Here are your 2013 True West Award Winners: Spread out … or spread thin?

By John Moore
Dec. 29, 2013

The Curious Theatre Company, a whopping seven-time winner of the prestigious “best year by a company” Ovation/True West Award, wasn’t even a finalist in that category this year. That’s largely because Denver’s most vital artery to the pulse of the New York theater got mired in a redundant pattern of stories about unpleasant family squabbles.

But one of them stood starkly apart: “The Brothers Size” took the ordinary premise of two bickering African-American brothers and transported audiences not only inside their percussive, modern-day world on the Louisiana bayou, but all the way down the rabbit hole of their ancestral culture and mythology.  This wasn’t just the story of two  iconic brothers, one struggling to stay the straight course while the other seeks the shortest of short cuts. This was Cain and Abel. A black “True West” — which makes it an all-the-more fitting selection for the True West Awards’ best drama of 2013.

Dee Covington’s rough and lyrical staging, impeccably performed by the trio of Laurence Curry, Cajardo Lindsey and Damion Hoover  (each of whom were individually nominated for their performances), also has won for best director and actor (Curry). This was the Curious we’ve always known, at its best.

For the first time, the best-musical award goes to Fort Collins’ Midtown Arts Center for its stirring production of “Les Misérables.” Longtime Denver actor David Ambroson (best actor in a musical) delivered the performance of his life as Valjean. After 19 years, the MAC has moved ever closer to reaching artistic parity with the Arvada Center when it comes to making big, Broadway musicals.

The True West Awards, which began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001, are the longest-running continuously administered awards program in Colorado theater. And in this, their 13th year, the results reflect a theater community in major transition. Theater is growing at a rate that seems wholly unsustainable for the long run. There were far more total productions offered on Colorado stages in 2013 than in any previous year.  That resulted in a busy, busy year  that will be remembered for its sheer volume, if not for its overall artistic achievement. The year was marked by small starbursts of brilliance, many of which are reflected in these awards. But the year is ending without a detectable, community-wide groundswell of forward artistic momentum.

While it is never the intent of the True West Awards to spread its largess around like Field Day participation ribbons, it is telling that no single theater company received more than three awards for its work in 2013. That 19 companies won at least one award is a record. And a telling one.

Plenty of theater companies are doing good work, and selling a lot of tickets. But overall, The bar for what is considered “good enough” seems to have slipped a rung. The collective vision for the future seems uncertain. While Buntport continues to produce the kind of original, fanciful new creations we’ve become accustomed to for more than a decade, only few small companies  seem poised to make significant growth gains in the coming year — the kind that a decade ago vaulted Curious Theatre from an upstart to its present place as Denver’s only true, mid-sized professional theater.

The scrappy Edge Theatre had a season filled with creative fits and starts that portend a possible breakout year in 2014. Boulder’s The Catamounts and Local Theatre seem to be moving full-forward, and the handicapped Phamaly Theatre Company  ventured into new territory. Mountain companies like Lake Dillon and Breckenridge Backstage are growing by leaps and bounds, but the only Denver company that seems clearly poised to become “the next Curious” is the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company. This is a company on a documented, sustained growth trajectory over eight years now. Co-founder Stephen Weitz recorded a 42 percent attendance gain last year, with similar upticks in both budget size and donations. And this growth is clearly, directly attributable to the company’s commitment to building the quality of the work on the stage. That, and given that all of the  solid work presented in its smartly chosen 2013 lineup, made BETC (it goes by “Betsy”) the easy choice for the True West “best year by a company” award.

Elsewhere,  ours seems to be a community in a whole lot of flux. Some of it for the better. Some not.

Several of our most reliable and successful companies are now in the midst of varying leadership, personnel, mission or programming transitions, including the Arvada Center, Colorado Shakespeare Festival, the Miners Alley Playhouse, Vintage Theatre, the Aurora Fox, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre, and even the Denver Center. Many of these companies seem to be re-evaluating who they are, and who they want to be moving forward. That could all be for the better.

But the venerable Heritage Square Music Hall closes on Tuesday.  Germinal Stage-Denver and the LIDA Project have entered periods of dormancy — and we all know companies that enter dormancy often never wake up from it. Those three troupes alone represent 85 years of Colorado theater history.

There is a lot on the line in 2014.

One thing is certain: The local theater landscape almost certainly will look vastly  different a year from now than it does today.

But while we wait for all of that to play out, let’s take a moment to look back on some of the brightest moments in Colorado theater 2013:

CULTURE WEST’s 2013 TRUE WEST AWARD WINNERS:

Note: The “Readers’ choice” designees below are not the official True West Award winners. Those are chosen by John Moore, who saw about 150 productions in 2013. Readers’ choice results are determined by 1,044 unique respondents to an online survey.

THEATER PERSON OF THE YEAR:
Shelly Bordas

(Click here to read our separate story on Shelly Bordas)
3 BORDASReaders’ choice voting:
1. Shelly Bordas: 13.2 percent
1. Rick Yaconis: 13.2 percent
3. Edith Weiss: 13.0 percent
4. John Ashton: 11.4 percent
5. Brian Freeland: 7.5 percent
5. Erin Rollman: 7.5 percent
Also nominated: Ed Baierlein, Linda Morken, Stephen Weitz, Christopher Willard
Write-ins: 10.2 percent
Leading write-in: Deb Flomberg, 4 votes

BEST YEAR BY A COMPANY:
Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company

13 BETCReaders’ choice voting:
1. Arvada Center: 23.9 percent
2. Phamaly Theatre Company: 22.9 percent
3. Colorado Shakespeare Festival: 15.7 percent
4. Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company: 13.3 percent
5. Boulder’s Dinner Theatre: 11.3 percent
Write-ins: 13.1 percent
Leading write-ins: Edge Theatre (16 votes) and Midtown Arts Center (14)

BEST DRAMA:
Curious Theatre’s “The Brothers Size”

16 BROTHERSReaders’ choice voting:
1. Aurora Fox’s “Metamorphoses”: 25.9 percent
2. Ashton Entertainment’s “The Seafarer”: 24.2 percent
3. Curious Theatre’s “The Brothers Size”: 19.8 percent
4. Boulder Ensemble’s “Ghost-Writer”: 15.6 percent
5. Springs Ensemble Theatre’s “A Steady Rain”: 8.8 percent
Write-ins: 6.1 percent
Leading write-in: Edge Theatre’s “Newark Violenta,” 3 votes

BEST MUSICAL:
Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Miserables”

24 LES MISReaders’ choice voting:
1. Phamaly Theatre Company’s “Fiddler on the Roof”: 21.4 percent
2. Arvada Center’s “Man of La Mancha”: 20.2 percent
3. Aurora Fox’s “The Color Purple”: 19.8 percent
4. Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”: 17.4 percent
4. Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Miserables”: 17.4 percent
Write-ins: 3.2 percent
Leading write-in: Vintage Theatre’s “Young Frankenstein,” 4 votes

BEST COMEDY:
Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
28 midsummerReaders’ choice voting:
1. Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: 43 percent
2. Illumination Theatre’s “Sordid Lives”: 17.7 percent
3. The Avenue’s “Motherhood Out Loud”: 14.9 percent
4. Boulder Ensemble’s “Bach at Leipzig”: 14.6 percent
5. OpenStage’s “Bullshot Crummond”: 6.5 percent
Write-ins: 3.8 percent
Leading write-in: Phamaly Theatre Company’s “The Foreigner,” 2 votes

31 WAKE

BEST NEW PLAY:
Buntport Theater’s “Wake”
Other nominees:
LIDA Project’s “R.U.R/lol”
Buntport Theater’s “Electra Onion Eater”
The Edge’s “Newark Violenta”
(Note: This was not a readers’ choice category)

BEST YEAR BY AN ACTOR:
Sam Gregory

Readers’ choice voting:
36 GREGORY1. Sam Gregory: 15.6 percent
2. James O’Hagan-Murphy: 15.2 percent
3. Matt LaFontaine: 13.1 percent
4. Jeremy Palmer: 11.9 percent
5. Seth Caikowski: 10.2 percent
Also nominated: Wayne Kennedy, Seth Maisel, Eric Mather, Tyrell D. Rae and Sean Scrutchins
Write-ins: 0.8 percent
Leading write-in: Four with one vote each

BEST YEAR BY AN ACTRESS:
Megan Van De Hey

54 van de heyReaders’ choice voting:
1. Megan Van De Hey: 20 percent
2. Jamie Ann Romero: 13.7 percent
3. Emma Messenger: 12.1 percent
4. Sarah Grover: 11.5 percent
5. Haley Johnson: 9.4 percent
Also nominated: Rhonda Brown, Rachel Fowler, Devon James, Missy Moore, Anne Oberbroeckling
Write-ins: 2.3 percent
Leading write-in: Jennifer DeDominici, 2 votes

BEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA:
Laurence Curry, Oshoosi Size, Curious Theatre’s “The Brothers Size”

56 CURRYReaders’ choice voting:
1. Cajardo Lindsey, Ogun Size, Curious Theatre’s “The Brothers Size”: 24.2 percent
2. Laurence Curry, Oshoosi Size, Curious Theatre’s “The Brothers Size”: 22.9 percent
3. Steve Emily, Denny, Springs Ensemble Theatre’s “A Steady Rain”: 19.9 percent
4. Lorenzo Sarinana, Yank, LIDA Project’s “The Hairy Ape”: 16.3 percent
5. Patrick Call, Rico, Dangerous Theatre’s “Dark Wood”: 11.4 percent
Write-ins: 5.2 percent
Leading write-in: Brian Landis Folkins, Edge Theatre’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” 3 votes

BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA:
Erica Sarzin-Borrillo, Mary Tyrone, Germinal Stage-Denver’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”

63 sarzinReaders’ choice voting:
1. Maggy Stacy, Maggie, The Edge’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”: 33.1 percent
2. Anne Oberbroeckling, Sister Aloysius, Cherry Creek Theatre’s “Doubt”: 22.7 percent
3. Adrienne Martin-Fullwood, Martha, Athena Project’s “Tell Martha Not to Moan”: 18.3 percent
4. Laura Norman, Myra Babbage, Boulder Ensemble’s “Ghost-Writer”: 14.1 percent
5. Erica Sarzin-Borrillo, Mary Tyrone, Germinal Stage-Denver’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”: 9.9 percent
Write-ins: 2.0 percent
Leading write-in: Lyndsay Palmer, Phamaly Theatre Company’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” 3 votes

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA:
Joe Von Bokern, Billy Bibbitt, Edge Theatre’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”
69 VBReaders’ choice voting:
1. Joe Von Bokern, Billy Bibbitt, Edge Theatre’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”: 34.8 percent
2. Nathan Stith, MacDuff, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Macbeth”: 23.4 percent
3. Brian Colonna, Caliban, Buntport’s “Wake”: 15.5 percent
4. Damion Hoover, Elegba, Curious Theatre’s “The Brothers Size”: 15.1 percent
5. Andrew Uhlenhopp, Michael, 11 Minutes Theatre’s “Dancing at Lughnasa”: 10.6 percent
Write-ins: 0.6 percent
Leading write-in: Two with 1 vote

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA:
Rachel Fowler, M’Lynn, Senior Housing Options’ “Steel Magnolias”

71 fowlerReaders’ choice voting:
1. Emma Messenger, Big Mama, The Edge’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”: 34.5 percent
2. Rachel Fowler, M’Lynn, Senior Housing Options’ “Steel Magnolias”: 23.9 percent
3. Rachel D. Graham, Sister James, Cherry Creek Theatre’s “Doubt”: 19.5 percent
4. C. Kelly Leo, Ellen/Jenna, Curious Theatre’s “Maple & Vine”: 11.2 percent
5. Adrian Egolf, Shelby, Senior Housing Options’ “Steel Magnolias”: 10.6 percent
Write-ins: 0.3 percent
Leading write-in: One with 1 vote

BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL:
David Ambroson, Valjean, Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Miserables”
75 AMBROSENReaders’ choice voting:
1. David Ambroson, Valjean, Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Miserables”: 27.3 percent
2. Mark Dissette, Tevye, Phamaly’s “Fiddler on the Roof”: 22.3 percent
3. John Arp, Tevye, Lamont School of Music’s “Fiddler on the Roof” 19.6 percent
4. Casey Andree, Claude, Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”: 15.3 percent
5. Charlie Schmidt, Princeton/Rod, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre’s “Avenue Q”: 11 percent
Write-ins: 4.5 percent
Leading write-in: Three with 2 each

ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL:
SuCh, Celie, Aurora Fox’s “The Color Purple”
83 SUCH 2Readers’ choice voting:
1. SuCh, Celie, Aurora Fox’s “The Color Purple”: 31.4 percent
2. Jennifer DeDominici, Aldonza, Arvada Center’s “Man of La Mancha”: 21.7 percent
3. Alisha Winter, Maria, Candlelight Dinner Playhouse’s “The Sound of Music”: 16.6 percent
4. Norrell Moore, Sheila, Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”: 13.6 percent
5. Lisa Finnerty, Judy, Town Hall Arts Center’s “9 To 5,” The Musical”: 12.6 percent
Write-ins: 4.1 percent
Leading write-in: Megan Van De Hey, Starkey Theatrix’s “Always, Patsy Cline,” 4 votes. (Note: That production was ineligible for consideration because True West Awards founder John Moore directed it).

