Art on the Run

There will be no Midsummer Night's Dream in Civic Center Park this summer -- nor Cyrano de Bergerac nor any other of the dozens of free plays put on by Theater in the Park over the past sixteen years. The series that started when the French ambassador challenged Sister Cities International to see which city could put on the grandest celebration for the French Revolution's bicentennial and the centennial of France's giving the Statue of Liberty to this country has fallen the way of, well, the French.

"We lost our funding this year," says Betty Emmanuel, who worked with Denver Sister Cities International and organized the performance of The Marriage of Figaro that kicked off this city's tribute (Brest, France, was Denver's first sister city). "We got our funding mainly from the boardmembers, and they're all a little bit tired of helping out. Also Vectra Bank and the Gill Foundation and Bonfils-Stanton Foundation. They all pulled. And also because the situation in Civic Center was very uncertain. With the Civic Center Conservancy and all the plans for revamping the area, things were really up in the air."

But what goes up must come down, and starting Wednesday, June 14, and continuing through September 27, the conservancy will host a weekly farmers' market in the park at lunchtime. On Friday, July 14, a weekly film series gets rolling at the Greek Amphitheatre (titles have not yet been released, but the theme is "the great American comedy"), and on Saturday, July 15, a weekly concert series sounds off with Pete Wernick and Flexigrass.

"All of these ideas were generated through the city's master-planning process done for Civic Center," says conservancy program director Nancy Steinfurth. "We chose the three that would have the greatest response. The farmers' market is on Wednesdays at lunchtime, and we want to draw the 100,000 people who work downtown and show them what a great, dynamic space Civic Center is. Plus, the Post-News is adding wi-fi in August, so Civic Center is going to have everything you need to enjoy the summer."

Except theater, of course. Emmanuel is hopeful that 2006 marks an intermission only, not a falling curtain. "We need at least $100,000 for the usual three-week series," she notes. "Theater in the Park is not a cheap proposition, but it's such a shame to lose it. But we've been appreciated by the people of Denver, no doubt about it."

The City Park Festival of the Arts is also on hiatus this year, having run afoul of the Colfax Marathon. Runners from around the country will be hoofing it down our own strip of sin this Sunday, on the weekend that the CPFA had claimed for its own for five years. With the two events on a collision course, "our ability to continue providing a locally focused arts and entertainment event has been decisively impaired," organizer Paul Weiss writes on the website. "We struggled to find an alternative day, and even alternative venues, but were unable to secure a suitable framework. We even discussed joining the marathon but could not resolve some key issues."

Even though his event got trampled by the competition, Weiss isn't sore. "We are in full and unanimous endorsement of the marathon," he concludes. "We urge you, our neighbors and our friends, to come out in support of this remarkable 26 mile celebration of the heart of our metropolitan area."

It won't fly: And speaking of exercised, we haven't seen city boosters so hot and bothered over a rumored business opportunity -- in this case, landing United Airlines headquarters -- since the last time United tried to wring a lot of eco-devo concessions from Colorado. Fifteen years ago, back when Denver was just coming out of its big bust and counting on a new international airport to fuel the next boom, United put out the word that it was going to build a fabulous new maintenance center in the city that offered it the most fabulous deal. And Denver was right in there, fighting with 92 other places for the privilege of bending over big time for the airline.

A few cranky lawmakers were so incensed over the handouts that they made up buttons urging their colleagues to "Fuck U." (The sample shown here is from the Westword collection, and if Off Limits told you who gave it to us, we'd have to kill you.) Ultimately, the Colorado Legislature saw the light and refused to match the $320 million deal that Indianapolis offered to win the maintenance facility -- a facility that United walked away from in 2003, after investing only $229 million of the $500 million it had promised Indiana.

Denver gave United a consolation prize, however: the automated baggage system at the new airport that United wanted in the worst way. And that's how that system always behaved: in the worst way, until the last of its components were ripped out and abandoned, too.

Scene and herd: Yep, that was country music you heard in the 1900 block of Market Street this past weekend -- and it was coming from 1941 Market, home to the town's hip-hoppingest club until it lost its liquor license for fourteen days. During the hiatus, the owners took the opportunity to change the club's focus, and even its name -- to Cowboy Lounge.

"Two reasons," explains Kirk Scheitler. "First, economic: Market 41 ran its course over ten years. And second, there's no country in lower downtown, and there's a need for it." Apparently so, because on Saturday night, the joint was jumping with people who somehow had picked up the art of line dancing between the parking lot and the club. "Nobody we hired," Scheitler says -- although Cowboy Lounge will offer free lessons on Friday and Saturdays. "People had just expressed interest in somewhere to go."