When Lady Anne confronted Richard over the coffin of her father-in-law in Richard III and railed that his presence was making the corpse bleed anew, Nigel Gore, playing Richard, stuck in a finger to check. When she spat in his face, he tasted her spittle. This Richard wasn't kingly. He was almost clownish, and vulgar in the most undignified and unexpected ways — and yet he was frightening: You knew he was capable of unimaginable evil. Gore's original interpretation made the Colorado Shakespeare Festival production of Richard III new.

In Buntport's Tommy Lee Jones Goes to Opera Alone, waitress Jane, played by Hannah Duggan, was the only actual, freestanding human being. Everyone else was busy animating the large Tommy Lee Jones puppet or, in the case of Eric Edborg, providing his voice. So Jane served him pie and responded with down-to-earth humor and some skepticism to the bits of wisdom and information he doled out. Flirty, wise and brash, she was completely unintimidated by her famous customer. And also by opera, singing along with an aria and coming up with ideas to complete the plot of Puccini's unfinished masterpiece Turandot,with the help of a bottle of ketchup, a syrup dispenser and a fork. Duggan's intense focus on everything she did on stage, along with her protectiveness toward Jones, made her portrayal both touching and hilarious.

In the Boulder Ensemble Theatre's Ghost-Writer, Laura Norman played Myra Babbage, the secretary of a major writer, who continued work on his unfinished novel after his death because she believed she could still hear his voice dictating the words to her. Playing a woman who lived to serve others and kept a tight rein on her own feelings, Norman made an art out of stillness and silence; only her eyes revealed the deep currents of emotion within. Even the movement of her fingers on the clacking, old-fashioned typewriter keys was eloquent. When the writer, making a point about the work, placed a light hand on her arm, Babbage neither moved nor spoke — but the electric current that pulsed through her body was felt through the entire auditorium.

Doris in Miracle on 34th Street is a young single mother, a spunky, supposedly cynical professional who nonetheless has an easily breached heart — in other words, she's a pretty generic musical-comedy heroine. The script is on the nondescript side, and the songs are so-so. Nonetheless, in large part due to Lauren Shealy's fine soprano and strong performance in this Arvada Center production, the musical was one of the tastiest Christmas treats around.

Queen Elizabeth is usually one of the more forgettable female roles in Shakespeare, a sad figure who sweeps around in a long dress weeping for her murdered child — though she does have one highly charged scene when Richard III, who murdered that child, asks for her daughter's hand and she appears to give in. But Mare Trevathan packed one hell of a wallop when she played the part for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival's Richard III. Her Elizabeth was smart and tough and the only person in the play who proved a match for Richard. She may have been half-crazed by grief, this woman, but you knew she'd find a way to protect her daughter — and so she did.

Anyone who saw the Dirty Few early on and thought it was just a half-decent garage-rock band should see it now. At an album-release show at 3 Kings Tavern this past January, the bandmembers not only played the show like rock-and-roll wildmen, but they really got the crowd fired up, then fed off that energy with increasing intensity throughout the night. Crowd-surfing alternated seamlessly between audience members and bandmembers as momentum and excitement continued to build to the very end. It would be difficult to point to a more salient example of people having pure, unadulterated fun at a rock show.

Jesse Sola has been producing interesting ambient music on an international level since the 1990s. And because his music has been picked up by various ambient labels over the years, Sola, who still plays live occasionally, has had access to some of the most important and influential artists of the genre. Over the past decade or so, he's hosted Hearts of Space regular Robert Rich at his house, and last summer, Rich was set up with banks of synths and electronics in Sola's living room, with a small group of ambient aficionados in attendance. Having Rich there in person, manipulating the electronics and playing a homemade PVC flute and a lap steel to create expansive sonic spaces, grounded music that can often be too abstract and ethereal for some tastes.

The anime community, which wraps Japanese animation and video-game fandom up with an exquisite propensity for cosplay and costumery, is tight in Denver, and it showed off with abandon at this fall's Nan Desu Kan, an annual hotel takeover that's out of this world. You feel as if you've stepped into another world at NDK, where manga characters come alive and jostle in the hallways, and Lolita gear, plush pink Arpakasso alpacas, Gloomy Bears, samurai swords, Totoro T-shirts and kigurumi costumes rub shoulders in one magical place. Need a vacation to another planet? NDK will be back in September.

There are a lot of great parties in the art world, but they usually attract very specific crowds. Design After Dark attracts all kinds, however. The annual February event supports Darrin Alfred's Architecture, Design and Graphics department at the Denver Art Museum, and the 2013 version took place inside the newly rehabbed McNichols Building, with Design After Dark favorite James Holden flying in from L.A. to serve as DJ. The theme was "Cirque," and in addition to such circus fare as stilt walkers and mini-hot dogs, it featured an auction of artist- and designer-made projects, with the likes of DoubleButter, Jonathan Saiz, tres birds workshop and more than a dozen others donating pieces.

The 2012 Denver County Fair, the event's sophomore edition, might have experienced a few growing pains, but the modern urban take on a rural tradition is already gearing up for year three, and it promises to be the best yet. Cornerstone activities — including the proliferating blue-ribbon competitions in categories ranging from traditional to hipsterized to just plain silly, Andrew Novick's X-Treme Pancake Breakfast, animal displays and performances, and non-stop events on multiple stages — will be back, fair organizers promise. There will also be a series of daily headlining acts absent from last year's fair, as well as a new History Pavilion that's bound to be a hit. No other event expresses so well the pop culture and spirit of modern Denver — its drag queens and zombie-walkers, steampunks and artists, crafters and chicken-keepers, foodies and fashionistas. Give this annual fest a blue ribbon!

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