2014 True West Award: Daniel Traylor




I think of myself as a “phriend of the Phamaly.” I have a plaque on my wall from Denver’s professional handicapped theatre company saying as much. But I don’t think I got there as a theatre critic by being patronizing or easy. I’ve watched Daniel Traylor, son of Phamaly co-founder Kathleen Traylor, grow up over 16 productions with this singular company that casts only actors with disabilities. Even in his early teens, it was obvious young Daniel didn’t just want the opportunity to be an actor. He wanted to “be an actor.” So he worked. He attended Denver School of the Arts, and then the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Los Angeles. Along the way, he has had no shortage of roles with Phamaly both weighty and fanciful: Merrick in The Elephant Man. Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors. Buddy in The Diviners. Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast. And why not? Traylor, who is hard of hearing and has both arthritis and hip dysplasia, is a triple-threat who can sing, act and dance. But as he kept garnering plum roles and critical raves, I was the bad guy who couldn’t help feeling that it was too much, too soon – and not yet fully deserved. He was blustering his way through his roles like a tornado with a passion and angst not every situation called for. Many times I would sit in a theatre and silently root for him to “bring it down, bring it down.” Actors will tell you that subtlety is a virtue – and emoting is a tool that should be carefully chosen. But one of the many privileges of covering local theatre over time is getting to see artists grow. Too many local actors work on their craft only by performing on the stage. Traylor has continued to work on his craft both on the stage and in the classroom … and it showed in 2014. Now in his mid-20s, Traylor has matured into a layered actor. He started the year playing the narrator Tom in The Glass Menagerie, which got my attention when Denver Theatre Examiner Deb Flomberg said Traylor “brought wisdom far beyond his years.” He then won a spot in Denver Center Theatre Academy Head of Acting Larry Hecht’s difficult Master Class Project, a musical revue inspired by the songs of Stephen Sondheim and the art of Edward Hopper. And then came word that he had won the title role in Phamaly’s encore staging of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the DCPA. Now, Phamaly’s Joseph is no ordinary Joseph. The 2005 production, set in a mental institution, was one of the seminal productions in Phamaly history, showing audiences how much more powerful a lighthearted musical can be when performed by actors who are disabled or otherwise considered different. And not only was Traylor following in the footsteps of award-winning 2005 star Jeremy Palmer, his predecessor would be dancing, oh, about seven brothers over his shoulder. But Traylor did something remarkable with the role. He turned Joseph from a trifle into a masterpiece. And he did it by playing Joseph as no less than Cervantes in The Man of La Mancha. His Joseph was also a prisoner who helped his fellow inmates to wile away their soul-crushing days by escaping into the world of storytelling. Traylor provided moments of pure exhilaration as Joseph, but there was also a world of thoughtful, meaningful sadness behind his eyes. This time, Traylor went large by going small. He’s a new man. And next year, audiences will get to see him as far away as Japan. Traylor will be playing Matt in The Fantasticks for Phamaly at the Aurora Fox (Jan. 29-Feb. 15) and the Arvada Center (Feb. 27-March 1) before traveling to Osaka for performances and workshops there.

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 daily coverage of the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

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