollers, a crowd favorite whose members have been musicians in the Denver punk/rock community for over two decades, as well as special guest the Jeffrey Allen Speral Project. Doors open at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 19, and the music runs until 10 p.m. at Globe Hall, 4483 Logan Street. Admission is a $10 minimum donation; get tickets at events.lls.org/rm/rockthenight.
Su Teatro’s WordFest launched in 2015, bringing Latino-inflected staged readings and performances by local and national artists to its stages for the first time. The following year, the premier local Latino theater group diversified by teaming up with the Source Theatre Company, and the partnership stuck: The 4th Ever WordFest, which runs through April 28, is anchored this year by a joint Performing & Creative Artists of Color Summit, featuring Carpetbag Theatre from Knoxville, Tennessee, in Linda Parris-Bailey’s Speed Killed My Cousin on Thursday, April 19, through Saturday, April 21, and C.A.R.P.A. San Diego’s And He Became Man running April 26 through April 28. All performances start at 7:30 p.m. at the Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center, 721 Santa Fe Drive; see the complete WordFest schedule and purchase tickets, $17 to $20, at suteatro.org.
Friday, April 20
The multi-convention experience that is Denver’s StarFest returns to the Marriott DTC Convention Hotel, 4900 South Syracuse Street, for a three-day extravaganza of all things geek. StarFest began in 1977, just as Star Wars mania was about to overtake Star Trek mania. Back then it was mainly a sci-fi convention, but over the years, StarFest has grown to be more of a collection of conventions under one roof, where gamers, Klingon groupies and horror, comics, science and sci-fi fans come together to socialize, shop and celebrate the various hobbies and passions that tie the nerd communities together. StarFest opens at 1 p.m. Friday, April 20, with a meet-and-greet full of special guests at 7 p.m. that evening; programming continues through Sunday, April 22. Admission ranges from $25 (Friday only) to $175 (three- day platinum pass) for adults, with add-ons for autograph opportunities and other nerdtastic activities. Find out more at starfestdenver.com.
The Denver Theatre District’s always-changing Understudy pop-up art space moves on to new-media artist Jayne Butler, whose Natural Artifice installation defies the flat wall with an immersive, 360° video-enhanced look at the glorified old-school vision of the American West and how our perceptions of nature have changed as technology has taken hold of our senses. Natural Artifice opens on Friday, April 20, and will be on view from noon to 6 p.m. daily through April 29; the official reception is on Saturday, April 21, from 6 to 9 p.m. Admission to the reception is free, but to avoid overcrowding, RSVP for tickets in advance at eventbrite.com. Understudy is at 890 C 14th Street; learn more at understudydenver.com.
On Friday, April 20, Civic Center Park will again be at the center of the action with the free Mile High 420 Festival running from 10 a.m to 7 p.m., but the new organizers are focusing more on cultural activities than politics this year. Lil Wayne, Lil Jon and the Original Wailers headline the music lineup; dozens of local music, comedy and other acts are also scheduled. The Mile High 420 Festival is just one of dozens of activities planned for this unofficial holiday, though; for information on all the options, see our 4/20 guide at westword.com/marijuana.
Issues of segregation and intra-racial discrimination will vie for viewers' attention at a two-person exhibit highlighting photographic works by Tya Alisa Anthony and Wendel White. Segregated Influences opens on Friday, April 20, with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Colorado Photographic Arts Center, 1070 Bannock Street. The show juxtaposes White’s bleak pictures of former segregated schools for African-Americans with Anthony’s "Complexion" series of digitally manipulated and altered statement imagery culled from six decades' worth of Jet magazines. Both artists will appear in person for a mid-reception artist talk; if you miss the opening, the show runs through June 2. Learn more at cpacphoto.org.
Though it's changed names and venues over the years, the Mile High Movie Roast is a Denver institution. Spearheaded by local standup Harrison Rains along with a small ensemble of the city's nimblest riffers, the ongoing series screens cult classics and fan favorites ripe for mockery. The roast returns to the Littleton Alamo Drafthouse, 7301 South Santa Fe Drive, on Friday, April 20, for a 7:40 p.m. screening of Grease 2, a comically inferior follow to the hit musical that features none of the original's stars and boasts a soundtrack full of half-forgotten duds. Don your best T-Bird and Pink Lady attire and join Rains, along with guest comedian Timmi Lasley, for a Mystery Science Theater 3000-style spoof and goof on one of cinema history's worst sequels. Get tickets, $12.50, and more details on the Alamo Drafthouse box-office page.
Burlesque meets its match on Friday, April 20, when longtime Denver-area songstress and host Cora Vette brings the beautiful girls of the second annual Mile High Burlesque Fest to the Oriental Theater to take it all off and make light of the Colorado pot boom. The fest starts at 8 p.m. with a showcase of performers, including headliner Ophelia Flame and 2017 winner of the title of “Most High,” Gigi O’Lovely, at the Oriental, 4335 West 44th Avenue. Competition night, when burlesquers vie for the 2018 "Most High" title, as well as such categories as "Dankest Duo" and “Master of Munchies,” follows on April 21, same time and place. Admission is $20 for Friday only, and $30 for both nights, with VIP options at $25 and $40; find details and reserve your seats at theorientaltheater.com.
