2016 True West Award: Charles R. MacLeod

True West Charles MacLeod



Day 14: Lighting Designer Charles R. MacLeod

                         Presented by Director Geoffrey Kent

Charles R. MacLeod has been the DCPA Theatre Company’s resident lighting designer for 34 seasons, but 2016 offered new challenges and new spaces. He created the lighting effects for the epic political drama All the Way in the Stage Theatre. He achieved a dreamy new look for The Glass Menagerie in the Ricketson Theatre. And like The Almighty Himself, he created light for the cabaret comedy An Act of God at the Garner-Galleria Theatre. All big, but manageable challenges for the easygoing Aurora native.

Charles MacLeod Quote But then there was Sweet & Lucky, Off-Center’s deep-dive into off-site adventure theatre. Off-Center is home to the DCPA’s more adventurous homegrown programming. Sweet & Lucky was the largest physical undertaking in the Denver Center’s nearly 40-year history – a peripatetic tale that took place in a 16,000-square-foot converted warehouse on Brighton Boulevard.

And just how big is 16,000 square feet? Big enough to hold five Space Theatres.

“This was a massive undertaking unlike anything we have ever attempted here before at the DCPA,” MacLeod said.

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

The story, created in collaboration with Brooklyn’s Third Rail Projects, was a treatise on memory set in a speakeasy antique shop. Audiences were greeted with a cocktail, then led to a funeral in the rain. As they travelled from room to room, from a swimming hole to a drive-in theatre and beyond, they were really venturing into a labyrinth of unreliable fragments of time.

True West Charles MacLeod All the WayIt was MacLeod’s job to help create an ethereal and yet nostalgic and somehow familiar world with his lighting, working in close concert with an accomplished creative team that included Lisa Orzolek’s magnificent scenic design, Meghan Anderson Doyle’s costumes, Sean Hagerty’s sound and Charlie I. Miller’s video. The show was written, choreographed and directed by Colorado native Zach Morris and performed by an almost entirely local cast.

MacLeod then infused The Glass Menagerie with a modern visual twist: The stage floor was made up of 81 milky tiles on top of individually lit boxes. The effect made the claustrophobic Wingfield living room feel suspended in air, as if floating like a cloud. But MacLeod’s crowning achievement had to be his lighting of the titular menagerie itself. In most other stagings of the play, Laura’s precious glass figurines are often small and sequestered to a stationary table. “Our menagerie was pretty unconventional,” MacLeod said. “It was made up of nearly 30 individually suspended glass pieces that Laura could walk in and out of as if surrounded by a floating cloud of memory.”

 True West Charles MacLeod MacLeod also took pains to ensure that not a single set piece cast a shadow of any kind, heightening the sense that the story was playing out in an unreliable reality.

“Charles is just so (bleeping) good. I love him for his whole body of work,” said Geoffrey Kent, who put MacLeod’s name up for True West Award consideration. And it’s a big body of work, encompassing more than 310 productions since MacLeod was named the DCPA’s resident lighting designer in 1987. Kent is the director of his most recent (and ongoing) effort, An Act of God a clever comedy in which God returns to Earth to set the record straight about what he really meant when He laid down His often misinterpreted Ten Commandments.

Art and Artist: A profile of Charles MacLeod

True West Charles MacLeod Kent said he especially appreciates MacLeod’s acumen and humor during “tech rehearsals,” which are important but tedious exercises in fine-tuning every last technical detail of a production.

“Charles makes tech better for everyone,” Kent said. “He has the unparalleled combination of skillful eye, dedication to minutiae and a razor-sharp wit that keeps the room positive and active. He’s the first to arrive and the last to leave, and he fixes problems before I’ve even seen them.” 

Photos, from top: All the Way (Photo by Adams VisCom); Charles R. MacLeod makes for an illuminating presenter at the 2015 Bobby G Awards (Photo by John Moore); The Glass Menagerie (Photo by Adams VisCom).

Video bonus: An inside look at the making of The Glass Menagerie

The True West Awards, now in their 16th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. 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 2016 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S by American Theatre Magazine in 2011. He has since taken a groundbreaking position as the Denver Center’s Senior Arts Journalist. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org


Day 1: Jada Suzanne Dixon
Day 2: Robert Michael Sanders
Day 3: After Orlando
Day 4: Michael Morgan
Day 5: Beth Beyer
Day 6: Patrick Elkins-Zeglarski
Day 7: donnie l. betts
Day 8: Night of the Living Dead
Day 9: The Killer Kids of Miscast
Day 10: Jason Sherwood
Day 11: Leslie O’Carroll and Steve Wilson
Day 12: Jonathan Scott-McKean
Day 13: Jake Mendes
Day 14: Charles R. MacLeod
Day 15: Patty Yaconis
Day 16: Daniel Langhoff
Day 17: Colorado Shakespeare Festival costumers
Day 18: Miriam Suzanne
Day 19: Yolanda Ortega
Day 20: Diana Ben-Kiki
Day 21: Jeff Neuman
Day 22: Gabriella Cavallero
Day 23: Matthew Campbell
Day 24: Sharon Kay White
Day 25: John Hauser
Day 26: Lon Winston
Day 27: Jason Ducat
Day 28: Sam Gregory
Day 29: Warren Sherrill
Day 30: The Women Who Run Theatre in Boulder
Theatre Person of the Year Billie McBride

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