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There’s unlucky timing, and then there’s starting a theater company not long before a global pandemic. Such is the case with the Wheat Ridge Theatre Company. But the company and its founder Maru Garcia have embraced alternative spaces as storytelling sites – during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company performed in restaurants and breweries and even did drive thru theater.

Now they’re giving something else a try — theater in a theater.

“We need to start having a sense of returning back to normal — for the theater community and the audience,” Garcia said. “I believe in supporting creative people. It was just so discouraging when things stopped, and we need an outlet to express what we have to say.”

The Wheat Ridge Theatre Company is bringing Del Shores’ comedy “Sordid Lives” to the John Hand Theater, 7653 E. 1st Place in the Colorado Free University Campus at Lowry, from Jan. 21 through Feb. 13. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. on Sundays. All audience members will be required to wear mask during the performance and attendees are required to show proof of COVID vaccine or the result of a negative test taken with less than 24 hours before the performance.

The show follows a family gathering to mourn the death of their matriarch and follows her three children as they journey to acceptance. The cast includes Selena A. Naumoff, Christine Murphy Davidson, Mike Kienker and Bob Pearlman. While the show zeroes in on LGBTQIA+ issues, its message of tolerance and welcome applies to anyone who feels like an outsider.

“I like plays that have a little shock value, in a good way. Plays that even make you a little uncomfortable. Plays that you can’t forget,” Garcia said. “This show is a bit of a farce, but in reality, there’s a lot of layers for audiences to explore.”

That exploration is one of the main goals for all the work the company embarks on, Garcia added. Audiences so often think of theater as a place to explore their own feelings and topics that intrigue them, but it’s equally important for those on the stage and behind the scenes.

“This is my form of expression. My only voice is theater — it’s my way of saying something is not right, this is something people should pay attention to,” she said. “I’m very grateful to the audiences who are taking the step of returning to theater and participating with us. Because there’s nothing like live theater.”

For tickets and information, visit wheatridgetheatrecompany.ticketspice.com/sordid-lives.


“The Wizard of Oz” lands at PACE

It is difficult to imagine a more traditionally American fable than L. Frank Baum’s “The Wizard of Oz.” In its various iterations (most famously the film), the story always manages to capture something honest about the quest for the self. All of this makes it the perfect tale to tell to begin a new year – which is just what the Parker Arts, Culture & Events Center is doing.

PACE’s, 20000 Pikes Peak Ave., production of “The Wizard of Oz” is running from Jan. 21 through Feb. 13. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. This production features the iconic musical score from the MGM film, so get tickets for this classic at parkerarts.org/event/the-wizard-of-oz/.


Explore the world of Charles Parson

Charles Parson is one of the most talented and well-known artists in the Denver metro area and his work has been showcased all over town. His latest exhibit is the Charles Parson Solo Exhibit, which runs through Saturday, Feb. 26 at the Curtis Center for the Arts, 2349 East Orchard Road in Greenwood Village.

According to provided information, the exhibit features Parson’s intimate to large-scale drawings and smaller interior sculptures. “These recent works will include steel, Plexiglas, and stone abstract sculptures, along with the dimensional drawings from the `Landscape’s Scores’ series, developed during his recent role as a Resource Artist at Redline Art Center.” It also focuses on his current “Near/Far” series.

For more information, visit greenwoodvillage.com/1247/Curtis-Center-for-the-Arts.


Clarke’s Concert of the Week — Rakim at the Roxy Theatre

If you’re a rap fan, you’re a fan of Rakim. Even if it’s not a direct fan thing, the rappers you love can almost all be traced back to the music made by Rakim and his partner Eric B. The duo made four albums from the mid-80s to late 90s and Rakim went on making music after they split. Nowadays Rakim is considered one of the best to ever do it. “The Source” magazine ranked him as No. 1 on their list of top 50 lyricists of all time in 2012 and the album “Paid in Full” is recognized as one of the greatest achievements in the genre.


So, when an absolute legend like Rakim comes to town, attention (and respect) must be paid. He’ll be performing at the Roxy Theatre, 2549 Welton St. in Denver, at 7 p.m. on Jan. 21. Get tickets at theroxydenver.com/event/385088.


Clarke Reader’s column on culture appears on a weekly basis. He can be reached at Clarke.Reader@hotmail.com.