The Theatre Aspen season is bound to come under the microscope later this summer, when local talk-show mouth Andrew Kole makes his debut as a playwright, with the semi-autobiographical comedy, “Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time.” By then, the season could be off to a flying start. Theatre Aspen opens this week with “Love, Janis,” a music-oriented work that is a welcome break from the jukebox musicals of recent years. The show, directed by its creator, Randy Myler, examines Janis Joplin through songs, interviews and most of all, the surprisingly intimate letters she wrote to family members while she was on her way to rock legendhood. “Love, Janis” runs Thursday, June 29, through Aug. 5, and shows this week Thursday through Saturday, July 1. Also up before Kole takes the stage are Donal Margulies’ Pulitzer-winning comedy “Dinner With Friends,” opening July 20, and local writer Janice Estey’s children’s theater piece, “The Adventures of Johnny Appleseed,” opening July 7.
In some ways Trey Anastasio, former singer-guitarist of the now disbanded mega-jam band Phish, is thinking as big as ever. For instance, he is playing dates this summer with three different bands (including one with his former Phish mate, bassist Mike Gordon, which has to have Phans wondering.) And he has a CD, “Bar 17,” planned for release this summer that features a mass of players, including members of Phish and the Nashville Chamber Orchestra. But Anastasio also shows signs of being in downsizing mode. Last year he released “Shine,” an album of punchy rock, from-the-heart lyrics, and no extended jams or complex song structures. Anastasio is spending part of the summer touring as an opening act, for Tom Petty. And the sextet he is bringing to Jazz Aspen’s June Festival, Sunday, June 25, is smaller than his earlier bands. If Anastasio is looking to upscale his two-piece horn section for the night, funk saxophonist Maceo Parker would make a nice temporary addition.
The Aspen Writers’ Foundation has never limited itself stylistically, including poets, novelists and magazine journalists in its programs. For the celebration of its 30th annual summer conference, the Writers’ Foundation adds another category of scribbler to its aegis: the songwriter. The new series, Lyrically Speaking, will bring to town performing songwriters in events that focus as much on the lyrics as the performance; it is described as “‘Inside the Actors’ Studio’ meets VH1’s ‘Storytellers.'” The series opens on a note that dovetails perfectly with the theme of this year’s Aspen Summer Words, Voices of the West. Though Allan Harris is Brooklyn-born, and known best as a jazz singer, he has had a lifelong fascination with the American West and cowboy culture. His recent album, “Cross That River,” tells the story of Blue, a Louisiana slave who escaped to the West, and through him explores the experience of the black American cowboy. Harris appears in the first Lyrically Speaking event, Tuesday, June 27, at Belly Up; host for the series is Paul Zollo, an editor of American Songwriter magazine. The Writers’ Conference is in talks with top-level songwriters for future installments.
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The future of the Aspen-Pitkin County airport took a significant step forward Thursday. Pitkin County commissioners decided 4-1 to accept the recommendation of a community-based committee and leave the runway where it is, a bedrock decision in the long process toward a new terminal and airfield.