Colorado Springs artist Sean O'Meallie managed to change deep-seated ideas about chairs in a single day. But it really took many months of hard work — planning, fundraising and chair-collecting — to bring the Manitou Chair Project to fruition. And it came off without a hitch last October, when about 700 chairs were lined up in a seemingly endless row down the middle of Manitou Avenue in Manitou Springs at dawn, though only a great deal of community input and volunteer work made it possible. The well-documented one-day event, kind of a downscale Christo installation by and for the people, also inspired a show of chair art at the sponsoring Business of Art Gallery in Manitou, and will live on as a marketing tool for the touristy town and artist enclave through a series of posters depicting the project's singular ripple in time.

Everything seemed to be going so well for Paragon Theatre Company. The small but ambitious group had celebrated its tenth year in 2011, and early this year moved into a new space specially constructed to its requirements. On this stage, Paragon had just opened a production of Miss Julie that earned excellent reviews, and we were looking forward to a season that included Martin McDonagh, Lanford Wilson, Conor McPherson and Denver playwright Rebecca Gorman O'Neill. And then came the sudden announcement that Paragon was closing its doors because it was stretched too thin financially and couldn't handle one more hassle with the city over codes and permits. And with that, another serious, important company was lost. We hope to see all of Paragon's talented performances back on local stages during the coming year, and until then have our memories — among them a sizzling Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf; Neil LaBute's evil-minded take on 9/11, The Mercy Seat; local playwright Ellen K. Graham's brain puzzler, How We May Know Him; some amazing Harold Pinter; the dreamy, eerie beauty of David Henry Hwang's The Sound of a Voice; and artistic director Warren Sherrill's performance in just about any role he ever took on.

Lynn Nottage's Pulitzer-winning Ruined is based on interviews that the playwright conducted in refugee camps with women from the Democratic Republic of the Congo — a lawless, bloodstained place where women are raped and mutilated by the thousands. She set the action in a whorehouse run by Mama Nadi, a raucous, tough-minded soul who both protects and exploits her girls. Despite the protagonists' desperate circumstance, the play is full of vitality, and even snatched moments of joy — and the Denver Center Theatre Company production caught this perfectly with a bright, evocative set; warm lighting; colorful costumes; a highly talented cast; and the pulsing, on-stage presence of a couple of talented musicians, Ron McBee and composer Keith E. Johnston.

Readers' Choice: Wicked

If Curious Theatre Company had only brought us Clybourne Park — Bruce Norris's witty and insightful update of Lorraine Hansberry's famed A Raisin in the Sun — this season, well, dayenu, as we say at Passover: It would have been enough. If artistic director Chip Walton had seized only on Tony Kushner's Homebody/Kabul to introduce to Denver audiences, that might have been enough, too. But instead, in a season that also included Caryl Churchill's strange little brain tease A Number, the (frankly forgettable) On an Average Day, and Alison Moore's clever comedy Collapse, Walton presented another regional premiere: Bill Cain's 9 Circles, a play about a war crime in Iraq that left audiences stunned. Curious is one of those rare theaters where programs are shaped by a unified artistic vision: There's no pandering, no holding a finger to the wind to see what's likely to sell. Which means that over the years, the company has developed the kind of discriminating audience that makes its risk-taking possible.

Readers' Choice: Curious Theatre

The life of the Vic — a 75-seat theater in the basement of a Victorian house in northwest Denver — was closely interwoven with the history of the city. The venue was created by a Shakespeare-loving tuberculosis patient named George Swartz, who moved to Denver for the climate and loved reading the plays to his friends. In the 1950s, Paul Willett took over the space, transformed it into the Gaslight Theatre, and ran it for almost twenty years. After his death, it became the Denver Victorian Playhouse, and then, after its purchase by Wade and Lorraine Wood in 2005, the Denver Vic. In this venue, the Woods staged everything from an evening of Tom Lehrer to John B. Keane's searing The Field — but they never figured out the formula for keeping the place solvent. Early last year, they put the building that housed the Vic up for sale, and the buyers turned it back into a single-family dwelling. And so that creaky, ghost-ridden, venerable old landmark of a theater — where Swartz's friends once gathered for Shakespeare evenings and contemporary audiences sipped tea and nibbled cookies during intermissions — has slipped into the history.

Over the past year, Bar Standard has steadily risen to the top of the underground electronic-music scene. Although Vinyl and City Hall might be bigger venues that play to more mainstream crowds, the lush and lovely Bar Standard stands out for presenting some of the top names in electronic music today: Doc Martin, Mark Farina, Hugh Cleal, Lisa Shaw with Q-Burns Abstract Message and many more, including some of the best underground house, electro and straight-up techno spinners in Denver. Manager Brandon Gonzalez has his fingers on the pulse of the underground electronica scene, and given what he's done in a few short months of programming, we can't wait to see where he goes next.

The Lotus Dream Emporium isn't only (or, arguably, even mostly) an underground electronic-music venue. It's also a women's boutique with new and used clothing, home decor items, greeting cards, shoes, purses, jewelry, tea sets, art and much more. Owner and dreamer Melissa Enyeart opens the emporium for private events, and on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays for open-mike poetry sessions, movie screenings and some of the best club nights and after-hours parties in the area. It's a lovely and relaxed atmosphere, where some of the city's most talented mixers showcase their skills for little or no investment at the door. Did we mention the massage space, drawing classes and spa nights? It's a place sweet dreams are made of.

When Bon Iver earned a Grammy nod for its self-titled 2011 album — besting heavyweights like Radiohead, Death Cab for Cutie and My Morning Jacket — it wasn't just a victory and upset for Justin Vernon and Jagjaguwar, the indie label he records for. It was a major win for Colorado's own Brian Joseph, a former member of Achille Lauro and the Fray's road crew, who engineered the album. Although Joseph currently hangs his hat in Wisconsin, he grew up and cut his teeth in Denver. And although this award wasn't part of the televised ceremony, we all beamed with pride when we heard the news.

Civic Center turns into a carnival of mellow craziness every 4/20 — and this year's pot celebration, which falls on a weekend in a year when a half-dozen marijuana-related measures could be headed for the ballot, promises to be the toke of the town.

In the alley heading north off the 600 block of East Colfax Avenue is the coolest unsolicited advertising in Denver. Local graffiti artist Theo took it upon himself to spray-paint a ten-by-twenty-foot love letter to Kilgore Books and Comics, a Capitol Hill institution at 624 East 13th Avenue. Featuring images of such bohemian writers as Kurt Vonnegut (creator of the character Kilgore Trout), Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs, the mural points the way to the store with an arrow and the helpful instruction "2.5 blocks." As a teaser for the books you'll find there, Theo also included quotes below each picture, including this classic from Vonnegut: "We were put on this earth to fart around. Don't let anyone tell you different."

Readers' Choice: Graffiti by David Chloe

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