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Motorcyclist dies in Thornton crash on Friday night

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Pedestrian from Aurora hit, killed on interstate in Louisiana

A motorcyclist died Friday night in a single-vehicle crash in Thornton, police said.

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The “magical unicorn” behind Camp Christmas and other immersive fare in Denver

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The “magical unicorn” behind Camp Christmas and other immersive fare in Denver

On a recent autumn afternoon, Charlie Miller was walking around the Heritage Lakewood Belmar Park pointing out the various buildings that will soon host Camp Christmas.

The dilapidated Peerless Gas Station will hold pounds of gingerbread creations. Down the pathway, in a red barn, a flock of fabric sheep will graze metaphorically and blaze with lights. A “glampsite” is where the kids will be able to visit with Santa, yes, from a healthy but engaged remove.

The fourth installment of installation wizard Lonnie Hanzon’s immersive extravaganza of lights, holiday memorabilia and more opens Nov. 18 at this outdoor site just west of Wadsworth Boulevard and a few blocks south of Alameda. The city of Lakewood has been relocating little landmark buildings from Colfax Avenue as well as other structures to this gently sloping expanse of acreage that was once legendary philanthropist May Bonfils Stanton’s hobby farm. It’s a perfectly zany location for a rather mad installation, one that came out of a collaboration between Hanzon and Miller, who heads the Denver Center’s wild-child, Off-Center.

A gift with creatives

“Impresario” is a little too imperious a description of Miller, who has grown in his role as the curator of Off-Center. Catalyst, to be sure. Nurturer, absolutely. It’s not so much his sensibility that is shaping Denver’s immersive scene as it is his gift with creatives — and a growing reputation, local and national, as a champion of immersive work.

When a friend saw David Byrne and Mala Gaonkar’s installation “Neurosociety” at an art gallery in the San Francisco Bay Area, he gave Miller a call, knowing it was just the kind of work that would excite him. It did.

Andy Cross, The Denver Post

LAKEWOOD, CO – OCTOBER 08: Charlie Miller, curator of Off-Center’s Camp Christmas and associate artistic director at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts at the Heritage Lakewood Belmar Park, site of this year’s Camp Christmas October 08, 2021. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

Thanks to patience, timing and the relationships that Miller and Off-Center have been cultivating since 2016’s blockbuster production “Sweet & Lucky” — created by Third Rail Projects and former Denverite Zach Morris — Miller made contact. DCPA Off-Center and Byrne had plans to premiere what has become the show “Theater of the Mind” in 2020. Then, COVID-19 hit and it was postponed.

The production is back on track for a 2022 world premiere, with an announcement of a ticket on-sale date and venue in the offing.

Miller has a measured delivery, even as he talks about the things that thrill him. He’s no huckster. He’s a thoughtful enthusiast. So, when he recalls meeting the former Talking Heads frontman, his voice doesn’t give away the pleasure of that evening when Byrne visited a potential location for the piece before heading to Red Rocks — his smile does. “And that night I got to see ‘American Utopia’ at Red Rocks … at like the fifth-row center,” he recalled. “Shortly after that, we were able to figure out how to make it work.”

For his part, Byrne told Rolling Stone magazine “The Denver Center for the Performing Arts have done immersive things like this before — not quite like this — but they’ve cultivated an audience in Denver.”

Figuring out how to make the artistically wild, logistically tricky experiences that draw audiences in has been an aim of Miller’s even before Off-Center got its clever brand name in 2010. At the time, Miller and assistant company manager Emily Tarquin were a couple of millennials eyeing the Denver Center’s under-utilized Jones Theatre for less traditional theater, more experimental work. Having sharpened his multimedia storytelling skills as an undergraduate in Harvard’s Visual and Environmental Studies department, Miller wanted to create a lab. And Tarquin was keen to present edgier theater.

“Often in ‘traditional theater,’ the exchange with the audience is passive and transactional,” Tarquin wrote in an email. “The production team creates a beautiful production, the audience buys a ticket, doesn’t unwrap any candy, and watches.”

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David Byrne (center) and the creative team for “Theater of the Mind.” Not pictured, co-writer Mala Gaonkar.

Tarquin left the Denver Center in 2016 to become artistic producer of Actors Theatre of Louisville.

“We knew that to break this barrier, we had to build narratives that centered the audience and welcomed their full participation. Off-Center was immersive from the beginning, and I still reference the recipe we created over a decade ago!”

