Boulder Weekly 05.16.2024

Page 1

Discourse & discord

Local views and analysis on campus protests P.5 UNION MEMBERSHIP COMES WITH TRADEOFFS, ACTORS SAY P.16
CONTENTS 0 5.16.2024 BOULDER WEEKLY MAY 16 , 202 4 3 At Twig we take pride in creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable expressing their unique style. Monday-Friday 8a-8p Saturday 8a-6p Sunday Closed 1831 Pearl St Boulder, CO 303-447-0880 Cut • Color • Balayage • Highlights Root Retouch • Blow Dry Style Hair Care Services 11 NEWS BoCo votes on herbicide use 13 NEWS Ned repeals rights of nature 18 THEATER Reviews: What worked and what needed work 19 FILM The dreamy delirium of I Saw the TV Glow 20 EVENTS Where to go and what to do 24 ASTROLOGY Be here now 25 SAVAGE LOVE Butt plugs on ice 27 NIBBLES Are restaurants too loud? 31 ON DRUGS Marijuana tax revenue falls short DEPARTMENTS Courtesy: Actors’ Equity Association 16 COVER 05 OPINION Locals sound off about student protests and the U.S. response to Israeli military action in Gaza 09 ANALYSIS Divesting from Israel is easier demanded than done BY TODD L. ELY 15 MUSIC After decades of playing live, Boulder’s Duncan Coker drops debut album BY JUSTIN CRIADO 16 THEATER Union membership is a mixed bag for Colorado stage workers BY TONI TRESCA
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MAY 16, 2024

Volume 31, Number 39

PUBLISHER: Francis J. Zankowski




REPORTERS: Kaylee Harter, Will Matuska

FOOD EDITOR: John Lehndorff


Rob Brezsny, Michael J. Casey, Justin Criado, Todd L. Ely, Dan Savage, Sean Bodhivajra Scanlan, Boyoung Seo, Tom Shelley, Ellen Stark, Toni Tresca

COVER: Students stage a May 1 demonstration at CU Boulder. Credit: Will Matuska




ACCOUNT EXECUTIVES: Chris Allred, Holden Hauke









CIRCULATION TEAM: Sue Butcher, Ken Rott, Chris Bauer



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Moral authority on Gaza discourse shifts from White House to college campuses

President Biden went on camera recently to wag his finger at all those naughty schoolchildren throughout the country who, instead of staying home to do their homework, were attending sleepovers at encampments on college campuses all over the United States, and have thereby been disturbing the peace and quiet of the nation’s adults.

This seems to be the impression that he and many other tiers of U.S.

authorities are apparently at pains to communicate to the public at large. That they are the adults in the room, and the college students should behave themselves and go home.

What the global public is apprehending, however, is that the people who are truly showing moral authority and leadership are the college students willing to put themselves on the line to uphold the value of the lives of the two million people in the Gaza

Strip who are daily subjected to the killing onslaught of multitudes of deadly munitions that continue to be supplied to the Israeli forces by the U.S. government.

What the global public also see is a U.S. president behaving as the very epitome of a badly behaved child who continues to tell fib after fib, long after they have been found out, in the blythe expectation that a persistently repeated lie or misdirection is as good as or better than the truth.

On March 18, President Biden affirmed the need to facilitate the safe and unhindered delivery of assistance throughout Gaza, and to protect the civilian population. Five days later, he signed into law a budget bill that included a ban on funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA),and thus cuts off badly needed financial



support for UNRWA’s humanitarian aid to Gaza.

On April 4, President Biden reprimanded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel needed to “implement a series of specific, concrete and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering and the safety of aid workers.” On April 24, he authorized $14 billion in taxpayer money to fund further munitions and military supplies for Israeli forces that are daily killing scores of children, women and men in the Gaza strip.

As of this writing, more than 35,000 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip. Based on identities confirmed by Gaza’s Ministry of Health so far, the U.N. estimates that more than half of those killed have been women and children, according to reporting by NPR Biden’s prevarication is a childhood trope with which we must all be familiar — if you put your hand behind your back and cross your fingers, you are not really telling a lie, because you do not really mean it.

How is this even possible? There was a time when public representatives of the United States were taken seriously as a source of global leadership and authority — and even on occasion moral authority, although that now seems evermore like some distant and uncertain memory.

The elected and appointed authorities in the U.S. today seem entirely at sea. Instead, the world looks to the youth on U.S. campuses for moral leadership and inspiration. College students on campuses around the globe have followed their example by taking up the defense of Palestinian lives with encampments of their own, challenging their own authorities to boycott, divest from and sanction the State of Israel.

On May 8, Biden told CNN that, should the Israeli forces make an all-out assault on Rafah, he is prepared to temporarily withhold from Israel the transfer of certain select munitions among those the U.S. has promised them.

On May 9, Netanyahu announced that Israel is prepared to invade Rafah regardless of President Biden’s threatened slap on the wrist, and that Israel has made a tally of the military ordinance and weaponry already supplied to them by the U.S., Germany and other allies, and has determined that the military hardware presently at Israel’s disposal is more than up to the task of crushing Rafah.

If President Biden truly wished to protect the people in Rafah, it would be the simplest thing in the world for him to accomplish. All he needs to do is to withhold from the State of Israel, not just the minor handful of the larger bombs for which Netanyahu has already expressed his open disdain, but the weaponry that Israel truly cares about — the missiles that make up its Iron Dome defense and Iron Arrow defense systems against such threats as the recent missile and drone attacks by Iran. In so doing, Biden could force the implementation of United Nations Security Council resolution 2728 (2024), adopted on March 25. It demands an immediate ceasefire, the release of all hostages and safe and unimpeded access for humanitarian aid. With a stroke of the pen, he could bring cessation to the violence being waged on the desperate people of Gaza. Should he find the courage to act, the president could halt the endless flow of lethal military ordinance to Israel, reauthorize funds for UNRWA’s humanitarian aid and endorse the United Nations’ multilateral resolution for full nation state membership for Palestine, bringing peace and blessed relief to the starving, maimed and besieged people of Gaza, and to the many millions of U.S. and global citizens longing to ease these unfortunate people’s pain and suffering.

Sean Bodhivajra Scanlan is a retired philosophy instructor living in Boulder.

This opinion does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.


Reports of anti-Semitism may be exaggerated, but it is a problem

As I write this, I am having trouble staying on top of what is happening at this or that university campus. It’s wonderful that so much protesting is going on. But I am concerned about the likely fact that there is at least some anti-Semitism among American progressives supporting the Palestinians.

I recently decided it is probably a smaller problem than what I thought most of the last seven months. What prompts me to say that? An April 23 video from CNN about how the Columbia encampment included a Passover meal.

I believe there is a substantial amount of anti-Semitism in the sense

Students stage a May 1 demonstration at CU Boulder. Credit: Will Matuska

that these activists are probably not condemning Oct. 7. Many American progressives supporting the Palestinians don’t seem to understand that intentionally killing civilians in war is wrong or that Hamas is not a progressive organization.

On the other hand, so many Americans don’t understand what the Palestinians have gone through. As horrible and unjustified as it was, Oct. 7 did not happen in a vacuum. The Palestinians did experience, to various degrees depending on what part of Israel/Palestine they live in, some serious injustice for decades.

The problem of anti-Semitism among progressives might be greatly exaggerated by allies of Israel, but it is a problem. The events of Oct. 7 were anti-Semitic. Hamas targeted only Jews and mostly Jewish civilians.

Progressive supporters of the Palestinians need to seriously consider that Hamas doesn’t deserve their support, and they need to take the threat of anti-Semitism more seriously. They need to understand that it will be easier to refute accusations of anti-Semitism if they condemn Oct. 7.

American supporters of Israel need to think more critically about



The U.S. Congress recently passed a bill giving $95 billion dollars in aid to Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan. (I am curious when “aid” became synonymous with military weapons including bombs.) Washington Post reported that we have “paused” delivery of thousands of these bombs to “show concern” over Israel’s proposed attacks on Rafah. Apart from the ethical dilemma of giving $95 billion dollars primarily in weapons of destruction, there is the additional affront that it is being done when we cannot house our own citizens, when our infrastructure is falling apart and when the trust


Israel and consider that it is impossible for a state to be based on religion and ethnicity and to simultaneously be democratic.

I conclude with a quote from the hard-working opponents of organized hate, right-wing politics and economic injustice at the Southern Poverty Law Center, taken from their fall 2008 publication:

“College campuses are particularly susceptible to anti-Semitism that originates in certain sectors of the far left. This source of anti-Jewish sentiment often begins with condemnation of Israeli policies and devolves into derogatory statements about all Jewish people. Although criticism of Israel does not typically amount to anti-Semitism — and many critics of the Jewish state are unfairly accused of bigotry — in some cases those who denounce Israel also cross the line into denigration of Jews as a group.”

The most important part is the last sentence. Both opponents and supporters of Israel need to think about that seriously.

Tom Shelley lives in Boulder.

This opinion does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.

funds for Social Security are projected to run short of money in 2035. I think the protests on our college campuses are onto something.

