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Offseason attractions music, movies and must-dos

Paul Conrad/ Aspen Times Weekly
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Kids singing and dancing on the Wheeler Opera House stage. Two ambitious new festivals neither one of them involving music. One must-take road trip to the unlikeliest of spots. Bob Dylan or six of him. A funk extravaganza at Belly Up. And a bunch more kids, playing violins, shredding guitars, dancing, and contemplating what it is to be wasted.Thats the arts scene in a nutshell in the Roaring Fork Valley this spring offseason.The Big Read, through May 5The local branch of the Big Read, a community literature project of the National Endowment for the Arts, was launched by the Aspen Writers Foundation and the Pitkin County Library earlier this month. The book assignment, Rudolfo Anayas 1972 Chicano classic Bless Me, Ultima, is being celebrated with various events theatrical adaptations, a puppet show, a televised discussion and more, through May 5. (For a schedule of events, go to aspenwriters.org.)The most fundamental event, of course, is reading the book. Steves Guitars Carbondales improbable little listening room continues to build its history with a jumble of local players, community events, the regular Tuesday Night Jazz series, and a still-increasing number of national touring acts. Eleven nights are already booked for May (and Steve Standiford, the Steve of Steves, is known to add shows on a days notice or less).The offseason schedule opens Sunday, April 20 with Intervision, a soul band from Portland, Ore. Other nights of note: New York City singer-songwriter Lucy Kaplansky, with another Lucy from New York Lucy Wainwright Roche, the daughter of musicians Loudon Wainwright and Suzzy Roche opening (May 3); Marleys Ghost, a California bluegrass band whose recent album, Spooked, was produced by Van Dyke Parks and features art work by R. Crumb (May 11); the Boulder Acoustic Society, whose influences range from punk to chamber music (May 16); and Boulder-area singer-songwriter Beth Amsel (May 17).Belly Up Like the funk? Then shake your butt to Belly Up on May 24, when bassist Bootsy Collins pays tribute to his former employer, the late James Brown. It promises to be the biggest, strangest happening of the season.Aside from a sprinkling of familiar musicians, Belly Up is also going out on a limb by bringing in fresh, edgy acts during the quiet months. Tops among these are Saul Williams, a poet/activist/musician who makes his Aspen debut with the presumably politically provocative Tar Spangled Banner Tour (Tuesday, April 22); Tegan and Sara, a Canadian punk-pop band led by twin sisters, Tegan and Sara Quin (April 30); and Kathleen Edwards, a Canadian singer-songwriter making her local debut (May 10).

