Thrills for the week

April 17
Purple prose: Controversial scholar, feminist and prize-winning author Alice Walker is best known for her bestseller The Color Purple and the ensuing inspirational Steven Spielberg flick. But her newest book, Anything We Love Can Be Saved: A Writer's Activism, is a whole different kettle of fish, collecting Walker's views on a number of debatable subjects. Walker reads from a cross-section of her works and signs copies of the new book tonight at 7:30, when she appears at the Eulipions Cultural Center, 1770 Sherman St., as guest of the Denver Public Library Friends Foundation. Tickets, $12 to $17, can be purchased by calling 640-6192; tickets including admission to a pre-lecture reception at 5:30 are also available for $65. All tickets must be purchased in advance.

Spurn doctors: You want irreverent? Everybody's doing it--Bill Maher, Rosie O'Donnell--so why not stand-up comedian Jackie Mason and high-profile divorce attorney Raoul Felder? The odd couple--already joint authors of a number of books, including the upcoming Survival Guide to New York--are teaming up on public television to kvetch and schmooze for a weekly topical talk show. And they've had practice! Mason and Felder previously provided ongoing O.J. trial commentary for the BBC. Their new video venture, Crossing the Line, debuts tonight on KBDI-TV/Channel 12 with a show focusing on crime issues, from drugs to the death penalty; tune in at 9 p.m.

On the road: Every year, Denver's dedicated Alternative Arts Alliance throws what might be the openest open show in the entire state. It's a wonderfully hit-or-miss exhibition of high, low and everything-in-between art--but even in such a delicious state of anarchy, the cream must naturally rise to the top. The best of the chaotic AAA show then goes on tour with the Alternative Arts Alliance Traveling Show, a juried exhibition honoring some of the area's most renowned alternative artists. This year's road show, featuring work by Steven Allman, Louis Recchia, Phil Bender, Bill Amundson and other known commodities, opens tonight for a run at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities, 6901 Wadsworth Blvd., with a reception from 7 to 9 p.m. The show continues through May 18; call 431-3939 for details.

April 18
Square roots: It seems like almost every kind of American music can be traced in some way to the backwoods stoops and porches of the Deep South, where old black sharecroppers strummed on beat-up guitars, singing in ghostly voices of the universal sorrows endured in daily life. Roots of the Blues: The Swallow Hill Blues Festival celebrates both that raw, antecedent genre and its consequent and more sophisticated branches with two nights of fine music at the Oriental Theater, 4335 W. 44th Ave. Tonight's bill, beginning at 8 and headed by Virginian John Jackson, a National Heritage Award-winner who still says he is "just a workin' man," also includes blues pianist Ann Rabson and Mississippi John Hurt devotee Steve James. Tomorrow finds East Coast Piedmont-style guitar-harmonica duo Cephas & Wiggins, California blues revivalist Alvin Youngblood Hart (fellow archivist Taj Mahal says of Hart: "Boy's got thunder in his hands!"), and the more locally familiar Blues Divas of Swallow Hill--Mary Flower, Vicki Taylor and Mollie O'Brien--on stage at 8. Festival admission ranges from $15 to $19 nightly (all-inclusive festival tickets are $26 to $30); ticket stubs also admit holders to a musicians' reception at the Swallow Hill Music Hall, 1905 S. Pearl St., from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday. Call 1-800-444-SEAT for tickets. In addition, several of the artists will give workshops at Swallow Hill over the weekend; for information and registration, call 777-1003.

April 19
Babes in arms: During a weekend dotted with a plethora of Earth Day this and that, the Denver Zoo's Earth Day Celebration might just turn out to be the most fun of all. Practical, too: In addition to an endangered-species scavenger hunt, kids' craft workshops using recycled materials, live animal demonstrations, giveaways and environmental displays, paying zoo-goers will be entitled to a $1 admission discount for bringing a minimum of one bag of recyclable newspaper, tin, aluminum or plastic with them to the gate. Best of all, visitors to the local menagerie will be treated to a rare look at some unusual zoo babies, including veiled chameleons, a tarantula, hissing cockroaches, a dragon lizard and some cute-as-pie juvenile bats from 10 to 3 in the Tropical Discovery exhibit. Regular zoo hours are 9 to 6; gate admission is $3 to $6 (children three and under free). For information call 331-4100.

Gaels' night out: A spectacular night of Celtic musicianship and exhaustingly delightful step-dancing, featuring Green Linnet recording artists Cherish the Ladies and Rounder signee Natalie MacMaster, is in store for folks venturing up to the Boulder Theater tonight. The unexpected, if not unusual, thing about the snappy double bill is that the performers are all women from this side of the ocean: The multi-talented members of Cherish the Ladies are all Americans, while the sprightly fiddler MacMaster hails from Cape Breton. Their musical ruckus begins at 8 (a reduced-price matinee performance also takes place today at 2); for tickets, $16.80, call 777-0502 or 786-7030. The theater is located at 2030 14th St. in Boulder.

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Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd