2015 True West Award: Sesugh Solomon Tor-Agbidye

by John Moore | Dec 13, 2015

Photo by Joe Hovorka.


2015 TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS

​Today’s recipient:
Sesugh Solomon Tor-Agbidye,
OpenStage's Superior Donuts

Today’s presenter: 2014 True West Award winner Wendy Ishii, 
Founding Artistic Director of Bas Bleu Theatre Company


“Unlikely.”

That’s how critics largely responded to Superior Donuts, Tracy Letts’ follow-up to his Pulitzer Prize-winning August: Osage County. It’s about the, yes, unlikely friendship between an aging Vietnam draft dodger and the quippy 21-year old African-American man he hires to help run his ransacked doughnut shop in a sketchy part of Chicago’s North Side.

But far more unlikely is the story of the youngster who starred as the impossibly energetic and loquacious young Franco Wicks in OpenStage Theatre Company’s staging of the play in Fort Collins.

His name is Sesugh Solomon Tor-Agbidye, and those who saw him may have had a tough time believing this was the college student’s first role in a theatrical production.

Wendy Ishii Quote. Sesugh Solomon Tor-Agbidye. “He just lit up the stage every time he appeared,” said Wendy Ishii, today’s 2015 True West Awards Guest Picker. Ishii won a 2014 True West Award for her work in the one-woman play The Year of Magical Thinking, and in 2008 she was named Colorado Theatre Person of the Year.  

She was fully taken with Solomon’s stage presence and sense of immediacy. “He was so in the moment for every beat of that play,” Ishii said. "His entire performance was deeply layered, touching, poignant and very, very funny."

But what really impressed her was the generous way in which he simply listened to co-star Charlie Ferrie.

“Effective listening is a technique you rarely see fully developed by beginning actors because they are so concerned with everything else around them, like getting to the next line or just getting the words out right,” she said.

Ishii said she was won over during the second act of the play, directed by Emelie Borello, when Solomon performed what she called a "wonderful, subtle gesture."

"He did not say a word, but it spoke volumes to me,” she said.

It happened right after the old hippie finished reading a draft of Franco’s novel. It was a vulnerable, wordless moment for Solomon's character. “Solomon did an almost infinitesimal gesture with his right hand that managed to convey a depth of excitement, pride and vulnerability," Ishii said. "It was a silent, tender moment that spoke volumes, and it took my breath away. It could have been on par with Hamlet’s ‘To Be Or Not To Be’ speech in terms of the impact it had to me. I will remember it for the rest of my life.”

She’ll also remember the thunderous applause that followed the performance. “Seeing this young actor's sheer exuberance and ebullience and delight during the curtain call was worth the price of admission alone," Ishii said. “You could tell he wanted to be on that stage more than any other place in the world.

"When I looked in the program after the show and saw that this was the first time he has done this, I thought, 'How in the world did he pull this off?’ He’s just so ripe.” 

This magnetic stage newcomer moved to Colorado from Nigeria with his family when Solomon was just 5. The name means “Thanks be to God,” and Solomon has a lot to be thankful for. He attends Colorado State University and is pursuing a degree in anthropology, with minors in economics and geography. He has been writing poetry since he was 8 and has performed throughout Colorado as hip-hop artist (see video below).

Solomon says his love of words birthed his passion for performance, and Superior Donuts has birthed a new vision for his future - one that now includes pursuing acting, modeling and music “with a furious focus and intensity.” He’d also like to work in graduate school at the University of London to study Materials and Design Anthropology.

“At heart I am an entrepreneur, yet on the world's stage, I am a performer,” he said.


Sesugh Solomon Tor-Agbidye's music video.


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 — along with 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
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

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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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