Nothing off about this season |

Nothing off about this season

Stewart Oksenhorn
Pop-Artist, Entertainer, Musician, Singer-Songwriter and Actress Nellie McKay, Thursday, May 19, 2005 (Amy T. Zielinski)

In the big cities, fall is the arts season. People return from summer vacations to a full calendar of theater openings, gallery shows, concert series and serious films.Aspen hasn’t quite stepped into the big-city realm, but you can hardly tell by the arts offerings this so-called offseason. Concert producers, theater people, film presenters and visual artists all seem not to have noticed, or not to care, that the summer high season has ended.Here’s a look at what’s coming up as the leaves fall down.Belly UpMany dates through offseasonWhat offseason? Belly Up seems intent not only on rewriting the book on nightclubs, but also in obliterating the concept of offseason.

Making their Aspen debuts at Belly Up are such notables as Jamaican reggae singer Buju Banton (Thursday, Sept. 21); singer-songwriter Nellie McKay (Sept. 23); Wu-Tang Clan member Method Man (Oct. 2); New Jersey art rockers Yo La Tengo (Oct. 11); and trip-hop pioneer Tricky (Nov. 3).Most arrive with new CDs. Banton’s latest is “Too Bad,” his first dance hall CD in a decade, and the first release on his Gargamel label. He returns to roots-reggae with “Rasta Got Soul,” due out next year. McKay’s former label, Columbia, refused to release her latest CD, the follow-up to her acclaimed 2004 debut, “Get Away From Me.” Her recording limbo should end with the release of “Pretty Little Head”; whether that happens in October or January is up in the air.Method Man’s “4/21 … The Day After,” named for the day following the pot-smoker’s holiday of 4/20, and a rebuttal to critics of his work and life, came out in late August. Yo La Tango’s “I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass” was released last week. Tricky’s latest CD was 2003’s “Vulnerable,” though he has since contributed tracks to compilation albums and TV shows, and been working his Brown Punk label.Other dates to make you wonder what season this is: Southern California indie rockers She Wants Revenge (Friday, Sept. 22, with Mellowdrone and Benzos); modern classic rockers Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers (Sept. 29, with Alice Peacock and Reed Waddle); Irish soul nostalgia band the Commitments (Oct. 25); singer-songwriter Donavon Frankenreiter (Oct. 27); and British rock group Gomez (Oct. 30).And to celebrate the end of offseason, resurrected Seattle metal band Alice in Chains plays Nov. 21.Wheeler Film SeriesVarious datesWith Stage 3 out of business, the Wheeler Films Series has a chance to creep closer to commercial fare. In fact, its current presentation – “Clerks II” (Saturday through Monday, Sept. 16-18), a sequel to Kevin Smith’s 1994 breakthrough slacker comedy – is the sort of film that likely would have turned up in a regular theater before the demise of Stage 3.But the Wheeler turns back to its usual mission with “Water,” a hit from the SummerFilms series that returns for a one-night engagement, Sept. 25. The emotionally draining, widely acclaimed film, tells the story of abandoned child brides in 1938 India. And the October calendar is packed with harder-to-find films, like 1948’s “The Fallen Idol,” adapted from a Graham Greene story (Oct. 9-10); the French language romantic drama “Heading South,” starring Charlotte Rampling (Oct. 16 and 18); the British black comedy “Keeping Mum” (Oct. 20-22); the Chinese comedy “Mongolian Ping Pong” (Oct. 23-24); the Australian film “The Proposition,” written by and with music by rocker Nick Cave (Oct. 25-26); and the Hispanic family drama “Quinceañera” (Oct. 30-31).

‘Red Herring’Sept. 22-23, Wheeler Opera HouseKent Reed’s Hudson Reed Ensemble, after a summer of Shakespeare on the lawn and beat poetry in the cafe, doesn’t slow down for autumn. The company gets an actual stage for “Red Herring,” a satirical comedy set in Sen. Joe McCarthy’s early ’50s and featuring a crew of characters from the “Dick Tracy” comic strip. John Goss directs; the 12-person cast includes Charisse Layne, Tim Rafelson, Jane Robertson, Jonathan Boxer, Michelle Miller and Reed.An Evening of BebopSaturday, Sept. 23, Glenwood Springs Center for the ArtsStan Levey was a backbone of bebop, playing drums behind Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Charlie Parker. Levey died last year at the age of 79, leaving behind scores of recordings and a trail of admirers. His son Bob Levey, a drummer himself and a Missouri Heights resident, is gathering a group of players to jam in the name of his father. Special guest for the session is Artt Frank, a big fan of the elder Levey. Frank drummed behind Chet Baker and learned the scat style of singing from the immortal trumpeter-singer.

Wet PaintOpening reception Saturday, Sept. 23, LIVASPENARTMaroon Bells Festival of ColorSept. 23-24, Aspen Highlands VillageThe Maroon Bells Festival of Color, entering its third year, features not just art, but artists and the art-making process. The festival turns Highlands Village into a combination gallery/market/studio, as 20 regional artists sell and create their work. Kids will be able to contribute to a large group canvas. And since a bunch of art and artists does not a festival make, the event also includes free wine tastings and food from Highlands’ restaurants.Wrapped into the festival is a gallery opening at LIVASPENART, a gallery and working studio that has livened up Highlands. The Wet Paint show features paintings by gallery owner Olivia Daane Reische, Tori Mitas-Campisi and Carrie Trippe, photography by Lisa Deutsch, and jewelry by Delight Van Dame.Aspen FilmfestSept. 26-Oct. 1Events in Aspen, Carbondale and Glenwood SpringsThe 28th annual Aspen Filmfest features one big star and a smattering of name talent. The Hollywood heavyweight is Harrison Ford, who will be presented with the Independent by Nature Award, Sept. 30. Helen Mirren stars as Queen Elizabeth II in the closing-night film, “The Queen,” a portrait of the British royals just after Princess Di’s death. Directing is Stephen Frears, whose credits include “High Fidelity,” “Dirty Pretty Things” and “Dangerous Liaisons.” And the family drama “Driving Lessons” has a cast of Laura Linney, Rupert Grint and Julie Walters.Other than that, it’s small cinematic gems waiting to be discovered: foreign films from France, Denmark, Singapore and Australia’s Aboriginals; documentaries about John Lennon, young Evangelicals and the Dixie Chicks; and even a pair of offbeat romantic comedies.

‘Jesus in Montana’ Sept. 28, Aspen Art MuseumIt can seem as if Aspenite Barry Smith won’t stop performing his “Jesus in Montana” till everyone in the valley has seen it. But recently Smith, an Aspen Times columnist, has been presenting “Squatter,” a new one-man comedy, as a work-in-progress. And word is that “Squatter” is going to be, to quote John Lennon, “bigger than ‘Jesus.'” So before Smith retires his piece about living in Bozeman, Mont., with the Son of God himself, best to check it out. This time, it’s at the Aspen Art Museum’s outdoor amphitheater.P.S. Admission is free as the wind. Free is when you don’t have to pay for nothing.Shelly MaroltSept. 29, Gorilla GalleryAnd featured in the Inspired Integrity exhibitOpening with a reception Oct. 5, Red Brick Center for the Arts

Shelly Marolt, a 46-year-old magazine stylist who moved to the valley from her native New York City in 1989, makes her debut as an artist with a pair of events. Sept. 29, Marolt will give a video presentation on her creative process at the Gorilla Gallery, where she has had a studio for several months. The presentation will explain how Marolt took her father’s home movies, shot between 1928-36 in Havana, Atlantic City and Coney Island, and turned them into nostalgic, period paintings she likens to “memories of these people who are gone.” Marolt may have gotten a late start on her art career, but it is a strong one.Marolt is moving her studio to the Red Brick Center for the Arts, so why not show her work there as well? Her paintings, oil and mixed-media works are included in the group exhibit Inspired Integrity, which has an opening Oct. 5 and shows through the month. Also in the exhibit are paintings by Susie Allen, focusing on her Leadville surroundings, and ceramic sculpture by Shari McWilliams, an intern this past summer at Anderson Ranch Arts Center.The Red Brick’s November show has pottery by Grand Junction’s Terry Shepherd, batik work by Vera Mulder, and paintings by Lynn Smith and Colleen Clare.People of the SeaOct. 3, Aspen District TheatreA big group of Scottish folk artists – harpists, singers, storytellers, step dancers, pipers and more – come together for a celebration of Scottish culture. The first half of the show is a ceilidh-style performance, examining the fisher folk and their connection to the mythical seal people, the Selkies. The second half is a telling of the Scottish ballad, “The Great Selkie of Sule Skerry,” created as a radio musical drama for the BBC in 1995 by composer Martyn Bennett. The entire night is a tribute to Bennett, who died last year at the age of 33.’The Complete History of America (Abridged)’Thunder River Theatre, opening Oct. 6

The current history of America may not be much of a laughing matter, what with wars, Hurricane Katrina, the obesity epidemic and Will Ferrell movies. But over the long haul, the U.S. of A. has produced a bunch of comedic moments. At least that’s the way the team of Adam Long, Reed Martin and Austin Tichenor sees it. The trio gives 500 years of American history the “Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” treatment – frenetic, funny and just 90 minutes long.Steve’s GuitarsVarious dates through offseasonCarbondale truly is a world away from Aspen; Aspen’s offseason is Bonedale’s high season. At least, that’s the way it looks at Steve’s Guitars, Carbondale’s little music box.In a stretch from Oct. 10-19, Steve’s has six shows (quite a leap from the one-night-a-week the place started with). That streak builds to a high note of Kelly Joe Phelps on Oct. 19. Phelps built his reputation as a lap steel pioneer, mixing elements of Coltrane into folk-blues. But on his new CD, “Tunesmith Retrofit,” Phelps sticks to the songs, and even abandons his lap steel wizardry for the relatively rustic sounds of melodica and banjo. If we’re lucky, his show will feature some of everything.Leading up to Phelps are Eddie From Ohio (Oct. 10), a long-running folk-rock band (which is actually from Virginia); Carbondale’s first Celtic Festival (Oct. 13); Oktoberfest (Oct. 14); and Milwaukee singer-guitarist Willy Porter (Oct. 18).Colorado BiennialOpening with a reception Oct. 12Aspen Art Museum

