Escape to Aspen |

Escape to Aspen

Stewart Oksenhorn

Let’s run down the fall destination options for those convinced they’ve got to escape Aspen for at least part of the offseason.No one in their right (or left) mind would go anywhere near the partisan pit of Washington, D.C., this close to the elections. Ditto any swing state, where you are bound to be pummeled by those heinous political ads. (This includes the vacation meccas of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Iowa, and places you may have actually considered visiting, like Oregon and New Mexico.)New York? Not with that terror threat at yellow, no sir. Anywhere in the vicinity of the Caribbean is out, for obvious reasons. Hawaii is expecting monster volcano eruptions. Based on 25 years of personal experience, I say with confidence, forget New Jersey. Closer to home, you’ve got the bike trails and canyons of Utah – but have you read “Under the Banner of Heaven”? Think thrice before stepping foot in our neighbor to the west. Kansas, Nebraska and Wyoming are considering promoting themselves under the common slogan: “Where offseason never ends.”That leaves California, the Golden State – land of awards shows, Gov. Schwarzenegger, Barry Bonds and the ghosts of Richard Nixon, Walt Disney and Ray Kroc.You see what we’re getting at here. Save gas, save the environment, and stay in Aspen these fall months. (And save what small bit of patriotism you may have left: Word has it that Colorado is being taken off the table, at least as far as ad spending, by the John Kerry campaign, keeping us relatively safe from those noxious ads.) Believe it or not, there should be a good bit of arts and entertainment activity to fill the space of those yanked advertisements. Here’s a peek at the highlights of Aspen’s offseason calendar. (My name is Stewart Oksenhorn, and I approved this article.)

“Between a Rock and a Hard Place” by Aron Ralston”Postcards from the Trailer Park” by Cameron BurnsLocals Aron Ralston and Cameron Burns offer two very different takes on outdoors adventuring in these two new books.Ralston’s “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” is not only a heart-pounding account of his ordeal last year in Utah’s Blue John Canyon, but a powerful reminder of the spiritual reasons for venturing into the wilderness.Burns’ “Postcards from the Trailer Park” provides something absent from most outdoors literature – a sense of humor, and plenty of it. His most ambitious book yet chronicles such overlooked aspects of the extreme life as waiting for the weather to clear and gear thievery.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band Friday, Sept. 17, WheelerPreservation Hall Jazz Band, the resident combo of New Orleans’ Preservation Hall, plays some of the most readily identifiable music in the world – the classic jazz of the French Quarter. The group is so traditional, it doesn’t write any of its own tunes. But with a repertoire including such foot-stompers as “Down by the Riverside,” “Little Liza Jane” and “When the Saints Go Marching In,” they don’t lack for strong material.Steve’s Guitarsvarious acts throughout offseasonSteve Standiford’s intimate, wooden shop is boasting its success in the best way possible, with more and more concerts. Some highlights of the offseason:Darden Smith (Friday, Sept. 17), a folkish, Austin singer-songwriter whose latest album, “Circo,” features a cast of Texas’ best, including bassist Roscoe Beck, who accompanies Smith at the gig; Suzanne Paris & Steve Postell (Sept. 25), a pair of talented former locals who have moved to Los Angeles; Element 37 (Oct. 15), a Boulder trio that should bring some rare talent to Steve’s; and the top-shelf folk pair of Pierce Pettis & Tom Kimmel (Nov. 5).

Maroon Bells Festival of ColorSaturday, Sept. 18, Aspen Artists CooperativeA gathering of the tribes for the valley’s visual art contingency, the Aspen Artists Cooperative, at Aspen Highlands Village, represents 54 local artists, and almost all of them are expected for this bash. Attendees are invited to bring an art project to work on; there will also be a participatory kids art project, demonstrations, food and drink, and music by the Lone Pine Bluegrass Band. The event is a fund-raiser for the new Aspen Artists Cooperative Studio and School.Break! The Urban Funk SpectacularSunday, Sept. 19, WheelerBreak! is an outgrowth of the dance forms – break dancing, locking, popping – that originated on America’s city streets in the ’70s. The move to a formal stage hasn’t robbed the art of its energy; Break! earned raves at the 2000 Edinburgh Fringe Festival and has appeared at venues throughout the States.Wheeler Film Series

through offseason, WheelerThanks to the Wheeler Film Series, Aspenites aren’t starved for the art-house fare that bypasses virtually every other small town. And in the offseason, when most live acts bypass Aspen, Wheeler films are a vital key of the cultural survival kit. “The Corporation,” a Canadian documentary examining the corporate entity, shows Monday through Wednesday, Sept. 20-22. “The Door in the Floor,” adapted from part of John Irving’s novel “A Widow for One Year” and starring Jeff (“The Big Lebowski”) Bridges and Kim Basinger, is set for Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 23-26. The French romance “Intimate Strangers” shows Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 27-28.The October schedule will include encore screenings of the extraordinary surf documentary “Riding Giants,” with dates to be announced.Aspen Filmfest 2004Sept. 29 through Oct. 3programs in Aspen, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs

The best reason – aside from financial necessity – to go nowhere is Aspen Filmfest. Filmfest dovetails beautifully with offseason, and for good reason: the festival was designed 25 years ago to inject some activity into the Aspen autumn, and Filmfest has retained its original low-key atmosphere.Highlights of Filmfest ’04 include the six-hour Italian epic “The Best of Youth”; the presentation of the Independent By Nature Award to Michael Douglas; a panel discussion of documentaries including directors Morgan Spurlock (“Super Size Me”) and Robert Greenwald (“Outfoxed”); and “I love Huckabees,” written and directed by David O. Russell and starring Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin.Thunder River Theatre Company”Seascape,” opening Oct. 1Waldorf School TheatreThunder River Theatre Company celebrates its 10th season by tackling typically challenging work. Edward Albee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Seascape” focuses on the relations between a couple on the verge of retirement, whose conversation is enough to drive a pair of humanlike lizards back to sea.Fall movies

“Shark Tale,” an animated undersea gangster film, featuring the voices of Robert De Niro, Will Smith, Martin Scorsese and Jack Black (opens nationally Oct. 1); director/co-writer Alexander Payne’s “Sideways,” with two friends (Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church) examining failed relationships against the backdrop of California wine country (Oct. 20); “Ray,” a biopic of the late Ray Charles, with an Oscar-buzzing performance by Jamie Foxx (Oct. 29); Oliver Stone’s “Alexander,” starring Colin Farrell as the great, fourth century B.C. conqueror (Nov. 5); and “Bad Education,” Pedro Almodóvar’s controversial film of sexual abuse in religious schools (Nov. 19).David GrierOct. 6, Main Street Bakery Main Street Bakery, which has become a happening music spot (one night a week, anyway), won’t be happening in the offseason. But for acoustic guitarist David Grier, the Bakery will open its doors. They must have seen Grier’s stellar performance at last spring’s Beyond Bluegrass Festival, with the Phillips, Grier & Flinner trio. This time Grier is on his own; he has another solo date Oct. 7 at Steve’s Guitars.John Denver Tribute Concerts

Oct. 8-9, WheelerFor the seventh year since his death, Aspen icon John Denver’s memory will be celebrated in song. Denver’s band members and co-writers will gather for three shows (one on Oct. 8, two on Oct. 9) of “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” “Sunshine on My Shoulder” and “Rocky Mountain High.” Special guest on Oct. 9 only is Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul & Mary, a longtime friend and collaborator of Denver’s. Proceeds benefit Challenge Aspen.Denver will also be recalled with the Rocky Mountain Memory: A John Denver Tribute on Oct. 7 at the Aspen District Theatre, featuring Ron Rich, a benefit for the Windstar Foundation; and the Absolute Best John Denver Music Celebration, featuring local Denver interpreter John Adams.Aspen Valley Biennialopening reception on Oct. 14Aspen Art MuseumThe Aspen Art Museum’s biannual, all-local juried show sports a decidedly cutting-edge angle this year. Among the exhibits are Mona Esposito’s abstract photographs, including a mammoth 5-by-4-foot piece; Hunt Rettig’s unique mixed-media assemblages; and Norman Gershman’s black-and-white photographs of Muslims coming to the aid of Jews. Finally, there’s the kaleidoscopic, sexual, computer-generated and painted wallpaper and canvas by WKRP Inc., a collective of Pam Joseph, Robert Brinker and Kurosh ValaNejad.

Roaring Fork Art DaysOct. 15-16, various locationsA new event, Roaring Fork Valley Art Days, will arrange self-guided tours of galleries in Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. Also participating are restaurants and other shops.”Impact” Oct. 29-30, WheelerAs much as ski swaps and ski bums, the surest sign of the coming winter is a Warren Miller film. “Impact,” Miller’s 55th annual flick, has an unprecedented emphasis on women athletes – 17 female downhillers are featured – along with Old Snowmass resident Chris Davenport, in action in Alaska’s Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park, Bulgaria’s Bansko ski area, and Davos, Switzerland.Aspen Community Theatre, “The Sound of Music”

opening Nov. 3, Aspen District TheatreAspen Community Theatre isn’t in the habit of repeating itself; in its 28 years, ACT hasn’t revisited one musical. This year it breaks tradition, but for a good reason. ACT will present the beloved “The Sound of Music,” which it originally performed in 1981.Marisa Post directs and choreographs the Rodgers & Hammerstein play about the real-life von Trapp family, their governess and nun-in-training Maria, and their backstage escape from Nazi-occupied Austria. “The Sound of Music” is wall-to-wall musical highlights: “Do-Re-Mi,” “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” and “My Favorite Things.”Darol Anger Fiddle Ensemble Nov. 5, WheelerIn projects ranging from the Fiddlers 4 to Psychograss to a duo with Mike Marshall, fiddler Darol Anger has fused jazz, bluegrass, classical and more. His latest project, stretches further still; on this year’s “Republic of Strings,” the Fiddle Ensemble took a stringed stroll through such likely spots as Ireland and Appalachia, and less obvious ones like Detroit and Beirut. Anger’s combo will include fiddler Brittany Haas, guitarist Bryan Sutton and cellist Rushad Eggleston.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is