“Never again” should mean never again the attempted destruction of any people.

— Ellen Stark, Boulder

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Getting university money out of Israel is easier demanded than done

Campus protests expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people and objecting to Israel’s military campaign in Gaza include many calls for universities and colleges to divest — a word that basically means sell — any of their assets that are tied to Israel or connected to companies supplying weapons and technology to Israel’s government.


Endowments are pools of assets that originally come from donations. Nonprofits and some public organizations invest those assets, which grow over time, and disburse a small percentage of them annually to support their missions. Nearly all nonprofit colleges and universities have endowments, as do hundreds of public institutions of higher education — some through associated nonprofit foundations.

U.S. college and university endowments had around $1 trillion in assets as of the middle of 2021 — the most recent comprehensive data available.

This wealth is highly concentrated. Nearly half these assets belonged to the 20 largest endowments in 2021. Endowments worth $40 million or less are more typical and around 95% colleges and universities have less than $1 billion in their endowments.

Endowment managers generally see making money as their primary objective and large amounts of these assets are subject to restrictions due to donors’ preferences.

Columbia University’s $13.6 billion endowment, for example, as of 2023 was split among more than 6,200 different funds and about two-thirds of the assets in its endowment were subject to donor-related limitations.

Because colleges and universities aim to preserve their endowments to

support their operations for the foreseeable future, they typically spend about 5% of those assets per year on student financial aid and assorted programs to supplement what they can afford from their other revenue — primarily tuition, fees for housing and food, as well as state funding for public institutions. Columbia’s endowment, for example, disbursed $679 million during its 2023 fiscal year.

Many protesters have said they object to their tuition dollars being in an endowment with financial ties to Israel. But that’s not how endowments work. Universities and colleges typically spend all the money they receive from tuition on core operations. They supplement those funds with revenue from other sources — including their endowments.


Because it’s unclear how much of these assets are tied to Israeli companies or the Israeli military, many protesters are calling on their colleges and universities to disclose more information about what’s in their endowments.

While universities and colleges typically release their audited financial statements annually, details about their endowments’ holdings are hard to find for several reasons.

First, professionally managed investments change so frequently that what’s in an endowment is a moving target. Periodic reporting at best reflects a historical snapshot.

Second, higher education endowments are complex. Timely and detailed reporting of investments, while desirable for oversight, can reveal the secret proprietary strategies of endowments and their investments, including alternative investments like hedge funds.

Third, colleges and universities are increasingly hiring outside asset managers and hedge funds to manage their endowments. Agreeing to keep quiet about those investments may be required due to the proprietary nature of those deals.

Some information about endowments does show up in 990 forms, which are informational returns charities file annually with the Internal Revenue Service and are made public. That form includes the endowment’s size, administrative expenses and the general restrictions it faces.

Although the forms require the disclosure of “Activities Outside the United States” in Schedule F, the highest level of detail required is the region of those investments. In other words, any investments in Israeli companies might be lumped together with investments in corporations based in Qatar or Lebanon.


Universities and colleges might not always be free to divest their endowments.

When it comes to severing ties with Israel, laws in at least 38 states have banned that kind of divestment for public universities by outlawing adherence to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement that has

sought to pressure Israel for nearly 20 years. Colorado law requires its public pension program to divest from companies that economically boycott Israel; an attempt to repeal the requirement was defeated in the statehouse earlier this year.

Other state laws more broadly limit the use of environmental, social and governance (ESG) investment practices by public institutions.

There is also a law that governs the investment and use of funds by nonprofits in nearly all states: the Uniform Prudent Management of Institutional Funds Act. This measure mandates a “prudent” approach to investment that can be interpreted as attempting to maximize an endowment’s growth.

However, some divestment advocates argue that colleges and universities have a moral duty to divest in certain cases based on those same laws — even if it means an endowment will potentially grow more slowly.


To be sure, many colleges and universities have agreed in recent years to students’ demands for divestment from industries that include tobacco, fossil fuels, private prisons and firearms. About 40 years ago, hundreds of schools divested from companies doing business in South Africa before the fall of its apartheid government.

But it would be hard to determine what specific assets would need to be sold off and then avoided for the foreseeable future if today’s protesters were to prevail.

Read more about local student demonstrations:
Students stage a demonstration at CU Boulder on May 1. Credit: Will

Boulder Weekly Market


No matter the focus of these campaigns, divestment takes political will, time and effort to implement. It also increases transaction costs, reduces access to certain investment products, and can take a long time due to how higher ed endowments are invested.

That’s partly because endowments generally don’t just include large amounts of stocks and bonds. To reduce risks, they are increasingly invested in mutual funds and other assets that are made up of many different securities. Outsourcing management of portions of their portfolios to private equity firms leads to other complications.

cy role might be an alternative to divestment.

But if the goal is to raise awareness about a cause, then divestment may make a difference — even if it’s hard to measure.

“The University has no discretion as to withdrawal of its investment in private equity and real asset funds,” Columbia University noted in its 2023 audited financial statements. “Distributions are made when sales of assets are made within the funds. In general, the remaining life of these private equity and real asset funds is up to 12 years.”

There’s yet another concern for colleges and universities: Many of their biggest donors have made it clear that they oppose divestment from Israel. In some cases, those donors have said they’ll stop giving to schools that sever ties with Israel as the protesters demand.


Whether divestment works probably depends on its advocates’ goals. If they want to impose meaningful financial losses on specific companies, industries or countries, research indicates that they’re bound to fail for several reasons.

While many college and university endowments are large by most standards, they aren’t necessarily big enough to move financial markets, especially since their investments are diversified.

Also, when a university does own shares in a targeted company, selling that stock simply transfers the ownership to a buyer who is less concerned about the social considerations.

Maintaining ownership and taking a more active investor advoca-

On May 9, Union Theological Seminary became the first U.S. higher education institution to announce that it would divest its endowment from investments tied to Israel’s military operations. The seminary’s board used this occasion to emphasize that it strives to “not financially support damaging and immoral investments” — making it a good example of the symbolic rather than financial purposes of divestment efforts.


A few colleges and universities have found ways to engage productively with protesters, sometimes even resulting in the amicable end of encampments.

Increasing engagement opportunities for students and the broader academic community around endowments and other institutional investments may provide an outlet to address current and future disputes.

Brown University, Northwestern University and the University of Minnesota appear to be taking this approach.

Some colleges and universities have promised to consider divestment demands at a future date and disclose more information about what’s in their endowments.

Making those pledges has helped keep the peace while guaranteeing that this issue will remain on the agenda in the 2024-2025 academic year.

Todd Ely is an associate professor of public administration and the director of the Center for Local Government at the University of Colorado Denver. The Conversation is a nonprofit, independent news organization featuring articles written by academic experts.

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At the May 16 meeting, council will:

• Decide whether to authorize a settlement for $125,000 to resolve a lawsuit filed by Sina Goharjou, who alleged he suffered serious injuries that exceeded $700,000 after stepping on a corroded water meter cover on Pearl Street Mall, according to a city memo.

• Vote on whether to approve a regional homeownership and rental compliance program administered by the City of Boulder. Last week, Nederland Board of Trustees voted to join the program along with Erie, Lafayette, Louisville and Boulder County Housing Authority.

Other May 16 agenda items can be found in last week’s Gov’t Watch at

At the May 23 study session, council will:

• Hear a presentation and have a discussion on public safety. The presentation will be led by Stephen Redfearn, Boulder Police Department’s (BPD) inter-

im chief, and Daniel Reinhard, BPD’s chief data analyst. The presentation will include traffic and bike safety, and citywide crime. It will also include updates on the department’s Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), the Reimagine Policing Plan and community engagement projects.

• Hear a presentation and discuss the final draft of the Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP), funded by Boulder’s voter-passed Climate Tax. The 2024 update aims to identify actions for preparedness and risk reduction and provide a framework for planning and implementation of mitigation measures.


During the week of May 20, commissioners will:

• Make a decision on the final draft of the Integrated Weed Management Plan (May 23). No public comment will be allowed; the final public hearing was held April 16. The plan has faced criticism from activists for its use of herbicides and allowance for aerial spraying by drone.

• Meet with Weld County Commissioners on May 24 at noon to share information about county work and identify any needs for collaboration on regional issues.

All agenda items are subject to change.

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Local news at a glance


Major improvements are coming to Boulder County’s manufactured housing communities, courtesy of a Boulder County pilot program utilizing federal funds. The $7 million Mobile Home Communities Program — funded by the American Rescue Plan ($5 million) and Community Development Block Grants ($2 million) — will pay for repairs, insulation and weather proofing, according to a statement from the county.

An initial $400,000 will be used to make upgrades to 30 mobile homes in two Boulder communities: Columbine (6292 Arapahoe Ave.) and Orchard Grove (3003 Valmont Road). The City of Boulder is a partner on the project, which will eventually expand to all mobile home parks in the county, officials say.

In a survey of 252 manufactured housing residents in Longmont and Lafayette, 25% of respondents rated the condition of their home as poor.


