2016 True West Award: Jeffrey Neuman

True West Award. Jeffrey Neuman



Day 21: Playwright Jeffrey Neuman

Today’s True West Award presented by Leslie C. Lewis, Haley Johnson,
Susan Lyles and Emma Messenger

When the annual True West Awards invited the public to submit names for consideration in November, Jeffrey Neuman started popping up like popcorn. His plays have been performed on four continents, but he is beloved by the local theatre community because he’s the rare playwright who’s also a tireless community builder.

Neuman entered 2016 on a high. His new play Exit Strategies, winner of the Edge Theatre’s new-play competition, had just completed its well-received debut production. But now what? For a playwright, working toward the next performance opportunity can be just as grueling and time-consuming as the writing itself.

But Neuman is constantly working to broaden opportunities for all Colorado writers. He is, actor Emma Messenger says, “an instigator of other people’s talents.”

True West Awards Jeffrey Neuman Quote“Jeffrey has done more than anyone to activate, elevate and bring cohesion to the Denver theatre community, all while creating some of our region’s best new work himself,” said local playwright Leslie C. Lewis.

Neuman, Lewis and Alice Miller are co-founders of the Rough Draught Playwrights, which for four years has hosted quarterly gatherings that give local playwrights the opportunity to hear excerpts of their developing plays read aloud by professional actors in a supportive, public setting. (With beer!)

This year, Neuman and his friends got even more proactive by co-founding Dirtyfish Theater, a collective of seven local playwrights who will no longer sit around waiting for theatre companies to pick their scripts for production. Instead, they work together to stage their own works themselves. Their debut production in March, Wedding Cake Vodka, was an evening of their short plays. Why name the new company Dirtyfish? “Because in today’s theatre, playwrights are too often nothing more than unwanted leftovers, the dirty fish of the theatre,” says co-founding member William Missouri Downs. “Will this collective last? We don’t know. Will it succeed? We don’t care. Will every play be brilliant? No. But for one brief moment, the bottom-dwellers of the theatre will stage the plays they want to stage without getting permission from the usual chaperones of the theatre world.”

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

The word “co-founder” shows up a lot on Neuman’s resume. In 2016, he joined the co-founding efforts of Rachel Bouchard and Haley Johnson to launch the new Benchmark Theatre as Director of Literary Management. On behalf of Benchmark, Neuman and Kate Folkins immediately spearheaded a local response to the massacre at an Orlando nightclub that left 103 dead or wounded.

True West Awards Jeffrey NeumanThe ongoing national initiative is called After Orlando. In most cities, one theatre company has hosted an evening of short plays written in response to the terrorist attack. But Benchmark instead rallied a dozen local theatre companies to join them, making the Denver event a true celebration of collaboration and unity in the face of unspeakable evil. And it never would have happened, said Johnson, without the tireless efforts of Neuman and Folkins. “They truly embody artists and collaborators,” she said. “We’re so lucky to have them involved in Benchmark.”

True West Award. Jeffrey Neuman. John IrvingProfessionally, Neuman rolled along in 2016. Exit Strategies was nominated for a Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Award for Outstanding New Play. His On The Horns of a Dilemma was a finalist for FUSION Theater Company‘s national new-play festival in Albuquerque, and Dangling Participles, his short play about grammar and sex, was presented at a festival in San Diego.

Neuman also facilitates literary events for the Denver Post’s esteemed Pen & Podium series and in September led a 90-minute discussion with the great John Irving (The World According to Garp) at the University of Denver’s sold-out Newman (no relation!) Center.

(Photos above and right: Jeffrey Neuman reads from one of his developing works at a recent Rough Draught Playwrights event with actor Andrew Uhlenhopp. Photo by John Moore. Also: With John Irving at the ‘Pen & Podium’ series at DU.)

Jeffrey Neuman/At a glance

  • Originally from Wappingers Falls, N.Y.
  • Received his masters degree in Theatre Arts from the University of Colorado-Boulder
  • In 2000, he was commissioned by the Denver Center’s Wilbur J. Gould Voice Research Center to develop and direct Paul Revere: The Voice Heard ‘Round the World, an outreach program designed to teach children about vocal health. The piece was performed in elementary schools, reaching more than 40,000 students.
  • Nominated for the 2012 Heideman Award
  • Recently published Modern Goddesses: Two Short Plays of Mythic Proportions


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

True West Awards Jeffrey Neuman. Matthew Lopez

Above: Jeffrey Neuman takes advice from DCPA Playwright in Residence Matthew Lopez (‘The Legend of Georgia McBride’) during a workshop at the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit. Below: Alice Miller, Leslie C. Lewis and Jeffrey Neuman, founders of Rough Draught Playwrights, hosting the 2015 Colorado New Play Summit’s local Playwrights’ Slam. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.) 

True West Awards Jeffrey Neuman. Rough Draught Playwrights


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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