Also, Cloud Cult, whose experimental nature has been compared to the Flaming Lips (May 16); and an evening of three young, accomplished folk-rockers, Brett Dennen, Mason Jennings and Missy Higgins (May 23). Jennings In the Ever, due for release May 20 on Jack Johnsons Brushfire Records, is a winner. Finally, the Fiery Furnaces, a modern rock group from Brooklyn led by siblings Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger (June 5).Things to note about some bigger-name shows: Victor Wooten, the amazingly dexterous bassist of Bla Fleck & the Flecktones, performs in a band that includes two of his siblings (May 7); the Hot Tuna show features acoustic and electric sets (May 9); and Mike Ness, leader of Social Distortion, returns to play a solo show, which should lean more toward the country music he favors for his own albums. Friends!?!: A Story of Getting Along, Friday and Saturday, April 25-26, Wheeler Opera House Marci Sketch, the Aspen Country Day School drama teacher, says she has an exceptionally talented eighth-grade this year. So shes given herself an easy load for the annual school play, leaving much of the work to the students.The eighth grade came up with the concept for Friends!?! with class members Allie Fifield and Taylor Clayton credited for the script. Their story of a music group whose singer is forced to quit because of subpar grades draws somewhat from real life; the eighth grade does indeed have a band, Common Sense, which won last years Basalt Battle of the Bands. And Common Sense itself is a centerpiece of the production.Sketch, who has written parts for the younger students and will direct, is impressed with the depth of what the kids have achieved. Its not romantic, she noted. Its very realistic hurt feelings, miscommunications, misunderstandings, how small things snowball into big things. Wasted, April 25-May 11, Aspen Art Museum A group of creative teenagers, given free rein to create an art exhibit at the Aspen Art Museum, come up with the theme, Wasted potential for disaster, right?Well, not so fast. The participants in the museums Young Curators of the Roaring Fork program meant for their choice of title to be an attention-grabber. But the exhibit isnt about bongs and beer; instead, it directly addresses the issues of recycling, reuse and the environment. Its a sort of waste that might be more on the minds of todays teenagers.For our generation, wasted had a certain connotation, said Aspen Art Museum executive director Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson, who recently turned 40. Being in high school now, the concerns are a lot different. Theyre thinking about the environment. The nomenclature has really changed for this generation.Wasted, featuring 30 art works selected by a group of 12 young curators, opens with a reception on Friday, April 25, and runs through May 11. After a few years being presented off-site, the Young Curators exhibit moves into the Art Museum this year.Also at the museum this spring: The Four Thursday Nights video and film series, with a new video premiering on four consecutive Thursday evenings, beginning April 24. This series gets the relatively benign theme, Creative Imagination, focusing on the interaction between the real and imagined.British artist Phil Collins is the museums Distinguished Artist in Residence this spring, with the public invited to visit and interact with Collins. The results of the residency will be exhibited at the museum in August. Once Upon a World, May 1-2, Wheeler At this school, the plays need to be original, says LouRae Doyle, a language arts teacher at the Aspen Community School who, for the last seven years, has written the schools annual play. The need Doyle refers to is a practical one: since every student from kindergarten to eighth grade participates in the production, there arent many off-the-rack shows that fit. The other half of the need is about upholding tradition; this is the 36th year that the school in Woody Creek will present an original creation.This year, Doyle has come up with Once Upon a World, which explores the mythologies of indigenous people from Polynesia, North America, the Amazon and Africa. While Doyle wrote the script and directs, fellow Community School teacher Randi Kelly handles music direction, and a handful of local players have contributed original songs, the students bear much responsibility for bringing Once Upon a World to life. The kids choreographed the movement, and they sing, act, dance and play instruments which occasionally results in a performer rushing from the stage to the orchestra pit.The whole school stops what theyre doing to focus on this play, said Doyle, noting that the plays themes are drawn from the class curriculum Wheeler Films The Wheeler Film Series, a staple of offseason entertainment, will be a little light this spring, due to several theatrical productions being staged at the Wheeler. The titles wont be determined until next week.Films I wouldnt mind seeing come to Aspen, at the Wheeler or elsewhere, this spring: Snow Angels, a multi-layered look at relationships; Gus Van Sants Paranoid Park; City of Men, set in the Brazilian slums where director Fernando Meirelles, who produced this film, set his City of God; The Tracey Fragments, starring Junos Ellen Page; The Unknown Woman, by Cinema Paradiso director Giuseppe Tornatore; and Taxi to the Dark Side, the Oscar-winning documentary about U.S.-sanctioned torture. Wilco, May 7, Avalon Theatre, Grand Junction As offseason destinations go, Grand Junction is usually a place to stop for fuel and food, or to bypass altogether. This spring, the county seat of Mesa County should attract people for more than its Gas n Gulp.Wilco, the American rock band that never stops pushing the envelope, visits Junction in a tour of second- (or third-) tier cities, usually playing relatively small, old, downtown theaters, like the Avalon. (Their other Colorado date is May 8, at the Pikes Peak Center in Colorado Springs.) The band, led by Jeff Tweedy, made its name with 2002s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, a crackling blend of pop songs and chaotic noise. Last years Sky Blue Sky scaled back to more familiar song structures but in the hands of Tweedy & Company, this sounded like a revelation.Other recommended road trips: the Raconteurs, a side project of White Stripes frontman Jack White (April 28, Fillmore Auditorium, Denver); former Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters, playing the Dark Side of the Moon tour (April 30, Pepsi Center, Denver); Phil Lesh & Friends (May 8-9, Fillmore); the Mars Volta (May 18, Fillmore); and contemporary indie-rockers Death Cab for Cutie (May 28, Red Rocks Amphitheatre).Im Not There, May 8, Belly UpI cant take credit for this observation, but I subscribe to it: Im Not There, Todd Haynes Bob Dylan biopic, is for extreme Dylan fans and extreme cinema buffs. Haynes assumes that viewers will come in with extensive knowledge of Dylan; its hard to imagine this will make much sense to a beginner in Bobology. And even aside from the fact that six actors (including the Oscar-nominated Cate Blanchett, the late Heath Ledger and 14-year-old African American Marcus Carl Franklin) portray Dylan, the film is cinematically ambitious and complex. Which makes it nice to have another chance to see it on a semi-big screen, at Belly Up.