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL:
Colin Alexander, Christopher Belling, Arvada Center’s “Curtains”
Readers’ choice voting:
85 alexander1. Nigel Huckle, Marius, Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Miserables”: 23.1 percent
2. Colin Alexander, Christopher Belling, Arvada Center’s “Curtains”: 22.9 percent
3. Cory Wendling, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre’s “Avenue Q”: 21.9 percent
4. Mark Shonsey, Igor, Vintage Theatre’s “Young Frankenstein”: 20.2 percent
5. William Thomas Evans, Merlyn, King Pellinore, Arvada Center’s “Camelot”: 9.5 percent
Write-ins: 2.4 percent
Leading write-in: Ben Hilzer, Up in Lights’ “Fiddler on the Roof,” 3 votes

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL:
Anna High, Sofia, Aurora Fox’s “The Color Purple”

92 HIGHReaders’ choice voting:
1. Jalyn Courtenay Webb, Madame Thenardier, Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Miserables”: 29.1 percent
2. Ashlie-Amber Harris, Shug Avery, Aurora Fox’s “The Color Purple”: 22.7 percent
3. Shannan Steele, Pam, Cherry Creek Theatre’s “Baby”: 18.3 percent
4. Jona Alonzo, Roz, Town Hall Arts Center’s “9 to 5, The Musical”: 15.5 percent
5. Anna High, Sofia, Aurora Fox’s “The Color Purple”: 11.9 percent
Write-ins: 2.7 percent
Leading write-in: Samantha Cooley, Up In Lights’ “Fiddler on the Roof,” 3 votes

BEST ACTOR IN A COMIC ROLE:
Larry Hecht, Puck, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
97 HECHT Readers’ voting:
1. Larry Hecht, Puck, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: 31.7 percent
2. Steef Sealy, Richard, Ashton Entertainment’s “The Seafarer”: 25.3 percent
3. Tom Auclair, Artie, The Edge’s “The House of Blue Leaves”: 18.6 percent
4. Sam Gregory, Johann Friedrich Fasch, Boulder Ensemble’s “Bach at Leipzig”: 16 percent
5. Matthew Stalker, Hugh “Bullshot” Crummond, OpenStage’s “Bullshot Crummond”: 7 percent
Write-ins: 1.4 percent
Leading write-in: 5 with 1 vote each

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMIC ROLE:
Sharon Kay White, Mary Jo, Arvada Center’s “Dividing the Estate”

104 whiteReaders’ choice voting:
1. Jenna Bainbridge, Hermia, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: 34.7 percent
2. Sharon Kay White, Mary Jo, Arvada Center’s “Dividing the Estate”: 18.3 percent
3. Erin Rollman, Electra, Buntport’s “Electra Onion Eater”: 17.4 percent
4. Leslie O’Carroll, Madame Arcati, Arvada Center’s “Blithe Spirit”: 15.2 percent
5. Jane Shirley, various roles, The Avenue’s “Motherhood Out Loud”: 13.2 percent
Write-ins: 1.2 percent
Leading write-in: Four with 1 vote each

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMIC ROLE:
Sean Scrutchins, Lysander, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

109 scrutchinsReaders’ choice voting:
1. Eric Mather, Clown, Town Hall Arts Center’s “The 39 Steps”: 30.7 percent
2. Sean Scrutchins, Lysander, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: 22 percent
3. Nigel Gore, Bottom, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: 22.5 percent
4. Kevin Leonard, Brother Boy, Illumination Theatre’s “Sordid Lives”: 14.4 percent
5. Will Ferrie, seven roles, OpenStage’s “Bullshot Crummond”: 8.9 percent
Write-ins: 1.3 percent
Leading write-in: Four with 1 vote each

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMIC ROLE:
Emma Messenger, Noleta, Illumination Theatre’s “Sordid Lives”
112 messengerReaders’ choice voting:
1. Jamie Ann Romero, Titania, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”: 33 percent
2. Rhonda Brown, Truvy, Senior Housing Options’ “Steel Magnolias”: 23 percent
3. Emma Messenger, Noleta, Illumination Theatre’s “Sordid Lives”: 21.5 percent
4. Hannah Duggan, Clytemnestra, Buntport’s “Electra Onion Eater”: 11.9 percent
5. Lindsey Pierce, Lois Coleman, Miners Alley Playhouse “Wonder of the World”: 9.7 percent
Write-ins: 0.9 percent
Leading write-in: 3 with 1 vote each

BEST SOLO PERFORMANCE:
Wendy Ishii, Joan Didion, Bas Bleu’s “The Year of Magical Thinking”
117 ishiiReaders’ choice voting:
James O’Hagan-Murphy, Robert Kennedy, Vintage Theatre’s “RFK: A Portrait of Robert Kennedy”: 57.2 percent
Michelle Hurtubise, Woman, Theatre Esprit Asia’s “Spirit and Sworded Treks”: 13.7 percent
Wendy Ishii, Joan Didion, Bas Bleu’s “The Year of Magical Thinking”: 25.3 percent
Write-ins: 1.4 percent percent
Leading write-in: Adrian Egolf, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center’s “12 Dates of Christmas,” 3 votes
Note: Rhonda Brown first played Molly Ivins in the LIDA Project’s “Red Hot Patriot” in 2012 and won the readers’ choice award for best actress in a drama. Actors are not eligible for consideration for playing the same role a second time.

121 slaughter

BEST YOUNGER ACTOR:
August Slaughter, Rudy, Bas Bleu Theatre’s “Over the Tavern”

Other nominees:
Eli Brandt, Gavroche, Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Miserables”
Peter Cabrera, Rudy, Longmont Theatre Company’s “Over the Tavern”
Devon Erickson, Doody, Town Hall Arts Center’s “Grease”
Ella Tieze, Irene Ratliff, Arvada Center’s “Dividing the Estate”
(Note: This was not a readers’ choice category)

BEST ENSEMBLE IN A PLAY:
Ashton Entertainment’s “The Seafarer”
126 SeafarerReaders’ voting:
Ashton Entertainment’s “The Seafarer”: 24.8 percent
Aurora Fox’s “Metamorphoses”: 24.3 percent
Senior Housing Options’ “Steel Magnolias”: 18.5 percent
Curious Theatre’s “The Brothers Size”: 17 percent
Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s “Bach at Leipzig”: 11.3 percent
Write-ins: 4.1 percent
Leading write-in: Two with 2 votes each

BEST ENSEMBLE IN A MUSICAL:
Arvada Center’s “Man of La Mancha”
130 LA MANCHAReaders’ choice voting:
1. Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”: 26.7 percent
2. Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Miserables”: 26.2 percent
3. Arvada Center’s “Man of La Mancha”: 19.8 percent
4. Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Wizard of Oz”: 15 percent
5. Magic Moments’ “Spirit & Soul”: 6.8 percent
Write-ins: 5.5 percent
Leading write-in: Phamaly Theatre Company’s “Fiddler on the Roof,” 4 votes

BEST DIRECTOR OF A PLAY:
Dee Covington, Curious Theatre’s “The Brothers Size”
134 covingtonReaders’ choice voting:
1. Geoffrey Kent, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” 33.1 percent
2. Bernie Cardell, Illumination Theatre’s “Sordid Lives” 18.7 percent
3. Amanda Berg Wilson, The Catamounts’ “Failure: A Love Story”: 15 percent
4. Dee Covington, Curious Theatre’s “The Brothers Size” 14.1 percent
4. Josh Hartwell, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s “Ghost-Writer” 14.1 percent
Write-ins: 5 percent
Leading write-in: Four with 2 votes each

BEST DIRECTORS OF A MUSICAL:
Nick Sugar and Donna Debreceni, Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”
140 sugar debReaders’ choice voting:
1. Nick Sugar and Donna Debreceni, Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”: 24.3 percent
2. Kurt Terrio and Jalyn Courtenay Webb, Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Miserables”: 21.8 percent
3. donnie l. betts and David Wohl, Aurora Fox’s “The Color Purple”: 19.2 percent
4. Rod Lansberry and David Nehls, Arvada Center’s “Man of La Mancha”: 16.9 percent
5. Christopher Willard and Donna Debreceni, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre’s “Avenue Q”: 13.6 percent
Write-ins: 4.2 percent
Leading write-ins: Steve Wilson and Donna Debreceni, Phamaly Theatre Company’s “Fiddler on the Roof”; and Deb Flomberg and Hunter Hall, Vintage Theatre’s “Young Frankenstein,” 4 votes each

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY:
Danny Harrigan, Ignite Theatre’s “Cabaret”
145 harriganReaders’ choice voting:
1. Nick Sugar, Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”: 28.1 percent
2. Janice Guy-Sayles, Aurora Fox’s “The Color Purple”: 19.6 percent
3. Matt LaFontaine, Vintage Theatre’s “In the Heights”: 17.4 percent
4. Danny Harrigan, Ignite Theatre’s “Cabaret”: 15.8 percent
5. Alicia Dunfee, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Wizard of Oz”: 14.8 percent
Write-ins: 4.3 percent
Leading write-in: Jamie Horton, Vintage Theatre’s “Young Frankenstein,” 4 votes

BEST SCENIC DESIGN:
Buntport ensemble, “Wake”
148 WAKEReaders’ choice voting:
Buntport ensemble, “Wake”: 17.4 percent
Steven J. Deidel, LIDA Project’s “RUR/lol”: 7.3 percent
Brian Mallgrave, Arvada Center’s “Man of La Mancha”: 37.2 percent
Shannon McKinney and Chip Walton, Curious Theatre’s “The Brothers Size”: 23.3 percent
Adam Stone, Screw Tooth’s “Some Kind of Fun”: 14.9 percent
Write-ins: None

BEST SOUND DESIGN:
Adam Stone, Buntport Theater’s “Wake”
152 stoneReaders’ choice voting:
1. Wayne Kennedy, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Wizard of Oz”: 34 percent
2. John Rivera, Town Hall Arts Center’s “The 39 Steps”: 21.5 percent
3. Adam Stone, Buntport Theater’s “Wake”: 16.6 percent
4. Andrew Metzroth, Boulder Ensemble’s “Bach at Leipzig”: 15.2 percent
5. Dustin Lacy, LIDA Project’s “R.U.R/lol”: 11.7 percent
Write-ins: 1 percent
Leading write-in: Three with 1 vote each

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN:
Steven J. Deidel, LIDA Project’s “R.U.R./lol”
161 DEIDELReaders’ choice voting:
Shannon McKinney, Aurora Fox’s “Metamorphoses”: 28.3 percent
Benjamin Danielowski, Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Miserables”: 26.7 percent
Kerry Cripe, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s “Ghost-Writer”: 20.9 percent
Seth Alison, Town Hall Arts Center’s “The 39 Steps”: 15.2 percent
Steven J. Deidel, LIDA Project’s “R.U.R./lol”: 7.5 percent
Write-ins: 1.4 percent
Leading write-in: Four with 1 vote each

BEST COSTUME DESIGN:
Kiana Coney, Su Teatro/The Source’s “The Gospel at Colonus”
163 gospelReaders’ choice voting:
1. Linda Morken, Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”: 26.8 percent
2. Linda Morken, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Wizard of Oz”: 25.5 percent
3. Clare Henkel, Arvada Center’s “Curtains”: 23.9 percent
4. Cinde Franke, Performance Now’s “Once Upon a Mattress”: 16 percent
5. Kiana Coney, Su Teatro/The Source’s “The Gospel at Colonus”: 7.8 percent
Write-ins: None

BEST MULTIMEDIA INTEGRATION:
Steven J. Deidel, Kenrick Fischer, Kevin Zegan, Max Peterson and Brian Freeland, LIDA Project’s “R.U.R./lol”
165 MULTI DEIDELReaders’ choice voting:
El Armstrong, Phamaly Theatre Company’s “It’s a Wonderful Life”: 29.5 percent
Deb Flomberg, Equinox’s “Carrie: The Musical”: 16.6 percent
Brian Freeland, Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”: 25.6 percent
Brian Freeland, LIDA Project’s “The Hairy Ape”: 17.9 percentSteven J. Deidel, Kenrick Fischer, Kevin Zegan, Max Peterson and Brian Freeland, LIDA Project’s “R.U.R./lol”: 9.7 percent
Write-ins: 0.7 percent
Leading write-in: Two with 1 vote each

SPECIAL ACCOMPLISHMENT AWARDS:

SA BaierleinEd Baierlein: Since 1974, the founder of Germinal Stage-Denver has been presenting plays of substance in an intimate setting. This year, after more than 200 productions, Baierlein sold his longtime home in northwest Denver and went on “active hiatus.” But not before staging a nostalgic and sentimental (for Germinal) soiree: Baierlein brought more than 40 familiar faces back for a reprise of the anything-goes theatrical rumination “Offending the Audience,” which in the 1970s incited an on-stage rebellion that brought the police. Baierlein says of his future: “Licking our wounds, we now contemplate a pro-cannibalism-themed season in a new location for 2014.”

SA SUGARNick Sugar:The longtime director, actor and choreographer did something extraordinary this year when he volunteered to step in and help the cast of Equinox Theatre’s “Bat Boy, the Musical” to complete their run after young star Adam Perkes died a few days after the opening performance. Sugar had performed in the show before, and without him, the entire production might have died along with Perkes. Instead, he created a memory for audiences and cast members that will last forever.

SA ROLLMANErin Rollman: She helps to keep the Buntport Theater rolling along — collaborating on and performing  in three original plays; not to mention running essential  mid-week live programming such as “The Great Debate” and “Third Tuesday.” But Rollman does that every year. In 2013, she also gave her pal Adam Stone’s new Screw Tooth Theatre Company not only a creative home, but a prayer of truly establishing itself. In her spare time, Rollman worked on Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s year-long Imagine 2020 campaign, which created a blueprint for the future of arts and culture in Denver. All that, and a kidney, too: Rollman gave up one of hers to a complete stranger in Virginia, starting a donation chain that saved nine lives. And her story has inspired at least one other altruistic donor to start another chain. He donates his kidney next week.