That “recipe” had five ingredients that each of Off-Center’s projects had to contain. “Ingredients that I still feel are very relevant,” said Miller, sitting on an aged glider on the porch of one of the buildings at the Heritage Lakewood. “Immersive for us was about the audience having a more active role in the inference, not just being passive viewers. Convergent, which was about bringing together different art forms and technologies. Connective, which was about being in conversation with the community, bringing people together. Inventive, which was about innovation and experimentation. And ‘now’ was about being relevant to the moment.”

The pair had the support of the Denver Center Theatre Company’s producing artistic director at the time, Kent Thompson. And Miller enjoys a similarly encouraging relationship to the Theater Company’s current honcho, Chris Coleman. A good thing, since, said Miller, “I think we’re still in the rise of immersive and experiential in town and nationally, and it will be interesting to see what happens as we reemerge from the pandemic and whatever form that is going to take.”

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A scene from the immersive blockbuster Third Rail Projects’ “Sweet & Lucky,” with Meredith Grundei.

Kind of a “magical unicorn”

“Thought partnerships” is a Miller phrase that gets at the heart (and mind) of the type of collaborations he continues to champion. While he has reached beyond the Denver area to find new works, he is dedicated to raising the profile of local talent.

“He’s kind of a magical unicorn because he is an artist himself,” says Amanda Berg Wilson, who is co-founder of the Boulder-based, experimental theater company the Catamounts.  “He comes from an artist’s background. So he has this unique perspective of understanding what artists need and how they tick, but really wanting to be a facilitator of artists’ visions. I always get excited when his name comes up on my caller ID because I know that it’s going to be some kind of new idea or opportunity.”

In 2017, Wilson directed Off-Center’s “The Wild Party,” a 360-degree production of the musical by Andrew Lippa, which invited audiences into the bathtub gin-soaked, quite naughty soiree of the title. In 2019, Miller tapped Wilson and local director Betty Hart to be assistant directors on “Theater of the Mind.”

Hart produced the Arvada Center’s Amplify, a series of video performances that put Black artists front and center in the wake of the George Floyd protests. She’s directed a number of area shows, including Vintage Theatre’s searing production of “The Scottsboro Boys,” one of the last shows in town before the pandemic shuttered in-person theater.

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Erin Miller and Emily Van Fleet in 2017’s 360 production “The Wild Party” at Stanley Marketplace.

“Charlie introduced me to Andrew Scoville (“Theater of the Mind” director), and then he left, and it was just Sco and me in a room,” recalls Hart. “(Charlie) took the time to bring a diverse group of people before (Scoville). That was intentional. I think he has a fundamental belief that if you have a quality product with quality people and you create a setting and an atmosphere of belonging and creativity, you’re going to get something wonderful. And I think that’s what (Miller) does. He does his part to ensure that a culture of belonging and genuine curiosity can be fostered.”

Long before they embarked on Camp Christmas together, Miller and Hanzon had been having lunch routinely. “At first, I would take lunch with a lot of different artists to get to know them. And we really hit it off,” Miller said. “Lonnie’s very meticulous and was a real student of immersive. He was feeding me information that wasn’t on my radar. And I was encouraging him to just start trying some things.”

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Need a last-minute Halloween costume? Hit up the most magical shop in Denver.

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Need a last-minute Halloween costume? Hit up the most magical shop in Denver.

Editor’s note: Each week in Staff Favorites, we offer our opinions on the best that Colorado has to offer for dining, shopping, entertainment, outdoor activities and more. (We’ll also let you in on some hidden gems).

It’s the same scenario every year: a last-minute costume party invite, followed by the most depressing closet raid.

Some people’s wardrobes are filled with costume-worthy pieces — I’m looking at you, renaissance fest types — but my closet of basics just doesn’t cut it, and I usually find myself throwing together something deeply lame at the last possible minute.

Not this year. This year, I went to The Wizard’s Chest.

From the moment you step inside this 16,000-square-foot magic castle at 451 Broadway, it’s hard not to feel the Halloween spirit.

Photo By AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post

An interior view of the Wizard’s Chest on Wednesday, February 24, 2016.

Giant dragons and wizards loom over the entrance, which opens up into a wonderland filled with treasure chests and witches’ cauldrons, fairy wings and wigs in every color imaginable. Originally opened in 1983, the family-owned store has nearly 40 years of magic under its belt. The interior design — filled with murals and ornate castle-like details — is modeled after “the fantastic world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth,” according to The Wizard’s Chest’s website.

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Sudan’s military takes power in coup, arrests prime minister

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Sudan PM held in apparent coup; general declares emergency

By SAMY MAGDY

CAIRO (AP) — Sudan’s top general on Monday dissolved the government and announced that the military will run the country after his forces arrested the acting prime minister and other officials. Thousands of Sudanese protested in the streets against the coup.

