2014 True West Award: Emma Messenger

by John Moore | Dec 08, 2014
True_West_Awards_EMMA MESSENGER_800
Photo credit: Rachel D Graham
.

TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 AWARDS

True_West_Award_300

Emma Messenger specializes in not just playing but conquering larger-than-life characters she really has no business playing. The actress has an ageless quality, to be sure, but she’s nowhere near old enough to age-appropriately play, say, Big Mama in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Mag in The Beauty Queen of Lennane or Halie in Buried Child, all of whom are written for women in their 60s or 70s. And yet, here she is, finishing a remarkable two-year run of 10 plays during which her reputation has only grown with each successive knockout performance. 2014 brought Messenger the opportunity to take on two more delightfully perverse old nags at the Edge Theatre: The selfish and manipulative Irish ma who will stop at nothing to destroy her daughter’s only chance at happiness in Martin McDonagh’s black and brutal Lennane; and the sunnily sinister wife who – aww -- gave birth to her grandson in Sam Shepard’s American Horror Story, Buried Child. Younger – or less accomplished -- actors tend to turn massive, iconic matrons like these into pantomime villains, but Messenger manages to convey the size, scope and cruelty of her roles with intensity and restraint, rather than volume and over-gesticulation. That’s especially important at the Edge, where the edge of the stage also happens to be in the audience’s lap. Messenger, who also won a True West Award last year for her comic performance in Illumination Theatre’s Sordid Lives, can be funny, too. She is currently appearing as a pedophile-hunting vigilante (and others) in a dark holiday farce called The Lying Kind at Colorado Springs TheatreWorks (through Dec. 21). Messenger also got to originate a role this year. She played a mother in her 60s (surprise!) who is described as “an emotional maelstrom” in local playwright Jeffrey Neuman’s Exit Strategies. That won the top prize at the Edge’s new-play festival, meaning it will get a full production next December. Honestly, I don’t know where exactly Messenger came to us from back in 2012, but it was seemingly from out of the blue. (OK, her bio says she came to Denver from her native Birmingham, U.K., via Texas A&M). I just know things haven’t been the same on local stages since she got here and started shaking things up. The woman is just plain interesting in any part she plays. I just can’t wait to see her when she’s actually old enough for the parts she’s playing.

  2014 TRUE WEST AWARDS:
1: Norrell Moore
2. Kate Gleason
3. Amanda Berg Wilson and Jeremy Make
4. Ben Cowhick
5. Robert Michael Sanders
6. David Nehls
7. Adrian Egolf
8. Emma Messenger
9. Buntport's Naughty Bits
10. Tim Howard
11. Gleason Bauer
12. Daniel Traylor
13. Aisha Jackson and Jim Hogan
14. Cast of 'The Whipping Man'
15. Rick Yaconis
16. Michael R. Duran
17. Laura Norman
18. Jacquie Jo Billings
19. Megan Van De Hey
20. Jeremy Palmer
21. Henry Lowenstein   
22. Sam Gregory
23. Wendy Ishii
24. J. Michael Finley
25. Kristen Samu and Denver Actors Fund volunteers
26. Matthew D. Peters
27. Shannan Steele
28. Ludlow, 1914
29. Spring Awakening and Annapurna
30 Theatre Person of the Year Steve Wilson

ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS
The True West Awards, which began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001, are the longest-running continuously administered awards program in Colorado theater. This year, the awards have been re-conceived to simply recognize 30 award-worthy achievements in local theatre, without categories or nominations. A different honoree will be singled out each day for 30 days.

The True West Awards are administered by arts journalist John Moore, who was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since founded The Denver Actors Fund and taken a groundbreaking position as the DCPA's Senior Arts Journalist. For ethical reasons, the DCPA Theatre Company is not considered for True West Awards, which are the DCPA's celebration of the rest of the local theatre community. Moore's coverage of the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org 

4 comments

Leave a comment
  1. B Z | Dec 08, 2014
    It's about time Emma Reading Messenger got the recognition she so richly deserves. As far as her roots are concerned, I can report that in addition to acting skills so very obvious when in high school in College Station, Texas, she won first in state in poetry interpretation in the largest school division in 1984, delivering, if my memory serves, a moving version of Brecht's "On the Infanticide Marie Farrar." Quite a piece of literature for a high school senior to tackle!
  2. lynne timmington | Dec 08, 2014
    bla bla bla
  3. lynnetimmington@gmail.com | Dec 08, 2014
    All done!
  4. LYNNE TIMMINGTON | Dec 08, 2014

    Emma is my neice. I live in her 'native' origin, England and even from this distance I am awed by her growing success.

    Somehow though, it doesn't entirely surprise me. She is one of 4 siblings who are equally remarkable; an older brother who is a front runner in the world of software invention, a younger sister who is an outstanding doctor and much revered neurologist -in Austin and her 'baby' sister who is an exceptional teacher and one time winner of the coveted 'teacher of the year' title.

    Not to mention her wonderful parents, originally from Birmingham, England. 

    I am very proud aunty.

    Leave a comment

    POPULAR POSTS
     
    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.

    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.