2015 True West Award: Rachel D. Graham

by John Moore | Dec 01, 2015
Rachel Graham True West Awards

Photo credit: Jason Coviello.

2015 TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS

​Today’s recipient: Rachel D. Graham, actor and stage photographer


Today’s presenter: Steve Wilson, Executive Director of the Mizel Arts and Culture Center and the 2014 Theatre Person of the Year



When Rachel D. Graham played the title role in the Denver Children’s Theatre production of Rumpelstiltskin in March, onstage wasn’t the only place the actor was seen regularly spinning straw into gold. 

Each performance was followed by an audience talkback, and the first question kids often would ask Graham was about her hair. As in: "Where is yours?" Rapunzel, Graham is not.

Rachel D. Graham Graham has Alopecia, a type of hair loss that occurs when your immune system mistakenly attacks your hair follicles. Director Billie McBride would have been happy to let her star don a wig, if that would have made her feel more comfortable. But rather than cover up her disability, Graham chose to play the role slick bald.

Afterward she would tell children her story. In doing so, she brought awareness and understanding to this mysterious disease. And she later received letters from several children who attended the show who also have Alopecia. They told Graham they found it empowering that someone with the same disability was the star of the show - and was not inclined to cover it up. 

Graham's 2014 True West Award was selected by Steve Wilson, last year’s True West Theatre Person of the Year. He first taught Graham back when she was a high-school student at St. Mary’s Academy. Her work in Rumpelstiltskin, Wilson said, “reminded me of her strength as an actress and as a person. Rachel has amazing strength of character.”

Graham, a graduate of the University of Northern Colorado, is also an accomplished - and rather busy - stage photographer. Many of the production photos you see around town and on the web promoting local plays are taken by Graham for her studio, RDGPhotography.

Currently she can be seen performing on area stages at all hours of the day. She is playing Fern Arable in the Arvada Center’s children’s theatre production of Charlotte’s Web in the daytime through Dec. 30. In the nighttime, she is playing a central role in Equinox Theatre Company’s Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead, playing through Dec. 5 at the Bug Theatre. Graham plays Van's sister (essentially Lucy) in the dark comedy, which imagines the Peanuts gang as troubled teenagers. She will return to Denver Children’s Theatre this spring to star as Mona Woofa in Art Dog, the story of a mild-mannered museum guard dog whose alter ego is a superhero who makes magic through art. It plays March 9-May 1 at the Mizel Center.

Wilson is most impressed by Graham’s work as an actor for young audiences.

“Children’s theatre is important, noble work with a positive, life-affirming message that, when done well, can really build a child’s self-esteem,” Wilson said. “As a director, you want your actors to believe in the message of the piece - and that’s where Rachel is exceptional.”

And as of that weren’t enough, Rachel is an active volunteer with the Every Creature Counts no-kill animal shelter in Fort Lupton.

Steve Wilson quote

(Photo above right: Rachel D. Graham posed three years ago as part of John Moore's daily photo series profiling local theatre artists all wearing his cheap and battered sunglasses. Then, too, Graham preferred to have her photo taken au natural.) 

ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS

The True West Awards began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. This year, DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore — as well as additional voices from around the state — celebrate the entire local theatre community by recognizing 30 achievements from around the state over 30 days, without categories or nominations. Moore's daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

THE 2015 TRUE WEST AWARDS TO DATE
Day 1: Rachel D. Graham
Day 2: BALLS! A Holiday Spectacular
Day 3: Creede Repertory Theatre's 50th anniversary season
Day 4: Laurence Curry
Day 5: Bernie Cardell
Day 6: Susan Lyles
Day 7: John Jurcheck​
Day 8: Christopher L. Sheley
Day 9: DCPA Education's 'Shakespeare in the Parking Lot'
Day 10: Man and Monster: Todd Debreceni and TJ Hogle
Day 11: Shauna Johnson
Day 12: Geoffrey Kent and Benjamin Bonenfant
Day 13: Sesugh Solomon Tor-Agbidye
Day 14: Keith Ewer
Day 15: Allison Watrous
Day 16: Jonathan Farwell
Day 17: Bob, Wendy and Missy Moore
Day 18: Emma Messenger
Day 19: Shannon McKinney
Day 20: Mary Louise Lee and Yasmine Hunter
Day 21: Charlie Miller and Emily Tarquin
Day 22: Scott Beyette
Day 23: Augustus Truhn
Day 24: Jimmy Bruenger
Day 25: The Masters of Props: Rob Costigan, Peki Pineda and Becky Toma
Day 26: Jalyn Courtenay Webb
Day 27: Andre Rodriguez
Day 28: Rebecca Remaly
Day 29: Mark Collins
Day 30: Phamaly Theatre Company's Cabaret
Bonus: Donald R. Seawell

1 comment

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  1. Sylvie Strong. | Dec 03, 2015

    Rachel, you are a true inspiration to every child in the world. Your strength, courage, dedication, and talents are undoubtedly gifts from above. Keep up the great work. 

    Yours truely, 

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    John Moore
    John Moore
    Award-winning arts journalist John Moore has recently taken a groundbreaking new position as the DCPA’s Senior Arts Journalist. With The Denver Post, he was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the US by American Theatre Magazine. He is the founder of the Denver Actors Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for local artists in medical need. John is a native of Arvada and attended Regis Jesuit High School and the University of Colorado at Boulder. Follow him on Twitter @moorejohn.

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