The embattled Cemex cement plant near Lyons was fined $1.3 million by state air pollution officials, Colorado Sun reported last week. The penalties come as Boulder County attempts to shut down operations.

The recent fine is for air pollution discovered by inspectors in 2022 and 2023. State officials told Colorado Sun that $835,000 of the recent penalty will fund “environmental justice programs in neighborhoods disproportionately impacted by pollution.” The company also paid a $357,000 fine last year for similar violations in 2021.

Last month, Boulder County terminated the plant’s right to keep operating, citing truck traffic that violated the terms of Cemex’s permits. The company is expected to respond this month.


Nederland’s Board of Trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to repeal the town’s Rights of Nature protections passed in 2021, The Mountain Ear reported. The resolutions recognized the “inherent and legal rights” of the “living and non-living natural components and communities” within 448 square miles of Boulder Creek watershed to “exist, maintain integral health, regenerate, evolve and be restored.”

But town leaders worried the resolutions might negatively impact their right to use water from Middle Boulder Creek and develop a reservoir to store it. Nederland is in the process of renewing those rights. Save the World’s Rivers, a nonprofit advocating for Rights of Nature throughout Colorado, in April filed a statement of opposition to the renewal application in water court.

In notes shared with the town board ahead of the May 7 vote, Nederland Mayor Billy Giblin cited the group’s legal challenges to other development projects — including Eldora Mountain Ski Resort’s bid to build and expand reservoirs, to which the town of Nederland was also opposed — as reason to rescind the Rights of Nature resolutions.

“This unexpected shift — from Rights of Nature as a tool to provide the Town with information about the health of the Creek, to others using Rights of Nature as a point of leverage against the Town and its neighbors in the community … should be considered in deciding whether Rights of Nature remains a good fit

for the Town of Nederland and consistent with its values and objectives,” Giblin wrote. The repeal “would in no way lessen the Board of Trustees’ and the Town’s commitment to considering and protecting the environment. … The Town would continue its commitment to environmental sustainability in the watershed.”

The vote comes just months after board members appointed two “guardians” to inform government discussions and represent the watershed and ecosystem.


• Boulder is set to begin “extensive citywide pothole patching” on its major streets, according to a news release from city officials, including Foothills Parkway, Arapahoe Avenue and 28th Street. Residents can view city maintenance and construction projects at

• Meet the people running for local and statewide office at two upcoming events:

• Primary candidate forum hosted by PLAN-Boulder County and Empower Our Future: Noon to 2 p.m. Tuesday, May 21 at the Boulder Public Library (1001 Arapahoe Ave.)

• Candidate meet-and-greet hosted by Boulder Progressives: 2-4 p.m. Saturday, June 1 at Sanitas Brewing Company (3550 Frontier Ave., Suite A, Boulder). RSVP: bit. ly/BPforumBW.

Look for Boulder Weekly’s primary vote guide, publishing June 6.

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The Cemex cement plant near Lyons. Credit: Amanda Dumenigo


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Boulder singer-songwriter Duncan Coker drops long-awaited debut album

Longtime Boulder singer-songwriter Duncan Coker has been honing his craft ever since he picked up his first guitar as a New Jersey teenager four decades ago. It was a Fender Squier, and it opened the door to a love for performing that’s going strong to this day.

After years of exclusively playing live, Coker felt the time was finally right to hit the studio and share his music in another format on his self-titled debut album, released in February.

It wasn’t his first time recording, though. Coker released an acoustic single in 2018, but says his latest material is his most well-rounded. He felt ready to lay it down in the studio, even if the path took longer than anticipated.

“I’m feeling now, in my mid-50s, very creative and prolific — like, I’m writing a lot. It just took me a while. It’s part of your life journey,” he says. “I’m really glad I waited to put out material that I was really proud of. I guess I peaked late in life.”


Since picking up that first guitar, Coker is still drawing from some of his earliest inspirations. While hometown hero Bruce Springsteen shot up the charts with working-class anthems, a young Coker gravitated more toward psychedelic bands like Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Yes and Rush during those formative years. But in writing his record, he found himself channeling his inner Boss.

hungry musicians striving to make it in the Country Music Capital of the World. His eclectic music is reminiscent of New Jersey’s favorite son. While Coker’s work isn’t so much autobiographical, he says “every story or song is going to have some of you in it.”

But Coker isn’t doing it all alone. Recorded at Boulder’s Broadway Music Studios with producer Bob Barrick, Coker’s premiere features Boulder County-based musicians Carolyn Hunter and Charlie Rose

learned a tremendous amount about working with other musicians and how recording works.”

of Elephant Revival.

Coker’s lyrics share stories about lonesome long-haul truckers and lovelorn romantics, wayfarer cowboys and

“It was a really organic process. We just took it one song at a time,” he says of working with Barrick. “We tried to find artists locally that we thought could add to the sound of each song. I


When it came to finding the confidence to put out his long-awaited debut, Coker credits the positive feedback of other artists with whom he crossed paths at Kansas City’s Folk Alliance International festival and a Planet Bluegrass songwriting course in Lyons. He’s also been part of a local songwriting group for the last decade that includes Don Ambory of Boulder mainstays Gasoline Lollipops.

“The timing just really hit. I guess I wanted to do this my whole life, but those three things just really came together,” he explains. “I think it was the encouragement and support of other artists saying, ‘Hey, you can do this. You can record. These songs are really good.’”

It’s not surprising that Coker’s songwriting prowess has only gotten stronger over the years. He says the melo-

dies and words find him out of nowhere. Sometimes he wakes up with a song idea, as if he’s dreaming about them.

“Like any other craft, it takes like 10,000 hours or whatever it is,” he says. “I think I hit some threshold after 10 years of doing this where the material was recordable and worth playing this live in front of people. I can’t say what the magic was, but it just took me a while to get to that point.”

Since then, the floodgates have opened, and Coker is now writing at a song-per-month pace. The plan, other than touring the new stuff, is to record more. He hints at having enough material for another album, so it’s safe to say it likely won’t be another decade or two before we hear from Coker again.

“It was a long time and a lot of songwriting and practicing,” he says. “But I’m ready to record another record. I got 10 songs in my pocket now.”


Coker with the Lofty Pines. 5 p.m. Saturday, May 18. Beyond the Mountain Brewery, 6035 Longbow Drive Unit 109, Boulder. Free

Duncan Coker performs with the Lofty Pines at Beyond the Mountain Brewery in Boulder on May 18. Courtesy: Duncan Coker Boulder’s Duncan Coker has been playing music for decades, but just released his debut album earlier this year. Courtesy: Duncan Coker


Actors’ Equity Association membership means big benefits, regional challenges for Colorado stage workers

When you think about labor unions, industries like automotive or steelworks might spring to mind. However, such worker collectives span an array of professions. Among these, the Actors’ Equity Association (AEA), known as Equity by its members, is the only union for actors and stage managers in the performing arts.

“My retirement plan, healthcare and safety protections are the most important benefits I receive,” says Abner Genece, an Equity actor and the union’s co-community leader in Denver. “However, joining is a highly personal decision, as union membership is not a one-size-fits-all situation.”

That choice — to join, continue union membership or leave — has become harder in recent years, stage workers say, with cuts to benefits coming during a COVID-forced work slowdown and what some actors feel is too much focus on larger markets, to the detriment of smaller ones like Colorado.

Union representatives admit that “many members” lost coverage during the global health crisis. Among them

was long-time local Equity member Piper Arpan McTaggart. An active member since the early 2000s, McTaggart spent years on Broadway before moving to Colorado in late 2009, where she was able to work on Equity contracts.

“The reason I dropped was 100% due to Equity’s response to COVID,” McTaggart says. “Equity said, ‘Pay your dues,’ but they would not let us work. I lost insurance for myself, my son and my husband. I didn’t feel supported by Equity, and non-Equity houses were making it work, so I couldn’t resist.”

Equity is taking steps to address members’ concerns. Local leaders are optimistic that the energy bolstering workers rights nationally will enliven their own industry, bringing a brighter future to stages across Colorado.


Most people have seen an Equity actor on stage, often denoted by an asterisk in programs, or attended a union tour at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts (DCPA) like the recent MJ or upcoming Company Union tours are subject to Equity’s rules surrounding working conditions and benefits, while non-union tours don’t have to provide the same protections.

theater history to fighting for civil rights, the union has been at the forefront of many arts labor movements since its inception more than a century ago.

Today, Equity has approximately 51,000 members, with Colorado accounting for just under 400, mostly in the Denver and Boulder areas. Union representatives say membership has “gradually increased” over the last several years, but some locals say it remains difficult to make a living as a union artist in the area.

Founded in 1913 and officially recognized by the American Federation of Labor six years later, Equity has long advocated for better working conditions for stage workers. From organizing the first strike in American

“Coloradans face a lot of the issues that members do outside of the three biggest theater markets of Los Angeles, Chicago and New York: There is only so much theater work to go around,” says Gabriela Geselowitz, senior writer and project manager for Equity. “That said, Denver has a few large venues and companies that have helped sustain theater in the metro area.”

