Best Club Smoking Area 2013 | Herman's Hideaway | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword
Eric Gruneisen

If you haven't been to Herman's Hideaway in a while, it's high time that you headed over there to see the renovations that have taken place, from swanky bathroom makeovers to sound upgrades. The most startling change, however, is the addition of a new outdoor smoking area — more like a patio, really — just adjacent to the stage. With floor-to-ceiling windows (and a garage door that will open during the warmer months), you don't have to miss any of the action when you step outside for a quick smoke. And you don't have to freeze when it's cold outside, either, since a massive area heater keeps things relatively comfortable.

Musician and multimedia artist Adam Stone played Ariel as a gray shadow in Buntport's phenomenal play Wake, and provided a haunting and evocative soundscape as well. Stone has composed music and songs for several of the group's best shows. Now Buntport has announced it will be sharing its theater space with Stone's new company, Screw Tooth. Starting in August, the two companies will alternate program slots — and who can predict what the melding of these fertile imaginations will bring?

As any rock historian could tell you, teaming up with an orchestra can sometimes be a thin attempt to disguise a creative lag. But in the case of DeVotchKa and the Colorado Symphony, the pairing has produced an inspired, brilliantly structured melding of two aesthetics that relies less on contrast than it does on similarities. With DeVotchKa's sentimental landscapes and the Symphony's climactic rises and powerful, sweeping descents, performances make for a kind of epic storytelling, supplanted with enough heart to afford the grand housing of so many instruments without sounding bombastic. After offering a preview of the material at Boettcher Concert Hall, the players reconvened at Red Rocks last fall, and the results were captured for a live album, which was released in December.

Argo, the Ben Affleck flick about a real-life CIA scheme to rescue six Americans from Iran by disguising them as a fake movie crew, won big at the Oscars, snagging statuettes for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, among others. But there was one important fact left out of the Hollywood retelling: the daring rescue's Colorado connection. The script that the CIA used to persuade Iranian officials — and the gullible local press — that the Americans marooned in Iran were a film crew for a movie called Lord of Light was actually slated to be filmed at Science Fiction Land, a planned Aurora theme park that was to include a holographic zoo and a 1,000-lane bowling alley attended by robots. But when that project fell apart, the CIA grabbed the script, changed the name to Argo...and rewrote history.

Theater is great. Food is great. Both are forms of artistic expression. So why are the snacks at most theatrical performances so bad — nothing but stale chips and candy bars and a cup of popcorn if you're lucky? At the opening night of the Catamounts' hip tragicomedy Jon, vodka was served in glasses with a rim of blue Kool-Aid and cherry-juice ice cubes. Afterward, a lights-strung cart pulled up in front of the theater to serve sliders and mac and cheese. Directors Amanda Berg Wilson and Lauren Shepard Wilkinson plan to continue exploring Boulder's rich food culture and offer special dinners in which each course is paired with a performance piece and a drink. It's a wonderful thing when passions collide.

Molly Martin

Funny with a purpose, however absurd, is the new frontier in comedy and improv, and Arguments & Grievances is a perfect example of the trend. Kevin O'Brien's Sunday comedy night puts two comics on the podium to argue, point/counterpoint, on inconsequential issues, such as Simpsons vs. Family Guy and Poop vs. Pee. Denver's best comedians come out regularly to argue — and the results, exacerbated by mock outrage on either side, will have you rolling on the floor. Now, that's funny!

See also:
- Denver's five best comedy venues
- Denver's ten best comedy nights

BMoCA's venture into community involvement, Museum of Broken Relationships, is actually the local incarnation of an international movement based in Zagreb, where former lovers Draen Grubiic and Olinka Vitica curate a permanent collection of cast-off mementos left behind when relationships end. Boulderites and other Front Rangers answered BMoCA's call by donating their own relics of love lost for the exhibit, which is on view through May; after the show ends, the keepsakes will make their way to Croatia for a symbolic eternity in the brick-and mortar Museum of Broken Relationships.

Courtesy Denver Art Museum

Art museums are getting all experiential these days, and the Denver Art Museum's Open for Design challenge and exhibit proved just how good that can get. Last summer, regular folks — artists, designers, doers, thinkers, nobodies and somebodies alike — took over the walls of the DAM's Hamilton Building to show off artful models expressing their ideas on how to make the world a better place. The ingenuity of the concept bled right through to the entries themselves, which included a hanging lamp crafted from plastic spoons in alternating colors; numerous garden ornaments, poo-bag dispensers and other whimsical objects utilizing junk and found objects; and a real-estate brochure box recycled into a streetside "poem box." People have good ideas; thank the DAM for letting us see some of them at work.

We're guessing the ancient pot that dispenses bitter coffee has been around since artistic director Ed Baierlein founded Germinal Stage Denver in 1973, and went along for the ride when he moved the company to West 44th Avenue 26 years ago. The man isn't fond of change. But over the years, he's staged some of the most interesting theater in town in his tiny, intimate venue, everything from Ibsen to Albee, Shaw to Arthur Kopit, gut-busting farce to thoughtful tragedy. The walls of the auditorium are lined with photographs from past productions, in which you can see a generation of Denver actors coming of age — and some growing old. But the building is in need of repair, and Baierlein, now 69, is reluctant to undertake the Herculean task — so he's sold the place to a real-estate developer. The final season, which includes Long Day's Journey Into Night, starring Baierlein himself, ends in August. Baierlein is looking for a new space, and this time he plans to rent rather than buy — but we're sure the coffeepot will go with him.

Best known for his "Face the Sun," a permanent installation on Tennyson Street, conceptual artist Kevin Curry made quite a splash during the years he lived in Denver. And although he is now in Florida, Curry was the subject of a compelling solo at Rule Gallery (which is now sadly shuttered). Between Chaos and Order was related to "Face the Sun" in that both featured Curry's signature cut-up found signage. By cutting up the signs and reassembling them, he rendered the lettering unintelligible — and thus was able to overtly refer to various styles, including abstract expressionism and minimalism.

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