SA RUNGENicki Lepetite Runge: She’s an actor who founded the Rocky Mountain Deaf Theatre as a home for both actors with hearing impairment and without. She staged “Murder at the Howard Johnson’s” earlier in 2013, then  then upped the stakes with “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” in which the actors playing patients were all hearing-impaired, while all of the actors playing characters in positions of authority were not.

SA CHENGMaria Cheng: She launched Theatre Esprit Asia, Colorado’s first Asian-American Theatre Company. At one point, there were three shows a day running at the Vintage Theatre — a combination of two solo shows that were being performed in rotation by five different actors. Of “Dust Storm,” Denver Post theater critic Lisa Kennedy wrote: “Theatre Esprit Asia gets its inaugural gambit just right, delivering a work that is modest and ambitious, spare and emotionally textured.”

SA BALLS“Balls”! For the fifth straight year, local actors Mare Trevathan, GerRee Hinshaw; singer Melanie Owen Padilla and bassist Jim Ruberto staged their annual rollicking holiday variety show with the help of rotating guest performers — all to raise money for local charities. The fun includes audience sock-puppet sing-alongs, spontaneous haikus and worthless prizes. The primary trio are now spread from Wheat Ridge to Longmont to Seattle, but they still somehow manage to make time to help a needy organization. This year’s beneficiary is the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

About the Denver Center, and other persnickety rules:
Because John Moore now works for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, for the first time there is not a “Best of the Denver Center” category of awards, for objective and ethical reasons. Likewise, shows he was involved in creatively are ineligible. (He directed “Always, Patsy Cline for Starkey Theatrix and performed in Germinal Stage-Denver’s “Offending the Audience.”) Actors are not eligible for reconsideration after having played a role previously.

About John Moore and the True West Awards: Award-winning arts journalist John Moore has recently taken a groundbreaking new position as an in-house, multimedia storyteller for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. His writings, photos and videos covering the entire Colorado theater community now can be found at Denver Center Stage, www.denvercenterblog.tumblr.com. Before that, John was a reporter and editor at The Denver Post for more than 20 years, prompting American Theatre Magazine to name him one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the United States in 2011. John started the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001 and continued to administer them as the True West Awards after he left the newspaper in 2011. Since 2001, John has seen more than 2,000 theater productions in Colorado and around the nation. In July 2012, John created the local arts-and-culture website www.CultureWest.Org. And in May 2013, he founded the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. For information, email denveractorsfund@gmail.com. Address theater listings and general correspondence to culturewestjohn@gmail.com.

 

 

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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. Photo by John Moore. To donate to the Denver Actors Fund, please go here (with our humble thanks):

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

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.”

Group

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):

2013 True West Award nominations: Town Hall leads balanced field with 14 nods

 

 

TPOY COLLAGE

The prestigious 2013 True West Theater Person of the Year Award will be considered among John Ashton, Ed Baierlein, Shelly Bordas, Brian Freeland, Linda Morken, Erin Rollman, Edith Weiss, Stephen Weitz, Christopher Willard and Rick Yaconis. Weitz, winner of the 2012 award, is the rare winner to be up for consideration two years running.

By John Moore
Dec. 22, 2013

A prolific and creatively surprising year in Colorado theater is reflected in the 2013 True West Award nominations released today.

The True West Awards, which began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001, are the longest-running continuously administered awards program in Colorado theater. And for just the second time, the Town Hall Arts Center in Littleton leads the way with 14 nominations, largely on the strength of  widely varying stagings of “Hair,” “9 to 5, The Musical” and “The 39 Steps.”

Perennial awards leader the Arvada Center is next with 11 finalists. The Aurora Fox has 10, followed by the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company and the resurgent Colorado Shakespeare Festival with nine each. Curious Theatre, Buntport Theater and the LIDA Project have eight each.

“Hair”and the Midtown Arts Center of Fort Collins’ “Les Miserables” are the most nominated musicals of 2013, with eight each.

Among plays, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” leads all productions with eight finalists, followed by Curious Theatre’s “The Brothers Size,” with seven. The LIDA Project, known for its original, multimedia-infused works, had its best year, with “R.U.R./lol” garnering five nods.

The prestigious 2013 True West Theater Person of the Year Award will be considered among John Ashton, Ed Baierlein, Shelly Bordas, Brian Freeland, Linda Morken, Erin Rollman, Edith Weiss, Stephen Weitz, Christopher Willard and Rick Yaconis. Weitz, winner of the 2012 award, is the rare winner to be back up for consideration two years running. The winner will join previous honorees including Maurice LaMee, Anthony Garcia, Kathleen M. Brady, Wendy Ishii, Ed Baierlein, Chip Walton and Michael R. Duran.

In all, 38 companies and 57 productions received at least one True West nod. To be eligible, a play must only have been seen (with certain exceptions). This year, more than 135 productions were seen, of which 118 were eligible for awards consideration. This year, a total of 58 companies had at least one play seen. Here is the complete list of all eligible productions.

The official winners will be announced next Sunday, Dec. 29. Readers are again encouraged to have their say by voting for their favorites in designated “readers choice” categories. To vote, click here. Any production by any company staged from December 2012 to December 2013 is eligible for readers-choice designation. Readers who do not see their favorites among the finalists are encouraged to use the write-in option. Voting is open through 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 28. The program accepts only one vote per IP address.

While some fervently believe awards have no place in the creative process, I think it is important to properly acknowledge and archive the year just past for posterity. Theater companies also benefit from awards nominations in their grant-writing and fundraising efforts.

So with great apologies to the many actors and shows I did not get to see in 2013, I humbly present my agonizing, loving look back at the year in Colorado theater. I say “agonizing” because the theater community never gets to see these lists before they are culled down from, in some cases, more than 30 names that are truly worthy of consideration.

Congratulations to anyone who wrote dialogue, got up on a stage, or played in part in creating theater in 2013. And remember: Click here to take the readers’ choice survey.

 

CULTURE WEST’s 2013 TRUE WEST AWARD NOMINEES:

THEATER PERSON OF THE YEAR:

  • John Ashton: The former theater critic produced the black Irish comedy “The Seafarer” at the Aurora Fox and at Dairy Center for his own new company, Ashton Entertainment. He also performed in “The Seafarer” and Boulder Ensemble’s “Seminar.” And he directed Thingamajig’s “Good People” in Pagosa Springs. All while on call for his day job at FEMA, which deployed him for duty in response to the Boulder floods on the very same week that he opened in the leading role in “Seminar.”
  • Ed Baierlein: Since 1974, the founder of Germinal Stage-Denver has been presenting plays of substance in an intimate setting. This year, after more than 200 productions, Baierlein sold his longtime home in northwest Denver and went on “active hiatus.” But not before staging a nostalgic and sentimental  (for Germinal) soiree: Baierlein brought more than 40 familiar faces back for a reprise of the anything-goes theatrical rumination “Offending the Audience,” which in the 1970s incited an on-stage rebellion that brought the police.  Baierlein says of his future:  “Licking our wounds, we now contemplate a pro-cannibalism-themed season in a new location for 2014.”
  • Shelly Bordas: This longtime actor and children’s theater educator started her year with a modest goal: Making it to opening night of the Town Hall Arts Center’s “9 to 5, The Musical.” After having fought breast cancer for nearly four years, Bordas was given a fleeting respite when she was told her cancer was receding. So she tried out for — and scored — the role of the office drunk. Bordas had to drop out when her diagnosis suddenly changed: Her cancer had spread to her brain, and she was told her time to live was short. So she then focused on making it to son Nathan’s 4th birthday in April. Bordas’ story galvanized the theater community and beyond, raising more than $30,000, which was used both to help with medical expenses and to send Shelly and her son on a Disney cruise, a dream they realized in May. Meanwhile, Bordas managed to direct 10 shows, five of which were musicals, involving 177 of her young theater students at the Town Hall Arts Center.– all while undergoing 26 chemo treatments. The greatest news of all: She’s still here.
  • Brian Freeland: Nearly 20 years later, the founder of the LIDA Project continued to break new ground as the primary purveyor of modern, multimedia-based original stage work in Denver, as evidenced most tellingly in “The Hairy Ape.” In Freeland’s world, all of the female characters were played by mannequins. Pre-recorded video of a single actor’s face reciting each character’s lines was projected onto the mannequin heads, making for a hologram-like effect. Freeland is also a busy sound and video designer for theaters ranging from Curious to Town Hall. This week, he moved with his family to New York, but he says he is committed to keeping the LIDA Project alive and flourishing — after a short respite in early 2014.
  • Linda Morken: I almost gave up keeping track of all the shows she designed and built costumes for in 2013. But here’s a stab at it: Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s entire season: “Church Basement Ladies,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Full Monty” and “Spamalot”;  Phamaly’s entire season of “The Foreigner,” “Fiddler on the Roof” and “It’s a Wonderful Life”; Town Hall Arts Center’s “Forever Plaid,” “Hair” and “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”; Aurora Fox’s “The Color Purple”; and Starkey Theatrix’s “Noises Off.” Whew.
  • Erin Rollman: In addition to keeping the Buntport Theater rolling along, she collaborated on and performed in three original plays. She also runs mid-week programming such as “The Great Debate” and “Third Tuesday.” She also gave her pal Adam Stone’s new Screw Tooth Theatre Company not only a home, but a prayer of truly establishing itself.  In her spare time, Rollman worked on Denver Mayor Michael Hancock’s year-long Imagine 2020 campaign, which created a blueprint for the future of arts and culture in Denver. All that, and a kidney, too: Rollman gave up one of hers to a complete stranger in Virginia, starting a donation chain that saved nine lives. And her story inspired at least one other altruistic donor to start another one.
  • Edith Weiss: Denver’s Queen of Comedy is making a huge impact on people’s lives through the handicapped Phamaly Theatre Company, where she directed a very funny — and cutting — staging of “The Foreigner,” before again stewarding a group of disabled actors through a workshop process that culminated in “Vox Phamilia 6: G.I.M.P. Nation.” That’s an annual evening of caustic sketch comedy written and performed by handicapped actors. Weiss also directed the very cute children’s production of “No Dogs Allowed”  for the Arvada Center — and destroyed her own comfort zone when she appeared in an experimental freakout called “Some Kind of Fun” with a bunch of rad kids from a new company called Screw Tooth.
  • Stephen Weitz: Last year’s True West “Theatre Person of the Year” outdid himself in 2013. Attendance at the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company he founded was up 42 percent in its seventh season. And thanks to an innovative partnership with the Denver Center to co-present “The SantaLand Diaries” at the Galleria Theatre (an almost completely sold-out engagement), BETC’s season attendance is projected to rise another 63 percent this season. The budget has grown from $12,000 in Season 1 to $232,000 in Season 8, and giving was up 41 percent last year. Weitz directed “Bach at Leipzig,” “Seminar” and “SantaLand” for his own company, and also “Jackie & Me” for the Denver Center Theatre Company.
  • Christopher Willard: The artistic director of the newly renamed Breckenridge Backstage Theatre has launched a $1.3 million expansion just as the venerable mountain theater is entering its 40th season. The renovation will include doubling the size of the present seating area, along with an expanded lobby and dressing rooms. Ticket sales are up by 29 percent over the past two years. Willard, who intends for Breckenridge Backstage Theatre to reach full professional status by 2018, recently hired the company’s first Executive Director (Mark Lineaweaver). Backstage stages plenty of family favorites, but has also kept an ongoing commitment to developing  new works. Up next: “The 10th,”  the first in a planned series of original plays about  Breckenridge. The initial focus is on the soldiers of the 10th Mountain Division who, upon returning from the campaign in Europe, helped create the ski industry in Colorado. In addition to directing several shows for Backstage, Willard directed the Town Hall Arts Center’s “9 to 5 The Musical.” It was his job to help his team navigate the emotional roller-coaster of cast member Shelly Bordas’ terminal cancer diagnosis. (See above.)
  • Rick Yaconis: The founder of the grassroots Edge Theatre moved into a new home in Lakewood and upped the the company’s game with an ambitious 2013 season that culminated with the full staging of “Gifted,” winner of the company’s national new-play competition. Yaconis has of late brought in a steady stream of accomplished area actors, a trend that should become even more apparent in 2014, when former Paragon Theatre co-founder Michael Stricker directs Martin McDonaugh’s “The Beauty Queen of Leenane.” That will star first-time guest artists Michael Bouchard and Emily Paton Davies. Other edge-worthy titles will include “Orphans,” “A Steady Rain” and “Buried Child.”

