Best Temporary Online Gig for Out-of-Work Actors 2020 | Pandemic Collective, Project Outbreak 2020 | Best of Denver® | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Denver | Westword

One of the biggest pandemic-driven stories coming out of the creative community is the plight of performing artists of every ilk who are out of work overnight after entire seasons came to a standstill in the name of social distancing. The Pandemic Collective, a nonprofit company that normally stages horror-inspired theater, has devised a stopgap to keep unemployed theater people busy, with modest remuneration for their trouble. Project Outbreak is seeking submissions of short audio and radio plays responding to themes of uncertainty; the project is recruiting actors and production crews interested in being part of the project as well. If you're none of the above, consider donating to Project Outbreak's GoFundMe page.

Brush up on your writing skills while you're sequestered: The social-distancing-correct Lighthouse Writers Workshop will move its spring events online in real time via the Zoom remote platform for at least a few weeks. Yes, you'll be at home in an easy chair and pajamas while experiencing a live lesson and discussion. Keep up with Lighthouse on social media and/or its website as the organization devises new ways to provide literary experiences online. Write on!

With a constant flow of stressful news coming from all sides, Denver poet Suzi Q. Smith has been there for us, providing art that comforts. From a Twitter feed that offers laughter and truth to an organized online poetry broadcast, Smith uses her platforms to be there for us virtually. The standout is "Poems for the End of the World," a poem-a-day service on her website. Make reading Smith's stark and searing writing a part of your daily routine, and break up the noise of news with some humanity.

Brandi Homan's novel in fragments, Burn Fortune, is proof that small presses are still putting out some of the best literature available in today's market. The piecemeal format isn't the only inventive move that Homan makes in this story of a sixteen-year-old girl trying to survive in the 1990s Midwest with a dysfunctional family, an abusive boyfriend and the cornfield world spinning around them all. The poetic voice, the first-person narrator, the vibrant world built in minimalist but thorough style — it all culminates in a focused and sharp-edged narrative that leaves readers breathless.

Like most cities, Denver has suffered from cutbacks in arts and culture writing. But a new generation of art critics is emerging and taking on the daunting task of launching publications and bringing a critical eye to the city's arts scene. Run by Genevieve Waller, DARIA, which stands for Denver Art Review Inquiry and Analysis, has recruited a diverse cast of emerging culture writers to pen smart criticism about Denver's gallery scene. Along with stalwarts like Mary Chandler, a longtime arts writer for the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News, this emerging pool of critics is filling a gap in the city's cultural coverage, regularly online and quarterly in print.

Jennifer Wortman's collection is a jubilant celebration of both language and love in all their forms. The thirteen stories that make up This. This. This. Is. Love. Love. Love. are bites of nourishing literary foodstuff that both impress and satisfy; the prose is at once smooth and strong, luxurious and striking. The characters will draw you in, make you laugh, make you cringe and make you think. And you'll thank them for the journey they take you on as a reader — every surefooted or stumbling step.

When Deer Pile, the empty room above City, O' City that hosted everyone from crusty folksingers to Dave Chappelle, closed in 2018, organizers threw their energy into Birdy, the stylish literary magazine they'd launched back in 2014. Continuing the tradition of celebrating all manner of Denver culture, fiction and art (and occasionally work from far beyond), Birdy has become a staple of the scene. When you're lucky enough to find one out in public, it's free. And Birdy is not just a great read filled with gorgeous art; it's also collectible. Jonesing for past issues? Buy them online at the mag's website.

Normally, a Colorado-themed board game would fall under the categories of "tacky" and "touristy." But this year, while we're stuck inside dreaming of all the things vacationers dream of once they've come and gone from our great state, we finally understand the appeal of Colorado-Opoly. Visit Colorado Ski Country from the safety of our homes? Sure! Hoard green chili (spelled that way in the game) without going to the grocery store? You bet! Visit Rocky Mountain National Park in our pajamas? Absolutely! Order a copy and play with your friends, whether you're trapped in the same house or just a video chat away.

Half Past Fate, made for Nintendo and PCs by Boulder's Serenity Forge Games, is a charming rom-com adventure rendered in 3-D pixel-art graphics. The story follows six people over the course of eight years through the twists and turns of fate as they all find love. Half Past Fate creates a heartwarming world where couples help a stranger change a flat tire or eat a perfect bowl of spicy ramen. This single-player game is social-distancing-approved, and is a much better alternative for digital romance than endlessly swiping on Tinder.

The sounds of a laughing crowd offer a reprieve from cabin fever. Lonesome listeners will find guffaws, groans and chortles in abundance on A Boatload of Jokes, the debut standup album from local comedian Zach Reinert. A one-liner wunderkind with a comedic fixation on DUIs, imaginary dead family members, and the cinematic oeuvre of M. Night Shyamalan, Reinert packs his filler-free hour with an onslaught of hilarious misdirects, grim surprises and unexpected wordplay, pausing only for quick comments or to allow peals of laughter to reverberate through the audience. Recorded late last year at the Denver Comedy Underground, a performance space in the basement of the Irish Snug, Reinert's debut is a testament to what the Denver comedy scene can achieve. A Boatload of Jokes is available on streaming services, including Apple, Amazon and Spotify; visit to start listening now.

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