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MidWinter: A Colorado Night’s Dream

Sometimes, writing about art and theater feels a lot like falling down the proverbial rabbit hole as I try to find the angle to write about wandering through a haunted-theater immersive experience, getting splashed in a Halloween horror show in the basement of a spaghetti emporium, sweating through a DIY D&D in a comic shop, savoring (har har!) Sweeney Todd’s enraged high notes, and trying to quiet my howling dog in a public house. I’ve found myself in some odd and awkward scenarios. To update the metaphor, writing this column is a lot like drunk-clicking through an endless algorithm of YouTube videos, each one growing ever stranger than the last. Perhaps this is more a more apropos comparison because it’s the inspiration for something quite unusual in the Denver scene–a concept show. It’s called MidWinter: A Colorado Night’s Dream and it’s a leap into novelty.

Most of what I see is, at best, thematic. The comedy nights are usually a free for all; the burlesque or circus are often themed for the season (one more ghoulish Halloween show, anyone? No?). Immersive theater events are getting closer. But MidWinter is something that surprised me–the stage equivalent of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Ok, yes, that’s probably too large a comparison. There are no screaming groupies waiting outside the rehearsal space (not yet!), but my press-pass-sneak-peek got me an introduction to a “concept album” of a stage production, which is something I haven’t seen elsewhere in Denver. (Am I wrong? Please send me details of the others and I’ll happily cover them, too!)

Photo credit: Dave Wood

Here’s the idea: Your subconscious mind/your Id processes all the activities of your day while you sleep and the result is your dreams. In our postmodern age, this means that your Id replays your YouTube search history. When you see MidWinter, your Id, the hostess, guides you through the evening, “unpacking your dreams and replaying them for you as they *should* be.” This journey turns out to be a lot of fun because your subconscious, and therefore your dreams, can be strange, sexy, beautiful, and also just weird.

The trip into your dreamscape starts, of course, with a striptease, as performed by the spry and saucy Fannie Spankings, a fixture of the Denver burlesque scene. The fact that she is also the producer of the upcoming Dolly Day Denver, where an attempt at a world record for “most people dressed as Dolly Parton” will occur, spoke clearly to how quirky the night was going to be. As always, she’s delightful and quickly transitions from performing to hosting.

Photo credit: Lisa Mia Studios

The midsection of the show is a sequence of circus/burlesque/variety acts, all themed and framed within the idea of your dreamscape. Dragon Phoenix Duo, an acro-couple, did some impressive and surprising tricks. I’ve reported before on my serious case of “circus envy.” I love watching people do things that I cannot. DPD is an excellent example of this. The first burlesque/boylesque act (besides Ms. Spankings’ opener) was a two-man bit consisting of Romeo Uncaged and Tad Phlacid, doing a decidedly homoerotic number to the tune of “Missionary Position” from The Book of Mormon, the Broadway production. I cannot approve enough. So far, so fun. But here’s where things take a quick turn.

Throughout the event, in between the circus and striptease acts, the lights cut to one Lady January Frost, who happens to be both a professional Domme and a comedienne. She grabs the focus of the audience and does her bit: comedy about being a Domme. I’ve seen a lot of comedy and, well, this source material is both interesting and rich with comedic potential. She also gets a fun sequence interacting with the stagehand, as performed by “Silent Clown,” who has his own charms.

It gets stranger. The next…entity…to wander out on the stage has one of the oddest acts I have yet to see on a live-performance stage. I won’t spoil the game, but suffice to say that it involves juggling, a xylophone, and demonstrable skill with a razor. *Bulging eyes emoji* I repeat, this was a sui generis stage act.

Now for the final turn. The last portion of this show presents “Chris & Melina,” an aerial trapeze duo, who are both a real-life married couple and also possibly the most gorgeous physical specimens that I have ever seen. *Insert implausible denial of envy.* They do some astounding things in the air and then…and then…we see them do some astounding things on screen. The final sequence of the MidWinter event consists of film screenings from a local Denver film company Spark Erotic. They “make award-winning, female-directed, ethically-produced erotic films” and we get to see several of them. The films are alternately hilarious, beautiful, and, uh, let’s say “fascinating.” The finale of the evening is the world-premiere of Spark’s latest film, Air, of which Chris & Melina are the stars, and in which we see them do all of the things that we thought about them doing when we were watching them on the trapeze.

So how would I describe this rabbit-hole of circus, concept, and erotic appeal? If HUMP! and Carnivale de Sensuale had a baby, it would look a lot like MidWinter. I loved it. I loved how zany and sexy and varied it all was. And one of my favorite things about it was that it showcases the deep pool of talent and energy in Colorado–all of the sponsors female-owned businesses and entrepreneurs from our state. It was indeed, a Colorado Night’s Dream.

MidWinter happens for just one night–January 18–at the Oriental Theater. I’d grab tickets while you can.

Jessie Hanson Columnist and \"Backstage\'s Bon Vivant\"

Jessie Hanson lives and works in Denver and couldn't be happier about it. Like the best-possible kind of Jekyl-and-Hyde scenario, she splits her life between science and storytelling. During the day, she performs clinical diagnostics and messes around with test tubes. At night, she performs behind the mic as a standup comedienne, in the air as a circus aerialist, and in rhinestones as burlesque dancer. She begrudges the hyper-inflated cost of a decent pair of false eyelashes. When she's not on stage, she sweating it out as an endurance athlete in triathlons and marathons across the West. She begrudges the hyper-inflated cost of a decent pair of running shoes. She's thrilled to be on board with OnDenver and writing about science, comedy, circus, athletics, and general fun on the Front Range!

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