2016 True West Awards: Michael Morgan

2016 True West Awards Michael Morgan 800.


Day 4: Michael Morgan

There is an everyman quality to actor Michael Morgan. Ironic, given not every man can do what he’s done on area stages with uncommon consistency for 20 years. Morgan brings out the extraordinary in ordinary Joes.

“Michael is an actor’s actor,” said Lynne Collins, the Arvada Center’s new Artistic Director of Plays. “You watch him and you can’t help but go away thinking you really know whatever guy he’s playing. He’s just very relatable and accessible to an audience.”

But when you specialize in inhabiting regular guys, you don’t often command the center of a story’s attention. That all changed for Morgan in 2016, when he was cast to play two uncharacteristically larger-than-life characters: No less than Shakespeare in Bill Cain’s period opus Equivocation for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, and the smarmiest swindler in all of Moliere in Tartuffe, which launched the Arvada Center’s new black-box repertory company.

Talk about two sides of the ethical fence: In Equivocation, directed by Wendy Franz, King James I commissions  Shakespeare – or “Shag,” as he is called here – to rewrite the history of England’s infamous Gunpowder Plot, the notorious conspiracy to blow up Parliament (with King James in it). Shag must decide whether to sell his soul or tell the truth and pay with his life. Tartuffe, on the other end of the ethical spectrum, is a religious hypocrite who lives off the largess of a gullible benefactor and thanks him for it by attempting to seduce his wife. Talk about range.

The Boulder Daily Camera’s A.H. Goldstein called Morgan “mesmerizing” in Equivocation. Westword’s Juliet Wittman called him “gut-achingly funny” in Tartuffe.

“What was so lovely about Michael in Equivocation was that Shag’s desire to do the right thing came through so clearly, with a real and genuine heart,” Collins said. “Whereas his Tartuffe was the opposite of that in every way.”

But funny.

“Oh, he’s screamingly funny,” Collins said of Morgan. “He has impeccable and unimpeachable comic timing.”

Morgan’s breakout year included playing a lovable neat-freak in Buntport Theater’s remarkable, gender-fluid world premiere of 10 Myths on the Proper Application of Beauty Products, which took place almost entirely in a bathroom. He also played the chief slaughterer in Denver performances of Denise Gentilini’s I Am Alive, a new musical that tells the story of the Armenian massacre. He was also tapped by the Colorado Shakespeare Festival to play Caius Lucius in Cymbeline and two roles in Henry VI Part 2.

Perhaps the most remarkable part of Morgan’s year is that he was a newcomer to so many of the companies he easily assimilated into. It’s no small task to be asked to carry a show alongside former DCPA Theatre Company stalwart John Hutton (Equivocation) or to blend in as a guest artist with an ensemble like Buntport that has been creating new work together for 16 years. But with both companies, he fit right in.

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

When Collins was hired by the Arvada Center to create a repertory company, she had the pick of the metro area talent pool to choose from because the precious few she selected would earn gainful employment for an entire season. And Morgan, she said, was not on Collins’ radar when he walked in to audition.

“He was not who I had in mind for the role of Tartuffe, but he killed that audition like no one I have ever seen,” Collins said. “Because we were auditioning for the entire season, he prepared three short pieces, and I am telling you – I wish now I had a camera set up to record him for acting classes, because what he did was the textbook, perfect audition for a repertory season.” That audition also landed him the upcoming role of Virgil in Bus Stop opening Feb. 24.

Morgan was born in North Carolina and raised in San Francisco. His family moved to Colorado when he was in his teens and he graduated from Manitou Springs High School. He returned to Colorado Springs after graduating from Doane College in Nebraska, appearing in many productions around the city. For years, Morgan was often found backstage, working as a carpenter for companies all over the Front Range. He’s also known in film circles for writing and producing his award-winning zombie web series After The Darklights.

But in 2016, Morgan was meant for the stage. He presently can be seen this holiday season appearing in the original Christmas play called A Krumpus Story, a dark holiday comedy in which Santa is the naughty one. It’s being presented by a new company called Boys Hair Club at Buntport.

Michael Morgan/2016 at a glance

  • Buntport Theater’s 10 Myths on the Proper Application of Beauty Products
  • Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s Equivocation, Cymbeline and Henry VI, Part 2
  • Mile Hi Church’s concert performance of I Am Alive
  • Arvada Center’s Tartuffe
  • Boys Hair Club’s A Krumpus Story at Buntport Theater
  • Company member, Curious Theatre


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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