When Boulder’s Local Theater Company throws a new-play reading event, it does so fast and hard. Local Lab 2018 is in and out of here in only three days, but it’s a helluva whirlwind experience. The festival opens with a mainstage reading of Clockwork, a political comedy by Emily Zemba, at 7 p.m. Friday, April 20; Ladybits by Rehana Lew Mirza takes on the hot-button issue of sexism in the comedy community at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 21; and the fest wraps up with Andrew Rosendorf’s returning-disabled-veteran study Paper Cut at 1 p.m. Sunday, April 22. All shows are in the Gordon Gamm Theatre of the Dairy Arts Center, 2590 Walnut Street in Boulder. An all-access pass, $89, also gets you entry into a couple of parties and a playwrights’ panel; otherwise, tickets are $20 per show. Get them at thedairy.org; for more information, visit localtheaterco.org.
Richard Wagner's "Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring Cycle)" is one of the Romantic era's most influential operas, notable for its subversion of classical harmonies and brooding chord progressions as well as its grand, Norse-inspired mythos. The cycle — which famously inspired J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series — took Wagner over 26 years to complete, and it usually takes four evenings to perform the work in its entirety. Fortunately for local music lovers who don't enjoy the idle schedule of a nineteenth-century aristocrat, the late Lorin Maazel distilled Wagner's seventeen-hour epic into 75 bombastic minutes. The Colorado Symphony presents Maazel's streamlined interpretation in Wagner: The Ring Without Words, at Boettcher Concert Hall in the Denver Performing Arts Complex, at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 20, with additional performances at 7:30 p.m. on April 21 and 1 p.m. on April 22. Tickets, $15 to $94, are available at coloradosymphony.org.
Saturday, April 21
Since the first Earth Day in 1970, annual celebrations have spread around the globe. The largest in the state, Colorado Earth Day, will be held at the Capitol, 200 East Colfax Avenue, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 21. "We hope the public can join the Sierra Club Colorado Chapter for a fun, family-friendly, celebratory day to show our commitment to our environment and a 100 percent clean energy commitment for all of Colorado," say the organizers. Olympic gold-medalist Justin Reiter, young activist Tay Anderson and State Representative Joseph Salazar are scheduled to speak; the free program also includes music by the Broadcast, Meadow Mountain and the Other Black, as well as yoga presented by the Hanuman Festival and a beer garden (this is Colorado, after all). Find out more at sierraclub.org.
Back in 1988, Joko Ninomiya founded Enshin Karate on Colfax Avenue, where he created a new style of full-contact karate. It's since grown into an international phenomenon with dojos and students throughout the world, and Ninomiya is one of the few modern grandmasters. Today his sons — Mike, Koichi and Jota — teach next to him at the Colfax International Enshin Honbu. On Saturday, April 21, Enshin Karate will celebrate its thirtieth anniversary by hosting the World Sabaki Karate tournament, a competition with over sixty fighters from around the globe (including Denver); this year’s tournament also celebrates twenty years of women competing in the World Sabaki Challenge. The action runs from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Manual High School Auditorium, 1700 East 28th Avenue. Tickets are $15 to $50; find out more at enshinacademy.com or the Enshin Karate Facebook page.
Denver’s in need of trees, especially since the city chopped down roughly 260 of them in City Park early this year to make way for a drainage project. For that reason alone, the third annual Rocky Mountain Tree Festival — during which 200-plus volunteers will plant more than 5,000 trees in parks across town this month — is critical. As thanks for their efforts, volunteers will be treated to a concert by the Flobots, the Jaden Carlson Band and 12 Cents for Marvin starting at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 21, at the Gothic Theatre, 3263 South Broadway in Englewood. Tickets for the general public are $20 and can be purchased at axs.com. To find out how to volunteer, go to rockymountaintreefest.org.
Sunday, April 22
If it's Sunday, it's time for another political event at the State Capitol. From noon to 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 22, the Denver Democratic Socialists of America are hosting Heal the Sick, Tax the Rich, a rally pushing Medicare for All, a national DSA campaign. "It’s time for Coloradans to fight back and demand a system which isn’t motivated by greed," says the organizers. Find out more on the Medicare for All Rally Facebook page.
Monday, April 23
The Crypto Cannabis Conference wants to connect you with two of the country's fastest-growing (and most interesting) investment sectors — cryptocurrency and legal cannabis — during an all-day conference that starts at 10 a.m. Monday, April 23, at Club Vinyl, 1082 Broadway. A number of keynote speakers from the legal cannabis industry, as well as Bitcoin traders and other crypto investors, will share advice on panels and during networking sessions; there will also be raffles, giveaways and refreshments. Basic admission starts at $75; learn more at cryptocannabisconference.com.
Denver's Tim Samaras found his calling early. Although he never went to college, the amateur storm chaser sped to the forefront of scientific research of tornadoes in the ’80s, and he kept pushing the frontier forward...until the day he finally met his match, the largest tornado ever recorded. Author Brantley Hargrove never met Samaras, but he chased after his life for three years, talking with his family, the people he worked with, the scientists amazed by his accomplishments. The result, The Man Who Caught the Storm, is an incredible true-adventure book. Hargrove will be at the Tattered Cover at 2526 East Colfax Avenue at 7 p.m. Monday, April 23, to sign copies of his book and talk about his whirlwind project. Admission is free; learn more at tatteredcover.com.
In order for an event to be considered for 21 Best, we need information at least three weeks in advance. Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.