Actor John Hutton takes final Denver bow on Sunday

by John Moore | Apr 26, 2014

In this fall 2013 video interview, John Hutton states: "I¹ve grown up here. And if I¹ve learned anything, I¹ve learned how to act here. When I left New York, this is what I was looking for."

A significant era in the history of the Denver Center Theatre Company comes to an end on Sunday when Shadowlands closes. Actor John Hutton, who first came to the Denver Center in 1986, has decided to move on from Denver and focus his efforts on the New York stage.

Hutton returned to the Denver Center in 1991 "and I never left," he said.  In 2010, Hutton told me in an interview: "I think I've learned how to act here, Just by doing it for eight times a week for nine months at a time, for years and years. And watching people like Jamie Horton, Archie Smith, Tony Church and all these people who show you the way."



John Hutton with Annette Bening in a 1986 Denver Center Theatre Company production.


Hutton released the following statement: 

I am so grateful to the Denver Center Theatre Company for the remarkable opportunities I've been given over the years -- as a young actor more than two decades ago, to the more recent opportunities as I approach 60, and all the years and roles in between. This has been an amazing period of my life. This much fun should not be legal. I have said that if I know anything about acting, I learned it in the rehearsal studios of the Tramway Building and on the stages of the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex. And as I prepare to leave Denver I know that is true.

I am so grateful to my colleagues past and present in all the various departments. We have made plays together, and we are friends.

I am so grateful to the patrons of The Denver Center Theatre Company who for 22 years have applauded my successes and forgiven my failures. What more can an actor ask of his audience?"

Denver Center Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson called Hutton "a remarkable actor—very talented, deeply experienced, versatile, committed to the company, and a consummate professional. 

"We’ve been blessed to have him as an actor in our resident company at the Theatre Company for so many years. And I wish him the best in the next chapter of his adventure," Thompson added.

Sam Gregory, Hutton's castmate in dozens of Denver Center productions, said, "Could you add that I have always felt John was the strongest actor in the company? That he has been a role model for me for 20 years? And that I am so sorry I won't be able to work with him next season? I am going to miss him terribly."



John Hutton in "Grace, Or The Art of Climbing."



Hutton called his decision "melancholy and complex," but that it came down to "a desire to try something new."

Here are excerpts from a profile story I wrote for The Denver Post in 2010:

He's got the voice of kings — and acting in his bones.

To many, John Hutton is the walking anatomy of the consummate actor.

He's been prowling local stages as a member of the Denver Center Theatre Company for 20 years, longer than anyone but Kathleen Brady. He's performed a one-man play for Curious Theatre, and he took on the  monumental challenge of playing petulant old King Lear for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival just three months after inducing shivers as a disturbingly ambivalent Iago in "Othello."

Perhaps because he more often plays cads than champs, audiences don't much know the real Hutton. They know his parts. As in his more than 50 roles here — and those individual acting attributes that, cobbled together, make for one lean and mean acting monster.

Hutton's peers point to various areas of the body and mind. Physically, they talk about his steely eyes, that perpetually furrowed brow, his listening ear, his lithe lankiness and of course, that distinctive voice — the regal one that instantly transports listeners to Elizabethan times, often depositing them on their heels.

More intangibly, they speak of his endurance, subtlety and groundedness. Former DCTC bedrock Jamie Horton, now a professor at Dartmouth, cites "an unflagging dedication to craft."

To his boss, it's all about authenticity.

"John brings a grounded emotional truth to everything — from high-verse drama to contemporary plays," said DCTC artistic director Kent Thompson. "His compassionate humanity shines through."

Hutton's just happy to have the work.

"I have one of the best acting jobs in the country," said Hutton.

That's all the due he needs.

When Hutton played Lear, he saw in his character a king who's ultimately ready to die because he's learned everything he has to learn. Hutton could relate.

"I have worked very hard and invested everything I have in it," he said of both his Lear, and his acting life. "So if I kick off tomorrow? Well, then — at least somebody saw it."

Three steps in the evolutionary acting chain


Hutton points to three roles that best demonstrate his anatomical acting evolution: In "Racing Demon" (1997), "Plainsong" (2008) and, most recently, in Othello (2010).

In David Hare's "Racing Demon," Hutton played an Anglican minister who's less interested in praying than in helping people get their food stamps, which gets him bounced by the local bishop.

"I honestly think that marked my acceptance in the company," said Hutton, who had already been here for six years. "I think that's when people finally were like, 'OK, he belongs here.' "

In "Plainsong," Eric Schmiedl's adaptation of Kent Haruf's best-seller, Hutton played stoic single father Tom Guthrie, a role that largely required him to directly address the audience.

"Tom was not an expressive guy, so that was a real acting lesson in understanding how little acting is sometimes required," he said. "There was this sense of, 'I've got the boots on, and the black hat and Haruf's words — and that's all I need.' "

Then there was his poisonous Iago. What made Hutton's performance so unnerving was its casualness. As if Iago were a blank, bored slate who played with people's lives just because he could.

"I think Iago is just fascinated by human behavior, and I think he gets this deep joy and pleasure in knowing that he can get people to do exactly what he wants them to do," Hutton said. "Iago is very much a sociopath with psychopathic tendencies. Shakespeare didn't know anything about those terms — but he certainly wrote him that way."



John Hutton in "Absurd Person Singular."



Hutton's friends weigh in

Among his colleagues' favorite Hutton performances (Note: This story was written in 2010):

Kent Thompson: The Duke in "Measure for Measure," 2006: "Because John embraced, without question, the good and the not-so-good qualities of the character. In John's hands, the Duke became a brave, funny, naïve, giddy, inept and nervous-making politician and aristocrat — perfectly suited to the moral and dramatic ambiguities of the play."

Director Nagle Jackson: Long John Silver in "Treasure Island," 1998: "I will never forget his physical endurance. In order to accommodate a peg leg, he had to tie up one leg at the knee, attach the peg and hobble about up and down ships' ladders. He also adopted a parrot for a few months before we began rehearsals in order to 'bond' with the bird so that it would ride on his shoulder — and it did. This was all way above and beyond the call of duty. . . . And he didn't say 'Aaarh aaarh' even once."

Chip Walton, Curious Theatre Artistic Director: Samuel Gentle, Curious Theatre's "An Almost Holy Picture," 2002: "First, it was a transcendent performance of such a delicate character — a one-man tour-de-force that only an actor of John's talent could pull off. But it was also an incredible risk at that time for him to 'cross the street' from the Denver Center and work for a small, grassroots company like ours."

Actor Rachel Fowler: Captain Keller, "The Miracle Worker," 2008: "That was my favorite performance, for sentimental reasons. It was a joy to work with him, to be so silly and so quietly emotional and full of love. I still think it was some of his most subtle work. John is present and available to anyone on stage with him - that is what makes him a terrific actor, both to watch and work with. He listens, and responds, and is very open."

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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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