Paintings done with stripes, bars, lines and planes is what you'll find at Rule Modern and Contemporary Gallery on most days. Director Robin Rule fills the rooms with a mix of minimalist old masters from New York, like Carl Andre and Mary Obering, and local talents, such as Clark Richert, the dean of geometric painting. From time to time, she also shows quirky abstracts, representational works and photos. But there's no denying that less is best at Rule.
Arguably the best art-rock band ever to hail from Denver, Thinking Plague first introduced itself to the public with ...A Thinking Plague and Moonsongs, a pair of platters recorded in the early and mid-'80s, respectively, that have been out of print for ages. Early Plague Years (Cuneiform) corrects this error, giving admirers another chance to hear a fine band in its nascent stages.
Smartly directed, honestly acted and imaginatively written, HorseChart's production of O.T. took on prickly issues with the kind of spunky tenacity that one expects from a group of theatrical renegades. Clay Nichols's drama, which was mounted as part of the National New Play Network, mixed flashback-style scenes with current happenings to raise questions about the embedded attitudes that give rise to prejudice and racism. The play worked because Nichols took pains to reveal each issue's complexities and ambiguities; combined with director Brett Aune's straightforward approach, O.T. proved that it deserved to be further developed and mounted again.

The self-titled debut from Open Road is a bone-chilling masterpiece of Kentucky-grown sound. Leader Bradford Lee Folk sports a harrowing voice, and he and his mates possess a commanding, retro-respectful grasp of their adopted music. From giddy stompers to tear-jerking laments, this record delivers all of the rustic goods.
The revolution will not televised; instead, it will be in multimedia, and it's already getting started at Cafe Nuba in Five Points. Located at the Gemini Tea Emporium and run by Denver's Pan-African Arts Society, the cafe hosts monthly sets of hip-hop poetry, performance art and political prose, monthly screenings of black independent films and shorts, free HIV testing, voter-registration drives and book giveaways.

The oldest community-theater group in the state, the Evergreen Players celebrated their fiftieth anniversary last year by winning the regional American Association of Community Theatres competition in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The group's production of All in the Timing qualified the actors for the national AACT competition, which takes place this June in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Back on their home turf, the players are presenting La Cage Aux Folles at Evergreen's Centre Stage Theater through April 8. Give them a hand.

Teachers at Denver's East High School remember Don Cheadle (class of 1982) as an able student and a dedicated student actor; his turn as the Artful Dodger in Oliver is still cherished there. Since then, this talented character actor has stolen a show from Denzel Washington in Devil in a Blue Dress, broken hearts in Boogie Nights and, last year, turned a police stakeout (with fellow cop Luis Guzmán) in Traffic into a miniature comic masterpiece. Fortunately, fame hasn't caused Cheadle to forget his humble beginnings: Teachers and staff at East say the actor returns to say hello whenever he's in Denver.

Best Alternative to the Screaming Guitar Wank

Neil Haverstick

Following his own muse and intuition, local six-stringer Neil Haverstick coined the term "micro-noodling" a few years ago in reference to his disciplined knack for coaxing more than twelve notes from a musical scale. Using custom-built instruments (including an electrified ax capable of producing 34 tones per octave), Haverstick brought his sixth and best annual Microstock Festival to St. Paul's Church last fall with koto player Yoko Hiraoka, waterphonist John Starrett and customized keyboard tickler Chris Mohr. Darkly exotic "space music" might best describe the evening's display of electronic meditation -- an aesthetic that Haverstick continually expands upon with his obvious love for exotic Indian and Arabic sounds. (See virtualchautauqua.org/haverstick for samples.) Sometimes fretless, always seamless, his soft-spoken tribute to outer space makes infinity seem damned near containable.

Before it was disbanded, the Denver Center Theatre Company's Playwrights Unit gave local playwrights a chance not only to see their works receive a major production, but also to collect some actual cash. The group rewarded us with an embarrassment of artistic riches, including such plays as Molly Newman's Quilters (which is still performed across the country), Terry Dodd's Goodnight, Texas, and Frank X. Hogan's Ringers. A lack of funding dropped the curtain on the program over a decade ago, but thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Pew Charitable Trust, it's now been re-established. Action!

Alex Lemski, the driving force behind Denver's Creative Music Works, is on a mission to keep the spirit of jazz alive, and his fanatical promotion of concerts featuring acts that share his goal is doing just that. His efforts to bring underground music into the light help make Denver a more interesting place.

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