As Sweet Storm began, Boas and Ruthie had just married, and he was carrying her over the threshold. Charming. Except that Ruthie was paralyzed from the waist down, and the threshold was the entrance to a treehouse that the naive Boas had constructed with his own hands as a romantic gesture. No sooner was Ruthie safely deposited on the bed than she said she had to "wee." Boas whipped out a bedpan. And so began their difficult life together. It took talent, delicacy and courage to act out a scene like this, and it surely helped that the actors were Michael and Rachel Bouchard, who are in fact husband and wife. Their relationship added an undefinable richness to Boas and Ruthie's struggle for intimacy and trust in the Miners Alley production.

Tracks
Keith Garcia

Over the past five years, Drag Nation has become the premier queen catwalk for moving local performers onto the national stage. Once a month, contestants pull out incredible stops: Birdcages drop from the ceiling holding radiant queens; human pieces of art strut their stuff; a bevy of dolled-up backup dancers creates a show with a Fame vibe. In addition to serving as a stepping stone for Denver's best talent, Drag Nation also attracts world-renowned performers like Amanda Lepore and Ongina. RuPaul's Drag Race favorite Nina Flowers is to thank for the fun: The supreme queen and expert DJ created the show's precursor, Drama Drag, and set the tone for Drag Nation. You queens rule!

Meadowlark

While the intimate Meadowlark hosts a stellar jazz jam on Mondays, its long-running Tuesday-night open stage has attracted a number of the city's finest singer-songwriters, who come to test new material or refine older songs. In more recent years, it was where Churchill and the Lumineers — then a duo from the East Coast — played before moving on to much bigger venues.

Landing an opening gig for a big-name band on tour is a big deal. Opening for a legendary act in an arena is an even bigger deal. Ask Flashlights and Lipgloss DJ boyhollow (Michael Trundle), who garnered a highly coveted slot opening for New Order during its visit to the 1STBANK Center last fall. Both acts owe a significant creative debt to New Order; each of the artists most likely spent significant chunks of their youth listening to the Substance album, or were part of the millions who made "Blue Monday" the best-selling twelve-inch single of all time. But Trundle and Flashlights earned their place in the slot, both having sufficiently developed their own unique styles and personalities in the local scene to warrant their representing our city to their heroes.

Buntport Theater Company
Courtesy Buntport Theater Facebook page

Buntport was a lock for this award — but for which of the season's offerings? The sad-funny Sweet Tooth? Wake, a profound musing on love and time inspired by Shakespeare's The Tempest? In the end, inspired by the images and scraps of dialogue that keep coming to mind months after the play's closing, we decided on Tommy Lee Jones Goes to Opera Alone, which featured an ungainly five-foot-tall puppet animated by four Buntporters as Jones; a lively waitress called Jane; and a lot of talk about cowboy boots, the evolution of human speech, and opera. The production was absorbing, entertaining, funny yet profound.

The gorgeous front space at Ice Cube Gallery, which is often split so that it can host two shows at once, is one of the best rooms in the local art scene. This past fall, two shows exemplifying post-feminist sensibility were presented side by side. Swank [fool] was an over-the-top duet featuring paintings and installations by Theresa Anderson and sculptural contraptions by Rebecca Vaughan. Continued From the Other Side showcased Pink Collar Glam, a collective with a working-class-women theme. The young members — Nancy Slyter, Holly Johnson, Jennifer Harrington and Christine Buchsbaum — invited Margaret Neumann, the godmother of postmodern in Denver, to join them, a smart move on the group's part.

Meet Mark Collins, critic: a temperate, thoughtful fellow, quietly self-effacing. Now check out Mark Collins, actor, as he swaggers around impersonating a boastful Ben Franklin in Square Product Theatre's 44 Plays fr 44 Presidents, transforms into a big, blubbery baby gobbling spoonful after spoonful of applesauce, and, as Gerald Ford, takes a number of skidding, sliding, arm-spinning falls. Yes, sometimes those who criticize can also act. But don't look for Collins to re-enter the critical fold: He's clearly enjoying himself far too much.

Month of Photography hit a kind of critical mass this year, with one wonderful show after another, but RedLine served as the event's unofficial heart by hosting Reality of Fiction, put together by MoP founder, photographer and arts advocate Mark Sink. He included artists from around the world but relied on local talent for most of the inclusions. Everything in this show, which is still open, is about the relationship of true to false, with lots of things that fool the eye — even without the use of digital magic.

CU South Denver
The Wildlife Experience at CU South Denver

Taking advantage of the Wildlife Experience's massive forty-by-sixty-foot HD screen, the Movie and a Martini series keeps selling out the house with its monthly film and food pairings. Coupling classics like Casablanca, Sixteen Candles or Strange Brew with specialty cocktails makes the grownup soiree worth a trip to Parker. And the museum's companion series, Whiskey and a Western, offers double-barreled fun with screenings of movies like Blazing Saddles accompanied by adult beverages from such local businesses as Black Canyon Distillery.

Mutiny Information Cafe
Courtesy Mutiny Information Cafe

The Mutiny Words Night free-for-all, hosted by comedian and devil's advocate Onus Spears on Thursday nights, invites poets, musicians, comedians, storytellers and raving lunatics to talk, read or sing about what concerns them — or simply dispense their activist screed. Mindless haters, Spears warns, are not tolerated, so take your anger elsewhere unless it's directed into a cogent, arguable point of view that's less about finger-pointing and more about cultivating change. Otherwise, there's no censorship (or alcohol or drugs) at this all-ages forum, which begs participants to "SAY IT," whether their causes be personal or communal: sexuality, war, guns, bicyclists, pot-litics, local and world issues — it's all fair game. Talk may be cheap, but Mutiny Words Night is free. Rant on.

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