If you ever wanted to go back to the Aztlan, now's your chance.
Tim Correa could write a book on the past thirty years of running the Aztlan Theatre with his wife, Aurora. "We've seen it all, more or less," he laughs. The couple has a kitschy and expansive collection of memorabilia decking out the front bar: Real neon signs add a glow to Marilyn Monroe posters, and hand paintings of the Aztlan and photos of Tim and Aurora hang on the walls. This quaint bar space is just a warm-up to the grandiose feel of the venue next door.
The theater hall itself is stunning, albeit a bit dusty. The Aztlan's charm lies in its originality. The walls, painted in bright pink here, gold, red and burgundy there, sport both murals — such as the green vines on a gold background that climb the walls next to the stage — and Aztec inspired artwork. The space is large and a bit chilly in the wintertime, most likely because the stucco structure leaks heat. The stage and the historic wooden seats on the first floor are a sight to behold. Upstairs, a mélange of purple and red crushed-velvet seats fills the balcony. A projector for 35mm film sits in the projection room at the very top of the theater.
All in all, the space needs only basic maintenance before it's back to its glory. "It's not completely run down. It needs a little TLC and a sound system, and we're good to go," says Cipriano Ortega, newly appointed curator of the Back to the Aztlan show happening on April 16. (Correa had a falling out with the original planners for this show, which we reported on last month. )
To fix the sound system is not an easy task, but it is necessary to go Back to the Aztlan in the way that Correa has envisioned. He and Ortega, himself a local musician, have booked seven bands so far for the show. The current lineup includes Zero Found, Filthy Heathens, Wendy Clark Band, Orenda, ITT, Dykotomy and Averse to the End. With only a few short weeks before the big day, there are some finishing touches that still need to be put on the theater.
"It's not like it's been dormant. Rather, the idea is, 'Let's go back to the Aztlan.' That's a little bit more emotional," says Correa. "We had E-40 last year, and we're always doing stuff for first Friday. It's hard to do something with the winter weather. I have three heaters on, and even then, it's an old theater. They didn't have a lot of insulation back when they built it. I have to put the heaters on two days in advance."
"We try to double up on the amount of shows we can put on in the summer or spring," he continues. "It's still cold in here during the summer, but everybody loves it."
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When asked to name his favorite show of the past three decades, Correa says, "Glugloskull. Let me tell you a story. They were one of the bands that drank the most. They wore paint and all that. They were sitting here in the bar, and they were all having a good time — this was after the show. Everybody left; we had a big crowd. They were laughing and drinking, and all of a sudden, one of the bandmembers disappeared. I turned around to get a beer and he was gone. I said, 'Where'd he go?' He'd passed out, fell down off the high chair. We coffee'd him to death after that, picked him up. Those guys can party."
"The Red Hot Chili Peppers show was a great one, too," continues Correa. "The night was [being filmed for] a concert. It was a special screening they did at independent theaters across the country. We didn't get a T-shirt from them — we should have. But we do have a star outside; it says Red Hot Chili Peppers. We have to shine them up once in a while. King Diamond, as well. That was a very interesting show. The guy comes out of a coffin. They built a house on stage.
"We should write a book; I need some time to write a book. It would be an interesting one," Correa goes on, expressing his desire for the neighborhood and community to take part in the theater's new season of shows, as they had in the past. "There was one guy, he lived walking distance. He said he's passed it a thousand times and never been in. This was on First Friday; it was his first time ever in the theater, and he said he had the time of his life. Now we see him every First Friday."
Ortega's future plans with Correa include utilizing the space for much more than shows. "We can start showing films in here again, just like the Mayan and Esquire. We want to link up with the local high schools, as well as Metro, to start having a volunteer-credit basis student alliance to bring this place back to life. Create a sort of multi-performance art venue. Revive the whole idea that this is a community place, a community theater that offers professional-grade service." Along with showing Spanish-language films, Correa expressed interest in marijuana-friendly screenings moving forward, as well, proving that the Aztlan may be a relic, but the space is ready to embrace a new Denver.
On First Friday, April 1, you can visit the Aztlan and donate to the Back to the Aztlan benefit show scheduled for April 16.