2014 True West Award: Buntport Theater's 'Naughty Bits'




Making sense of what the local media had to say about new-play development this year was a bit of a head-scratcher. One day, the abundance of new-play festivals (such as the Edge, Athena, Local Lab and Colorado New Play Summit) was being celebrated. The next, someone was making it sound as if area playwrights can’t get a word in on a local stage without waving their naughty bits from the top of Pikes Peak. (For the record, nearly 40 new plays were staged here in 2014, furthering the state’s actual reputation as a friendly, fertile home for new works.) But the really curious part about all that new-play talk was that none of it even mentioned the LIDA Project or Buntport Theater – two impossibly forgotten companies with 36 years between them producing pretty much nothing but new works. Seriously, how can you not include Buntport’s 30-plus wholly original collaborations in any legit conversation about local new-play development? For a while, I half-expected the Buntport Five to send up a flare. (“Remember us?”) The irony, of course, is that over the years, the local media (including me) have gleefully engaged in verbal death matches trying to outpraise each other when it comes to Buntport. And why not? Kafka – on ice? Tommy Lee Jones – on strings? Hamlet – with goldfish and sock puppets? A human klepto bunny magician? When it comes to being smart, accessible and authentic, Buntport simply has no peer. 2014 brought the true tale of a cross-dressing bank robber (Peggy Jo and the Desolate Nothing) and Naughty Bits — by far the most interesting new script of 2014.* It followed three time-twining stories with one common character: A marble statue of Hercules, and his famously missing member. You know the one: It was unearthed in the late 1700s and restored … all except for that one absent appendage. We meet a blithe, 1920s Jazz Age couple who acquire the statue when they move into an English manor. We attend a lecture by an adorably enthusiastic 1950s art historian. We listen in on a cynical present-day romance novelist who has been (bleep)-blocked by writer’s block. (Try hard — it rhymes). And we hear a lot of phallus entendres. (A LOT!). Brian Colonna, Erik Edborg, Hannah Duggan, Erin Rollman and SamAnTha Schmitz write, direct, build and shower communally. (That joke just never gets old.) And because they keep their doors open the rest of the week with movie nights, comically absurd pop-culture debates, children’s theatre, rentals and serial silliness (like a current three-part live mini-series called The Unauthorized Story of a Fictional Television Show), the Buntporters are all fully self-employed artists – an absolute anomaly in our local theatre community. One to be emulated, celebrated and – most definitely – talked about. 

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

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 evident ethical reasons, the DCPA Theatre Company is not considered for True West Awards, which are instead intended as the DCPA’s celebration of the local theatre community.

Moore’s coverage of the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

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