The military takeover threatens to derail Sudan’s long, rocky attempt to transition to democracy two years after protesters forced the ouster of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir. The move came just before the military was supposed to hand leadership of the country’s joint military-civilian administration to civilians next month.

After the early morning arrests of government officials, thousands flooded the streets of the capital, Khartoum, and its twin city of Omdurman to protest. Footage shared online appeared to show protesters blocking streets and setting fire to tires as security forces used tear gas to disperse them.

Protesters could be heard chanting, “The people are stronger, stronger” and “Retreat is not an option!” as plumes of smoke filled the air. Videos on social media showed large crowds crossing bridges over the Nile to the center of the capital.

At least 12 protesters were wounded in demonstrations, according to the Sudanese Doctors Committee, without giving details.

In the afternoon, the head of the military, Gen. Abdel-Fattah Burhan, went on national TV and announced that he was dissolving the government and the Sovereign Council, a joint military and civilian body created to run the country since al-Bashir’s ouster.

He said quarrels among political factions prompted the military to intervene.

Burhan declared a state of emergency and said the military will appoint a technocratic government to lead the country to elections, set for July 2023. But he made clear the military will remain in charge, saying, “The Armed Forces will continue completing the democratic transition until the handover of the country’s leadership to a civilian, elected government.”

The Information Ministry, still loyal to the dissolved government, called his speech an “announcement of a seizure of power by military coup.”

The United States and the European Union expressed concern over Monday’s developments.

Jeffrey Feltman, the U.S. special envoy to the Horn of Africa, said Washington was “deeply alarmed” by the reports. Feltman met with Sudanese officials over the weekend in an effort to resolve the growing dispute between civilian and military leaders. EU foreign affairs chief Joseph Borrell tweeted that he’s following events with the “utmost concern.”

The first reports about a possible military takeover began trickling out of Sudan before dawn Monday. By mid-morning, the Information Ministry confirmed that the prime minister, Abdalla Hamdok, had been arrested and taken to an undisclosed location. Several senior government figures were also detained, the ministry said in a Facebook post. It said their whereabouts were unknown.

Hamdok’s office said in a statement on Facebook that he and his wife were detained early Monday as part of what it described as a “complete coup.”

Internet access was widely disrupted and the country’s state news channel played patriotic traditional music. At one point, military forces stormed the offices of Sudan’s state-run television in Omdurman and detained a number of workers, the Information Ministry said.

Tensions have been rising for weeks between Sudan’s civilian and military leadership over Sudan’s course and the pace of the transition to democracy.

A failed coup attempt in September fractured the country along old lines, pitting more conservative Islamists who want a military government against those who toppled al-Bashir in protests. In recent days, both camps have taken to the street in demonstrations.

After the September coup attempt, the generals lashed out at civilian members of the transitional power structure and called for the dissolution of Hamdok’s government. The Sovereign Council is the ultimate decision maker, though the Hamdok government is tasked with running Sudan’s day-to-day affairs.

Burhan, who leads the council, warned in televised comments last month that the military would hand over power only to a government elected by the Sudanese people.

His comments suggested he might not stick to the previously agreed timetable, which called for the council to be led by a military figure for 21 months, followed by a civilian for the following 18 months. Under that plan, the handover was to take place sometime in November, with the new civilian leader to be chosen by an alliance of unions and political parties that led the uprising against al-Bashir.

Since al-Bashir was forced from power, Sudan had slowly emerged from years of international pariah status. The country was removed from the United States’ state supporter of terror list in 2020, opening the door for badly needed foreign loans and investment. But the country’s economy has struggled with the shock of a number economic reforms called for by international lending institutions.

Sudan has suffered other coups since it gained its independence from Britain and Egypt in 1956. Al-Bashir came to power in 1989 in one such takeover, which removed the country’s last elected government.

Among those detained Monday were five senior government figures, according to two officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to share information with the media.

They include Industry Minister Ibrahim al-Sheikh, Information Minister Hamza Baloul, and Mohammed al-Fiky Suliman, a member of the Sovereign Council, as well as Faisal Mohammed Saleh, a media adviser to Hamdok. Ayman Khalid, governor of the state containing the capital, was also arrested, according to the official Facebook page of his office.

After news of the arrests spread, the country’s main pro-democracy group and two political parties issued appeals to the Sudanese to take to the streets.

One of the factions, the Communist Party called on workers to go on strike in an act of mass civil disobedience after what it described as a “full military coup” orchestrated by Burhan.

The African Union has called for the release of all Sudanese political leaders including Hamdok. “Dialogue and consensus is the only relevant path to save the country and its democratic transition,” said Moussa Faki, the head of the AU commission.

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