The theater scene in Colorado operates on a smaller scale than the sprawling productions seen on Broadway. Equity houses like the DCPA, Lone Tree Arts Center, Colorado Shakespeare Festival and Arvada Center frequently hire union performers through League of Resident Theatres (LORT) contracts,

which typically include higher salary scales and benefits.

In contrast, Small Professional Theatre (SPT) agreements are more flexible, allowing venues like the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, Local Theater Company, Miners Alley Playhouse and others to offer some Equity contracts without the financial strain associated with LORT terms.

Contract benefits include negotiated minimum wages, rules ensuring safe working conditions, set working hours, health insurance and more. They also have access to Equity’s staff to enforce contracts, and increased access to auditions, educational programs and community events.

With additional payroll taxes and contributions to healthcare and pension plans, union actors are roughly twice as expensive to hire.

Striking actors parade through Columbus Circle in New York City on Aug. 18, 1919. Courtesy: Actors’ Equity Association The AEA has been at the forefront of many arts labor and social movements — including the fight for Civil Rights — since its inception more than a century ago. Courtesy: Actors’ Equity Association AEA show captain Nicole Olson distributes fliers outside a Milwaukee theater. Credit: Michael Courier

“We decided to become a union theater a few years ago because we believe in the union,” explains Len Matheo, Miners Alley’s artistic director. “If I could afford it, everyone would be on a union contract so that everyone could have health insurance. My goal is to hire more union workers, but I need to do so responsibly.”


Membership can come with drawbacks. Because of the small number of Equity engagements available in a market like Colorado’s, members are limited to fewer job opportunities than their non-union counterparts.

“I earn more money working out of state, even with all the travel expenses,” says Erin Joy Swank, Equity stage manager and Denver’s co-community leader. “It is a tricky situation because while I enjoy living in Denver, I cannot sustainably work here as a full-time Equity stage manager.”

Because of the lack of open union positions, members are often forced to choose between waiting for limited Equity positions and leaving the union to work for non-union companies.

“There are not enough Equity jobs in Colorado for me to live and work fulltime,” says Jalyn Webb, a former Equity actor who cancelled her membership during the pandemic. “I love the non-Equity theaters we have here, so I dropped my union card because I wanted to work more than [I wanted to be] be a union member.”


The pandemic exacerbated existing challenges faced by union members. Previously, Equity’s healthcare requirements were based on a system in which members had to work a set number of weeks to qualify for insurance. Due to a lack of contributions to the health fund caused by canceled shows in the early days of COVID-19, EquityLeague Benefit Funds — which manages union health insurance — increased qualification thresholds to levels that were hard for members to meet.

Taking your [union] card feels like such an accomplishment. Dropping it felt counterintuitive, but the arts are my livelihood, so when I couldn’t perform, I was suffocating artistically and financially.”

As the industry recovered, the requirements were reevaluated.

Beginning in January, Equity-League implemented a simplified plan design, reinstating the pre-pandemic work requirements.

In 2021, Equity leadership loosened requirements for its membership criteria, which leadership said in a press release was intended to address systemic barriers and include more people. Some members accused the organization of using the change for financial gain, especially since many new members wouldn’t qualify for healthcare.

All the changes forced longtime member McTaggart into what she calls

the “heartbreaking” choice to leave the union.

“As an aspiring musical theater person, taking your card feels like such an accomplishment,” she says. “Dropping it felt counterintuitive, but the arts are my livelihood, so when I couldn’t perform, I was suffocating artistically and financially.”

Looking back, though, McTaggart feels it was the right move.

“I don’t have a single regret,” she says. “I am performing at more theaters, and financially, it’s a wash — I don’t get benefits anymore, but I also don’t have to pay working dues or fees.”

Others have come to grips with their gripes about Equity while maintaining their union membership.

“I can be a proud member while also having concerns about some of the policies they implemented,” says Betty Hart, Equity actor, Colorado Theatre Guild president and co-artistic director of Boulder’s Local Theater Company. “I believe the AEA should take into account what is happening in these smaller regions. We cannot get contracts specific to our area, which would allow us to work more while paying a rate closer to the Equity standard.”


Asked about the organization’s plans to improve services to those working in regional theater markets, Equity representatives said the union wanted to “[take] the lead from our members in the communities where they live about what is important to them.”

In late March of this year, Equity’s executive director, Al Vincent, Jr., embarked on a tour of Equity communities across the U.S., with a stop in Colorado, to gather insight from members.

Equity also relaunched its field representative program, which the organization says will enhance the union’s presence and engagement in various theatrical markets, including the Centennial State. According to Geselowitz, field representatives will have made a dozen in-person visits to Colorado theaters in just over a year.

As local volunteer leader Genece thinks about the future, he remains optimistic while acknowledging market realities.

“The union is very much a long-term plan, especially in regional markets,” Genece says. “I do not want to paint a bleak picture, because I believe things are gradually improving, but limited Equity contracts in Colorado are a reality, and each artist must decide what is best for them.”

The union production MJ ended its run at the DCPA on April 28. Credit: Matthew Murphy



Three local stage productions to catch or skip

As April showers bring May flowers, Denver’s theatrical scene is in full bloom. From a musical comedy to two historical dramas, here’s a closer look at what worked — and what needed work.


The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at Vintage Theatre is a hilarious musical that captures the quirks and quandaries of middle schoolers as they navigate a spelling championship. Directed by Carter Edward Smith in his directorial debut, the production is largely successful thanks to a tight-knit cast that shines even during understudy changes. (Michael Spahn, who filled in for Cal Meakins as Leaf Coneybear on opening night, delivered an outstanding performance that showcased the cast’s adaptability.)

Ava Arangua Francis as Oliva Ostrovsky and Grant Bowman as William Barfée shine with palpable chemistry. Francis’ earnest rendition of “The I Love You Song” emerges as the emotional high point. Not all performances were as strong; Lily Horst as Logainne SchwartzandGrubenierre struggled with clarity due to her character’s lisp, and Charlotte Quinn’s portrayal of Marcy Park felt overly stiff at times.

Set in Putnam Valley Middle School, Kortney Hanson’s simple but effective two-story set serves as a charming backdrop to the spellers’ stories. Joyce Cole’s choreography adds a layer of pizzazz, particularly during group numbers where the spellers’ idiosyncrasies are on full display.

The interactive element of the production, in which audience members compete in the bee alongside the cast, fosters a sense of community. It also highlights the cast’s improvisational abilities, particularly Anna Hardcastle and Luke Rahmsdorff-Terry, whose

roles as bee hosts blend scripted and spontaneous interactions. Though the blocking underutilizes the second level of the scenic design, the overall pacing and immersive quality create a delightful theater experience that appeals to both the heart and the funny bone.


The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Through June 9, Vintage Theatre, 1468 Dayton St., Aurora. $20-$38


Making its regional premiere at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, The Lehman Trilogy explores the rise and fall of the Lehman Brothers. Beginning in 1847 at the family’s clothing shop in Alabama, the play spans 163 years, exploring the ambitions and consequences that shaped not only a family but also the nation’s economic landscape.

Upon entering the theater, the audience is greeted with Reid Thompson’s minimalist set design — two turntables and a sparse arrangement of black boxes that struggle to convey the vast span of time and complexity of events depicted in the play. This austere setup places a heavy burden on the script and three actors, who must evoke centuries of history without the aid of visually compelling scenery.

Matthew Boston, Sasha Roiz and Tasso Feldman give powerful performances, portraying multiple characters across generations with dynamic energy throughout the play’s three-hour-plus runtime. Their vocal and physical transformations are commendable, thanks to Jeffrey Parker’s meticulous vocal coaching, which gives each historical figure a distinct identity.

However, the production, directed by Margot Bordelon, often feels drawn out,

making the historically rich narrative feel more like a dramatized reading of Wikipedia than a lively theatrical experience. While the performances are sharp, and Jiyoun Chang’s lighting design adds atmospheric depth, the execution could benefit from a more visually appealing presentation to keep the audience engaged throughout its lengthy runtime.

ON STAGE: The Lehman Trilogy. Through June 2, Denver Center for the Performing Arts - Kilstrom Theatre, 1101 13th St., Denver. $40-$93


At Firehouse Theater Company, These Shining Lives offers a gripping yet uneven portrayal of the real-life tragedy of the so-called “Radium Girls” in the 1920s. This production, directed by Kate Poling, chronicles the harrowing experiences of four women who fight for justice after becoming radium poisoned while working at The Radium Dial Company.

Jeff Jesmer, Megan Davis and Samantha Piel collaborated to create the set, which effectively captures the contrast between oppressive factory

floors and intimate domestic scenes. While Rick Reid’s clock projection adds to the narrative by flashing important information about the setting and era, Poling’s staging struggles with the confines of the small theater space, resulting in static scenes, including multiple sequences staged on the ground that are difficult to see if you aren’t in the front row.

