2011 was a tremendous year for the cultural scene in Denver. From music and film to theatre and art, many amazing artists have made a big difference in the cultural community. Take a look back at the impressive people (and places) that made an impact this past year.
Vintage Theatre Productions may be one of the smallest venues in all of Denver, but they’ve proven over the past year that size will not stop them. Formed in 2002 over a vintage martini glass, Craig Bond, Debbie Lauretta, David Trimble, and a host of dedicated artists have brought this small theatre to the forefront of the Denver theater community. In 2011 they produced many amazing productions but the big event to see was their regional premier of the giant Broadway hit Avenue Q. Directed by Bernie Cardell, this ambitious show was no easy task, and the team at Vintage rose to the challenge. Not only did they receive rave reviews from every theater critic in town but they sold out every single seat for the entire seven week run.
This Denver native originally made it big on season 8 of Project Runway, making the name Mondo a household name. Well, in any household that watched Project Runway, that is. However, this past June, Mondo returned to his roots with the Arvada Center for the Arts and designed all of the costumes for their regional premier of Hairspray, the Musical. These eye-popping, mod-inspired costumes were a sight to see, and Mondo truly outdid himself with his creations.
For one weekend every summer, the local music scene in Denver lights up with excitement for the Underground Music Showcase. 2011’s UMS was the 11th annual showcase and they brought in more than 11,000 fans enjoying 325 performances on 25 different stages throughout Denver. Sponsored by The Denver Post, it is the largest independent music festival in the entire Rocky Mountain region, and it is a thriving community of musicians and fans all brought together for the simple joy of indie rock music.
Kart Across America
In 2008, two friends from Colorado set off on a giant journey. They traveled across the country on a 100-day, 6,000 mile trip asking as many people as they could one simple question; “What’s your art?” Oh, and they did it all in a golf cart. The entire journey was captured on film for a full length feature documentary, directed by Jeremy Make and Andy Raney. Released in 2011, this film explores what it means to be an artist and features the two men having conversations with artists from every walk of life — from small independent artists to three-three time Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, Edward Albee. This film was featured at the 34th Starz Film Festival in November. It’s too late to catch it now, but keep an eye out, it’s sure to be back.
GerRee Hinshaw at the Bug Theater
For more than 10 years, Denver’s Bug Theater has been holding a monthly open-mic event on the last Monday of every month. The event is called Freak Train and it gives the performers (who arrive early enough to get a spot) a chance to perform anything they want for five minutes. The acts are sometimes very well rehearsed, but often not rehearsed at all, and they range from hilarious and amazing to downright painful. The reason this all works, however, is due to the talented dedication of the emcee, GerRee Hinshaw. This veteran stage actress brings her signature warmth peppered with sarcastic wit and slightly insulting commentary to every performance and it creates a cohesive night of entertainment out of the myriad different acts that sign up for the train. Still going strong, Freak Train is a staple of the indie arts scene in Denver, and GeRee Hinshaw is the heart of the Freaks.
Deborah Flomberg is a theater professional, freelance writer and Denver native. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.