Flawed or Not, the Henrys Honor Colorado's Crazy, Passionate Theater Scene

Outstanding lead actress Emma Messenger in Night, Mother.
Outstanding lead actress Emma Messenger in Night, Mother.
Vintage Theater

Once again, the Colorado Theatre Guild has announced the winners of the Henrys — Colorado’s equivalent of the Tony Awards — and once again the results announced last night are difficult to figure out. As before, there are a lot of wins for the Denver Center Theatre Company and not one for the Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, which mounted some spectacular work this past season. Last year, Curious Theatre Company won seven awards, which frankly seemed a bit much for one (admittedly excellent) production; this year, it got not a single nod. Edge Theater received two well-deserved Henrys for Jerusalem’s set and sound design, but the judges missed some stellar acting in that play. And there was nothing for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, an omission that occurs every year and makes me wonder if a lot of judges just plain dislike Shakespeare.

When the finalists were announced a few weeks ago, local actor Margie Lamb posted a critique as a guest column on John Moore’s Denver Center for the Performing Arts NewsCenter blog, making a number of cogent points and suggestions. At the center of her critique is the fact that while Denver once had an awards system controlled by critics, the Henrys utilize forty-some judges “made up of former and current writers and reviewers, retired educators, artistic directors and, making up the largest group by far: citizen judges whose primary qualification is that they are avid theater-goers.” Lamb adds, “I question how someone who simply has a history of merely sitting in an audience watching theater has earned the credibility to be a judge.”

(I was glad, reading this, that Margie hadn’t been privy to the many conversations between me and then-Denver Post critic Moore, that started something like this: “Are you fucking crazy? That show was shit.” Or: “Couldn’t you see how brilliant that actor was?” And — to be honest — often ended, “Okay, you do have a point.”)

Naturally, we critics think we’re right when we commit our thoughts to print and equally naturally, we don’t like it when someone or something we love gets stiffed at the Henrys. But I do actually think a person who loves theater and sees dozens of plays a year may become expert, even if he or she doesn’t quite know how a show is put together. And heaven knows, professional reviewers have peccadilloes and blind spots.

My problem is I’ve no idea how to fix the situation. For years the complaint was that the Colorado Theatre Guild, which administers the Henrys, ignored member theaters outside the metro area — where, obviously, most of the critics plied their trade. So general manager Gloria Shanstrom created the judge network that Margie Lamb refers to; six of these people must attend a performance in order for that performance to be Henry-eligible. That takes a lot of organizing, and the results — strictly numerical — can seem random. The reviewer who judges a performance at the Denver Center as the best of the year may not have seen an equally good performance in Fort Collins, and vice versa. And someone who lives in a small town may mark a local play a touch higher because she always runs into the director at the supermarket and knows all the problems that director has to deal with.

There’s a second core issue besides the fact that the awards are statewide. The Henrys are run by theater people, many of whom are also the potential recipients. Of course, these folks can’t influence the actual results, but they can decide how the overall program is shaped. There is no independent panel. At one point, the critics’ ballots were more heavily weighted than those of other judges, but a lot of Guild members objected to that, and besides, there are very few critics left. I’ve heard the suggestion that once each category has been pared down, a small, agreed-to-be-expert group should get together to ponder and refine the list, and some version of that could be a possibility.
But I’m not good at organizational thinking and I can’t fathom statistics.

I know Gloria Shanstrom has heard, considered and tried to deal with each and every one of the criticisms I’ve mentioned, along with — I’m guessing — dozens of others. Whether I love the Henry results or not, I’m in awe of this woman’s passion, patience and dedication, and deeply respect the role the Guild plays. So I’m wishing all the winners mazel tov and sending deepest thanks to everyone who keeps our crazy, wonderful, passionate Colorado theater world spinning.

Annie Dwyer in Young Frankenstein.EXPAND
Annie Dwyer in Young Frankenstein.
Town Hall Arts Center

2014-2015 COLORADO THEATRE GUILD
HENRY AWARDS


ANNIE DWYER
“Young Frankenstein” - Town Hall Arts Center
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical

MICHAEL WORDLY
“Memphis” - Midtown Arts Center
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical

DAVID THOMAS
“Memphis” - Arvada Center
Outstanding Sound Design — Tier 1

REN MANLEY
“Jerusalem” - The Edge Theater
Outstanding Sound Design — Tier 2

DON HOLDER
“The Unsinkable Molly Brown” - DCPA Theatre Company
Outstanding Lighting Design — Tier 1

BRETT MAUGHAN
“Mary Poppins” - BDT Stage
Outstanding Lighting Design — Tier 2

2014-2015 CTG HENRY AWARDS
LISA COOK
Outstanding Stage Management

PAUL TAZEWELL
“The Unsinkable Molly Brown” - DCPA Theatre Company
Outstanding Costume Design - Tier 1

LINDA MORKEN
“Mary Poppins” - BDT Stage
Outstanding Costume Design - Tier 2

BRIAN MALLGRAVE
“She Loves Me” - Arvada Center
Outstanding Scenic Design - Tier 1

CHRISTOPHER WALLER
“Jerusalem” - The Edge Theater
Outstanding Scenic Design - Tier 2

KATHLEEN MARSHALL
“The Unsinkable Molly Brown” - DCPA Theatre Company
Outstanding Choreography

'MIDDLE-ALE AGED PEOPLE SITTING IN BOXES”
Buntport Theater Company
Outstanding Ensemble Performance

BILLIE MCBRIDE
“Benediction” - DCPA Theatre Company
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play

BENJAMIN COWHICK
“Good TV” - A & A Productions
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play

BETH MALONE
“The Unsinkable Molly Brown” - DCPA Theatre Company
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical

WAYNE KENNEDY
“Fiddler on the Roof” - BDT Stage
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical

“THE 12”
ROBERT SCHENKKAN & NEIL BERG
DCPA Theatre Company
Outstanding New Play

CREEDE REPERTORY THEATRE
Creede, Colorado
Outstanding Regional Theatre

EMMA MESSENGER
“'Night, Mother” - Vintage Theatre Productions
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Play

MIKE HARTMAN
“Benediction” - DCPA Theatre Company
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play

2014-2015 CTG HENRY AWARDS
JO BUNTON KEEL
Lifetime Achievement in Theatre

BILLIE MCBRIDE
“'Night, Mother” - Vintage Theatre Productions
Outstanding Direction of a Play

MICHAEL RAFTER
“The Unsinkable Molly Brown” - DCPA Theatre Company
Outstanding Musical Direction

KATHLEEN MARSHALL
“The Unsinkable Molly Brown” - DCPA Theatre Company
Outstanding Direction of a Musical

'''NIGHT, MOTHER”
Vintage Theatre Productions
Billie McBride, Director
Outstanding Production of a Play

“THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN” 
DCPA Theatre Company
Kathleen Marshal, Director; Michael Rafter, Musical Director
Outstanding Production of a Musical

DENVER CENTER THEATRE COMPANY
Outstanding Season for a Theatre Company


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