BEST YEAR BY A COMPANY:
Arvada Center:
“Blithe Spirit”
“Man of La Mancha”
“Dividing the Estate”
“Curtains”
“Camelot”
“A Christmas Carol”

Boulder’s Dinner Theatre:
“Church Basement Ladies”
“The Wizard of Oz”
“The Full Monty”
“Monty Python’s Spamalot”

Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company

“Ghost-Writer”
“The Other Place”
“Bach at Leipzig”
“Seminar”
“The SantaLand Diaries”

Colorado Shakespeare Festival:
“Macbeth”
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
“Richard II”
“Women of Will”

Phamaly Theatre Company:
“The Foreigner”
“Fiddler on the Roof”
“It’s a Wonderful Life”
“Vox Phamilia: G.I.M.P. Nation”

BEST DRAMA:
Curious Theatre’s “The Brothers Size”
Boulder Ensemble’s “Ghost-Writer”
Aurora Fox’s “Metamorphoses”
Ashton Entertainment’s “The Seafarer”
Springs Ensemble Theatre’s “A Steady Rain”

BEST MUSICAL:
Aurora Fox’s “The Color Purple”
Phamaly Theatre Company’s “Fiddler on the Roof”
Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”
Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Miserables”
Arvada Center’s “Man of La Mancha”

BEST COMEDY:
Boulder Ensemble’s “Bach at Leipzig”
OpenStage’s “Bullshot Crummond”
Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
The Avenue’s “Motherhood Out Loud”
Illumination Theatre’s “Sordid Lives”

BEST NEW PLAY
Buntport Theater’s “Wake”
LIDA Project’s “R.U.R/lol”
Buntport Theater’s “Electra Onion Eater”
The Edge’s “Newark Violenta”

BEST YEAR BY AN ACTOR:
Seth Caikowski:
Franklin Hart, Town Hall Arts Center’s “9 to 5, The Musical”
Cowardly Lion, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Wizard of Oz”
Juan, Arvada Center’s “No Dogs Allowed”
Jerry, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Full Monty”

Sam Gregory:
Dan, Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Two Things You Don’t Talk About at Dinner”
The Friar, Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Romeo and Juliet”
Johann Friedrich Fasch, Boulder Ensemble’s “Bach at Leipzig”
Banquo, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Macbeth”
Northumberland, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Richard II”
Count du Rochefort, Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers”
Ted Atkinson, Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Most Deserving”

Wayne Kennedy:
Pastor Gunderson, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Church Basement Ladies”
The Wizard, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Wizard of Oz”
King Arthur, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “Spamalot”

Matt LaFontaine:
Jinx, Midtown Arts Center’s “Forever Plaid”
The Emcee, Ignite’s “Cabaret”
Berger, Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”
Sir Lionel, Arvada Center’s “Camelot”
Ross Cochrane, Arvada Center’s Curtains”
Ensemble, Arvada Center’s “A Christmas Carol”

Seth Maisel:
Clown, Town Hall’s “The 39 Steps”
Edgar Allan Poe, Byers-Evans’ “Evermore”
Frederick Frankenstein, Vintage Theatre’s “Young Frankenstein”

Eric Mather:
George Pidgeon, Backstage Theatre’s “Out of Order”
Larry, Vintage Theatre’s “Closer”
Clown, Town Hall Arts Center’s “The 39 Steps”
Lumiere, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre’s “Beauty and the Beast”
Performer: The Avenue’s “Complete World of Sports, Abridged”

James O’Hagan-Murphy:
Robert Kennedy, Vintage Theatre’s “RFK: A Portrait of Robert Kennedy”
Dr. Parker, Equinox Theatre’s “Bat Boy, the Musical”
Richard Hannay, Town Hall Arts Center’s “The 39 Steps”
Stanley, Denver Center Theatre Company’s “Death of a Salesman”

Jeremy Palmer:
Charlie Baker, Phamaly Theatre Company’s “The Foreigner”
Perchik, Phamaly Theatre Company’s “Fiddler on the Roof”
George Bailey, Phamaly Theatre Company’s “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Tyrell  D. Rae:
Hud, Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”
Harpo, Aurora Fox’s “The Color Purple”
Seaweed, Evergreen Players’ “Hairspray”
Don Joe, Arvada Center’s “No Dogs Allowed”

Sean Scrutchins:
Tony Kirby, Colorado Springs TheatreWorks’ “You Can’t Take it With You”
Lysander, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Malcolm, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Macbeth”
Henry Percy, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Richard II”
Martin, Boulder Ensemble’s “Seminar”

BEST YEAR BY AN ACTRESS:
Rhonda Brown:
Kay, Aurora Fox’s “Consider the Oyster”
Waitress, Lone Tree Arts Center’s “Hank Williams: Lost Highway”
Truvy, Senior Housing Options’ “Steel Magnolias”
Molly Ivins, LIDA Project’s “Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins”

Rachel Fowler:
Juliana Smithton, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s “The Other Place”
M’Lynn, Senior Housing Options’ “Steel Magnolias”
Lucille, Arvada Center’s “Dividing the Estate”

Sarah Grover:
Dorothy, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Wizard of Oz”
Anne Frank, Platte Valley Players’ The Diary of Anne Frank”
Alison, Starkey Theatrix’s “Bingo the Musical”
Winifred, Performance Now’s “Once Upon a Mattress”
Iris, Arvada Center’s “No Dogs Allowed”

Devon James:
Garland, Denver Children’s Theatre’s “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse”
Lisa, Miners Alley Playhouse’s “Collected Stories”
Emily, Arvada Center’s “Dividing the Estate”
Kate, Boulder Ensemble’s “Seminar”
Annelle, Senior Housing Options’ “Steel Magnolias”
Julie, Curious Theatre’s “Rancho Mirage”

Haley Johnson:
Maggie, Edge Theatre’s “Shadow Box”
Cass Harris, Miners Alley Playhouse’s “Wonder of the World”
Anna, Vintage Theatre’s “Closer”
Sally Applewhite, Miners Alley Playhouse’s “It’s a Wonderful Life, the Radio Play”

Emma Messenger:
Bella, Vintage Theatre’s “What’s Wrong with This Picture?”
Tom/Phyllis/Leslie, Firehouse/Spotlight’s “Sylvia”
Noleta, Illumination Theatre’s “Sordid Lives”
Big Mama, The Edge’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”
Julia, Firehouse’s “The Christmas Spirit”

Missy Moore:
Essie, Colorado Springs TheatreWorks’ “You Can’t Take it With You”
Lilly, Denver Children’s Theatre’s “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse”
Bananas, The Edge’s “The House of Blue Leaves”
Gina/Woman Scorned, Aspen Stage’s Unmarried in America”

Anne Oberbroeckling:
Sister Aloysius, Cherry Creek Theatre’s Doubt”
Stella, Arvada Center’s “Dividing the Estate”
Vera Joseph, Curious Theatre’s “After the Revolution”

Jamie Ann Romero:
Alice, Colorado Springs TheatreWorks’ “You Can’t Take it With You”
Kitty, Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Three Musketeers”
Miss Audrey, Lone Tree Arts Center’s “Hank Williams: Lost Highway”
Titania, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Witch, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Macbeth”
Queen Isabel, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Richard II”

Megan Van De Hey:
Patsy Cline, Starkey Theatrix’s “Always, Patsy Cline”
Arlene, Cherry Creek Theatre’s “Baby”
Carmen, Arvada Center’s “Curtains”
Morgan Le Fey, Arvada Center’s “Camelot”
The Ghost of Christmas Past, Arvada Center’s “A Christmas Carol”

BEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA:
Patrick Call, Rico, Dangerous Theatre’s “Dark Wood”
Laurence Curry, Oshoosi Size, Curious Theatre’s “The Brothers Size”
Steve Emily, Denny, Springs Ensemble Theatre’s “A Steady Rain”
Cajardo Lindsey, Ogun Size, Curious Theatre’s “The Brothers Size”
Lorenzo Sarinana, Yank, LIDA Project’s “The Hairy Ape”

BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA:
Adrienne Martin-Fullwood, Martha, Athena Project’s “Tell Martha Not to Moan”
Laura Norman, Myra Babbage, Boulder Ensemble’s “Ghost-Writer”
Anne Oberbroekling, Sister Aloysious, Cherry Creek Theatre’s “Doubt”
Erica Sarzin-Borrillo, Mary Tyrone, Germinal Stage-Denver’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night”
Maggy Stacy, Maggie, The Edge’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA:
Brian Colonna, Caliban, Buntport’s “Wake”
Damion Hoover, Elegba, Curious Theatre’s “The Brothers Size”
Nathan Stith, MacDuff, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Macbeth”
Andrew Uhlenhopp, Michael, 11 Minutes Theatre’s “Dancing at Lughnasa”
Joe Von Bokern, Billy Bibbitt, Edge Theatre’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA:
Adrian Egolf, Shelby, Senior Housing Options’ “Steel Magnolias”
Rachel Fowler, M’Lynn, Senior Housing Options’ “Steel Magnolias”
Rachel D. Graham, Sister James, Cherry Creek Theatre’s “Doubt”
C. Kelly Leo, Ellen/Jenna, Curious Theatre’s “Maple & Vine”
Emma Messenger, Big Mama, The Edge’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”

BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL:
David Ambroson, Valjean, Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Miserables”
Casey Andree, Claude, Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”
John Arp, Tevye, University of Denver’s “Fiddler on the Roof”
Mark Dissette, Tevye, Phamaly’s “Fiddler on the Roof”
Charlie Schmidt, Princeton/Rod, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre’s “Avenue Q”

ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL:
Jennifer De Dominici, Aldonza, Arvada Center’s “Man of La Mancha”
Lisa Finnerty, Judy, Town Hall Arts Center’s “9 To 5,” The Musical”
Norrell Moore, Sheila, Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”
SuCh, Celie, Aurora Fox’s “The Color Purple”
Alisha Winter, Maria, Candlelight Dinner Playhouse’s “The Sound of Music”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL:
Colin Alexander, Christopher Belling, Arvada Center’s “Curtains”
William Thomas Evans, Merlyn, King Pellinore, Arvada Center’s “Camelot”
Nigel Huckle, Marius, Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Miserables”
Mark Shonsey, Igor, Vintage Theatre’s “Young Frankenstein”
Cory Wendling, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre’s “Avenue Q”

SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL:
Jona Alonzo, Roz, Town Hall Arts Center’s “9 to 5, The Musical”
Ashlie Amber Harris, Shug Avery, Aurora Fox’s “The Color Purple”
Anna High, Sofia, Aurora Fox’s “The Color Purple”
Shannan Steele, Pam, Cherry Creek Theatre’s “Baby”
Jalyn Courtenay Webb, Madame Thenardier, Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Miserables”

BEST ACTOR IN A COMIC ROLE:
Tom Auclair, Artie, The Edge’s “The House of Blue Leaves”
Sam Gregory, Johann Friedrich Fasch, Boulder Ensemble’s “Bach at Leipzig”
Larry Hecht, Puck, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Steef Sealy, Richard, Ashton Entertainment’s “The Seafarer”
Matthew Stalker, Hugh “Bullshot” Crummond, OpenStage’s “Bullshot Crummond”

BEST ACTRESS IN A COMIC ROLE:
Jenna Bainbridge, Hermia, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Leslie O’Carroll, Madame Arcati, Arvada Center’s “Blithe Spirit”
Erin Rollman, Electra, Buntport’s “Electra Onion Eater”
Jane Shirley, various roles, The Avenue’s “Motherhood Out Loud”
Sharon Kay White, Mary Jo, Arvada Center’s “Dividing the Estate”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMIC ROLE:
Will Ferrie, seven roles, OpenStage’s “Bullshot Crummond”
Nigel Gore, Bottom, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Kevin Leonard, Brother Boy, Illumination Theatre’s “Sordid Lives”
Eric Mather, Town Hall Arts Center’s “The 39 Steps”
Sean Scrutchins, Lysander, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMIC ROLE:
Rhonda Brown, Truvy, Senior Housing Options’ “Steel Magnolias”
Hannah Duggan, Clytemnestra, Buntport’s “Electra Onion Eater”
Emma Messenger, Noleta, Illumination Theatre’s “Sordid Lives”
Lindsey Pierce, Lois Coleman, Miners Alley Playhouse “Wonder of the World”
Jamie Ann Romero, Titania, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

BEST SOLO PERFORMANCE:
James O’Hagan-Murphy, Robert Kennedy, Vintage Theatre’s “RFK: A Portrait of Robert Kennedy”
Michelle Hurtubise, Woman, Theatre Esprit Asia’s “Spirit and Sworded Treks”
Wendy Ishii, Joan Didion, Bas Bleu’s “The Year of Magical Thinking”

BEST YOUNGER ACTOR:
Eli Brandt, Gavroche, Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Miserables”
Peter Cabrera, Rudy, Longmont Theatre Company’s “Over the Tavern”
Devon Erickson, Doody, Town Hall Arts Center’s “Grease”
August Slaughter, Rudy, Bas Bleu Theatre’s “Over the Tavern”
Ella Tieze, Irene Ratliff, Arvada Center’s “Dividing the Estate”

BEST ENSEMBLE IN A PLAY:
Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s “Bach at Leipzig”
Curious Theatre’s “The Brothers Size”
Aurora Fox’s “Metamorphoses”
Ashton Entertainment’s “The Seafarer”
Senior Housing Options’ “Steel Magnolias”

BEST ENSEMBLE IN A MUSICAL:
Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”
Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Miserables”
Arvada Center’s “Man of La Mancha”
Magic Moments’ “Spirit & Soul”
Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Wizard of Oz”

BEST DIRECTOR OF A PLAY:
Bernie Cardell, Illumination Theatre’s “Sordid Lives”
Dee Covington, Curious Theatre’s “The Brothers Size”
Josh Hartwell, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s “Ghost-Writer”
Geoffrey Kent, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Amanda Berg Wilson, The Catamounts’ “Failure: A Love Story”

BEST DIRECTORS OF A MUSICAL:
Christopher Willard and Donna Debreceni, Breckenridge Backstage Theatre’s “Avenue Q”
donnie l. betts and David Wohl, Aurora Fox’s “The Color Purple”
Nick Sugar and Donna Debreceni, Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”
Kurt Terrio and Jalyn Courtenay Webb, Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Miserables”
Rod Lansberry and David Nehls, Arvada Center’s “Man of La Mancha”

