2016 True West Award: Jonathan Scott-McKean

True West Awards 2016 Jonathan Scott-McKean


Day 12: Jonathan Scott-McKean

          Today’s True West Award Presenter: Mark Collins

Sometimes you design a machine that spews out violent projectile fake vomit – and it wins you an award.

You might say Jonathan Scott-McKean blew chunks in 2016 – and that’s a very good thing.

The endearingly named Vomitron 5000 was his invention for Miners Alley Playhouse‘s 2016 production of God of Carnage. It’s about two uptight couples who meet to discuss a playground fight between their children. In a key scene, the fault line between the couples splits open – literally – when an anxious Annette (Emily Paton Davies) vomits all over her hosts’ precious rare books.

Scott-McKean’s mandate: The act of vomitage should look as real as possible – and the discharge would have to cover the coffee table in front of the wretching actor – so we’re talking about a 4-foot trajectory.

Davies – and Scott-McKean – delivered a spectacular bit of barfing.

It's suppertime for Carter Edward Smith as Seymour in Miners Alley Playhouse's 'Little Shop of Horrors.' The plant was designed and built by Jonathan Scott-McKean. Photo by Cody Schuyler.

It’s suppertime for Carter Edward Smith as Seymour in Miners Alley Playhouse’s ‘Little Shop of Horrors.’ The plant was designed and built by Jonathan Scott-McKean. Photo by Cody Schuyler.

Scott-McKean is the Managing Director at Miners Alley Playhouse in Golden, but there aren’t many Managing Directors whose duties include building, lighting, sound design, running each show, making programs – and bartending. This year, Scott-McKean also conceived his own original vision of the plant monster for Little Shop of Horrors. And he designed a set that somehow accommodated the very large comedy You Can’t Take it With You on the playhouse’s very small stage. In July, he won Colorado Theatre Guild’s Henry Award for his Pump Boys and Dinettes sound design.

Scott-McKean was put up for True West Awards consideration by actor Mark Collins, who won one himself last year. Collins, also a former theatre critic for the Boulder Daily Camera and a member of the God of Carnage cast, was impressed at how Scott-McKean solved the space problem for You Can’t Take It With You by designing what he called “a magical centerpiece dinner table,” around which the entire story played out. The dinner table is perhaps the ultimate symbol of the American family, “and that got at the essence of the play,” Collins said.

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But the coup de grace of Scott-McKean’s year had to be the Vomitron 5000. Or, as Collins and Company call it, “The V5K.”

“Jonathan worked with the actors until The V5K was suitable, and the moment it came to life, it always propelled the show forward,” Collins said – we’re assuming with pun intended. “He’s a problem-solver, master-builder and he understands story.”

Scott-McKean, a native of Conifer, was a longtime designer at Miners Alley Playhouse before joining the transition team with Len Matheo, Lisa DeCaro, Jim Billings, and the late Brenda Billings when founders Rick Bernstein and Paige Larson stepped down in 2013. His wife, Elizabeth Scott-McKean, is Associate Managing Director.

“We call Jonathan the evil genius,” said Artistic Director Len Matheo. “In every play I have directed since taking over here, Jonathan has been my key collaborator. He is an integral part of our successes.”

Video: A graphic demonstration of the Vomitron 5000:

Here’s a graphic (fair warning!) video demonstration of the Vomitron 5000 designed and built by True West Award winner Jonathan Scott-McKean for Miners Alley Playhouse’s 2016 production of ‘God of Carnage.’ The actors are Emily Paton Davies, Lisa DeCaro, Mark Collins and Augustus Truhn.


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

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