2015 True West Award: Shauna Johnson

Shauna Johnson True West Awards Candlelight Dinner Playhouse
Photo by Rachel D. Graham of RDGPhotography.


​Today’s recipient: Shauna Johnson
Technical Manager, Candlelight Dinner Playhouse

Today’s presenter: Jalyn Courtenay Webb
Managing Director, Midtown Arts Center

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In a field dominated by men, Shauna Johnson manages all the moving parts at Colorado’s largest dinner theatre. This year, that included making rain fall and a car fly at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse in Johnstown, located about 45 miles north of Denver.

Johnson has the unusual title of “Technical Manager,” which at Candlelight means overseeing all technical elements and all backstage personnel including crew, electricians, carpenters, set builders and painters.

“She is pretty much the unsung hero at one of the largest theatres in Colorado,” said Jalyn Courtenay Webb, Managing Director of the Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins and today’s True West Awards guest picker. “It’s especially impressive that she has succeeded as a female in such a typically male field. It is so cool to see a woman doing technical theatre with such passion and integrity. She does beautiful work. And she is really able to command a great deal of respect from anyone who walks into that building.”

Shauna Johnson quoteJohnson has been with Candlelight since Loveland construction magnate Dave Clark opened the 380-seat, $6.2 million dinner theatre in 2008.

Every technical challenge at Candlelight becomes a Johnson opportunity, Webb said. And this year, Candlelight scheduled two Herculean opportunities in the form of stage adaptations of Singin’ in the Rain and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. She and her team made it safely pour on stage and not on patrons’ desserts as Bob Hoppe reanimated the famous Gene Kelley dance sequence where he sings, spins an umbrella, splashes and gets soaked to the skin. Then Johnson solved how to elevate a 1920s-era racing car and move it up, down, left and right. The year also has included stagings of West Side Story and A Christmas Carol, which plays through Dec. 31.

Johnson is known as a tenacious problem-solver. Tasked years ago with building the set for a Front Range Music Theatre production of Beauty and the Beast without a place to, you know, build it, she simply took over her parents’ front lawn.

a Shauna Johnson 300Johnson, who graduated from Loveland High School and the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, comes from a performing family. Mother Judy is a piano teacher, brother Craig is a singer and brother Neal is the Technical Director at the Union Colony Civic Center in Greeley.

The Colorado theatre community mourned with the Johnson family in February 2013 when Shauna’s sister Angela, a well-loved Northern Colorado stage performer, died in her sleep at age 34.

Webb says everything Shauna does in theatre is a way of remembering and honoring her older sister. Starting with running her own theatre operations with integrity. In her spare time, Johnson does volunteer work for various nonprofits like A Dream is a Wish. Johnson offers her technical skills at fundraising event so the foundation can make it possible for children with life-threatening illnesses to participate in live theatre.

“As someone who has spent my whole life in the theatre, to get to the point where you know you are going to be safe when you walk in the door is no small thing,” Webb said. “The team at Candlelight is in good hands with Shauna. I would trust her with anything.”

(Photo above and right: Shauna Johnson led the team that had Bob Hoppe ‘Singin’ in  the Rain’ at the Candlelight Dinner Playhouse earlier this year. Photo by Rachel D. Graham of RDGPhotography.)


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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