2016 True West Award: Jada Suzanne Dixon

Jada Suzanne Dixon True West Award


Day 1: Jada Suzanne Dixon

2016 may have the most been the most volatile year in a tense and divided America since 1968. More than 1,000 people have been killed by police, and more than 130 police have been killed in the line of duty. During a hotly contested presidential election, Donald Trump brazenly called Hillary Clinton a bigot. Clinton brazenly retorted that Trump was normalizing white nationalism. “Black Lives Matter” became not only a movement – but a flash point. People aren’t just talking about race and politics. They’re shouting about race and politics.

Live theatre can be a refuge from the din because, for 90 minutes at least, audiences have no choice but to listen, if not hear. But theatre is also, by the necessities of long-term scheduling, often a year or two behind the national conversation.
Jada Suzanne Dixon True West Award
Not in 2016.

As protests spilled onto America’s streets over race and politics, plays about race and politics spilled onto many of our local stages. And smack in the middle of two was Jada Suzanne Dixon, who took on incendiary roles in two incendiary plays that spoke with uncommon urgency to our volatile national problem that permeated the entire election season.

Dixon (formerly Roberts) played the only black character in Curious Theatre’s White Guy on the Bus. Bruce Graham’s literary Molotov cocktail essentially ridicules white people for the ultra-P.C. ways in which they talk about race. Until the main character’s wife, an educator, is brutally murdered. He then sweetly preys on Dixon’s character, Shatique, a struggling stand-up single mother, for her help in exacting his revenge.

Dixon was a revelation. Westword’s Juliet Wittman wrote: “Jada Dixon, sitting in shadow during the evening’s final moments, commands your attention. You see it all on her face – Shatique’s weariness, rage and pain; her intense and terrible loneliness – and can only wonder at the courage it takes to reveal such emotional depths.”

Dixon then dove head-first into the other end of the American cesspool in Local Theater Company’s world-premiere of Meridith Friedman’s The Firestorm. Here she played a  highly successful lawyer and wife of a white man on the verge of becoming governor. But when a scandal hits, the power couple begins to fracture. It’s very Clintonesque, only with additional and uncomfortable racial undertones that call into question the interracial couple’s motivations for marrying in the first place.

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Dixon, Denver-raised and NYU-trained, has been a powerful if sadly intermittent  presence on Denver stages for 20 years. In 2016, she morphed before our eyes from a poor and powerless woman facing an impossible dilemma into a poised and privileged political partner. (And opposite two of Denver’s most formidable leading men in Sam Gregory and Tim McCracken.)

At a time when our country is facing such divisiveness in regard to race, power, politics and unseemly human behavior, there was no better time for a strong woman of color not only to emerge on the stage, but to allow audiences to discover – and consider – two strong and very different women of color.


Jada Suzanne Dixon/At a glance:

  • High School: Bishop Machebeuf Catholic High School
  • College: New York University, Tisch
  • Additional training: Harvard – American Repertory Theatre
  • Artistic Company Member, Curious Theatre Company
  • Denver Center tie: She was in the cast of the DCPA Theatre Company’s black odyssey


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

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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