2017 True West Award: Logan Ernstthal

LOGAN ERNSTTHAL 2017 True West Award 2


Day 21: Logan Ernstthal

Creede Repertory Theatre
Miners Alley Playhouse
Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
Colorado Springs TheatreWorks

By John Moore
Senior Arts Journalist

Logan Ernstthal is a big, burly, bearded mountain man of an actor with a glare as intimidating as the spelling of his last name. He is known for being versatile, ever-prepared and always collaborative. But also serious. … Super serious.

Yeah, that’s what John Hauser thought, too, when the two began rehearsals for Miners Alley Playhouse’s A Skull in Connemara. Hauser quickly realized the big guy is really just a big kid at heart.

“The first time Logan got a hammer in his hand and started pounding on some skulls, he was like a 5-year-old, he was having so much fun,” Hauser said.

A Creede Repertory Theatre2017 was a remarkable year for Ernstthal for the dual opportunity to star in both Martin McDonagh’s dark-to-blood-red comedy A Skull in Connemara in Golden, followed by the world premiere of Colorado playwright Brian WatkinsGeneral Store to finish up his 10th summer season with the Creede Repertory Theatre. He rounded out his full year nicely with roles in the antique comedy Arsenic and Old Lace, the period romantic musical She Loves Me, the Chekhov adaptation Wild Honey and the boutique play Enchanted April.

That eclectic slate tells General Store Director Christy Montour-Larson Ernstthal is an everyman kind of an artist with many colors on his palette. “He can be very funny, he can be very scary, he can be charming and he can break your heart,” she said. “He reminds me of James Gandolfini in that way.”

(Photo above and right: Logan Ernstthal and Stuart Ryder in Creede Repertory Theatre’s  ‘General Store.’ Photo by John Gary Brown.)

A Skull in Connemara and General Store offered big, meaty and physically demanding roles in two wildly different mysteries that actually had more in common than meets the eye. Ernstthal played Mike in one, Mick in the other. One had flying skulls and bloody hatchets; the other had axes, bear traps and a huge mysterious metaphor that was making all kinds of racket under the floorboards of Mike’s faltering general store on the Eastern plains of Colorado.

In Skull, directed by Billie McBride, Ernstthal played an Irish gravedigger who comes under suspicion over his possible involvement in his wife’s sudden death seven years before. Westword’s Juliet Wittman said Ernstthal’s Mick “is convincing from his earliest moments — a quiet and apparently reasonable man with something threatening and unspoken at his core.”

(Story continues below the photo.)

John Hauser and Logan Ernstthal. A Skull in Connemara. Miners Alley Playhouse. Photo  by Sarah Roshan.
(Above: John Hauser and Logan Ernstthal in ‘A Skull in Connemara’ for Miners Alley Playhouse. Photo by Sarah Roshan.)

In General Store, whatever is lurking under Mike’s floorboards is getting louder — and hungrier. Mike is a decent, hardworking friend and father trying to stave off the ravenous creature below. And if that makes Mike the American Dream in Watkins’ metaphor (and it does), you can infer what the insatiably, greedy creature below might represent.

“Brian has written a play that’s about the fear of uncertainty,” Montour-Larson said. “It doesn’t matter how much work the little guy puts in day in and day out — in this world, he going to get screwed over by the system.”

Ernstthal calls General Store “a beautiful beast of a play. It’s as if Sam Shepard and the Coen Brothers and Stephen King had a love child.” (I’ll add: Raised by the kids from Stranger Things.)

More Colorado theatre coverage on the DCPA NewsCenter

By the time the play ended each night, Montour-Larson said, “Logan was physically and mentally exhausted. He hoists, he pulls, he grapples, he goes down into the pit. He even gets squirted in the face with bile.”

That’s an underrated skill for an actor, Montour-Larson said: The ability to perform seamlessly with the demands of a show as technically challenging as General Store. Ernstthal had to be in perfect sync with everything from sound and light cues to a snapping bear trap, or the staging would lose all believability.

“As the play becomes more parabolic each minute it goes on, so do the technical and acting challenges,” Montour-Larson said. 

Oh, and did we mention? The guy can dance. “In fact, I think it’s his ability as a dancer that makes him capable of so much physical exertion in our play,” Montour-Larson said.

That’s just one reason Ernstthal is so widely thought of “an actor’s actor,” said playwright Jeff Carey, a graduate of the Denver Center’s National Theatre Conservatory masters program.

“He can play anything,” said Carey. “What makes him so specific is that he immerses himself in every role. More than that — he actually becomes the role.”

Montour-Larson, who directed the world premiere of the DCPA Theatre Company’s Two Degrees in January, has worked with pretty much all of the top actors in the Colorado theatre community. “And I found Logan to be one of the most talented actors I’ve ever worked with,” she said.

John 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.

Video bonus: Logan Ernstthal talks about General Store:

Featured actor in the video above: Logan Ernstthal

Logan Ernstthal: 2017

  • Mick Dowd in A Skull in Connemara for Miners Alley Playhouse
  • Frederick in Enchanted April at Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College
  • Teddy Brewster in Arsenic and Old Lace for Creede Repertory Theatre
  • Zoltan Maraczek in She Loves Me for Creede Repertory Theatre
  • Mike in General Store for Creede Repertory Theatre
  • Porfiry Seyonovich Glagolyev in Wild Honey at Colorado Springs TheatreWorks

Logan Ernstthal is from Darien, Conn, and studied theatre at Ithaca College in New York and the University of Missouri at Kansas City. He also has performed in Colorado forColorado Springs TheatreWorks, Colorado Shakespeare Festival (Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night; Lord Stanley in Richard III and Long John Silver in Treasure Island. He also was an understudy for three roles in the DCPA Theatre Company’s The Three Musketeers.  

About The True West Awards: ’30 Days, 30 Bouquets’

The True West Awards, now in their 17th 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 2017 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. Moore’s daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org

A look back at the history of the True West Awards

The 2017 True West Awards

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