5Point Film Fest, May 8-10, Carbondale Julie Kennedy, former publisher of Climbing magazine, has been talking up the vibe she hopes to create with her festival of adventure films: spunky, genuinely inspiring and even adventurous. But for the inaugural 5Point Film Fest (the name 5Point is taken from rock climbings rating system), she has also assembled a lineup of talent sure to put the event on the adventurers map. Among the guest speakers are Erik Weihenmayer, the only blind person to summit Mt. Everest, and pioneering surfer Gerry Lopez. Local athletes Aron Ralston and Chris Klug are among those participating in the Living Passionately Through Adversity panel discussion. The slate of some 25 films includes Flying Downhill, a profile of the enigmatic American World Cup skier Bode Miller (being shown as a work in progress); The Endless Knot, about the unexpected aftermath of a tragedy in the Himalayas; and Grand Canyon Climbing, featuring clips of climbing superstars Tommy Caldwell and Beth Roden in one of the worlds most iconic locations. Barry Smiths Baby Book: Who Saves This Stuff? May 9, Steves Guitars Last month, Aspen one-man-show guy (and Aspen Times columnist) Barry Smith unveiled the work-in-progress, Click!Since then, the creative progression has yielded more than a tightening of the screws, and a sharpening of the jokes: Part of the progression is it became a different show, with a different title and a different subject, said Smith, whose previous shows, Jesus in Montana and Squatter, have been performed from Florida to Montreal to Fresno. Where the earlier version focused entirely on photos, Barry Smiths Baby Book includes stuff as well as images, beginning with the baby book Smiths mother began in the maternity ward.Its now about someones attempt to catalogue their life. And funny, said Smith. Gottlieb Bartley Productions, May, Wheeler Opera House That local childrens theater maestro Jayne Gottlieb is in a growth phase is evident everywhere you look. Her organizations name change from Jayne Gottlieb Productions to Gottlieb Bartley Productions reflects the fact that Adam Bartley has relocated from Los Angeles and gone from part-time associate to full-timer. This springs productions the early rock n roll musical Bye Bye Birdie (May 9-11) for the younger performers; Beauty & the Beast (May 17-18) for the older ones feature a total of nearly 90 actors.Gottlieb says that the move upvalley both spring shows are at the Wheeler wasnt designed for expansion, but availability of venues. (The midvalley-based company will be back in Basalt for this summers productions of A Chorus Line and Fame.) Shes got no complaints about being in Aspen; the company had a magnificent Wheeler debut in December with Singin in the Rain. Symphony in the Valleys Mothers Day Concerts; May 10, Roaring Fork High School, Carbondale; May 11, First United Methodist Church, Glenwood Springs No, Wendy Larson has not been the only conductor and artistic director Symphony in the Valley has known. In fact, when the local orchestra was founded, 15 years ago, Larson was in the cello section, while Randy Fox and the late Jon Madsen occupied the podium. But Larson took over in the second year, and has held the dual positions ever since.



The run comes to an end with this years Mothers Day Concerts, which feature the winners of the orchestras Young Artists Concerto Competition. Larson, who has led Symphony in the Valley to performances of opera and of the grand oratorio Carmina Burana, and to appearances in Aspen Community Theatres 30th anniversary concerts and backing Kathy Mattea at the Wheeler Opera House, is ready to hand over the baton. Her successor will be Carlos Elias, conductor of the Mesa State College Orchestra and concertmaster of the Grand Junction Symphony. Basalt Battle of the Bands, May 17, Lions Park, Basalt Thrash metal, jazz, garage rock, classical, folk, punk six hours of it, played by the valleys kids will be showcased in the 10th annual Basalt Battle of the Bands. Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, May 17-18, Aspen District Theatre The kids of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet strut their stuff. Students in the School of the ASFB present their annual spring recital, with an Alice in Wonderland theme, on May 17, and the colorful, always impressive Ballet Folklorico outreach program does its Mexican-flavored dance on May 18. Heidi Curatolos Suzuki Violin and Piano Spring Recital, May 18, Aspen ChapelLocal musician and music instructor Heidi Curatolo gathers her 20 students for a recital. Several seasoned players will join in; Curatolo herself will be featured as soloist in an all-adult performance of the Mendelssohn Piano Trio in C minor. Rooftop Comedy Festival, May 30-31, Wheeler After last winters notably successful Whats So Funny? series, and no word (yet) on the return of the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, the Wheeler Opera House pushes on to keep Aspen laughing. The latest venture is the inaugural Rooftop Comedy Festival. Partnering with the San Francisco-based agency and website, Rooftop Comedy, the Wheeler will present two humor-packed days. Some two dozen comedians, from unknowns to little-knowns to slightly more-knowns, will perform in six separate programs. The centerpiece of the fest: the Rooftop Campus Comedy Competition Finals, with the winners of the college events facing off on the Wheeler stage.Even if the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival is gone, its purported mission to discover new comedic talent lives on. More than ever.stewart@aspentimes.com


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