2016 True West Award: Robert Michael Sanders

True West Awards 2016. Robert Michael Sanders.


Day 2: Robert Michael Sanders

Robert Michael Sanders has been one one of the busiest members of the Colorado theatre community for years, and not even a botched shoulder surgery that left his hands partially paralyzed in 2014 has even slightly slowed him down. In 2016, his haberdashery included acting, direction, properties and public relations. He is also an accomplished singer who just completed his second solo album under the name Robert Michael for release on iTunes later this month. (His 2007 cover of Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over” has more than a million plays on Spotify, and he released three previous albums with his band Silence.)

Sanders is nothing if not versatile – and adaptable. Here’s a quick rundown of his theatre year:

  • Directed Tell Me on a Sunday for The Avenue Theater; The Last Romance for Cherry Creek Theatre; Guys on Ice for Town Hall Arts Center; and the children’s shows Jumping Jiving Juliette and Seussical Jr. for Town Hall
  • Performed in the Edge Theatre’s Getting Out and Murder Ballad
  • Assisted the properties master on The Avenue Theater’s Wait Until Dark
  • Directed publicity efforts for Aurora Fox’s Little Women, Black Elk Speaks and Catch Me If You Can, as well as The Avenue’s Bakersfield Mist

Onstage, good-guy Sanders is often called upon to play the bad guy – his “resume of racists” is longer than other actors’ entire CV’s. He has had particularly hiss-worthy turns over the years in the Arvada Center’s Ragtime, Memphis and A Man of No Importance, and he owned that persona again this year in the Edge Theatre’s Getting Out, playing a former prison guard who takes a shine to a woman just out of prison – with lecherous strings attached. “Sanders’  dual personality turns on Arlene in the worst possible way,” wrote reviewer Bill Wheeler. “Sanders delivers his schizophrenic character beautifully, going from the nicest guy on stage to the nastiest in the blink of an eye.”

But what made 2016 a singular year for Sanders was the range he showed in The Edge’s Murder Ballad, one of those unctuous contemporary rock musicals that dares you not to like it. But Sanders managed to emerge from a veritable menagerie of pool-hall damage by showing a full and effective range of emotion from gentle to, well, murderous, thanks to a score uniquely suited to his rock background.

But for all the good Sanders does on and around the stage, perhaps his most impressive trait is his ongoing commitment to the fellow artists in the Colorado theatre community. Sanders organizes and directs Miscast as an annual fundraiser for the Denver Actors Fund – a silly night of games and songs where actors get to play roles they would never get cast to perform in otherwise. It is a logistical nightmare and a dream-come-true for the fund that makes money and personal services available to artists in situational medical need. Sanders’ three Miscast-directed events have now raised more than $13,000 for the Denver Actors Fund – a record $7,067 in 2016 alone.

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

Sanders was chosen to be the recipient of today’s True West Award by former Phamaly Theatre Company Artistic Director Bryce Alexander, who relied on Sanders as both an actor and general liaison during his tenure running the acclaimed local theatre company that creates performance opportunities for actors with disabilities.

“I am constantly amazed at Robert’s overall commitment to every single level of Colorado theatre,” said Alexander. “Robert is always there to support you. This amazing artist and person (and his wife) should be celebrated.”

That amazing wife would be Megan Van De Hey. Yes, Sanders capped his exceptional year with a personal coup by marrying one of the most consistently honored actors in the Colorado theatre community. Not bad for a nice guy.

Robert Michael Sanders/At a glance:

  • High School: Broomfield
  • Denver Center tie: He was in the cast of I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change at the Garner Galleria Theatre
  • Album: “Feel It Coming,” under the name of Robert Michael
  • Next project: Directing Almost Maine for the Avenue Theater, Jan. 13-Feb. 12


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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