• 2017 True West Award: Olyvia Sydelle and Joanie Brosseau

    by John Moore | Dec 04, 2017
    True West Award BDT Stage. Photo by Glenn Ross


    Day 4: Olyvia Sydelle and Joanie Brosseau

    Rock of Ages
    BDT Stage

    Anyone who has attended a show at Boulder's BDT Stage in the past two decades would have gotten a kick out of the clever casting twist this year in Rock of Ages.

    First, there was fresh-faced Olyvia Sydelle as Sherrie (thank you, Journey) in this unapologetically silly musical homage to big-hair 1980s rock bands. In the story, fresh-off-the-farm Sherrie quickly falls on hard times after arriving in L.A. to pursue her dreams. Broke, doe-eyed and desperate, Sherrie ends up at a strip club where she encounters a modern-day Mother Courage. (Go with me on this.) Justice Charlier, owner of the Venus Club, takes Sherrie undOlyvia Sydelle Rock of Ages. Photo by Glenn Rosser her wing and puts her to work as a stripper. It's all a tough-love, mildly exploitative excuse to hear the two power balladeers riff out a medley of Quarterflash's Harden My Heart and Pat Benatar's Shadows of the Night

    OK, so it's not exactly Brecht. But here's the punchline: Cast as Justice was the adored and adorable BDT Stage veteran Joanie Brosseau, who happens to be Sydelle's real-life mother. Blonde-to-the-bone Brosseau will never be mistaken for Mary J. Blige, who played the role in the 2012 film — but it worked for Boulder.

    You gotta admit: It's funny: Watching a mother encouraging her daughter to toughen up and take her clothes off for leering men? (Oh my goodness, I just realized — Rock of Ages is a total rip-off of Gypsy!) No wonder there was such obvious chemistry between the two.

    Furthering the bloodlines: The man responsible for this clever casting twist was Director Scott Beyette, who happens to be Sydelle's father — and Brosseau's ex-husband.

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    OutFront theatre critic Addison Herron-Wheeler said the BDT production lived up to the Broadway hype, and that Sydelle "definitely stole the show. She is gorgeous, and has an intense belt that meshed incredibly well with all the songs she sung." Beki Pineda of GetBoulder.com concurred that "Sydelle knocks it out of the ballpark as the naive girl who becomes disillusioned by the world she enters but never loses her sweetness."

    Olyvia Sydelle: At a glance

    As the daughter of two longtime Boulder actors, Olyvia Sydelle has grown up in front of BDT audiences, first playing child roles such as Liesl in The Sound of Music, and now as a grown-up in shows like Rock of Ages. She graduated from Standley Lake High School in Westminster and studied psychology at the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.

    Joanie Brosseau: At a glance
    Joanie has appeared in dozens of productions on the BDT stage over the past 21 years. She attended Heritage High School. Favorite roles include Evita (Eva Peron), Peter Pan (Peter), Chicago (Roxie Hart), Sweet Charity (Charity Hope Valentine), Little Shop of Horrors (Audrey) and Thoroughly Modern Millie (Mrs. Meers). She has also performed at The Arvada Center, Candlelight Dinner Playhouse, Lone Tree Arts Center, PACE Center, Country Dinner Playhouse and Heritage Square Opera House.

    Read more: At 40 BDT Stage celebrates its just desserts

    The True West Awards, now in their 17th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. 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 2017 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. 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. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

    A look back at the history of the True West Awards

    The 2017 True West Awards

  • Meet the cast: Kim Staunton of 'Two Degrees'

    by John Moore | Feb 10, 2017
    Kim Staunton Quote. Two Degrees


    Senator Louise Allen in Two Degrees

    At the Theatre Company: black odyssey, Fences, To Kill A Mockingbird, Ruined, A Raisin in the Sun, Radio Golf, Doubt, Gem of the Ocean, A Selfish Sacrifice, The Madwoman, Streetcar Named Desire, King Hedley II, Pork Pie, many more. Other theatres: Indiana Rep, Milwaukee Rep, Arizona Theater Company, South Coast Rep, Seattle Rep, Lake Dillon Theatre, Syracuse Stage, Berkeley Rep, Colorado Shakespeare. TV/Film: First Sunday, Changing Lanes, Heat, Holy Man, “Army Wives,Kim Staunton Ruined. ” “The Nine,” “Bones,” “Law and Order,” “New York Undercover.” Awards include Denver Post Ovation Awards, Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Award, Westword’s Best of Denver.