The Roaring Fork Annual has gone of the way of Valley Kids. Aspen Art Museum director Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson has replaced the Annual, featuring valley artists, with the Colorado Biennial, which broadens the range to all of Colorado. The inaugural Biennial is split into two halves, each featuring six artists, and is organized by Matthew Thompson, the museum’s assistant curator. Part I, running Oct. 12-29, features one local, Snowmass Village mixed-media artist Ben Koch. Part II, which opens Nov. 9 and runs through Nov. 26, includes two more locals, both photographers: Woody Creeker George Stranahan, whose work captures evocative moments, and Basaltine Karl Wolfgang, who will show large, abstract photos taken from the ends of rolls of film, as well as nighttime architectural images.Expect the change to elicit at least three howls of protest.The museum’s two current shows – Belief & Doubt, a group show centered around notions of the spiritual realm, and “Oedipus Marshal,” Javier Téllez’s Western retelling of “Oedipus Rex,” shot in Ashcroft – run through Oct. 1.Musical Tribute to John DenverOct. 13-14, WheelerThe musical tribute to late Aspen icon John Denver gets a few new twists in its ninth year. The most attention grabbing is country singer Kathy Mattea, who appears as a special guest Oct. 13 only. The biggest is the addition of Glenwood Springs-based Symphony in the Valley, which will put an orchestral spin on Denver’s music. Otherwise, it’s tribute as usual, with Denver’s old mates – including Mack Bailey, Chris Nole and Pete Hutlinger – celebrating with familiar songs.Local Denver doppelgänger John Adams does his own tribute, Rocky Mountain High, Oct. 15 at the Wheeler. And that night, the trio of Bailey, Nole and Hutlinger performs a more intimate show at Mountain Chalet.

Dan BernOct. 19, WheelerDan Bern possesses the broadest, most vivid imagination in singer-songwriter land. The Iowa-born, L.A.-based Bern can bring listeners to tears with either laughter or sorrow. In “President,” Bern shred Bush, while detailing a hilarious to-do list for his own first 10 days in the White House. “Lithuania” is his heartbreaking elegy to ancestors killed by the Nazis, done talking-blues style. And Bern can name-drop like nobody, using celebrities to illuminate and make sport of our bizarre culture. “Breathe,” produced by Chuck Plotkin and due for release Tuesday, Sept. 19, reportedly has Bern in an uncommonly heartfelt mode. Bern’s band includes former Aspenite Paul Kuhn.Another talented, singing, songwriting Dan – Aspenite Dan Sheridan – opens.’Fiddler on the Roof’Nov. 1-12, Aspen District TheatreAspen Community Theatre has begun to show its age, dipping into its past history to resurrect old productions. Not that anyone’s complaining.Two years ago, ACT repeated itself for the first time, with an encore presentation of “The Sound of Music” (which it first performed in 1981). Now, for its 30th anniversary, it brings back another timeless favorite, “Fiddler on the Roof” (which kicked off the organization’s existence, in 1977). A group of familiar faces get top billing in the Joseph Stein-Jerry Bock musical of life in a Russian shtetl: Pat Holloran (who directed back-to-back productions of “My Fair Lady” and “Mame” for ACT a few years ago) stars as the pious father Tevye; Tammy Baar (Mother Abbess in “The Sound of Music”) is his wife Golde; and John Trow, who directs the Crystal Palace show, directs and choreographs.

Wheeler concertsVarious datesThe Wheeler lets other organizations fill its new seats through early fall, then bursts into programming action when November hits. The run starts with fiddler Natalie MacMaster, Canada’s Celtic-leaning answer to Alison Krauss, Nov. 4. By then, her new album, “Yours Truly,” will be familiar to her fans; it’s set for an Oct. 10 release.South Africa’s unmatchable Ladysmith Black Mambazo brings its take on Isicathamiya, the a cappella music of South Africa’s Zulu miners, back to town Nov. 9. Two nights later, Chris Hillman, a member of the Byrds, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Manassas, and the more prosaically named Rice, Rice, Hillman & Pedersen, brings his deeply rooted country-rock to the Wheeler.’Parallel Lives’ Nov. 17-18, Thunder River TheatrePeggy Mundinger and Wendy Perkins are making a killing all over Colorado. The two local actresses, with director Brad Moore, worked up a production of the sketch comedy “Parallel Lives” for valley audiences last year. This past summer, they took the Kathy Najimy-Mo Gaffney take on love, religion and rednecks to the Colorado Theatre Festival and returned with an armful of awards, including ones for best production, and best actress, shared by Mundinger and Perkins.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is

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