The ensemble cast gives heartfelt performances, and the four women — Rachel Barkalow, Babs Karney, Gabby Mann and Shyan Rivera — have strong chemistry together. However, as the drama progresses, their performances become overly dramatic, dulling the emotional impact.

While the direction strongly conveys the historical significance of the women’s story, the overall pacing and staging lack dynamism. Potentially effective scenes are hampered by limited movement and monotonous delivery; however, for melodrama fans, These Shining Lives is a sobering reminder of the human costs of industry progress.

ON STAGE: These Shining Lives. Through June 8, Firehouse Theatre Company, Colorado Free UniversityJohn Hand Theater, 7653 E. 1st Place, Denver. $15-$27

Running at Aurora’s Vintage Theatre through June 9, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee shines with equal parts humor and heart. Credit: Matthew Gale


Falling under the spell of ‘I Saw the TV Glow’

The place is filled with glowing neon lights, loud noises and whirling games. Families play and celebrate birthday parties, but down the center aisle shuffles an oldtimer apologizing to everyone and no one for their behavior. It’s a new medication, and they haven’t figured out the dosage yet. It was an outburst, an inconvenience, and they feel so sorry about it.

But the revelers take no notice of the pleas, no acknowledgment of the oldtimer’s existence. This is a fun center, one that’ll feel familiar to anyone who has visited a combination bowling alleyarcade. Yet, it’s alien at the same time. Is this a dream? Is this a nightmare?

In the hands of writer-director Jane Schoenbrun, it’s a bit of both, with a good dose of neon-soaked madness thrown in. I Saw the TV Glow, Schoenbrun’s second feature, is an unusual one — though I’m sure others will find less forgiving descriptors. The structure is governed by an ethereal, dreamlike logic that does and does not make sense. It’s a vibe: a particular kind of melancholy one experiences when they look back with fondness only to realize they got the whole thing wrong.

The story revolves around Owen (Justice Smith), a Black teen in mid-90s suburbia. Owen doesn’t have a whole lot of friends, and home life is strained. Then Owen meets Maddy (Brigette Lundy-Paine), a bewitching presence who introduces Owen to a cult TV show, The Pink Opaque. It’s a wild show filled with fierce images, bizarre storylines and a demonic ice cream cone — think Twin Peaks meets The Craft, as made by teenagers on a limited budget. Owen is mesmerized.

Owen and Maddy communicate through their shared love of The Pink Opaque, but they never connect. No one in I Saw the TV Glow connects. The world surrounding these characters feels depopulated and vacant. Those we do see in the background move in a zombie-like trance.

This is familiar territory for Schoenbrun, whose debut feature as director, 2021’s We’re All Going to the World’s Fair, has a similar fixation with screens, disconnection and characters moving catatonically through the world. And in each, Schoenbrun gives you the sense that this malaise settled over them well before the opening titles. What sets it in motion isn’t the

point; what the characters do with it is.

TV Glow and World’s Fair could be described as low-key horror — you spend more time at unease than in terror. What these movies capture is a humanity so disconnected, they have become uncaring. In what might be the most painful scene in TV Glow, Owen has an excruciating breakdown at a most inopportune time. And though Owen disrupts the party proceedings, no one comforts, no one castigates, no one even reacts. They simply freeze in silence while Owen cries for help.

All to say, there are no answers in TV Glow, only provocations. Owen’s breakdown is also coupled by an intrusion of the Fun Center’s pre-recorded PA system, reminding everyone they are in the fun zone while Owen chokes on sobs.

It’s a joke, but not one person in my screening, yours truly included, laughed. Yet, I can’t stop thinking about that moment and how cruel it seems, and whether that cruelty was the filmmaker’s intent or a simple way to break the tension.

That’s not the only question of intent with TV Glow. Here is a movie that

underlines the “things are not what they seem” concept so superficially that it simultaneously seems to reject that superficiality. Owen and Maddy act like outcasts but inhabit a world that seems so indifferent no one has the energy to dismiss and reject either of them in the first place. To borrow one from Shakespeare, “The lady doth protest too much.”

I Saw the TV Glow is slow-moving, hypnotic and sort of boring. Yet it burrows under your skin in a way that offcenter movies often do. It’s strange and alluring in the tradition of those late-night shows Schoenbrun models

The Pink Opaque after. A lot of those shows were viewed by people lying on a couch, half-asleep, which led to a lot of interesting retellings the following day at school and work. It was weird and cool and kind of dreamlike, and nothing really made sense. Maybe that’s because we made the whole thing up all along.


opens in theaters May 17.

Glow Justice Smith (left) and Brigette Lundy-Paine star in I Saw the TV Glow, the dreamy second feature from writer-director Jane Schoenbrun with an original score by Alex G. Courtesy: A24



6:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday, May 16, Boulder Book Store, 1107 Pearl St.

Join authors Olivia Chadha, Jessica Weaver, Leslie Vedder and Mariko Turk as they speak about and sign copies of their respective new books Fall of the Iron Gods, Lie Until It’s True, The Cursed Rose and I’ll Be Waiting for You during this free, teenfocused event at Boulder Book Store.



4-6 p.m. Friday, May 17 and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 18, BVSD Greenhouse, 6600 Arapahoe Road, Boulder. Free

Drop by BVSD’s annual plant sale for garden staples and heirloom varieties — all pollinator friendly and organically grown with help from staff, students and community members. Proceeds support nutrition education and farm-to-school programming.



5-7 p.m. Thursday, May 16 , 3rd Shot Pickleball, 20 Bowen St., Longmont. Free

Lend a hand for Greeley youth at this skateboard-building workshop in Longmont. Presented by nonprofit Can’d Aid, the partnership between Greeley Central High School and Immigrant Refugee Services “aims to help migrant families from arrival to enrollment.” No building experience necessary.

16 –18


Various times and locations, May 16-18, Boulder. Prices vary

This year’s celebration of the post-romantic Austrian composer includes a childhoodthemed program for chamber orchestra, a free brass quintet performance and rocktrio fusion program of Hendrix-inspired arrangements. Read a BW feature on the festival (including the full schedule) at bit. ly/MahlerFestBW



7-8:30 p.m. Friday, May 17, Yoga Pearl, 900 Pearl St., Boulder. $27 (non-members)

This guided meditation focuses on centering, grounding and breathwork with guidance from AJ Accardi. Bring your own eyemask or scarf to this Yoga Pearl session designed to help spark “a clear and soulful vision for how much is truly available to you and what you are meant to create in this life.”



7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Saturday, May 18, Boulder Theater, 2032 14th St. Resale: $75+

Actor, comedian and SNL alum Pete Davidson comes to Boulder Theater for a night of standup. The evening will feature two separately ticketed sets by the creator and star of the autobiographical comedy Bupkis, streaming now on Peacock.

20 MAY 16 , 2024 BOULDER WEEKLY EVENTS Sturtz with Travis Mcnamara Saturday show8:00pm time May 18th $19 All Fees included Friday show8:00pm time May 17th Dave Boylan In the Bar Sunday show8:00pm time May 19th Curt Buchan In the Bar Wednesday show8:00pm time May 22nd Katie Mintle In the Bar Ghost Town Blues band with stephen lear band Thursday show8:00pm time May 23rd $24 All Fees included MÆSØNIC Road to Electric Forest 2024 Friday show8:00pm time May 24th $14 All Fees included Jax Hollow with Taylor Tuke Saturday show8:00pm time May 25th $20 All Fees included Sunday show8:00pm time May 26th TMULE vs nic clark In the Bar Wednesday show8:00pm time May 29th Bill Mckay In the Bar Thursday show8:00pm time May 30th Lionel Young Duo In the Bar Kings of Prussia A tribute to phish Friday show8:00pm time May 31st $16 All Fees included Saturday show8:00pm timeJune 1st Christian Porter In the Bar




10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 18 and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, May 19, Boulder County Fairgrounds, 9595 Nelson Road, Longmont. $10

Head to the 52nd annual Strawberry Festival to peruse art, collectibles, jewelry, furniture and more — plus strawberry shortcake with fresh whipped cream. The anticipated event is a fundraiser for the St. Vrain Historical Society’s historic preservation and education initiatives.



Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 18, Rayback Collective, 2775 Valmont Road, Boulder. $47

Craft woven tapestries on hand-held frame looms during this hands-on workshop with Rachel Thurber at the Rayback Collective in Boulder. You’ll learn the basic steps of weaving along with a more advanced method known as the tapestry weave, before leaving with your own one-of-a-kind creation.



10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 18, Downtown Erie. Free

Make your way to historic downtown Erie for the 27th annual Erie Town Fair — featuring arts, crafts, vendors and more. Festivities include live music, kids’ activities, food trucks and a beer garden for a day of zero-waste family fun. Please leave your pets at home.



5-7 p.m. Sunday, May 19, Dickens Opera House, 300 Main St., Longmont. $30

The iconic Dickens stage will be fiercer than ever when Jessica L’Whor, Khrys’taaal and Nini Coco take over for a drag show filled with glitz, glamor and unforgettable performances. A limited food menu and full bar will be available during this over-the-top night of fun.



