Curious Theatre Company

Tony Kushner's Homebody/Kabul was a gutsy choice for Curious Theatre Company — not least because it began with a one-hour monologue in which a conventional Englishwoman clutching an outdated travel guide to her breast expressed her longing to see Afghanistan. She cited facts from the guidebook, embellished them with her own imaginings, and contrasted these ideas with her own safe and comfortable existence in London. She mused on the passage of time, played passionately with language. This Homebody was an essentially unhappy woman who was also somehow filled with curiosity and joy — and Dee Covington made her fully and achingly human. After the monologue, the Homebody disappeared for the rest of the four-hour play, but her spirit stayed with us.

Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities
The Arvada Center

When the Arvada Center's new production of Hairspray opened last summer, everyone, but everyone, was checking out the costumes. That's because Denver hero and Project Runway superstar Mondo Guerra designed them, putting his way with fresh and professional looks to the test. But in fact, Mondo had worked behind the scenes at the center's theater long before he became nationally famous, and it was a natural step for him to take on this particular costuming job — which, he told us, was very different, especially in terms of functionality, from designing for the runway. We especially loved how he dressed up the guys in plaid jackets, sweater vests and vertically striped V-necks (we could almost imagine Mondo wearing them himself), but the rest of the retro looks were awesome, as well. We're certain John Waters would've agreed.

Beta

Not only has Beta become a prime destination for the local dance scene over the past four years, but the venue was also named the top club in North America and fifteenth in the world by DJMag.com. Beta earned the honors by hosting a succession of national acts such as the Crystal Method, Deadmau5 and John Digweed and having them perform on the mind-blowing, super-bumping Funktion-One sound system. Add in a killer lighting setup, HD projection, go-go dancers and a Krygenifex cooling system, and you've got one hell of a dance club.

Stepping into Glob on the first Friday of any month is like falling down the rabbit hole in Alice in Wonderland. Gender roles are checked at the door, and inhibitions disappear in the time it takes to strut onto the dance floor in the big warehouse space. Created by longtime Denver dance proponents Lauren Zwicky (DJ Narky Stares) and Israel Rose Oka, the wild monthly night started as a safe space for queer dancers, and now, almost a year into its tenure, has become a raucous escape from the mainstream for anyone who simply enjoys a good time.While donations are suggested, the post-bar, pre-diner party is open to anyone with moves.

Katie Ulrich was all verve and warmth as leading lady Janet Van De Graaff in Boulder's Dinner Theatre's production of The Drowsy Chaperone, a daffy, sweet-cynical tribute to '20s musicals. Van De Graaff was forced to choose between an acting career and love, and explained her choice in a sizzling number called "I Don't Wanna Show Off No More" — demonstrating her lack of interest in stardom by strutting, sashaying, blowing kisses, turning a somersault and throwing a few perfect cartwheels. Some of them one-handed. And all the while, she sang quite beautifully.

Can you name any other club night that's been going for as long as Lipgloss and has managed not just to survive, but thrive, despite the change in personnel? We thought not. Founded in June 2001 by boyhollow (aka Michael Trundle), Tyler Jacobson and Tim Cook, Lipgloss has become a Denver institution at this point, one that's kept things moving by not straying too far from its starting point. Now helmed by boyhollow and option4 (aka Brennen Bryarly), Lipgloss continues to offer up fresh sounds and frequently brings in other kick-ass local DJs like Narky Stares and DJ Tower to keep the party amped.

Avenue Theater

A variety show like Vox Phamalia: Quadrapalooza, presented at the Avenue Theater, required a whole different set of skills from a director. The show was intended as a place where everyone in the PHAMALY company could find a home, regardless of singing or acting talent or level of disability. To achieve this, director Edith Weiss selected stories from those sent in by cast members, edited them and did some writing of her own, along with Jeremy Palmer. She had to learn how to work with actors who had not only the usual emotional vulnerabilities, but unusual physical ones, too. Under her direction, the cast found ways to help and support each other, and the rage and sadness of the stories were often transmuted into humor, without any diminution of truth or impact. As a result, the performers forged a strong emotional connection with their audiences.

Neal Samples has put out music under multiple names for years with an abundance that most people would never bother to explore, much less indulge. His Cabaret Voltaire-esque Tollund Men took his lo-fi, electro-post-punk/performance-art inclinations to another level when he began performing the music live with the aid of friend Daniel Bouse. Last fall, Samples combined that cold, dark, evocative music with his absurdist, self-deprecating sense of humor and produced a music video for his cover of the classic Q. Lazzarus song "Goodbye Horses." Most people know that song from the Married to the Mob soundtrack or, more likely, The Silence of the Lambs. Re-creating the scene in which Buffalo Bill dances to the song for his own video, Samples didn't go the Full Monty, but it was disturbing and hilarious enough for most people.

Miners Alley Playhouse

When you're doing a show about Maria Callas giving a master class, it helps if there's a genuine diva around to play the role, and for this Miners Alley Playhouse production of Master Class, director Robert Kramer scored a coup when he cast local mezzo-soprano Marcia Ragonetti — even though she didn't get to sing very much. But watching Ragonetti explain technique for the very talented performers who did sing, you understood that she knew exactly what she was talking about. And when she demonstrated at one point just how to make an entrance, it was mesmerizing — and pure diva. RuPaul, eat your heart out.

Aaron Miller moved to Denver from the Western Slope a few years back and became part of the local musical community through some old friends. He established a small imprint called Clam Records that released tapes by friends including TekTone. But his real goal was to create a distro and label to support music that he believed in, one that was so far outside the mainstream, oftentimes so hermetic in its approach and distribution, that it could never be co-opted. The result was Bleak Environment, and Miller has since booked the first Iceage show in Denver, in addition to spreading the word about acts as obscure and inspiring as Raspberry Bulbs and Nuit Noir. Proof that big impact need not be big-scale.

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