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY:
Alicia Dunfee, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Wizard of Oz”
Janice Guy-Sayles, Aurora Fox’s “The Color Purple”
Danny Harrigan, Ignite Theatre’s “Cabaret”
Matt LaFontaine, Vintage Theatre’s “In the Heights”
Nick Sugar, Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”

BEST SCENIC DESIGN:
Buntport ensemble, “Wake”
Steven J. Deidel, LIDA Project’s “RUR/lol”
Brian Mallgrave, Arvada Center’s “Man of La Mancha”
Shannon McKinney and Chip Walton, Curious Theatre’s “The Brothers Size”
Adam Stone, Screw Tooth’s “Some Kind of Fun”

BEST SOUND DESIGN:
Wayne Kennedy, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Wizard of Oz”
Dustin Lacy, LIDA Project’s “R.U.R/lol”
Andrew Metzroth, Boulder Ensemble’s “Bach at Leipzig”
John Rivera, Town Hall Arts Center’s “The 39 Steps”
Adam Stone, Buntport Theater’s “Wake”

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN:
Seth Alison, Town Hall Arts Center’s “The 39 Steps”
Kerry Cripe, Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company’s “Ghost-Writer”
Benjamin Danielowski, Midtown Arts Center’s “Les Miserables”
Steven J. Deidel, LIDA Project’s “R.U.R./lol”
Shannon McKinney, Aurora Fox’s “Metamorphoses”

BEST COSTUME DESIGN:
Kiana Coney, Su Teatro/The Source’s “The Gospel at Colonus”
Cinde Franke, Performance Now’s “Once Upon a Mattress”
Clare Henkel, Arvada Center’s “Curtains”
Linda Morken, Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”
Linda Morken, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Wizard of Oz”

BEST MULTIMEDIA INTEGRATION:
El Armstrong, Phamaly Theatre Company’s “It’s a Wonderful Life”
Steven J. Deidel, Kenrick Fischer, Kevin Zegan, Max Peterson and Brian Freeland, LIDA Project’s “R.U.R./lol”
Deb Flomberg, Equinox’s “Carrie: The Musical”
Brian Freeland, Town Hall Arts Center’s “Hair”
Brian Freeland, LIDA Project’s “The Hairy Ape”

And remember: Click here to take the readers’ choice survey.

2013 True West Award nominations: List of eligible productions

noms

This sight can mean only one thing: The 2011 True West Award nominations are just hours away …

 

By John Moore

The 2013 True West Awards, which began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001,  are the continuation of the longest-running awards program in Colorado theater. The 2013 True West nominations have been announced here.

What follows here is the final list of eligible plays. To be eligible, a play must only have been seen, with certain exceptions listed at the end. This year, more than 135 productions were seen, of which 118 are eligible for awards consideration. This year, a total of 58 companies had at least one play seen.

The official winners will be announced next Sunday, Dec. 29. Readers will again be allowed and encouraged to have their say by voting for their favorites in designated “readers choice” categories. To vote in the readers’ choice designations in most categories, click here. Any production by any company staged in 2013 is eligible for readers-choice designation.

ELIGIBLE PLAYS
Shows that were seen and considered for True West Awards between between Dec. 6, 2012, and Dec. 20, 2013:

11 Minutes Theatre Company: Arvada
“Dancing at Lughnasa”

And Toto Too
“Pardon My Dust”

Arvada Center
“Blithe Spirit”
“Man of La Mancha”
“Dividing the Estate”
“Curtains”
“Camelot”
“A Christmas Carol”

Ashton Entertainment: Aurora and Boulder
“The Seafarer”

Aspen Stage
“Unmarried in America”

Athena Project: Aurora
“Tell Martha Not to Moan”

Aurora Fox
“Consider the Oyster”
“The Color Purple”
“Metamorphoses”

Avenue Theater
“Motherhood Out Loud”
“Minimum Wage”

Balls to the Wall Productions
“Balls V! A Holiday Spectacular”

Bas Bleu Theatre: Fort Collins
“The Year of Magical Thinking”
“Over the Tavern”

Breckenridge Backstage Theatre
“A Christmas Carol”
“Out of Order”
“Avenue Q”

Betsy Stage
“The Travesty of Lear”

Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company

“Ghost-Writer”
“Bach at Leipzig”
“Seminar”
“The SantaLand Diaries””

Boulder’s Dinner Theatre
“Church Basement Ladies”
“The Wizard of Oz”
“The Full Monty”
“Monty Python’s Spamalot”

Buntport Theater
“Wake”
“A Knight to Remember”
“Electra Onion Eater”

Byers-Evans Theatre Company
“Evermore”

Candlelight Dinner Playhouse: Johnstown
“The Sound of Music”

The Catamounts: Boulder
“Jon”
“Failure: A Love Story”

Central City Opera
“Showboat”

Cherry Creek Theatre
“Doubt”
“Baby”

Colorado Shakespeare Festival: Boulder
“Macbeth”
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center
“Prelude to a Kiss”

Curious Theatre
“Maple & Vine”
“The Brothers Size”
“God of Carnage”
“After the Revolution”
“Rancho Mirage”

Dangerous Theatre
“Dark Wood”

Edge Theatre: Lakewood
“Newark Violenta”
“Race”
“The Shadow Box”
“Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo”
“One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”
“The House of Blue Leaves”
“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”

Equinox Theatre
“Bat Boy, the Musical”
“A Night at Fawlty Towers”
“Evil Dead: The Musical”
‘Carrie: The Musical”

Evergreen Players
“All My Sons”

Firehouse Theatre: Aurora
“Next Fall”

Germinal Stage-Denver
“The Long Christmas Dinner”
“Spoon River Anthology”
“Long Day’s Journey Into Night”

Heritage Square Music Hall: Golden
“One Enchanted Evening”
“50 Shades of Loud”
“Take Me Out to the Ballgame”
“Divas Dammit’

Horse & Cart
“The Singing Room”

Ignite Theatre: Aurora
“Next to Normal”
“Cabaret”

Illumination Theatre: Aurora
“Sordid Lives”

Lake Dillon Theatre Company
“Sleuth”

LIDA Project
“R.U.R/lol”
“The Hairy Ape”
“Watershed (Part I: The Sea is Not Full)”

Longmont Theatre Company
“Over The Tavern“

Magic Moments
“Spirit and Soul”

Midtown Arts Center
“Forever Plaid”
“Les Miserables”

Miners Alley Playhouse: Golden
“Mrs. Mannerly”
“The Memory of Water”
“Collected Stories”
“Wonder of the World”

Firehouse Theatre Company: Aurora
“Next Fall”

OpenStage & Company: Fort Collins
“Bullshot Crurmmond”

Performance Now: Lakewood
“Once Upon a Mattress”

Phamaly: Aurora/Denver/Boulder
“The Foreigner”
“Fiddler on the Roof”
“It’s a Wonderful Life”
“Vox Phamilia: G.I.M.P. Nation”

Rocky Mountain Deaf Theatre: Aurora
“Murder at the Howard Johnson’s”

Screw Tooth
“Some Kind of Fun”

Senior Housing Options
“Steel Magnolias”

Sis Tryst
“Talley’s Folley”

The Source
“The Gospel at Colonus”

Springs Ensemble Theatre: Colorado Springs
“ A Steady Rain”

square product theatre company: Boulder/Denver
“The Ding Dongs”

Starkey Theatrix: Lone Tree/Parker/Aurora
“Noises Off”
“Bingo, the Musical”
“Home for the Holidays”

Su Teatro
“The Gospel at Colonus”
“La Pastorella”

Theatre Company of Lafayette
“Glengarry Glen Ross”

Theatre ‘d Art: Colorado Springs
“Marisol”

Theatre Esprit Asia: Aurora
“Spirit Tales and Sworded Treks”
“Dust Storm”

TheatreWorks: Colorado Springs
“You Can’t Take it With You”
“Red”

Town Hall Arts Center
“Forever Plaid”
“9 To 5, The Musical”
“The 39 Steps”
“Hair”

Vintage Theatre Productions: Aurora
“RFK: A Portrait of Robert Kennedy”
“Closer”
“The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas”
“In the Heights”
“Young Frankenstein”

Wit Theatre Company
“Edges: A Song Cycle”

INELIGIBLE PLAYS

Germinal Stage-Denver
”Offending the Audience” (John Moore was in the cast)

Starkey Theatrix
“Always … Patsy Cline” (directed by John Moore)

Note: Because I took at job at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts in 2013, for the first time there will not be a “Best of the Denver Center” category of awards, for objective and ethical reasons. Therefore the following productions were seen but are not ineligible:

Denver Center Attractions:
“The Doyle & Debbie Show”
“War Horse”
“Jekyll and Hyde”
“Peter and the Starcatcher”
“Sister Act”
“The Kid”
“Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”
“The Book of Mormon”
“The SantaLand Diaries”

Denver Center Theatre Company:
“Grace, or The Art of Climbing”
“The Three Musketeers”
“Death of a Salesman”
“Just Like Us”
“Jackie & Me”
“A Christmas Carol”

Denver Center Academy:
The Rimers of Eldritch”

Off-Center @ The Jones:
“Wheel of Misfortune”
“Cult Following”
“Drag Machine”

School productions: Seen but not eligible:
University of Denver’s “Fiddler on the Roof”
UC-CS’s “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”
UC-CS’s “Next Fall”
Lakewood High school’s “Les Miserables”
Cherry Creek High School’s “Singin’ in the Rain”
Denver School of the Arts’ “Beauty and the Beast”
Willow Creek’s “Dear Edwina Junior”:
Rising Star’s “Krazy Kamp”
Town Hall Arts Center’s teen “Grease”

My 2012 journo year in review: Highlights from a year on the cheap, er, brink

By John Moore
Jan. 1, 2013

A professional and personal look back at the year just past. (The unemployed year, that is):

 

Favorite writings:

Eden Lane. Photo by John Moore.

Eden Lane. Photo by John Moore.

1. Eden Lane: The first transgender journalist on mainstream TV opens up about her life and challenges (see bonus extract below)

2. Personal blog: My stoma: To Die and Live in L.A.

3. A look back at the era of yellow journalism, when The Denver Post was known as “The Bucket of Blood”

4. Iddo Netanyahu interview: Is there “A Happy End” for our troubled world?

5. My first-ever byline in the New York Times: For the Colorado Rockies, a four-man rotation by committee

6. That’s one way to recover from gut surgery: Visiting 30 Parks in 30 Days

7. John Moore and Mark Collins: Two ex-theater critics, sitting around having coffee

John Hutton talks about his role in "Lincoln." Photo by John Moore.

John Hutton. Photo by John Moore.

8. Actor John Hutton on Spielberg, “Lincoln” and on being invited to the party

9. What companies can learn from the reinvention of Curious Theatre Company

10. Launch of the 2012 True West Theater Awards

11. Remembering Michael Jackson as “Thriller” turns 30 (and I interview Quincy Jones)

12. Germinal Stage’s theater to close, but company will play on

And … just for fun:

My house under attack: A blog not at all for the squirrely

Some creative writing: My short story, “-30′-

 

Videos:

Five-part documentary: “The Making of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson”

 

Accepting a Henry Award for journalistic excellence

Amy Board: 2012 Colorado Walk for Hemophilia

The wedding of Dan and Gary

Three minutes with … Pam Grier!

Launch party for “After the Darklights” video series

Phamaly’s Jeremy Palmer wins Denver Foundation volunteer award

Creede Rep says goodbye to Maurice Lamee

 

An added bonus: The deleted Eden Lane excerpt:

Sometimes you get lucky to find remarkable people who trust you to tell their remarkable stories. And, almost every time, some of the most remarkable parts get cut out from publication. Here’s my favorite part of the Eden Lane story. It got distilled into a few sentences in the version of the story that got published.:

 

    Sometimes the best way to know a person is through the person who loves them. Lane has been legally married for more than 10 years to a man named Don who never knew a gay person in his life until a fellow serviceman came out to him in the Air Force. His first thought: “Is he the same person he was two seconds ago? He was, of course. So I said, ‘OK, fine.’ ”

But it says much about the world we still live in that Lane’s husband cannot talk openly about his love for his wife — while also publicly revealing his last name.

The reason, Lane said, has nothing to do with shame or embarrassment. “It has to do with a safety concern for our daughter in high school,”  she said.

Because high schools still have Bunsen burners.

“I decided a long time ago there would always have to be a certain sense of guardedness,” her husband said. “I am protective to the point of overbearing. That was a decision I made early on, because I love my wife.”

Lane graduated from high school early and went off to New York, where she would later perform in one of the seminal productions in Broadway history. She doesn’t claim that experience on her resume, or her college degrees, because she did so under a name that no longer exists.

When Lane completed her gender realignment surgery, a process she finds as interesting as the details of your hip replacement, she took on her new name. She says Eden Lane “is both a way to honor my grandmother, and part of the name that I was given at birth.”

But she never tells that birth name, she said, “because it feeds into that idea that the identity I have now is somehow false.”

More than a decade ago, she moved to Colorado and began her TV career contributing to both the longtime PBS gay-issues news program Colorado Outspoken and CBS News’ Logo channel. Lane met her husband crossing paths at a 2000 charity benefit for Children’s Hospital she was covering. He was by then working in automotive sales management.

Dating for any transgendered person is fraught. The dating pool is much smaller. The danger is much higher. Lane was cynical at first, and Don knows why.  “Her cynicism was earned,” he said. “It has both protected her — and kept her safe.”