6:30 p.m. Monday, May 20, Left Hand Tasting Room, 1265 Boston Ave., Longmont. $17

Brewing historian Carl Rose offers a fascinating look at beer from the colonial era through Prohibition during this month’s Ales 4 Females event at Left Hand Brewing. This history lesson is sure to pair well with any of Left Hand’s award-winning brews.



3:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 22, Boulder Farmers Market, 13th Street, Boulder. Free

Experience the Boulder Farmers Market in a whole new way during the Found Collective’s evening artisan marketplace featuring 40 curated artists, makers, designers and small businesses. The evening will include live music, food vendors, local fresh produce, vintage clothing, ceramics and so much more.

BOULDER WEEKLY MAY 16 , 202 4 21
Stressed Out? Think Massage! Call 720.253.4710 All credit cards accepted No text messages



LYNN PATRICK 7 p.m. eTown Hall, 1535 Spruce St., Boulder. $23

BLUEPRINT WITH DJ DETOX, DJ NOTION AND MORE 8 p.m. Roots Music Project, 4747 Pearl St., Suite V3A, Boulder. $12

JACK CLOONAN BAND 9 p.m. Southern Sun Pub, 627 S. Broadway, Boulder. Free

LADY GREY GROWLS 6 p.m. Trident Booksellers & Cafe, 940 Pearl St., Boulder. Free

TONY CRANK 6 p.m. Bootstrap Brewing Company, 142 Pratt St., Longmont. Free

PAUL CORNISH TRIO. 7 p.m. Muse Performance Space, 200 E. South Boulder Road, Lafayette. $20

HUNTER STONE BAND (NIGHT 1) 9 p.m. Mountain Sun Pub, 1535 Pearl St., Boulder. Free

BIG BUBBLE RAVE 8 p.m. Aggie Theatre, 204 S. College Ave., Fort Collins. $25

BATTLE BEAST WITH BLACKBRIAR 8 p.m. Gothic Theatre, 3263 S. Broadway, Englewood. $30

BUDDY BENCH WITH GRAYSON RATLIFF 8 p.m. Marquis Theater, 2009 Larimer St., Denver. $28

ARDEN JONES WITH SAMMY RASH AND KENZIE CAIT 8 p.m. Globe Hall, 4483 Logan St., Denver. $22


BIG BUBBLE RAVE 9 p.m. Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder. $18

BILL HUSTON AND MONICA LABONTA: MONOCLE DUO REVIVAL 7 p.m. The Times Collaborative, 338 Main St., Longmont. $15

SOUTHALL WITH REID HAUGHTON 7:30 p.m. Gothic Theatre, 3263 S. Broadway, Englewood. $23

JUDD HOOS WITH PEACH STREET REVIVAL AND DENHAM 8 p.m. Globe Hall, 4483 Logan St., Denver. $16


LIQUID CHICKEN WITH ROSEBAY AND CIG FREUD. 8 p.m. Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder. $18

LOCAL NATIVES WITH UWADE 8 p.m. Boulder Theater, 2032 14th St. $40

THE CBDS 6 p.m. BOCO Cider, 1501 Lee Hill Drive, Unit 14, Boulder. Free

WEST HIGHWAY 7 BAND 6 p.m. Bootstrap Brewing Company, 142 Pratt St., Longmont. Free

ALFREDO MURO. 7 p.m. Christ the Servant Lutheran, 506 Via Appia Way, Louisville. $20

DAVE BOYLAN 8 p.m. Velvet Elk Lounge, 2037 13th St., Boulder. Free

EVERYBODY BUT JAY WITH SADDEST FACTION. 8:30 p.m. DV8 Distillery, 2490 49th St., Suite E, Boulder. $5+

SCHOOL OF ROCK: EQUINOX FEST (DAY 1) 2 p.m. Aggie Theatre, 204 S. College Ave., Fort Collins. $15


9 p.m. Mountain Sun Pub, 1535 Pearl St., Boulder. Free

KNOCKED LOOSE WITH SHOW ME THE BODY AND SPEED 7 p.m. Mission Ballroom, 4242 Wynkoop St., Denver. $40

STRANGEBYRDS 6 p.m. BOCO Cider, 1501 Lee Hill Drive, Unit 14, Boulder. Free

THE JOE COOL BAND 6 p.m. Bootstrap Brewing Company, 142 Pratt St., Longmont. Free


ITALO DISCO LEGACY (SCREENING + VINYL ALL NIGHT) 8 p.m. Hi-Dive, 7 S. Broadway, Denver. $5

LYNNE HANSON 6:30 p.m. Stone Cottage Studios, 3091 7th St., Boulder. $30


IDLES WITH GANSER 8 p.m. Boulder Theater, 2032 14th St. Sold out

GRABLE HOWIE 11 a.m. Bricks on Main, 471 Main St., Longmont. Free

just announced aug 2 SIMPLE SYRuP aug 17 John R. MILLER SEP 19 MonStER RaLLY x KaInaLu oct 24 KatE naSh oct 25 Bunt nov 21 BERtha: gRatEFuL DRag WWW.FOXTHEATRE.COM 1135 13TH STREET BOULDER 720.645.2467 WWW.BOULDERTHEATER.COM 2032 14TH STREET BOULDER 303.786.7030 just announced Jun 8 nIKKI gLaSER - LatE ShoW JuL 15 anDREW caLLaghan - 2nD nIght aug 10 FacE vocaL BanD SEP 7 hERE coME thE MuMMIES nov 7 LucaS ZELnIcK FRI. M aY 31 You Shou LD KnoW Po D ca S t M on. J un 3 Kgnu PRESEntS BR a D ME h LDau FRI. J un 7 KBco PRESEntS t RE vo R ha LL S at. J un 8 outBacK PRESEntS n IKKI g L a SER: a LI v E an D un WELL tou R 2 ShoWS! WED. J un 19 Kgnu & WESt WoRD PRESEnt gogo PE ngu I n S at. J un 22 BI g Ba D voo D oo Da DDY thu. J un 27 KBco PRESEntS Moon Mounta n tRIo touR B RE tt D E nn E n FRI M aY 17 LIQ u ID ch I c KE n RoSEBaY, cIg FREuD S at. M aY 18 RooStER PRESEntS BI g B u BBLE R av E SPongEBoB thEMED DancE PaRt Y FRI M aY 24 c u RB Su RFER PuBLIc PIcaSSo, gERM thEoRY S at. M aY 25 WESt WoRD PRESEntS: FacE to FacE WIth FantaSY touR th E B utt ER ton ES thE haYDS, BIg PInch FRI M aY 31 g IMME g IMME DIS co DancE to thE hItS FRoM thE 70S & 80S LIKE aBBa, chER & MoRE! S at. J un 1 M oon DI a L cLEMEntInE, on thE Dot FRI J un 7 DI va cu P cItRuS, PL aStIc FoREaRM, PRIoRIt Y QuEuE



United Methodist Church, 741 Jefferson Ave. $55

ENDS N ODDS 4 p.m. BOCO Cider, 1501 Lee Hill Drive, Unit 14, Boulder. Free


Performance Space, 200 E. South Boulder Road, Lafayette. $25

CURT BUCHAN 8 p.m. Velvet Elk Lounge, 2037 13th St., Boulder. Free

SCHOOL OF ROCK: EQUINOX FEST (DAY 2) 2 p.m. Aggie Theatre, 204 S. College Ave., Fort Collins. $15

RIDE WITH KNIFEPLAY 8 p.m. Gothic Theatre, 3263 S. Broadway, Englewood. $36

RICH AMIRI WITH HIGHWAY 8 p.m. Marquis Theater, 2009 Larimer St., Denver. $42


8 p.m. Hi-Dive, 7 S. Broadway, Denver. $20



7:30 p.m. Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, 18300 W. Alameda Parkway, Morrison. $60 BW PICK OF THE WEEK



8 p.m. Gothic Theatre, 3263 S. Broadway, Englewood. $25


Following last year’s headlining gig in Boulder, indie-pop standout Samia returns to the Front Range for an opening-slot show at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre on May 20. On the heels of last year’s fulllength Honey, the celebrated singer-songwriter performs in support of the arena-ready altrock outfit Bleachers, helmed by superstar producer Jack Antonoff See listing for details


7 p.m. Hi-Dive, 7 S. Broadway, Denver. $15


Roots Music Project, 4747 Pearl St., Suite V3A, Boulder. Free


7 p.m. Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre, 18300 W. Alameda Parkway, Morrison. $40

DAVE HONIG 5 p.m. Roadhouse Boulder Depot, 2366 Junction Place. Free


MADBALL WITH MASK, TIME X HEIST AND COPPER TEETH 7 p.m. Aggie Theatre, 204 S. College Ave., Fort Collins. $20

KATIE MINTLE 8 p.m. Velvet Elk Lounge, 2037 13th St., Boulder. Free


Southern Sun Pub, 627 S. Broadway, Boulder. Free

BRYSON TILLER 8 p.m. Mission Ballroom, 4242 Wynkoop St., Denver. $80


Want more Boulder County events? Check out the complete listings online by scanning this QR code.