    • Hometown: Washington, DC
    • Home now: Encino, Calif.
    • Training: The Juilliard School Also trained as a Ten Chimneys Lunt-Fontanne Fellow
    • What was the role that changed your life? Playing Mama Nadi in Ruined, by Lynn Nottage, for the DCPA Theatre Company in 2011. (Photo at right. Click here to read the Denver Post review.) It was a tour-de-force, modern-day Mother Courage role that allowed me to be a conduit for important and profound storytelling. I got to tap into a character's passion, toughness, rage, vulnerability and tenderness.
    • Why are you an actor? I love the opportunity to be part of an ensemble and experience that allows me to communicate ideas and emotions through characters and imaginary circumstances that hopefully have an impact and make a difference to an audience. I also appreciate that I am able to use the theater, film and television as powerful mediums for great storytelling.
    • What would you be doing if you weren't an actor: I would be a grMeryl Streepade-school teacher. It was my dream for all my life up until ninth grade. I had to choose an elective, which ended up being drama.
    • Ideal scene partner: Meryl Streep. Besides being one of the greatest actresses on the planet, I appreciate her versatility, detail and transformation as an actress in her work.
    • Kim Staunton Quote. Two Degrees. Photo by Adams VisComWhy does Two Degrees matter? Because it's a timely story about science, grief, love, relationships, humanity, sexuality ... and women over 45! I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to contribute to this great storytelling that has such a big and important voice.
    • What do you hope the audience gets out of this play? I hope they will be provoked to think, feel and hopefully be interested and open to learning more about climate science and climate change. This is a very serious issue that is important to our world, our lives and the future of our planet.
    • Finish this sentence: "All I want is ..."
      "... a kind, inclusive, loving world."
    (Photo above and right: Kathleen McCall and Kim Staunton in 'Two Degrees.' Photo by Adams VisCom.)

    Video Bonus: Our 2014 profile of Kim Staunton

    Ticket information: Two Degrees

    Two DegreesEmma, a climate change scientist, is invited to share her findings at a Senate hearing that could define her career and her cause. But if she can’t overcome her tumultuous inner struggle, her dedication and sacrifices may not be enough. Two Degrees was developed at the 2016 Colorado New Play Summit.
    Through March 12

    Jones Theatre
    ASL and Audio-Described matinee at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, March 5
    303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE

    Previous NewsCenter coverage of Two Degrees:
    Photos, video: Your first look at Two Degrees
    Two Degrees: A telling exchange at public forum
    Tira Palmquist on Two Degrees: Grief for a husband, and a planet
    Two Degrees
    cast digs deep into Boulder ice-core research
    Two Degrees
    heats up conversation on global warming
    Two Degrees: Five things we learned at first rehearsal
    Colorado New Play Summit Spotlight: Tira Palmquist, Two Degrees
    Video: Look back at 2016 Colorado New Play Summit
    2016-17 season: Nine shows, two world premieres, return to classics

    More 2016-17 'Meet the Cast' profiles:
    Steven J. Burge, An Act of God
    Liam Craig, The Book of Will
    Aubrey Deeker, The Glass Menagerie
    Thaddeus Fitzpatrick, Frankenstein
    Meridith C. Grundei, Frankenstein
    Steven Cole Hughes, An Act of God
    Sullivan Jones, Frankenstein
    Mark Junek, Frankenstein
    Charlie Korman, Frankenstein
    Jennifer Le Blanc, The Book of Will
    Rodney Lizcano, The Book of Will
    Wesley Mann, The Book of Will
    Robert Manning Jr., The Christians

    Amelia Pedlow, The Glass Menagerie
    Jessica Robblee, Frankenstein
    Erik Sandvold, An Act of God
    John Skelley, The Glass Menagerie
    Caitlin Wise, The Christians


  • 2016 True West Award: Yolanda Ortega

    by John Moore | Dec 19, 2016
    True West Awards Yolanda Ortego. Su Teatro


    30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS

    Day 19: Actor Yolanda Ortega

    Yolanda Ortega has created unique and interesting roles on Su Teatro’s stages for 42 years. But Executive Artistic Director Anthony J. Garcia considers her work in Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me, Ultima this year to be no less than “the performance of a generation.”

    Su Teatro is Colorado's "Locally Grown, Nationally Known" Chicano theater company based in its own performing-arts complex at 721 Santa Fe Drive. Ortega revisited two epic and signature roles in 2016, both spiritual guides of a kind: Tia in the massive original musical El Sol Que Tu Eres (The Sun That You Are), and the titular Ultima in Su Teatro’s polarizing stage adaptation of Anaya's novel, the most widely read in the Chicano literary canon since its publication in 1972.

    And Ortega played them just a few months after having had a double knee reconstruction in September of 2015.

    True West Awards Yolanda Ortego. The Sun That You Are. Photo by Steven AbeytaThe Sun That You Are is Garcia’s contemporary, bilingual reimagining of the Greek Orpheus-Eurydice myth infused with Aztec traditions such as the Day of the Dead. The result is a gritty adventure complete with drug lords, sassy gringas, mysticism and ruminations on the origin of love. With Ortega by his side, Orfeo must calm trembling mountains and ride enormous turtles on an epic journey toward the story’s inevitably tragic confrontation. It was introduced in 2005 as the most ambitious undertaking in Su Teatro’s history.