They each faced moments of truth — Eden had to tell him her story; he had to tell her he was a divorced man with joint custody of a toddler.  His opportunity came when Lane’s car broke down, and she needed help.

“I had decided that no matter who I was seeing, I wasn’t going to introduce them to my daughter until I felt some connectivity with that person,” her husband said. What better moment than to say, “Well, this is my daughter … Can you watch her while I work on your car?”

Lane never knows whether new people look at her and instantly know she’s different. She’s an evidently tall, buxom blonde who quotes Lenora Claire by saying: “I am more ample-size than sample-size.”

But do people know when they see her? Some do. Her husband didn’t.

Entertainment reporter Kirk Montgomery from KUSA Channel 9 did not know until someone from a focus group mentioned it, “and I spit out my coffee,” he said. I had no idea, and frankly it didn’t matter at all — I just felt like the last one to the party.”

Last month, Lane interviewed actor Ben Dicke, who was seriously injured just before the opening performance of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” at the Aurora Fox. Dicke watched Lane’s piece with his parents, telling them first, “I have a secret to tell you about Eden after the show.” When he told them, they were a bit baffled, these churchgoing folks who grew up in rural Kansas. “All they saw was someone who is successful, smart, well-spoken and in the spotlight,” Dicke said.

Lane has never made her medical history a secret. “To me, secrets are poison,” she said. But when it comes to a romantic entanglement, “there comes a point where you have to discern whether they know, because they deserve to know your history,” she said. “You certainly are not trying to fool anyone.”

But, she greatly understated: “Not every man can handle that sort of thing.”

Lane chose to tell her husband in what they now fondly call their “Taco Bell drive-through moment.”  She chose there because it’s a safe place. “You can get out of the car and get away if you need to,” she said.

She didn’t need to.

“For me, I was always looking  more at the person, and I liked what I saw,” her husband said. “I asked myself, ‘Now that I know the back story, do I still care about her?’ And the answer was yes.”

In the end, he decided, “People are people, and love is love.”

They have lost some friends. “But,” his wife adds, “we’ve made many more.”

 

A few favorite photos from 2012

Rose and Jim Engagement Shoot. Photo by John Moore.

Rose and Jim Engagement Shoot. Photo by John Moore.

 

My niece, Aaliyah. Photo by John Moore.

My niece, Aaliyah. Photo by John Moore.

 

Rhonda Brown on opening night of "Picasso at the Lapin Agile." Photo by John Moore.

Actor Rhonda Brown on opening night of “Picasso at the Lapin Agile.” Photo by John Moore.

 

Ben Dicke on opening night of "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" ... my favorite photo of the year ,

Ben Dicke on opening night of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” … my favorite photo of the year ,

 

 

Here are your 2012 True West Award Winners

Curious2012

 

By John Moore
Dec. 23, 2012

A diverse year on Colorado stages is reflected in the winners of CultureWest.Org’s 2012 True West Awards, with Curious’ red-hot art drama “Red,” the Arvada Center’s irresistible “Legally Blonde” and the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s precision farce “Noises Off” winning for best drama, musical and comedy.

And the more some things change, the more some things stay the same. That’s the happy case for Curious Theatre, which only stages contemporary plays that are new to Denver. This year’s five offerings, book-ended by war plays and distinguished by a raucous collaboration with Colorado Springs TheatreWorks on a comedy looking into the real (fake) world of professional wrestling, earned Curious its seventh “best year by a company” designation in the 12 years of these awards, formerly known as the Ovation Awards.

In all, 18 companies won at least one True West Award. Curious leads the way with eight, including best actor and supporting actor awards for the only two members of its “Red” cast, Lawrence Hecht and Benjamin Bonenfant. The Colorado Shakespeare Festival was next with four.

It was previously announced that Boulder Ensemble Company co-founder Stephen Weitz has been named the 2012 True West Awards Theatre Person of the Year. Read more about that here.

Once again, readers were invited to weigh in to help determine their “reader’s choice” selections for 10 select categories. And in the two biggest, they chose Ben Dicke — director, producer and star of his own production of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” — as theater person of the year; and the Arvada Center for best season by a company. The survey accepted only one response per computer I.P. address, and, in all, 1,282 voted.

A note on the True West Awards
All True West Award winners are determined by former Denver Post theater critic John Moore. Winners were chosen from among the nearly 100 productions seen anywhere in Colorado 2012. Here is the complete list of nominees and eligible shows. Once again, the best of the Denver Center Theatre Company was determined in separate categories  that are listed at the end of the following results.
weitzTPOY

Theater person of the year: Stephen Weitz, who founded the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company in 2006 with his wife, Rebecca Remaly, performed in five plays in 2012, directed three others and oversaw the Denver Center Theatre Company’s high-profile, community-wide staged reading of Dustin Lance Black’s “8,” a re-enactment of the federal trial that overturned California’s controversial Proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage. Read our full story on Stephen Weitz here.

Readers’ choice voting (based on 1,282 reader responses):

  1. Ben Dicke, 23.7 percent
  2. Stephen Weitz, 19 percent
  3. Brian Freeland and Eden Lane, 14.3 percent

Best year by a company:
Curious Theatre Company

  • “9 Circles”
  • “Becky Shaw”
  • “Red”
  • “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”
  • “Time Stands Still”

Readers’ choice:

  1. Arvada Center,  31.6 percent
  2. Curious Theatre, 26.3 percent
  3. Lake Dillon Theatre Company, 16 percent

TWA03

Best year by an actor (minimum three roles):
Jim Hunt: Boulder Ensemble’s “The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde”; Lake Dillon’s “Sylvia”; Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Noises Off”; Vintage’s “Becky’s New Car”; Backstage’s “A Christmas Carol”

Everyone should be as busy at age 69 as the affable Jim Hunt. This remarkably versatile veteran actor not only performed in five plays this year, he was employed by five different companies. Hunt, who worked alongside Nick Nolte at Greeley’s Little Theatre of the Rockies back in 1964, this year played a pervy academic, a bungling British actor, a dog-lover in the throes of a mid-life crisis, a wealthy car dealer and an iconic Scrooge humbugging in a land populated by life-sized puppets. While Hunt is now at an age when many of his contemporaries have earned the right to slow down, Hunt is out there reaching new heights and plumbing new depths with a cheerful sprightliness.

Readers’ choice:

  1. Brett Ambler, 27.6 percent
  2. Jim Hunt, 21.3 percent
  3. Benjamin Bonenfant, 19.1 percent

TWA04

Best year by an actress 
(Minimum three roles):
Rachel Fowler: Curious Theatre’s “Becky Shaw”; Local Theatre’s “Elijah: An Adventure”; Arvada Center/Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Twelfth Night”; Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Noises Off”

Rachel Fowler came to Denver in 2005 to log an award-winning performance in the Denver Center Theatre Company’s “All My Sons,” and that has been to the good fortune of Curious Theatre, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and several other local companies that have since benefited from her diverse repertoire. After her gut-scraping turn as a mother whose son has died in Curious’ “Rabbit Hole,” Fowler returned this year to play a wife whose questionable matchmaking skills go horribly awry in “Becky Shaw.” In the Arvada Center’s co-production of “Twelfth Night” with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Fowler fought against the comedy to bring real heartbreak to the role of Olivia, who pines for a boy she knows not is a woman. And she surprised again in Local Theatre’s world premiere of “Elijah: An Adventure,” as a 1922 Paris widow who proves to be far more complex than a mere grieving cougar. Fowler is the rare actor who stands both naked and strong on the stage at once, whether clothed or not.

Readers’ choice:

  1. Billie McBride, 38.1 percent
  2. Rachel Fowler, 27.5 percent

TWA05

Best drama:
Curious Theatre’s “Red”

When I saw “Red” on Broadway, I initially thought this was not so much a great play as a great oral argument,  the latest brilliant if didactic playwriting pontification on the compromises and contradictions of life as a tortured artist – however celebrated. The writing device was obvious: Put a fresh-faced student in the constant company of the great Mark Rothko, and let the famously self-absorbed abstract expressionist rant and rave on and on about a key transition in art history – that tipping point in the mid-1950s when Rothko’s generation, after having helped destroy surrealism and cubism, was now being superseded by the emergence of Andy Warhol and other pop-culture art revolutionaries. In the loving hands of director Christy Montour-Larson, this two-year dialogue between Rothko and his student came alive in unexpected ways, ebbing and flowing like brush strokes on a canvas, the actors infusing John Logan’s words with passionate and intelligent inspiration.

Readers’ choice:

  1. Curious Theatre’s “Red,” 33.8 percent
  2. Senior Housing Options’ “Driving Miss Daisy,” 28.2 percent
  3. Curious Theatre’s “Time Stands Still,” 24 percent

TWA06

Best musical:
Arvada Center’s “Legally Blonde”

In a year that left the best-musical field uncharacteristically wide open, this was the effort that remains vibrant, clever and — dare I say meaningful? — in my mind,  long after it has closed.  Smartly directed by Gavin Mayer, this effort was aided by a clever set design from Brian Mallgrave, costumes from red-hot Mondo Guerra and choreography from Kitty Skillman-Hilsabeck that by gave the storytelling a mile-a-minute pulse. A bi-coastal musical that plays out in a cramped dorm room, a men’s clothing store and in a courtroom has no business working on stage, but there is a giddy brilliance throughout this musical filled with surprisingly meaningful moments. Despite recent headlines about an Ohio high-school drama teacher who was fired for staging “Legally Blonde,” this is a girl-power musical the Arvada Center didn’t merely bleach over.

Readers’ choice:

  1. Arvada Center’s “Legally Blonde,” 32.6 percent
  2. Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “42nd Street,” 29.3 percent
  3. Town Hall Arts Center’s “The Who’s Tommy,” 23.5 percent

TWA07

Best comedy:
Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Noises Off”

Even though I didn’t feel I ever needed to see Michael Frayn’s tirelessly crafted, three (long) act British farce ever again, I am glad I did. Lynne Collins’ (near) perfectly cast production, staged inside on the University of Colorado mainstage theater, lives on in an era when new stage comedies rarely exceed 30 minutes anymore. Thirty years later, “Noises Off” just keeps coming, with a staging directed by Nick Sugar slated for the Lone Tree Arts Center in January, and a production by Fort Collins’ OpenStage opening in March.

Best new work:
Buntport Theater’s “Tommy Lee Jones Goes to Opera Alone,” written by ensemble

From Westword’s Juliet Wittman: “Part of Buntport’s mission is to make art transparent. There’s no attempt at illusion or concealment: All the transitions and manipulations happen right in front of your eyes. ‘Tommy Lee Jones’ is, among other things, a meditation on the process of creation, the relationship between artist and audience, and the fact that a great work of art changes over time and is therefore never finished.”

Best actor in a drama:
Lawrence Hecht, Curious Theatre’s “Red”

The former head of acting instruction at the Denver Center’s late National Theatre Conservatory simply put on an acting clinic as the overbearing Mark Rothko. By turns muscular and bullying, Hecht berated audiences and scene partner Benjamin Bonenfant alike with a barrage of references spanning Yeats to Nietzsche to Shakespeare to Aeschylus. But the play’s master stroke is in how the two roles, as they must, eventually reverse. Only here, the teacher doesn’t so much become the student. Instead, the student comes to the epiphany that his teacher has become artistic roadkill. From Lisa Kennedy, The Denver Post: “Hecht anchors ‘Red,’ capturing in his girth, his slouch, his high-minded riffs and low moods, the pained, necessary undertaking of the artist.”

Readers’ choice:

  1. Lawrence Hecht, Curious Theatre’s “Red,” 38.7 percent
  2. Michael Morgan, Curious Theatre’s “Time Stands Still,” 25.4 percent
  3. Dan O’Neill, LIDA Project’s “Auto-da-Fé,” 12.8 percent

Best actress in a drama:
Anne Oberbroeckling, Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”

This was an acting challenge fraught with potential perils. In taking on only the most daunting female character written for the stage since Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” — and for the first time by any local actress — Anne Oberbroeckling resisted the urge to merely imitate the brutally incisive portrayals you may have been lucky enough to see astonishingly delivered by Tony-winner Deanna Dunagan on Broadway, or by Estelle Parsons on the national touring production. Performing in the stiflingly intimate little Dairy Center, Oberbroeckling choose slow poison over the more venomous, quick-strike approach. In a role that also requires physical and verbal reactions to booze and pills like wobbling and slurring, Oberbroeckling delivered an unexpected performance that began with unsettling casualness and yet still left  everyone in her path just as cold and dead as if she had wielded a sledge hammer.

Readers’ choice:

  1. Rhonda Brown, LIDA Project’s “Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins,” 33.9 percent
  2. Anne Oberbroeckling, Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County,” 25.2 percent
  3. Rachel Fowler, Curious Theatre’s “Becky Shaw,” 18.6 percent

Best actor in a musical:
Joshua Blanchard, Lake Dillon’s ”Kiss of the Spider-Woman”

Jailed on a trumped-up buggery charge and now being kept as a hapless prison pawn for a Machiavellian warden, Blanchard managed to capture both the horror of an inhumane incarceration along with the unbridled joy of movie escapism. His Molina recounts his fantastic love affair with a movie actress whose signature role was the embodiment of death. Here, her lethal kiss doubles as the savory sip of life.