BOULDER WEEKLY MAY 16 , 202 4 23


Eduardo Duran, PhD

Keynote and Guest teacher

Dr. Duran will speak about healing the soul wound, moral injury, and how these relate to awakening. The soul wound or "injury where blood doesn't flow" (Duran and Firehammer 2017) relates to historical, spiritual, and racial wounding. It will be discussed in the context of the Buddhist notion of emptiness, the Zen idea of "Big Mind”, and how it relates to our everyday relative world experience.

MAY 30 7:00-8:30 PM


• Provide opportunities for artists to enrich and advance their careers

• Continue to build the NoBo Art District as an artistic and business destination

• Provide the community with events, education opportunities and creative outlets

ARIES (MARCH 21-APRIL 19): Polishborn author Joseph Conrad (1857–1924) didn’t begin to speak English until he was 21 years old. At 25, his writing in that language was still stiff and stilted. Yet during the next 40-plus years, he employed his adopted tongue to write 19 novels, numerous short stories and several other books. Today he is regarded as one of the greatest writers in the English language. You may not embark on an equally spectacular growth period in the coming months, Aries. But you do have extra power to begin mastering a skill or subject that could ultimately be crucial to your life story. Be inspired by Conrad’s magnificent accomplishments.


Hypothetically, you could learn to give a stirring rendering of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 on a slide whistle. Or you could perform the “To be or not to be” soliloquy from Shakespeare’s Hamlet for an audience of pigeons that aren’t even paying attention. Theoretically, you could pour out your adoration to an unattainable celebrity or give a big tip to a waiter who provided mediocre service or do your finest singing at a karaoke bar with two people in the audience. But I hope you will offer your skills and gifts with more discernment and panache, Taurus — especially these days. Don’t offer yourself carelessly. Give your blessings only to people who deeply appreciate them.

GEMINI (MAY 21-JUNE 20): When I lived in San Francisco in 1995, thieves stole my Chevy Malibu. It was during the celebratory mayhem that swept the city following the local football team’s Super Bowl victory. Cops miraculously recovered my car, but it had been irrevocably damaged in one specific way: It could no longer drive in reverse. Since I couldn’t afford a new vehicle, I kept it for the next two years, carefully avoiding situations when I would need to go backward. It was a perfect metaphor for my life in those days. Now I’m suggesting you consider adopting it for yours. From what I can discern, there will be no turning around anytime soon. Don’t look back. Onward to the future!

CANCER (JUNE 21-JULY 22): Cancerian basketball coach Tara VanDerveer is in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame. She won more games than anyone else in the sport. Here’s one aspect of her approach to coaching. She says that the greatest players “have a screw loose” — and she regards that as a very good thing. I take her to mean that the superstars are eccentric, zealous, unruly and daring. They don’t conform to normal theories about how to succeed. They have a wild originality and fanatical drive for excellence. If you might ever be interested in exploring the possible advantages of having a screw loose for the sake of your ambitions, the coming months will be one of the best times ever.

LEO (JULY 23-AUG. 22): Am I one of your father figures, uncle figures or brother figures? I hope so! I have worked hard to purge the toxic aspects of masculinity that I inherited from my culture. And I have diligently and gleefully cultivated the most beautiful aspects of masculinity. Plus, my feminist principles have been ripening and growing stronger for many years. With that as our background, I encourage you to spend the coming weeks upgrading your own relationship to the masculine archetype, no matter which of the many genders you might be. I see this as an excellent time for you to take practical measures to get the very best male influences in your life.

VIRGO (AUG. 23-SEPT. 22): Now that your mind, your heart and your world have opened wider than you imagined possible, try to anticipate how they might close down if you’re not always as bold and brave as you have been in recent months. Then sign a contract with yourself promising that you will not permit your mind, your heart and your world to shrink or narrow. If you proactively heal your

fears before they break out, maybe they won’t break out. (P.S. I will acknowledge that there may eventually be a bit of contraction you should allow to fully integrate the changes, but only a bit.)

LIBRA (SEPT. 23-OCT. 22): I would love you to cultivate connections with characters who can give you shimmery secrets and scintillating stories you need to hear. In my astrological opinion, you are in a phase when you require more fascination, amazement and intrigue than usual. If love and sex are included in the exchange, so much the better — but they are not mandatory elements in your assignment. The main thing is this: For the sake of your mental, physical and spiritual health, you must get your limitations dissolved, your understanding of reality enriched and your vision of the future expanded.

SCORPIO (OCT. 23-NOV. 21): Scorpio writer Andrew Solomon made a very Scorpionic comment when he wrote, “We all have our darkness, and the trick is making something exalted of it.” Of all the signs of the zodiac, you have the greatest potential to accomplish this heroic transmutation — and to do it with panache, artistry and even tenderness. I trust you are ready for another few rounds of your mysterious specialty. The people in your life would benefit from it almost as much as you.

SAGITTARIUS (NOV. 22-DEC. 21): Have you been nursing the hope that someday you will retrain your loved ones? That you will change them in ways that make them act more sensibly? That you will convince them to shed qualities you don’t like and keep just the good parts? If so, the coming weeks will be an excellent time to drop this fantasy. In its place, I advise you to go through whatever mental gymnastics are necessary as you come to accept and love them exactly as they are. If you can manage that, there will be a bonus development: You will be more inclined to accept and love yourself exactly as you are.

CAPRICORN (DEC. 22-JAN. 19): I brazenly predict that in the next 11 months, you will get closer than ever before to doing your dream job. Because of your clear intentions, your diligent pragmatism and the Fates’ grace, life will present you with good opportunities to earn money by doing what you love and providing an excellent service to your fellow creatures. But I’m not necessarily saying everything will unfold with perfection. And I am a bit afraid that you will fail to capitalize on your chances by being too insistent on perfection. Please assuage my doubts, Capricorn. Welcome imperfect but interesting progress.

AQUARIUS (JAN. 20-FEB. 18): In his book Ambivalent Zen, Lawrence Shainberg mourns that even while meditating, his mind is always fleeing from the present moment, forever “lurching towards the future or clinging to the past.” I don’t agree that this is a terrible thing. In fact, it’s a consummately human characteristic. Why demonize and deride it? But I can also see the value of spending quality time in the here and now: enjoying each new unpredictable moment without compulsively referencing it to other times and places. I bring this up, Aquarius, because I believe that in the coming weeks, you can enjoy far more free time in the rich and resonant present than is normally possible for you. Make “BE HERE NOW” your gentle, relaxing battle cry.

PISCES (FEB. 19-MARCH 20): Two-thirds of us claim to have had a paranormal encounter. One-fourth say they can telepathically sense other people’s emotions. One-fifth have had conversations with the spirits of the dead. As you might guess, the percentage of Pisceans in each category is higher than all the rest of the zodiac signs. And I suspect that number will be even more elevated than usual in the coming weeks. I hope you love spooky fun and uncanny mysteries and semi-miraculous epiphanies! Here they come.


I was chatting with a couple of friends and the topic turned to clearing out a loved one’s belongings after they’ve passed away and some of the interesting, strange or inexplicable belongings we found. One said that, while cleaning out her father’s place she found — amongst other sex items — a metal butt plug in his freezer. None of us had an explanation as to why, and I just threw out that maybe he was freezing it to kill the bacteria.


That seemed to satisfy them, but the truth is I don’t know. It seems to me washing it or wiping it with alcohol would be just as, if not more, effective and I’m not sure if freezing it would even work. So, I’m turning to you.

Do you have any idea(s) about why a guy would keep his metal butt plug in a freezer? Is there some kink associated with putting an ice-cold butt plug up your rectum? It seems like it would do some damage; that scene in “A Christmas Story” to mind.

— Perplexed By Frozen Treat

The crucial difference between that flagpole in A Christmas Story (and what it did to Frankie’s tongue) and that butt plug in the freezer (and what it did for the deceased’s ass) is this: Your friend’s dad had to remove that plug from his freezer, carry it to his bedroom and cover it with room-temperature lube before shoving it up his butt each step causing the surface temperature of his metal butt plug to rise — whereas the boy who touched a metal flagpole with his tongue in A Christmas Story had essentially joined that flagpole in the freezer. And while I’m not an atmospheric scientist, I feel confident saying that if Frankie had carried that flagpole into his heated classroom and lubed that flagpole up before touching it with his tongue, his tongue wouldn’t have gotten stuck to it. As for what that metal butt plug was doing in the freezer, the obvious

answer is almost certainly the correct one: chilling. Some people enjoy the sensation of cold toys in their butts — some people enjoy slipping actual ice cubes in their butts — but I wouldn’t advise the inexperienced and/or nervous to experiment with ice-cold ass toys. (The point of anal foreplay is warming a butt up; a frozen toy is going to the opposite effect.)