    Bless Me, Ultima is Anaya’s seminal coming-of-age story in 1940s rural New Mexico that has been both banned and celebrated for daring to show a protagonist who not only struggles for his Chicano identity, but with his deeply ingrained Catholicism.

    (Pictured above and right: Yolanda Ortega and Miguel Martimen in 'The Sun That You Are.' Photo by Steven Abeyta.)

    More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

    Ortega has been an ensemble actor with Su Teatro from its earliest days, one of the theatres born of the national protest movement of the early 1970s that used storytelling as a tool for radical social justice.

    Yolanda Ortega QuoteGarcia admits the movement was initially male-centric, from playwrights to actors. But Ortega hung in there, making the most of whatever roles she could get, eventually developing into a leading lady who has since tackled some of the great roles in the canon such as Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage and Federico Lorca’s Bernarda Alba. “It is that weight and experience and importance that Yolanda brought to her portrayal of Ultima,” he said.

    "The first and most obvious impression is Ultima’s presence. Yolanda enters with great carriage. Ultima is special and blessed by a spiritual power that commands respect and attention. That might be a difficult level for a lesser actor to reach.”

    But what particularly impressed Garcia was her interactions with a 9-year-old castmate named Christopher Pettis. “They were conversational and intimate,” Garcia said, “sometimes so quiet and intense that we feel we are intruders.

    "My fellow directors from around the country who have seen Yolanda perform are always taken with her ‘economy of action.’ Because of her tremendous presence, Yolanda can make so much happen with less. She is always at the center of the play without calling any attention to herself.”

    Anthony J. Garcia: On moving from marginalized to mainstream

    Ortega studied Public Administration at the University of Colorado Denver, which led to a 32-year career with Metropolitan State University of Denver. That means she both studied and later worked on the very same Auraria campus that displaced the bulk of Denver’s Mexican-American community nearly 50 years ago.

    Su Teatro was born, in large measure, from the broken promises of that angry time, and the company has worked over the decades to reunify the Westside community with its roots there, the spiritual center of which remains St. Cajetan’s Church on the Auraria campus. Ortega was a central figure in the difficult ongoing process of healing, and while she retired in 2004 as Metro State's Vice President of Student Services, she maintains an emeritus position with the university. She is now the owner of Encantada Catering, Inc.

    Yolanda Ortega/At a glance

    • High School: Dover (Delaware)
    • Colleges: Arkansas State, Wesley College (Deleware), Arkansas State and the University of Colorado Denver
    • Radio: Co-host of Cancion Mejicana on Sunday mornings on 89.3 FM KUVO
    • Career: Vice President Emeritus of Student Services at Metropolitan State University of Denver
    • Ongoing public service:  Special events programmer for Clínica Tepeyac (health services for the underserved). Serves on the Board of Directors for Escuela Tlatelolco (Denver Public Schools' alternative education for young Latinos). She is a  Governor’s appointee to the Auraria Higher Education Center Board of Directors and she also serves on the Denver Mayor’s Commisson on Cultural Affairs and Denver Latino Commission.
    The True West Awards, now in their 16th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. 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 2016 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. 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. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org


    Day 1: Jada Suzanne Dixon
    Day 2: Robert Michael Sanders
    Day 3: After Orlando
    Day 4: Michael Morgan
    Day 5: Beth Beyer
    Day 6: Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski
    Day 7: donnie l. betts
    Day 8: Night of the Living Dead
    Day 9: The Killer Kids of Miscast
    Day 10: Jason Sherwood
    Day 11: Leslie O'Carroll and Steve Wilson
    Day 12: Jonathan Scott-McKean
    Day 13: Jake Mendes
    Day 14: Charles R. MacLeod
    Day 15: Patty Yaconis
    Day 16: Daniel Langhoff
    Day 17: Colorado Shakespeare Festival costumers
    Day 18: Miriam Suzanne
    Day 19: Yolanda Ortega
    Day 20: Diana Ben-Kiki
    Day 21: Jeff Neuman
    Day 22: Gabriella Cavallero
    Day 23: Matthew Campbell
    Day 24: Sharon Kay White
    Day 25: John Hauser
    Day 26: Lon Winston
    Day 27: Jason Ducat
    Day 28: Sam Gregory
    Day 29: Warren Sherrill
    Day 30: The Women Who Run Theatre in Boulder
    Theatre Person of the Year Billie McBride
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.

DCPA is the nation’s largest not-for-profit theatre organization dedicated to creating unforgettable shared experiences through beloved Broadway musicals, world-class plays, educational programs and inspired events. We think of theatre as a spark of life — a special occasion that’s exciting, powerful and fun. Join us today and we promise an experience you won't soon forget.