Readers’ choice:

  1. Brian Norber, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Drowsy Chaperone,” 36.4 percent
  2. Joshua Blanchard, Lake Dillon’s ”Kiss of the Spider-Woman,” 26.7 percent

Best actress in a musical:
Megan Van De Hey, Little Theatre of the Rockies’ “Next to Normal”

This multiple-award-winning actress returned to her alma mater at the University of Northern Colorado last summer, in effect to lend credibility and heft to a pared-down student production of this harrowing musical that recounts a bi-polar mom’s two-decade struggle with depression. I’m sure her castmates grew by leaps and bounds in Van De Hey’s  presence. But then again, anyone who saw her performance enjoyed a little clinic on just how this acting thing is done.

Reader’s choice:

  1. Brooke Singer, Ignite Theatre’s “Spring Awakening,” 28.2 percent
  2. Kathi Wood, Kathi Wood, Phamaly Theatre Company’s “The Little Shop of Horrors,” 22.4 percent

Best actor in a comic role:
Brian Colonna, Buntport’s “The Roast Beef Situation”

Colonna was at his blithesome best in this original period comedy that recounts the (sort of) true story of a British clown named Carlo Delpini, who was thrown in jail in 1787 for uttering the words “roast beef” on a stage without any music playing in the background. Seriously. But in this case,  jail became merely a playground for Colonna’s physical gifts.  From Westword’s Juliet Wittman: “In an inspired piece of mime, Colonna  demonstrates a comic bit in which he raises his right leg and uses it like a gun — not very effectively — and Erin Rollman promptly shows how it should be done, finishing with a loud and convincing gunshot. Colonna’s highly physical description of a traditional Punch and Judy show is also terrific.”

Best actress in a comic role:
Annie Dwyer, Heritage Square Music Hall season

For more than 20 years, there simply has not been a more consistently reliable funny woman on Denver stages than Annie Dwyer. And she is beloved by her longtime audiences accordingly. Maybe that has something to do with Dwyer’s long struggle with rheumatoid arthritis through more nearly 90 mainstage shows. But attributing her enduring popularity to that alone would do a disservice to Dwyer’s innate ability to make people laugh, whether playing a dim-bulbed gangster moll, a predatory sex villain or sending up pop-culture celebrities ranging from Cher to Mama Cass. She’s a true, one-of-a-kind Denver original.

Best supporting actor in a drama:
Benjamin Bonenfant, Curious Theatre’s “Red”

For a play that belonged from the start to Larry Hecht’s Mark Rothko, the fresh-faced Benjamin Bonenfant ultimately manages to wrest full possession of the proceedings the moment he utters the clarion line, “Not everyone wants art that actually hurts!” For a kid who just graduated from college in Colorado Springs, you might say Bonenfant is on a roll, having made his debuts this year on both the Curious Theatre and Denver Center stages. From Westword’s Juliet Wittman: “The self-effacing innocence Ben Bonenfant brings to the role of Ken makes the entire production sing, and the moment when he finds his voice is pure exhilaration.”

Best supporting actress in a drama:
Devon James, Curious Theatre Company’s “Time Stands Still”

There are just four characters in Donald Margulies’ contemporary story about a damaged couple of journalists just home from the Iraq war. And as Curious’ staging began, I was sure one of them would not survive the first scene. It was Devon James’ unsubtly named Mandy Bloom, a ditzy young blonde bimbo who is initially presented to us as the magazine editor’s prized possession of his cliched midlife crisis. You’re sure there is nowhere for this character to go. But thanks to James’ nuanced portrayal, greatly enhanced by her pairing with David Russell, the guileless Mandy comes to represent the real prize that so often eludes the cynical and jaded among us: That of the chosen, happy life.

Best supporting actor in a musical:
Seth Caikowski, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Drowsy Chaperone”

As a skunked-haired Latin lothario, Caikowski was this production’s shot of comic adrenaline. Caikowski is a naturally gifted and self-effacing physical comedian who turns his every turn of phrase or body limb into a laugh line. From Kateri McRae of the He Said/She Said Critiques: “Caikowski managed to take a character just as two-dimensional and flat as the others in (the source musical), and turn it into a cramp-inducing character who combined the best of both Hank Azaria and Pepe Le Pew.” Added McRae’s writing partner, David Cates: “Caikowski’s performance is the funniest thing I have seen in the longest time and damn near stole the entire show. His wig. His accent. His perfectly precise physicality. Every element of his performance was pure brilliance.”

Best supporting actress in a musical:
Mercedes Perez, Lake Dillon’s ”Kiss of the Spider-Woman”

This longtime local favorite is the real deal, with three big-time Broadway credits to her name. While she brought nothing fancy to her portrayal of the weary mother of a gay, imprisoned son, she brought more than enough: Aching, honest and natural pain — no to mention the voice of an angel.

Best supporting actor in a comic role:
Geoff Kent, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Noises Off”

He’s nationally recognized as a certified fight choreographer, but Geoff Kent has been honing his acting craft for years with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and Denver Center Theatre Company. He’s a natural comedian, as he showed in high-profile Colorado Shakes stagings of  “The Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged)” and “The Taming of the Shrew.” It all paid off for him here playing both deadpan British actor Garry Lejeune and the fictional lothario character Garry plays in a disastrous show-within-a show called “Nothing On.” Kent’s scene partner was Jamie Ann Romero as a ditzy actress playing what the Boulder Daily Camera’s Liza Williams hailed as “a glorious homage to dumb.” As Garry tries to react to the unplanned spontaneous combustion taking place on-stage all around him, Romero’s Brooke Ashton is utterly incapable of going off-script. These scenes between Kent and Romero are all you need to know why “Noises Off” is still considered the greatest farce of the past 30 years. Added Williams of Kent’s performance: “I stopped being able to breathe because I was laughing so hard at some of his bits.”

Best supporting actress in a comic role:
Leslie O’Carroll, Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Noises Off”

Carol Burnett is a treasure. But if all you know of “Noises Off” is her performance as Dotty Otley in the lousy film version, you have no idea how funny funny can be. If you saw O’Carroll play Dotty in Boulder, you know what we know: That sardines have never been so funny. The New York Times once called the character of Dotty a thankless role — that of the actress who, while playing a hapless maid, can never quite keep track of the sardines. But Dotty is a very important woman, The Times wrote. “Without Dotty, and without a real-life actress playing her to the hilt, ‘Noises Off’ couldn’t rise to the heights.” In Boulder, thanks to O’Carroll’s comic precision, it rose to the top of the Flatirons.

Best ensemble in a play:
Buntport Theater’s “Tommy Lee Jones Goes to Opera Alone”

OK, so we’ve all enjoyed unexpected celebrity sightings. But only the Buntport Theater ensemble could turn an accidental spying of a solo Tommy Lee Jones standing in line for the Santa Fe Opera’s “La Bohème” into a full-length play — one with a life-sized puppet portraying Jones. Though mostly a monologue delivered by the puppet Jones, along with some occasional interaction with a diner waitress, you had to see Colorado’s most collaborative ensemble in fluid action to fully appreciate the stage grace they put on display here. While Hannah Duggan played the waitress, the puppeted Jones was brought to life by Erin Rollman (left hand), Evan Weissman (right hand) and Brian Colonna (head), with Erik Edborg sitting in full view voicing Jones’ words. It was amazing enough to see the puppet opening his pocket watch, eating a piece of pie, drinking coffee and rolling his eyes. But the ensemble’s coordinated communication of Jones’ signature stoic emotion was the kind of thing you can only expect from an ensemble that has been working together, side by side, for 11 years.

Best ensemble in a musical:
Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “The Drowsy Chaperone”

The definition of a great ensemble is malleable. But in a musical, surely it must mean that all the parts work well together, without a weak link from the largest role down to the smallest. “Chaperone”  is an odd little musical in that the lead actor never really sings. But Brian Norber brought real truth and heft to the role of the so-called “Man in Chair,” an endearingly reclusive fan of trifling  Broadway musicals of the 1920s. Thanks to the magic needle on his turntable, the man’s favorite musical comes to life right there in his apartment. Down the line, Norber is well-supported. The show allowed for a plethora of spotlight-stealing scenes from a deep cast that included Alicia Dunfee as the tipsy (hence the title) chaperone, Seth Caikowski as a Latin lothario, Katie Ulrich as gymnastic bride Janet, and longtime BDT producer Michael J. Duran making  his return to the stage after a five-year absence by playing half of a vaudevillian baker-gangster team (alongside Wayne Kennedy).

Best director of a play:
Edith Weiss, Phamaly Theatre Company’s “Vox Phamilia: Cinco de Vox”

Whatever it says in the  playbook about what the duties of a director are, they can’t begin to encompass all that it must take Edith Weiss each year not only to cast a company of mostly novice handicapped actors, but also to train them in the difficult art of sketch comedy writing, as well as how to effectively perform it. For five years, Weiss’ annual sketch-comedy evenings have been the greatest form of theatrical escape for actors and audiences alike — they allow a group of handicapped actors to perform – by being themselves.

Best director of a musical:
Christopher Alleman, Lake Dillon Theatre Company, “Kiss of the Spider-Woman”

On the tiniest of playing spaces, Alleman managed to capture both the claustrophobia of  prison and the expansiveness of a Broadway musical by striking just the right tone of fantasy and fatalism. Alleman didn’t dwell so much on the geographic location of the story. Instead he used his deep ensemble to create an anywhere — and everywhere — account of political imprisonment. Whether by necessity or artistic choice, he ditched the live portrayal of the almost laughably written prison-warden character in favor of an ominous, unseen voice that breathed new, evil life into this manifestation of authoritarian power.

Best musical direction:
Donna Debreceni, Town Hall Arts Center’s “The Who’s Tommy”

To watch Debreceni conduct her live band to this quintessential, old-school concept rock album … Well, let’s just say you’d have to be a deaf, dumb and blind kid not to feel the complete, pure joy of it. Come to think of it, even if you were …

Best choreography:
Tracy Warren, Boulder’s Dinner Theatre’s “42nd Street”

Let’s face it: People come to see “42nd Street” for the tap dancing. It’s no easy task both doing justice to Gower Champion’s signature choreography while also bringing new life to it, but Warren, who doubles as endearing gal-pal Anytime Annie in this staging, pulls it off. From Liza Williams of the Boulder Dairy Camera: “These early dance sequences demonstrated that the cast of this show has a high degree of technical achievement. The choreography was precise and complex and really highlighted BDT’s consistency in technical achievement, performance and overall production level.” As the song says, come and meet those dancing feet: You still can, as it runs through Feb. 16. 303-449-6000

Best use of multimedia:
Brian Freeland, LIDA Project’s “Add it Up”

Simply put, Freeland continues to change the game of theatrical storytelling by always upping the stakes with new multimedia innovations. His company’s “Add it Up,” an experimental freakout adaptation of Elmer Rice’s “The Adding Machine,” actually told the story of a condemned everyman we follow into the afterlife fairly faithfully. But Freeland’s unnerving intermingling of multiple live cameras projected onto angled, flowing bedsheets injected a haunting feeling into this telling that felt sort of like an alternate-universe “The Wizard of Oz.”

Best scenic design:
Peter J. Hughes, Drew Kowalkowski, Jeff Jesmer, Erika Kae and Katie Dawson, Abster Productions’ “August: Osage County”

I don’t now whether or why it really took five people to design this tri-level house that somehow fell  just into place in the decidedly “not tall” Dairy Center for the Arts. But the design not only worked, the team managed to (appropriately) turn the Weston staircase itself into one of the most menacing characters in the entire family. And in this family, that’s saying something.

Best costume design:
Ann Piano, TheatreWorks/Curious’ “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”

One look at the professional wrestler Chad Deity’s skin-tight shorts adorned with gold dollar signs told you that fun was the order of the day for this most unusual and entertaining production. Expert opinion from award-winning costumer Kevin Copenhaver: “Ann’s work is funky and fresh, and the challenge of outfitting this piece had to have been a great one. Always good to step outside the box — or the ring.”

Best sound design:
Brian Freeland, TheatreWorks/Curious’ “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity”

It’s futile to try to separate Freeland’s fist-pumping sound effects with his pulsing video and live-feed story enhancement. It all worked together to help create the feeling that you were not sitting in a staid theater but rather in a stadium attending a live sporting event.

Best lighting design:
Shannon McKinney, Curious Theatre’s “Red”
Thanks to McKinney’s moody effects, red was not the only color of the evening. Her work on this show has now swept every award available to it so far — an amazing testament considering the hundreds of theatrical options this year.

BEST OF THE DENVER CENTER THEATRE COMPANY
(Note: I did not get to see the following DCTC productions this year:  “Two Things You Don’t talk About at Dinner,”  “Fences,” “Taming of the Shrew” and “Ring of Fire”)

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Best year by an actor (Minimum three roles):
John Hutton: “Two Things You Don’t Talk About at Dinner,” “The Great Wall Story,” “The Three Musketeers,” “When We Are Married”

Hutton has proven there’s nothing he can’t (or won’t) do on a stage, but he’s been liberated in recent years from primarily playing dour, heavy roles such as the doomed father in “The Diary of Anne Frank” (to name one — of dozens). But since letting his hair down as Oberon in “a “Midsummer” a few years back, Hutton seems to be having much more fun. Whether playing the prototypically cynical yellow journalist Joseph Pulitzer (hey, why is it that journalism’s highest honors are named after him again?) to the unexpectedly unmarried silly fop of a Brit in “When We Are Married,” Hutton is really settling into his role as the company’s current, undisputed veteran leading man. Only, to our benefit, he’s hardly settling at all.

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Best year by an actress 
(Minimum three roles):
Kathleen McCall: “Heartbreak House,” “Taming of the Shrew,” “When We Are Married”

2012 was the year when everything came together for McCall, with just the right marriage of material and sensibilities. McCall got to show off at least three shades of comic grey in three very different but very endearing kinds of comedies.