The fact that the metal butt plug was the only sex toy in the freezer suggests your friend’s dad and/or one of his sex partners liked an ice-cold plug; if he thought putting sex toys in the freezer was a good way to sterilize them, your friend would’ve found more of her dad’s sex toys in his freezer. (But if he thought he could sterilize his butt plug by freezing it, he thought wrong: “Freezing to 0 °F inactivates any microbes — bacteria, yeasts, and molds — [but] once thawed, however, these microbes can again become active,” says the USDA. To sterilize steel, glass, or silicone sex toys, boil them in water for a few minutes, toss them in the dishwasher, or hand wash them with antibacterial soap and hot water.)

There’s only one other possible explanation that I think of: Your friend’s father didn’t want his regular sex partner(s) to find his butt plug, so he hid his tell-tail toy in the freezer instead of keeping it in his bedroom with his other sex toys. But all we can do is speculate, PBFT, as the deceased is the only one who knows why that butt plug was in that freezer, and he’s not taking questions.


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Are ear-splitting decibels forcing diners to abandon the restaurants they love?

One year ago on Memorial Day weekend, I woke up to a wall of silence. Overnight, I’d lost the ability to hear out of my right ear. Eventually, I was diagnosed with sudden hearing loss. My half-eared condition now makes dining and other public events more challenging. Nobody can sit on my right at a meal, but I’m learning to cope.

My epiphany about restaurant noise came before my acquired disability. I was reviewing a new upscale Denver bistro; our server leaned in to take the order. I said, “I’ll get the steak, medium rare.”

What he delivered was an order of skate, a seafood delicacy sautéed in brown butter with capers. I ate it anyway, but at the end of the evening, I was hoarse from yelling over the secondhand din.

After that, I started bringing a sound measuring device and found some places pinned the meter at 70 to 80 dBs on a Friday evening — halfway between a vacuum cleaner and a police siren.

If I had to scream to be heard by the person sitting next to me, I marked restaurants’ letter grades down a notch in my reviews. I got some backlash for “taking the fun out of dining;” The sound of people talking is what makes full restaurants charming, my critics contend. But not everyone feels that way.

When I asked friends and neighbors whether the decibel level was a major factor in choosing Boulder County restaurants, the response was emphatic. They talked about boycotting the noisiest places, wearing earplugs or walking out if it’s too loud to communicate with servers and friends. They mentioned begging managers to turn down the music and being laughed at or told that the volume on the beat-heavy dance

tunes was controlled at some distant corporate office.

This group — although small, selective and certainly not representative of the dining population as a whole said they would patronize restaurants that offered “quiet” hours — sonically friendly dining one night a week. (Those would be real happy hours.)

Post-pandemic, my own list of painfully loud local restaurants has grown exponentially. Which led me to wonder: Have Boulder County eateries really gotten a lot noisier, or have I simply grown more intolerant?


What scant data exists shows the opposite is happening, at least nationally. In late March, Wall Street Journal (using data from SoundPoint, a crowdsourced repository of restaurant noise

levels created for the hearing-impaired community) reported that the percentage of restaurants too loud for a normal conversation actually decreased between 2019 and 2023.

But, as the article concluded, Americans seem to like noisy eateries.

“Part of what gives a place energy and a fun vibe is having some noise,” says Lisa Balcom, who co-owns Niwot’s Farow Restaurant with her husband, Patrick. “There’s nothing worse than a room full of people just talking and no background soundtrack. Music brings a certain energy to the room that is part of the experience.”

Megan Bucholz, the owner of Local Table Tours, has been guiding diners to culinary stops in Denver, Boulder and Fort Collins for 14 years. She finds herself uncomfortable when restaurants are too quiet.

“When places aren’t loud and you’re talking, it feels like everyone can hear your conversation,” Bucholz says. “A friend told me she found a quiet restaurant, but it wasn’t noisy because nobody wanted to eat there. I don’t know if there’s a way to fix the noise problem for everyone.”

Balcom agrees that some din is to be expected.

“If you want to eat at six o’clock on a Friday, you have to expect people and

noise,” she says. “There’s only so much I can do to control the environment.”


Still, both women do what they can to accommodate the noise-sensitive among us.

“Design-wise, the hard surfaces are sexy and fun, but I had soundproofing installed in the rafters and the chairs upholstered to help dampen the noise bouncing through the room,” Balcom says. “Throughout the evening, I adjust the music volume according to how many bodies I have in my room. The music goes up as there are fewer people.”

The restaurateur’s advice for quieter dining is to contact the restaurant beforehand.

“I try to seat them in a corner or by the windows where there’s a little less hustle and bustle, or I tell them to come in earlier or later in the evening,” she says. “There’s also the patio where the noise just kind of goes off into the ether.”

Bucholz agrees that timing is everything.

“We most often take our tours when restaurants are empty in the sweet spot between 2 and 5 p.m., so it is almost never too loud,” she says. “If it’s too loud, we can’t connect with our guests.”



Three Boulder companies recently picked up 2024 Good Food Awards, the Oscars of American artisan food: heirloom grain pasta maker Pastificio; pickle, relish and salsa packer Mountain Girl Pickles; and cracker-baker Full Stop Bakery

Coming soon in Louisville: Shamrock Food Service Warehouse, a new grocery option in the city’s former Alfalfa’s Market; Relish Food Hall and Pickleball will open in 2025 at 550 McCaslin Blvd. Ironton Distillery & Crafthouse is scheduled to open in 2026 at 1303 Empire Road.

Learn how to make empanadas, roasted salsa roja, and steak with chimichurri May 23 at Boulder’s Food Lab cooking school. Information:

One of Colorado’s most celebrated fine dining destinations, the 74-year-old Palace Arms Restaurant at the Brown Palace Hotel, has closed.

Niwot’s 1914 House restaurant is set to close at the end of July.


“Say a grocery chain is known for being organic and trustworthy but still progressive and modern. We can help them interpret what those brand characteristics mean in background music.”

— Ola Sars, CEO of Soundtrack Your Brand, which licenses songs for grocery stores.

John Lehndorff is the former dining critic of the Rocky Mountain News. Send your critiques and comments to

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Marijuana tax revenue falls short of projections

Nearly half of Americans live in a state that allows legal access to recreational marijuana. Eleven more states, including Wisconsin and Florida, are considering legalization in 2024.

One of the most common rationales for legalizing marijuana is increasing state tax revenue. How much revenue comes in depends on decisions states make about regulating the marijuana industry, including how it is taxed.

Recreational marijuana taxes are generally based on price, quantity, weight or potency — much like other “sin goods” such as tobacco and alcohol products. Most states with legal marijuana impose a marijuana sales tax. Others use a combination of sales taxes and a quantity or weightbased tax. For instance, a half dozen marijuana brownies that weigh a pound could be taxed as “six” or taxed on their weight.

Taxes based on potency, a common practice for liquor taxation in most states, are also designed to reduce consumption. Taxes on spirits are generally much higher than the taxes on wine and beer. Marijuana potency can be taxed on the prod-

uct’s level of THC, the main psychoactive compound in cannabis.


In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first two states to legalize recreational marijuana, and sales began in 2014. These states tax marijuana aggressively compared with other states.

Colorado imposes a 15% sales taxes on marijuana, paid by consumers, and another 15% on weight, paid by retailers — compared with New Mexico, which has only a 12% sales tax.

Washington’s tax is even higher, at 37%.

With taxes set high, Colorado and Washington expected their new marijuana industries to generate significant tax revenue. These predictions relied on surveys of illegal marijuana use and likely overestimated the consumption of legal marijuana, which tends to be more expensive than street drugs.

In 2014, then-Gov. John Hickenlooper predicted Colorado

would collect more than $130 million in revenue from marijuana taxes in the first fiscal year of sales. The actual tax receipt was about $88 million. Washington experienced a similar shortfall. The state Office of Financial Management projected it would earn $434 million in taxes in fiscal year 2015, more than twice the realized revenue.


What’s more, both states’ tax revenue from alcohol and tobacco were undercut by marijuana. Research published with economist Keaton Miller found that people were consuming marijuana instead of alcohol and tobacco, causing revenue from these other sin goods to drop.

overall than before legalization, but the total increase is not as large as politicians predicted.

On top of not collecting the expected tax revenue, states such as California, Oregon and Colorado have experienced a slowdown, and even a decrease, in marijuana sales and tax revenue. One reason is because as these markets mature, the average price for marijuana is dropping. Lower prices are leading to decreases in sales tax revenues.

Marijuana prices in Colorado dropped 60% from 2014 to 2023. Colorado has been losing tax revenue ever since, and Washington’s case is not much different.

Tax policies do influence the market, but they can do little to overcome soft demand. From that perspective, a decline or stagnation in state tax revenues from marijuana is inevitable. As the market matures and more states legalize marijuana, consumers will have more buying options, and competition will intensify.

In Washington, research estimates 40%, or $56 million dollars, was siphoned off liquor, wine and cigarette tax revenue from July 2014 to June 2015. Both states did earn more taxes

That means both the price of marijuana and tax revenues associated with its sale will likely drop further in the future.

Boyoung Seo is an assistant professor of business at Indiana University. The Conversation is a nonprofit, independent news organization featuring articles written by academic experts.

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