2015 True West Award: Augustus Truhn

by John Moore | Dec 22, 2015
True West Award Augustus Truhn
Photo by Rachel D. Graham/RDG Photography. 

2015 TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS

​Today’s recipient:
Augustus Truhn
The Edge Theatre's Jerusalem


Today’s award presenter:
Actor Laura Norman
2014 True West Award winner


London’s The Guardian newspaper has called Mark Rylance the greatest actor of his generation, in part because of his once-in-a-lifetime, Tony Award-winning performance as Johnny “Rooster” Byron in the West End and Broadway stagings of Jerusalem. That’s Jez Butterworth’s incendiary, 3½-hour opus that many critics have declared to be the most thrilling live performance they have ever seen.

But Rylance had two full years between his first rehearsal in London and the play’s 2011 Broadway debut. Augustus Truhn of Boulder found out he would be the first Colorado actor to play the wild man of the woods, the gypsy, the dragon, the self-destructive motorcycle stunt man, one day before rehearsals began for The Edge Theatre Company’s regional premiere in Lakewood.

One day.

JerusalemDirector Warren Sherrill turned to Truhn in desperation after the actor scheduled to play the monster role of Rooster dropped out. Performances were to begin just three weeks later. 

Jerusalem is a long, dense and bewildering trailer-park epic set in the present-day forest of southwest England. Rooster is a drug-dealing old daredevil who struts and crows about like a drunken, cocksure fowl, humoring the motley crew of young ruffians nearby who use him for his drugs and booze and endless partying. Now this blustering old braggart is refusing to abide by an eviction notice, and is instead digging in for his last stand. (Pictured at right: Clockwise from left: Ben Hilzer, Jonathan Brown, Augustus Truhn and John Hauser. Photo by Rachel D. Graham/RDG Photography.)

The trailer-trash standoff that ensues is in fact a sprawling, intellectual story rooted in everything from Shakespeare (with Rooster as both king and fool at once), to Druidic mythology to British history. The title refers to an 1804 poem by William Blake, a rebel like Rooster who imagined that Jesus, in the missing years, traveled the English countryside to establish a new Jerusalem, a place of universal love and peace.

Not that that's the kind of Promised Land Rooster has found.

Given the expanse of that challenge, you might think Truhn was being fed to the wolves – or being set up for failure. No one would have blamed him for running in the other direction. But he did not. He ran into the fire.

Truhn is a cerebral actor who has been otherwise occupied since 2010 while starting a family with his wife, the noted local actor Karen LaMoreaux (Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company's Ambition Facing West). They have twins to raise. Truhn was preparing to start grad school when Sherrill called. Truhn has not accepted a major role on a local stage since starring as Petruchio in the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s Taming of the Shrew in 2010. Until now.

“Augie has life priorities other than theatre,” said The Edge Theatre Artistic Director Rick Yaconis. “But Johnny is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and to get to do that in the Denver market would be exciting for any local actor. So when you get it – hell, yeah, you have to go for it. And Augie did.”

Westword's Juliet Wittman said Truhn succeeded in making Rooster “a true and towering original.” Laura Norman, an award-winning actor and today’s True West Awards guest picker, had never seen the actor perform before Jerusalem. She chose Truhn because, she said, "I was completely blown away. He was 100 percent inside that role, and he created one of those awesome theatre experiences where I completely forgot I was watching an actor.”

That assessment couldn’t make Yaconis any happier.

“I think very few actors in Denver could have conquered that role,” he said. “Augie conquered it.”

Rick Yaconis QuoteYaconis was most impressed that Rooster is a derelict, a foul-mouthed drug addict who sells junk to kids – “and yet somehow, he made him sympathetic,” he said of Truhn.

That he did it with such little prep time is remarkable.

“Augie is a true professional,” Yaconis said. "When he came in, you would have thought he has been working on this exclusively for the past six months."

The Edge Theatre just completed its fifth season, and the edgy nature of the programming there is helping Yaconis to attract some of the best local talent to the intimate theatre he shares with an art gallery and the Lakewood Police Department. Other cutting-edge titles there this season have included Who's Afraid of Virgnia Woolf and The Mother(bleep) with the Hat.

"People have been more excited about acting at The Edge," Yaconis said.


John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist.

Video: ​Augustus Truhn's contribution to the citywide Denver Sonnets Project.


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 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

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ABOUT THE EDITOR
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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