Newman Center for the Performing Arts
It's early to really start crowing, since the doors of the Newman Center aren't yet open to the public, but this building is a beauty, built for the ages from Indiana limestone and decorated with bas relief frescoes and a gorgeous carved-stone window. The crowning jewels of this new home to the Lamont School of Music and DU's esteemed theater program are its world-class performance stages, including the elegant, Old-World-style Gates Concert Hall, the functional Hamilton Recital Hall and the innovative Byron Flexible Theatre. What performance student wouldn't feel at home in a proving ground this grand?


After cutting her director's teeth for a few years on a small storefront operation on Broadway, Jeanie King moved her Fresh Art Gallery over to the ever-changing Santa Fe Drive arts district. She's created an enormous and smartly appointed complex that, in addition to a huge exhibition space, has half a dozen studios and a sculpture garden. The gallery's stock-in-trade is contemporary abstraction by Colorado artists, especially emerging ones. The relocation was a smart move, and more than a thousand guests showed up for Fresh Art's recent grand opening, making it one of the best-attended art events in memory.


The Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design recently announced that it is moving out of Denver, but the news is a lot better than it sounds. The school has been in a group of ugly buildings at the corner of East Evans Avenue and South Oneida Street, but in June it will move into the old Jewish Consumptive Relief Society campus, near Colfax Avenue and Pierce Street in Lakewood. The JCRS is magical, the grounds filled with big, old trees and historic buildings. The stately place deserves to have new life breathed into it, and that's what RMCAD is set to do.


Foothills Art Center just celebrated its 35th anniversary, but the real milestone lies with the impending retirement of longtime director Carol Dickinson. When Dickinson took over Foothills more than a decade ago, the center was a genuine backwater; with little more than her will, she transformed it into something relevant and worth seeing. She brilliantly retooled the exhibition schedule, satisfying the conservative small-town tastes of Golden while bringing in more sophisticated viewers from Denver. Dickinson was surely the best thing to happen to Foothills, and she'll be sorely missed.


The dust that lay mostly undisturbed for years in this old Federal Boulevard movie house has begun to fly. The Industrial Arts Theatre Company, homeless after the demise of its latest roost at the Denver Civic, is tearing down walls and reconfiguring seats in the eighty-something building in an effort to bring the place back to vivid life. Plans for a gallery show and theater opening are already in the works for this spring; if all goes well, IAT will host everything from dance performances and concerts to improv comedy nights in the near future. It looks like the nomadic IAT has finally found a permanent home.


Chip Walton and his Curious crew have already made a name for themselves as a troupe, consistently staging quality fare for Denverites seeking something beyond the offerings of the big boys at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. And now they're making it even more enjoyable, with two-for-one Thursdays. Throughout the season, bring a friend to a Curious production and tickets are half price. How can you possibly say no to that?


The DCTC knows its audience, and in a kind attempt to thank and keep its blue-haired patrons, the organization offers discounted tickets to selected matinee productions throughout the season. This year's series included a diverse theatrical palette, from Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth to that old roasted chestnut, A Christmas Carol. It's just the thing for the mature, discerning theater-goer on a budget.


Buntport Theater Company
Courtesy Buntport Theater Facebook page
There's no getting away from it. It's not just that the Denver Center has the resources to ensure a certain level of consistency; it's that the company also has the integrity to put on a solid roster of plays, including those of Shakespeare, Pinter and such modern wonder boys as Martin McDonagh while remaining willing to take necessary risks -- original scripts, for example, and a highly successful production of Thornton Wilder's puzzling and intriguing allegory, The Skin of Our Teeth.


We're going to go out on a limb here. Any company that has the guts and vision to evoke the bleak, war-torn Europe of Family Stories: Belgrade, the sinister fairy world of Caryl Churchill's The Skriker and the bad acid flashback that Manson Family Values represents is doing the kind of serious exploration that helps advance an art form. Theater needs this kind of daring if it's not to become smug and safe, a sea of jiggling musicals or a few hours' distraction for the wealthy.


In staging Bernice/Butterfly, the Denver Center did exactly what a major regional theater should do: It mounted an original play that, in part, celebrates the history of the West, cast it with respected local actors and asked the author to direct. The acting was superb, the technical values impeccable and the script funny, sad and wise. The audience could sense the inter-connectedness of the artists involved, and the result was a richly textured and satisfying evening.

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