Best production:
“The Giver”

“Heartbreak House” was just what the DCTC does best: A witty and weighty George Bernard Shaw parlor comedy. But “The Giver” gets the nod for the seeds it sowed for future generations of Denver Center audiences. At the performance I attended, the kids all had read Lois Lowry’s controversial book. They remained in rapt attention throughout the brief performance. And not only did many of them have salient discussion points to raise in the talkback afterward, many expressed controversial opinions about what the ending meant. This production proves once again that no one but no one gets the kind of effective performances out of child actors that director Christy Montour-Larson does.

Best new play:
Denver Center Theatre Company’s “The Whale,” by Samuel D. Hunter

It takes courage to stage the world premiere of a story that features a dying, 500-pound protagonist, but that courage was rewarded with perhaps the most compelling  storytelling of 2012. The metaphor may be obvious — he’s a beached whale, this morbidly obese man who yearns to re-connect with his bratty daughter before he dies. That daughter character is the play’s downfall, but the sweet, sad protagonist and his loving relationships with his nurse and a Mormon stranger give the play real girth. Hunter’s play is further evidence that most every decent play is, in some way, a variation on “Moby Dick” — that pursuit of the one unattainable thing that might make our lives complete.

Best actor in a play:
Timothy McCracken, “The Giver”

McCracken was simply the most unnervingly sweet and paternal baby-killer you could ever hope to (not) run into … on stage or off. From Lisa Kennedy, The Denver Post: “McCracken gives a nice and therefore troubling turn as Jonas’ father. He has a gentle sing-song befitting his role as ‘Nurturer.’ And he appears boldly kind when he brings home a baby he names Gabriel and whom he hopes to protect from being released. And yet…”

Best supporting actor in a play:
Cory Michael Smith, “The Whale”

This is definitely the Mormon Age in the American theater, but Smith eschewed stereotype in playing the unlikely young missionary who appears on the front door of a home-bound man in the final few days of his life. Smith’s Elder Thomas becomes a surprisingly willing confidante to Charlie for reasons that get more compelling as the story goes along. I don’t mind telling you that Smith’s portrayal of the is-he-or-isn’t-he? Mormon prosthelytizer was my favorite performance by any actor in 2012. He had his role down to every muscle twitch, and so I was happy to see him hired to play the same role when the play was retooled by a new creative team for off-Broadway.

Best actress in a play:
Lise Bruneau, “Heartbreak House”

The company newcomer was here for a just a blink, but in her short time here playing Hesione, the decidedly bohemian daughter of a salty octogenarian, Bruneau made it plain that she is a sharp and ebullient actor who commanded the stage with twinkle and a smile.

Best supporting actress in a play:
Angela Reed, “The Whale”

Reed walked away with this award for her ferocious and loving work as a nurse with an undying loyalty to a dying patient. The Colorado native will be back next month starring in the national touring production of “War Horse.”

2012 SPECIAL ACCOMPLISHMENT TRUE WEST AWARDS:

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  • Bud Coleman: The chair of the University of Colorado-Boulder’s Theatre & Dance Department staged a remarkable production of “14” at the Kennedy Center College Theatre Festival in Fort Collins. The play recounts Brigham Young University’s use of  electroshock therapy in an attempt to change the homosexual desires of 14 young men in the mid-1970s. College or no, it ranks among my list of the best productions of 2012 anywhere.
  • Crystal Carter: The director staged the first-ever immersive, real-time adaptation of Quentin Tarantino’s bloody 1992 cult classic “Reservoir Dogs” for Theatre ‘d Art in Colorado Springs.
  • Ben Dicke: The producer, director and star of “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson returned to perform just three weeks after a serious opening-night accident hospitalized him with four broken ribs, a head gash and a lacerated lung.
  • Cory Gilstrap: He designed a full menagerie of puppets that served as every support character in Backstage Theatre’s  “A Christmas Carol,” starring Jim Hunt as Scrooge.
  • Kevin Landis, TheatreWorks’ highly regarded Prologue series brings some of the nation’s most important theater artists, such as playwright  Sarah Ruhl, to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs each month. Coming in March: Michael Friedman, who wrote the “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” score, and New York’s Public Theatre artistic director Oskar Eustis, who is responsible for “Angels in America” ever being staged.
  • Eric Laurits: Ongoing excellence in stage photography.
  • The final class of the National Theatre Conservatory: The Denver Center’s 28-year old master’s program in acting closed, having graduated 255 alumni into the worlds of theater, film, television and theater education. The final grads were:
    Biko Eisen-Martin
    Courtney Esser
    Maurice Jones
    Amy Kersten
    ZZ Moor
    Chiara Motley
    Andrew Schwartz
    Matt Zambrano
  • Mackenzie Paulsen: Conceived the innovative shadow-puppet design for “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” at the Aurora Fox.
  • Philip Sneed and Tina Packer: Sneed brought the respected actor and director to Boulder to perform all five parts of her “Women of Will” cycle, which explored  all the women in Shakespeare’s canon. Packard unveiled a new hour-long episode each week for five weeks during the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s 2012 season.

Stephen Weitz: 2012 True West Theater Person of the Year

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By John Moore
Dec. 22, 2012

Perhaps the Weitzes should have a baby every year.

Stephen Weitz, who founded the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company in 2006 with his wife, Rebecca Remaly, performed in five plays in 2012, directed three others and oversaw the Denver Center Theatre Company’s high-profile, community-wide staged reading of Dustin Lance Black’s “8.” That was a re-enactment of the federal trial that overturned California’s controversial Proposition 8, which had banned same-sex marriage.

Rebecca Remaly Weitz, Stephen Weitz and son Jamison. Photo courtesy Stephen Weitz.

Rebecca Remaly Weitz, Stephen Weitz and son Jamison. Photo courtesy Stephen Weitz.

The variety and expanse of his work has earned Stephen Weitz CultureWest.Org’s 2012 True West “Theatre Person of the Year” Award, joining previous winners Maurice LaMee, Anthony Garcia, Kathleen M. Brady, Wendy Ishii, Ed Baierlein, Chip Walton and others.

And when Weitz says he could not have done it without his wife, he really means it. Remaly is the managing director of BETC (affectionately known as “Betsy”). She manages the financials, marketing, schedules — and she had a baby in May. “She does all the heavy lifting so I can keep my eyes on the artistic prize,” Weitz said.

Weitz performed in his own “Shipwrecked! An Entertainment” and directed BETC’s “Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde,” “How the World Began” and “The SantaLand Diaries.” He also performed in “Elijah: An Adventure” for Boulder’s Local Theatre;  as well as the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s “Twelfth Night,” “Richard III” and “Treasure Island.”

But perhaps his proudest creative accomplishments of 2012 were workshopping the developing new script “And the Sun Stood Still,” by Pulitzer Prize-finalist Dava Sobel (about the radical ideas of Nicolaus Copernicus); and directing “8” at the Denver Center, a reading that employed a mix of professional actors, politicians and local celebrities. “That was an important subject,” Weitz said, “and an important conversation for the community to have.”

Weitz, 39, has appeared in many plays for the Denver Center Theatre Company since he moved here in 2005 – first when he understudied for then-78-year-old Philip Pleasants in “King Lear.” “I was 32, and all of my daughters were older than I was,” Weitz joked (only he wasn’t joking).

That Weitz was chosen to helm “8” by the Denver Center’s Bruce Sevy and Emily Tarquin says as much about his burgeoning influence in the local theater community as any of his other accomplishments.

Stephen Weitz in the title role of "Hamlet" at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in Boulder in 2009. Photo by Glenn Asakawa,

Stephen Weitz in the title role of “Hamlet” at the 2009 Colorado Shakespeare Festival in Boulder. Photo by Glenn Asakawa,

Weitz grew up in Bloomsberg, Pa., as did his wife. They just never met until both, coincidentally, moved out of Pennsylvania. Weitz graduated from Ithaca College in New York, earned one masters with the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and another at the University of Colorado-Boulder. He launched BETC in 2006 at a time when Boulder was probably least-deserving of its timelessly accepted reputation as a fertile and supportive home for the arts. “The Nomad Theatre had just folded, and there was a real dearth of small theater in Boulder,” Weitz said, leaving one of the state’s cultural hubs with just three theater companies — the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, Upstart Crow and Boulder’s Dinner Theatre. Weitz saw an unfilled niche — and he filled it.

Weitz’s creative interests lie in both the very old and very new, which has resulted a wide range of both serious and comic works at BETC ranging from the classic “Crime and Punishment,” to this year’s modern-day creationism-in-schools drama “How the World Began,” to, hopefully as early as next season, the world premiere of “And the Sun Stood Still.”

Since the Weitzes launched their company with $20,000 and a dream, they have increased the size of the budget tenfold, now staging five plays a year with an annual budget of around $200,000. But Weitz calls that growth slow and steady. “You can only grow as fast as you can pay for it,” he said.

Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, the Boulder theater scene has since flourished again, with the launches of the annual Boulder International Fringe Festival and edgy new companies such as Band of Toughs, The Catamounts, Local Theatre, Abster Productions, Obscene/Courageous Theatre and the lower-case square product theatre company.

But that growth does not paint a completely accurate picture about the status of theater arts in Boulder, Weitz said. “There has been a little renaissance of contemporary, devised work,” he said. But most of it is the result of maverick, raging, individual and independent artistic entrepreneurs such as David Ortolano, Emily K. Harrison, Pesha Rudnick, Amanda Berg Wilson and Abby Apple Boes.

“But we’re falling behind other cities in terms of facilities and (municipal) support for these new companies,” Weitz said, citing new $23 million arts centers in Parker and Lone Tree. Most every theater company that wants to perform in Boulder is necessarily based out of the pricey Dairy Center for the Arts, “and rent remains our single-biggest line-item expense,” Weitz said.

“There will always be hungry artists willing to take a risk in Boulder,” he said. “But you can’t take them for granted.” What is needed most, he said, is a larger commitment from the city so that “all this talent is being fostered into the making of a real cultural institution.”

Harrison believes Weitz and his company occupy an important place in the Boulder theater scene. “One of the things I love about theater in Boulder is how different the work is,” the square product theatre founder said, “and yet how well it all meshes together to form a really engaging performance landscape that values both traditional and experimental work. It’s a pretty rocking scene here in Boulder, and Stephen and BETC are a valued part of it.”

As an actor, Weitz has shown a broad swath of ability ranging from countless Shakespeare productions (I had the tiniest bit of fun at Weitz’s expense as The Denver Post theater critic when I noted that his bleached hair in Colorado Shakes’ 2009 staging of “Hamlet” made him look a dead ringer for James Van Der Beek) to a supporting role in this fall’s recent world premiere of “Elijah, an Adventure,” in which he played a  Jew-hating German opium den operator.

“Part pragmatist and part tortured artist, Stephen embodies what it is to love theater in Colorado,” said Local Theatre’s Rudnick, Weitz’s director on “Elijah: An Adventure.” “His voracious appetite for entertainment is infectious. And he’s a joy to work with, to boot.”

As a producer, Weitz launched BETC with the classic “Antigone” and slid right into John Patrick Shanley’s contemporarily savage “Savage in Limbo.” He’s been surprising — and challenging — audiences ever since. He has consistently given voice to some of the most nationally respected playwrights of the day, including Sarah Ruhl, Donald Margulies, Theresa Rebeck and Michael Hollinger. And he has smartly turned David Sedaris’ comically caustic holiday monologue “The SantaLand Diaries” into a four-year holiday staple. Like The Bug Theatre before it, “SantaLand” is the kind of audience favorite that can pay a company’s bills deep into the riskiest part of the season.

“There are a lot of theater companies out there,” Weitz said, “and I hope the one I am responsible for is of a quality that inspires people, and makes a difference in people’s lives.”

A NOTE ON THE TRUE WEST AWARDS:

All True West Award winners are determined by John Moore. In addition, readers were invited to weigh in on 10 select categories to determine their “reader’s choice” selections.

READER’S CHOICE VOTING FOR THEATER PERSON OF THE YEAR:

Top readers’ vote-getters:

  1. Ben Dicke, 23.7 percent
  2. Stephen Weitz, 19 percent
  3. Brian Freeland and Eden Lane, 14.3 percent

NOTE: The rest of the 2012 True West Award winners will be announced here on Sunday, Dec. 23. Here is a complete list of nominees.

THE BOULDER ENSEMBLE THEATRE COMPANY at a glance:
Dairy Center for the Arts, 2590 Walnut St., Boulder, 303-440-7826 or boulderensembletheatre.org

2006
“Antigone”

2007
“Danny and the Deep Blue Sea” and “Savage in Limbo”
“The Glass Menagerie”

2008
“Copenhagen”
“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)”
“Fat Pig”

2009
“Stop Kiss”
“Morisot Reclining”
“Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged)” (performed for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival)
“The Sunset Limited”
“The SantaLand Diaries”

2010
“The Clean House”
“Doubt”
“The SantaLand Diaries”

2011
“Crime and Punishment”
“An Empty Plate in the Café du Grand Boeuf” 
 “Mauritius”
“The SantaLand Diaries”

2012
Shipwrecked! An Entertainment”
“Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde”
“How the World Began”
“The SantaLand Diaries”

2013
Feb. 1-16, 2013: “Ghost Writer”
March 22-April 6, 2013: “The Other Place”
May 3-18, 2013: “Bach at Leipzig”

 

Watch Stephen Weitz on “In Focus with Eden Lane””