The winners of the 2018 Henrys regional theater awards were celebrated earlier this week.
The Henrys, administered by the Colorado Theatre Guild, are named for much-loved producer-director Henry Lowenstein, who escaped the Holocaust as part of the kindertransport as a child, and worked at the Bonfils Theatre on Colfax Avenue from 1953 to 1986, during a period when there was little live theater in the city. Lowenstein died in 2014, but his large, generous and progressive spirit still infuses the Henrys.
Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden, which has come a long way since Len Matheo took over the reins as artistic director in 2013, producing steadily grittier, riskier and more interesting work, won six awards. The Arvada Center also scored big: There was recognition for the organization’s black-box repertory company — the only one around, and one of the few left in the country — which garnered three awards for the hilariously jittery-skittery version of Sense and Sensibility directed by Lynne Collins. The center’s main stage was recognized for choreography, costumes, lighting and scene design, and the organization itself for Outstanding Season.
By contrast, the Denver Center Theatre Company received only one nod — for Outstanding New Play or Musical, sharing the award with the 5280 Artists Coop in a tie. The Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company was shut out altogether, and the Edge Theater, which had a fine season and is moving from Colorado to Chicago, was mostly ignored.
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The awards have often been considered unreliable indicators of quality. The Colorado Theatre Guild covers theater throughout the state — representing uneven productions. Choices can seem capricious or unfair, but that’s true of any and all award contests. Still, it’s a surprise that Emma Messenger would be honored for her smallish role in Mud Blue Sky — the slightest work presented at the Edge during the year — and not for her far more substantial contributions to other productions.
But if there were regrettable omissions, most of the choices were sound. And what a pleasure to see the quietly indispensable Chris Kendall recognized for playing Shylock in District Merchants at Miners Alley; the Aurora Fox get a look-in with Jake Mendes’s balls-out performance in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, under the direction of Nick Sugar; the brilliant Erin Rollman honored for her part in the equally brilliant The Book Handlers at Buntport; the sheaf of awards garnered by Miners Alley’s Fun Home — particularly Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for young Sophia Dotson, who brought such clarity and truth to the role of Young Allison. Also honored for the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award was Wendy Ishii. (See Westword's interview with Ishii about her career, theater in Fort Collins, her Henry win and why she's an unlikely Samuel Beckett champion.)
The full list of winners is as follows:
Outstanding Actor in a Musical: Jake Mendes, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Aurora Fox Arts Center.
Outstanding Actor in a Play, Chris Kendall, District Merchants, Miners Alley Playhouse.
Outstanding Actress in a Musical: Jalyn Courtenay Webb, Always...Patsy Cline, Midtown Arts Center.
Outstanding Actress in a Play: Erin Rollman, The Book Handlers, Buntport Theater.
Outstanding Choreography: Kitty Skillman Hilsabeck, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Arvada Center for the Arts & Humanities.
Outstanding Costume Design Tier 1: Clare Henkel, Sunday in the Park with George, Arvada Center for the Arts & Humanities.
Outstanding Costume Design Tier 2: Rebecca Spafford, The Crucible, OpenStage Theatre & Company.
Outstanding Direction of a Musical: Len Matheo, Fun Home, Miners Alley Playhouse.
Outstanding Direction of a Play: Christy Montour-Larson, The Rape of the Sabine Women, Local Theater Company.
Outstanding Direction of a Play: Lynne Collins, Sense and Sensibility, Arvada Center for the Arts & Humanities.
Outstanding Ensemble Performance: Sense and Sensibility, Arvada Center for the Arts & Humanities.
Outstanding Lighting Design Tier 1: Holly Rawls, Fun Home, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College.
Outstanding Lighting Design Tier 1: Shannon McKinney, Sunday in the Park with George, Arvada Center for the Arts & Humanities.
Outstanding Lighting Design Tier 2: Brian Miller, The Crucible, OpenStage Theatre & Company.
Outstanding Musical Direction: Mitch Samu, Fun Home, Miners Alley Playhouse.
Outstanding New Play or Musical: The Great Leap, DCPA Theatre Company.
Outstanding New Play or Musical: Colorism: Breaking the Chains of Complexion, 5280 Artists Coop.
Outstanding Production of a Musical: Fun Home, Miners Alley Playhouse.
Outstanding Production of a Play: Sense and Sensibility, Arvada Center for the Arts & Humanities.
Outstanding Scenic Design Tier 1: Brian Mallgrave, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Arvada Center for the Arts & Humanities.
Outstanding Scenic Design Tier 2: Ed Haynes, Fences, Lone Tree Arts Center.
Outstanding Sound Design Tier 1: Tori Higgins, Fun Home, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College.
Outstanding Sound Design Tier 2: Justin Babcock, Fun Home, Miners Alley Playhouse.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Musical: Brandon Bill, Hairspray, Inspire Creative and Parker Arts.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play: Bob Moore, The Price, Thunder River Theatre Company.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical: Sophia Dotson, Fun Home, Miners Alley Playhouse.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Play: Emma Messenger, Mud Blue Sky, the Edge Theater Company.
Outstanding Season for a Theatre Company: Arvada Center for the Arts & Humanities.
2018 Lifetime Achievement Award: Wendy Ishii