From left: Emily K. Harrison, Maggy Stacy and Mark Collins in square product theatre company's 'How I Learned to Drive.' Photo by Jun Akiyama.
2015 TRUE WEST AWARDS: 30 DAYS, 30 BOUQUETS
Today’s recipient: Actor Mark Collins
Today’s award presenter: DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore
This is the story of how a mild-mannered theatre critic put down the pen and took up the acting sword.
This year, Mark Collins established himself as among the very best actors in town by playing five challenging roles for five different local theatre companies:
- The Cripple of Inishmaan, Miners Alley Playhouse: Collins played the parasitic gossip Johnnypateenmike, who trades news for bits of food.
- A Public Reading of an Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney, The Catamounts: He played Roy Disney, a human counterpoint to his tyrannical brother, Walt.
- Jerusalem, The Edge Theatre: He played Wesley, a drug-addicted British pub owner with a likeable veneer.
- Driving Miss Daisy: Cherry Creek Theatre: He played the iconic Miss Daisy’s Southern son, Boolie Werthan
- How I Learned to Drive, square product theatre company: Collins was an authoritative Uncle Peck, a disturbingly comprehensible child molester.
That the above would turn out to be Collins’ acting slate for 2015 might have seemed incomprehensible just a few years ago.
For 10 years, Collins was one of the leading critical voices in the Denver/Boulder theater community, combining a compassionate eye for the art of making theater with an opinion backed by a master’s degree. As a contributor to the Boulder Daily Camera, Collins was always understated and well-informed.
Then in April 2012, after more than 700 reviews, Collins did something extraordinary: He walked way from the Daily Camera to pursue acting. Not that he wasn't trained for the switch. Collins majorly disproves the stubborn and almost always ill-informed cliché that those who can’t act … or direct … or write plays … become critics. Collins earned his BFA in acting at the University of Colorado and his MFA from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro.
Just three short years after leaving journalism behind, critics are describing Collins’ acting in much the same way his former readers described his critical analyses: Understated and well-informed.
Bill Wheeler, for example, found Collins’ submissive performance in Walt Disney to be "a gem." Beki Pineda credited Collins for turning a minor role into an important one. "His versatility continues to astound,” she wrote.
In his 2012 farewell essay for the Daily Camera, Collins asserted that "it is a critic's utmost responsibility to be honest about what he thinks when he's writing for readers who are potential ticket-buyers.” Well, his present successor at the Daily Camera, A.H. Goldstein, must have been honestly blown away by Collins’ performance in How I Learned to Drive. “Collins' success at fusing villainy with charm and sympathy is unnerving,” Goldstein wrote. Joanne Ostrow of The Denver Post called Collins “smooth, seductive and almost irresistible” in the role.
On top of all that, Collins also works with local companies as a dialect coach.
In a 2012 interview with CultureWest.Org, Collins said he quickly learned not to miss his old life after leaving the Daily Camera. It wasn’t that he felt a burden had been lifted, per se. “This just fits me better,” he said.
Collins next appears as Aegeus in Medea, starring Karen Slack, at The Edge Theatre. It opens Jan. 15.
Mark Collins as the starving Irish gossip Johnnypateenmike in 'The Cripple of Inishmaan.' Photo courtesy Miners Alley Playhouse.
ABOUT THE TRUE WEST AWARDS THE 2015 TRUE WEST AWARDS TO DATE
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
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