Twisted Plot Twists

SUN, 10/30

Walking the line between sanity and madness -- or pretending to do so -- helps give Halloween its juice.

Stripping that path down to classic literature heightens the experience in ways that slasher movies can't, because written words conjure up images unique to each individual's cranium. The scare becomes customized. That's the approach taken by Stories on Stage, which uncorks Terror, Horror, Fright & Chills today at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California Street, with shows at 1 and 3:30 p.m. For the group's second annual tip of the mask to Halloween-themed lit, artistic director Norma Moore has chosen a nineteenth-century British yarn as well as works by Chekhov, Guy de Maupassant and, yes, Mr. E.A. Poe. "I focused on highbrow authors who run their lowbrow engines really well," Moore says.

Creating the head-spinning rev will be a group of veteran actors -- Denver Center Theatre Company stalwart Bill Christ, actress Dee Burleson, actor Jason Henning and Shadow Theatre Company artistic director Jeffrey Nickelson -- as well as bassoonist Dan Knopf. Christ, who participated in last year's tale-telling, will animate the story "Leningen Versus the Ants," an epic about battling billions of devilish insects that possess groupthink. "He has this ability to go over the top and still be believable," Moore says of the actor.

Audience members are encouraged to come in costume and tell their own terrifying tales of dating following the second session; admission to the wordfest is $15 for fright fans sixteen and older.

A shorter Stories on Stage presentation will take place at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow at the central Denver Public Library; for more information, visit -- Ernie Tucker

Kosher in the Kitchen
SUN 10/30

Three local caterers are cooking up a storm to help the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation -- and you'd best believe pork's not on the menu. When Mary Fabrikant, Mark Millenson and Albert Cohen put oil to pan, it's all kosher, baby. The brainchild of Fabrikant, a breast-cancer survivor, Kosher Cook for the Cure combines her two passions: cooking and supporting breast-cancer research. Tonight at 6 p.m., all three shellfish-skirters will prepare an appetizer, soup, salad, entree and dessert while offering kosher cooking techniques and tips. Dig in at the mise en place cooking school, 1801 Wynkoop Street. Tickets are $180, and reservations are required; call 303-868-2307. -- Adam Cayton-Holland

Tall Tales
Cowboy tunes are back in the saddle again.
THURS, 10/27

What's become of the punchers

We rode with long ago?

The hundreds and hundreds of cowboys

We all of us used to know? -- N. Howard Thorp

Long before the singing cowboys of the silver screen crooned for America, real 'pokes sat around their campfires and traded stories in song. But until N. Howard "Jack" Thorp came along, such plaintive, windblown melodies were never written down for posterity. Thorp, a New York-bred aristocrat who went a-wanderin' out West, took on the task of tracking down the songs, and in 1908 he published a thin volume that is generally accepted as the first document of its kind.

Now, Mark L. Gardner and Rex Rideout, a pair of Colorado-based historian/performers, have come up with a new version of the book, complete with a scholarly introduction, fresh illustrations by Ronald Kil, and a CD of historically correct recordings of the songs rendered by the duo on vintage mandolins, banjos, fiddles and bones.

Hear them live when they perform and sign Jack Thorp¹s Songs of the Cowboys at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Tattered Cover Highlands Ranch, 9315 Dorchester Street. For more information, call 303-470-7050 or visit -- Susan Froyd

Enjoy a Zen space at PlatteForum.
SAT 10/29

Fort Collins sculptor Rokko Aoyama frequently explores cross-cultural themes in her work. Visual Itch, her 2002 solo exhibition at Artyard Gallery, was a thoroughly modern installation inspired by a popular snack food from her native Japan. With Garden/Garden, a fluid project currently under way at PlatteForum, she introduces viewers to one of her country's most revered forms: the Japanese garden.

Today and next Saturday, Aoyama will turn the PlatteForum's indoor gallery into a modernist Zen garden, raking new patterns and impressions into white mounds of salt as projected images flash on the surrounding walls.

This multimedia meditation is one of the fruits of Aoyama's creative residency with PlatteForum, which pairs working artists with young people for community-minded collaborations and workshops. Early into her project, Aoyama led a group of students from Jefferson County Open School to the Denver Botanic Gardens, where they contemplated the Japanese garden.

With Aoyama's guidance, the students designed PlatteForum's outdoor plaza into an expressive garden with man-made materials blooming like strange plants. Tactile, thoughtful and original, Garden/Garden is worth digging into.

Check out Aoyama in motion from noon to 4 p.m. at 1610 Little Raven Street, or stop by the show's closing reception at 6 p.m. November 9. For more information, call 303-893-0791 or visit -- Laura Bond

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Laura Bond
Contact: Laura Bond
Adam Cayton-Holland
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
Ernie Tucker
Contact: Ernie Tucker