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.

Most Coloradans know of the hard-drinking, straight-talking Texas reporter Molly Ivins, who died much too soon — just when we needed her most, some would argue — at the age of 62. Ivins helped break the gender barrier in journalism, and she did it as a dame, a broad, a liberal in a deep-red state, a fiery populist. She loved skewering members of the Texas Legislature, and they — as she freely admitted — gave her an awful lot to work with. When Zeik Saidman, a Denver friend of Ivins's, heard of this one-woman play, he decided it had to show here, and LIDA Project's Brian Freeland offered his space and his services as director. In a match made in heaven, he persuaded Rhonda Brown to take on the role. And the tough, warm-spirited actress did indeed kick ass.

Devon Dikeou's private Dikeou Collection gallery in a 16th Street high-rise is worth seeking out, but it's hard to find unless you know what you're looking for. Far more visible is its adjunct pop-up gallery in the Golden Triangle, which hosts openings and other special events, highlighting new additions to the collection in a more accessible spot. Think of this as a hands-on billboard for the collection itself, a spot in the heart of the museum district where the hustle and bustle brings an audience right to its door. Pop-up openings have introduced such works as Nils Folke Anderson's sculptural Styrofoam installation and, currently, the doctored photographs of Dutch artist Sebastiaan Bremer; during Denver Arts Week, the debut of Dikeou's extensive vinyl record collection provided some of the entertainment. The pop-up concept suggests an element of surprise — which means the impermanent Dikeou space is doing a surprising number of things right.

MCA Denver
JC Buck

We loved the Denver Art Museum gift shop's nod to local designers when it displayed and sold Denver-made styles during the Yves Saint Laurent retrospective's run. But even more enduring is MCA Denver's shop-local-themed Design Within Denver series, which brings in changing trunk shows on selected Friday nights, giving local artists, designers, crafters and jewelry makers a chance to shine in a museum setting. Like the shop's own collection, Design Within Denver is carefully curated to appeal to the MCA's modern-art-loving constituents, mainly by presenting the shop's regular vendors and merchandise — from whimsical miniature diorama lockets by Becky's Buttons to the graphic hand-letterpressed stationery by Rick Griffith's Matter Studio — in a sharper focus. A boon during traditional gift-shopping seasons, the series benefits both eclectic and quirky artists and buyers looking for something different.

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