2013 True West Theater Person of the Year Shelly Bordas: “Love Rules Out”

Shelly Bordas as she looks today, after she stopped taking steroids and dropped 65 pounds.

Here is the new Part 3 of John Moore’s ongoing video documentary series on Shelly Bordas,

By John Moore
Dec. 29, 2013

Shelly Bordas as she looks today, after she stopped taking steroids and dropped 65 pounds.
Shelly Bordas as she looks today, after she stopped taking steroids and dropped 65 pounds.

There’s a ship that comes for Shelly Bordas each night in her dreams. But she’s not getting on board just yet.

Bordas began her year with the modest goal of making her first stage appearance in more than three years – as the drunk secretary in the Town Hall Arts Center’s “9 to 5, the Musical.” But then doctors told her the breast cancer she had been battling for 3 ½ years had spread to her brain and eyes. She was told to get her affairs in order. That her remaining time on this Earth was short.

They are still telling her that.

For an actor who never realized her dream of performing again, Bordas’ wrenching, inspiring story galvanized audiences like no piece of fiction that was presented on any stage in 2013. For her resilience, her fight and her sheer will to live, Bordas is CultureWest’s 2013 Theatre Person of the Year.

And while doctors can’t explain why Bordas is not yet dead, Bordas certainly can:

“I’ve got my boy,” she said of Nathan, who turned 4 in April. “I’ve been in a lot of pain this year. I can see how people give up. But loves rules out.

“I’m not ready.”

Bordas left “9 to 5” a few weeks before its February opening to spend every last second with her son. She is also a longtime children’s theater educator at Town Hall Arts Center, and she was determined to finish several productions she was in the process of directing for the kiddos there, including “Finding Nemo.”

Bordas, a single mom, told her castmates her only wish was to take Nathan on a Disney Cruise for his birthday. Grassroots efforts to help sprung up like lightning strikes that quickly grew into an inferno of warmth and good will. An online fundraising campaign was launched. Benefits were held at the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse, the Columbine United Church in Littleton and Clementine’s hair salon in Denver. In all, nearly $30,000 was raised, and that allowed Bordas, her family, friends and a medical team to take the trip of a lifetime.

“Oh my gosh, it was wonderful,” she said. “We were so spoiled. We had a cabana on a private island, Nathan got to meet all of the Disney characters, and we had a private meeting with the captain on his bridge.”

Shelly Bordas took her family, son Nathan, best friend Chris Whyde, and a medical team along with her on a Disney Cruise in April that was largely funded by friends and strangers from the Colorado theater community who were moved by her harrowing story.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Bordas’ final exit, stage right.

She didn’t make it.

“When the cruise was over, it was like, ‘Now what? … Should I die now?’ ” she said.

In true Bordas fashion, she went back to work. Lest you think Bordas is being honored here solely for not dying, consider that, in 2013, Bordas managed to direct 10 children’s shows, five of which were musicals. All told, she directed 177 young theater students at the Town Hall Arts Center – all while undergoing 26 chemotherapy treatments.

Bordas will also have you know that she has stopped taking steroids as part of her treatment plan — and as a result, she has lost 64 pounds this year. And she’s showing off. For a woman who once made her career playing sexy stage characters in shows like “Cell Block Sirens of 1953” and “Debby Does Dallas, the Musical,” it’s absolutely imperative to her that you know this.

“I am skinny … and I look good,” she said.

As for being recognized for her year with the True West Award, Bordas is taken aback. “There are no words,” she said. “I’m flattered. I just want to cry, I’m so happy.”

But the struggle before her today is no less daunting than it was a year ago. Bordas is nearly blind. Her liver is failing. The many brain tumors are still there. “They say if I stop doing chemo, I will die, so I will be doing that forever,” said Bordas, 42. “I am going to live in a lot of pain … but I am going to live.”

Bordas is still in need of the good will of those who would care to help her. She can’t drive herself to work or doctors appointments because of her failing eyesight. Recent changes in the health-care laws have left her with an insurance premium that has grown by nearly $100 a month. That is significant to a woman of her limited earning potential.

Those so inclined to help may send a check to Bordas in her name in care of the Town Hall Arts Center, 2450 Main St., Littleton, 80120.

And that ship that keeps wanting Bordas to board in her dreams will just have to stay at bay for now. “My friends and my son and my friends and all of the people who are supporting me are going to keep me right here,” she said.

The rest of the 2013 True West Award winners were announced today. To see the complete list of 2013 True West Award nominees, click here. To see the full list of nearly 120 eligible productions by 60 different theater companies, click here.

Some of our previous coverage of the Shelly Bordas story:

Video: The Shelly Bordas Story, Part 2:

(Find Part 1 at the top of this page)

Shelly Bordas: A story that’s just beginning

Photos: Shelly Bordas benefit performances raise money, lift hearts


Click here to subscribe to the CultureWest.org Monthly E-Newsletter


How you can donate to the Denver Actors Fund

The new Denver Actors Fund is a modest source of immediate, situational relief when members of the local theater community find themselves in sudden medical need. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):

By John Moore

Award-winning arts journalist John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the United States by American Theatre Magazine during has 12 years at The Denver Post. Hen then created a groundbreaking new media outlet covering Colorado arts an culture as an in-house, multimedia journalist for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. He also founded The Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that has raised more than $600,000 for theatre artists in medical need. He is now a journalist for hire as the founder of Moore Media Colorado. You can find samples of his work at MooreJohn.Com. Contact him at culturewestjohn@gmail.com