2015 True West Award: Bernie Cardell

Bernie Cardell and Mari Geasair. Photo credit: Soular Radiant Photography
Bernie Cardell and Mari Geasair in Spotlight Theatre’s ‘The Foreigner.’ Photo credit: Soular Radiant Photography.


​Today’s recipient: Director and actor Bernie Cardell

Today’s presenter: 2013 and ’14 True West Award-winning actor
Emma Messenger

Prolific actor and director Bernie Cardell reached a milestone in 2015 with his 100th area production, making him perhaps Colorado’s most prolific deliverer of unpretentious entertainment. That means he has averaged more than seven productions every year since 2002.

Bernie Cardell.He reached the milestone in July with his starring role in The Foreigner for the Spotlight Theatre. To give you an idea of what kind of breakneck artistic pace he is on, consider that before year’s end, his overall total has already upticked to 105 with his direction of La Cage Aux Folles (Ignite Theatre), Curtains (Vintage Theatre), To Kill a Mockingbird (Spotlight Theater), The 39 Steps (Coal Creek Community Theatre in Louisville) and The 1940s Radio Hour (running through Dec. 19 at the D.L. Parsons Theatre in Northglenn). Note that his last five productions have been for five different companies.

Dude gets around.

Cardell’s selection for a 2015 True West Award was made by Guest Picker Emma Messenger, a two-time True West Award-winning actor. She believes the key to Cardell’s ongoing artistic success and employment is pure populism.

“He has a clear vision of what theatre is supposed to be at its most accessible level,” said Messenger, who won her first True West Award performing in Cardell’s Sordid Lives. “It’s a place for entertainment and escapism.”

Bernie quoteCardell reminds Messenger of the scene in Amadeus where Mozart is struggling to survive among the highbrow, elite musicians who compose for the court. “So he goes to visit his friend who runs a bawdy theater for the people,” Messenger said. Cardell is comfortable in either world, having directed the Denver Post Ovation Award-winning Best Ensembles in both Vintage Theatre’s Avenue Q and Angels in America.

Cardell’s strength as a director, Messenger said, stems from his innate ability as a comic actor. No one likes slipping, tripping, falling over couches and getting smacked in the face with doors more than Cardell does.

“He finds the joy in everything,” Messenger said. “Bernie has a natural ability to tell a story and to just know what moments are going to resonate. His sense of humor is very intelligent. And that’s something you can’t teach.”

Cardell was born in Pennsylvania and moved with his family to Las Vegas when he was 7. He studied English at the University of New Mexico, moved on to Santa Fe and then to Denver in 2001. He took up theatre at age 28 and quickly established himself as a comic actor with the E-Project in Lakewood, the precursor to today’s Edge Theatre. Since then, he has worked with a whopping 29 local theatre companies, most regularly with Spotlight (in the John Hand Theatre at Colorado Free University) and Vintage Theatre in Aurora.

And Cardell’s slate next year surely will be as full as it was this year, starting with directing Vintage’s searing family tragedy Rabbit Hole for a March opening.

See his work now: The 1940s Radio Hour
Presented by the D.L. Parsons Theatre in Northglenn through Dec. 19, in th Northglenn Recreaton Center. 303-450-8800 or www.northglenn.org


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

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