2016 True West Award: Jason Sherwood

True West Award. The Coffin. Frankenstein. Jason Sherwood


Day 10: Jason Sherwood

     Scenic Designer, DCPA Theatre Company’s Frankenstein

When the audience walked into the Stage Theatre before Frankenstein even began, they could see it: An enormous mud floor with a big, open grave dug into the middle of it. And in the epic opening moment of the play, a massive wooden coffin as big as a house is hoisted out from the ground and rises slowly to reveal the mad scientist’s newly animated Creature standing underneath it, dazed from the first stages of embryonic consciousness.

“It said to the audience from the very beginning that is an unnatural act to pull this thing out of the ground,” said Frankenstein Director Sam Buntrock.

This “thing” – a monster of its own kind created from the imagination of groundbreaking Scenic Designer Jason Sherwood – would serve as Ground Zero for the alchemy of life, death and re-birth in Mary Shelley’s decidedly unnatural world where the roles of God and man, creator and creature are blended into a kind of operatic chaos.

Frankenstein video: The coffin in the scene shop:


This monstrous coffin, a wooden amalgam of many disparate parts, was playfully hyperbolized not only to toy with the audience’s perspective, but more literally because it represented 10 coffins – one for each of the corpses from whom The Creature was assembled.  

Frankenstein Coffin. True West AwardsAnd it never left the audience’s sight. When the action moved, the coffin morphed with it, serving as an ingenious projection screen with complimentary effects designed by Charlie I. Miller and lighting designer Brian Tovar.

Breathing life into the Frankenstein set: ‘It’s alive!’

“So when The Creature goes into the woods, the coffin grows greenery, and moss attaches to it,” Buntrock said. “When he sets fire to the cabin, it burns, too. And when we go to the Alps, which is where the central scene in the play takes place, the coffin becomes the Alps.” In a stunning transformation, the coffin comes down from above and the climactic fight between the two men occurs on top of it. “And in the end, it engulfs them,” Buntrock said.

“This served not only as a constant reminder of Victor’s act of obscene creation, but also of the death dance that it locked the two main characters into.”

Frankenstein video: The coffin on the stage:


It was breathtaking – a set piece worthy of its own curtain bow. And it was just one innovative way Sherwood played with perspective. For example, when The Creature murders Frankenstein’s 6-year-old brother and leaves him in a small boat, Sherwood did not just have the boat float up to the doctor with a little body inside that an audience would not have been able to see. Sherwood instead had the boat shoot up vertically from below like a tectonic plate, allowing us to fully see the wee corpse at the same time Frankenstein does.

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

“Jason’s scenic design for Frankenstein was audacious in its simplicity, eschewing naturalism to allow a continuous and uninterrupted flow of action,” said Buntrock. Sherwood created fire, rain and snow. He was not safe, timid or even slightly subtle. “No, this was life and death. Big and bold,” said Buntrock.

Just like Shelley’s gothic masterpiece.



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

Frankenstein. Jason Sherwood. Mark Junek. Adams VisCom‘Frankenstein,’ designed by Jason Sherwood and featuring Mark Junek, above, who alternated with Sullivan Jones playing Frankenstein and The Creature. Photo by  Adams VisCom.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *