Judi Wolf: One Singular Sensation

Judi and Marvin Wolf at Saturday Night Alive

Let’s set the stage.

It’s opening night in the Buell Theatre. Two thousand eight hundred people are taking their seats to see the next big Broadway hit. And then it happens.

Heads swivel. Crowds part. Whispers of “Who is that?” begin.

Enter Judi Wolf, stage right.

Opening night after opening night the same reaction occurs. Always for Judi and Judi alone.

Oh, she knows how to make an entrance, alright. Poised, head raised, a generous smile. And that hair. Long, red and vibrant. Which just about sums up Judi Wolf — the long-standing cultural philanthropist who friends call “The Red Wolf” can command a crowd with her sultry laugh, smiling eyes and flair for fashion.

And while she may dress up in glitter, her heart is pure gold.

A Denver native, Judi was exposed to ballet and classical music from an early age. She graduated from East High School in 1959 and initially attended University of California at Berkeley before receiving a degree in Spanish from Universidad de las Americas in Mexico City. She secured her Master’s Degree in International Relations from the University of Denver while pursuing a career as a Spanish language teacher at Graland Country Day School, an indication of her ability to pursue multiple goals at once. Little did she know that when she met oilman Marvin Wolf as a teacher, they would eventually marry and pursue a relationship that would benefit the entire city.

From the very beginning of their relationship, Marvin and Judi were devoted patrons of the arts in Colorado. Their support ranged from the Colorado Ballet to the Central City Opera to the collaboration with Barry Fey to save the Colorado Symphony. But it was in the 1991/92 season that their love and support for the Denver Center for the Performing Arts moved from the wings into the spotlight…with Judi center stage.

Not satisfied with patronage alone, Judi and DCPA Founder Donald R. Seawell began an enduring friendship and soon, Donald asked Judi to join his advisory Chairman’s Council. Soon after, she was elected as an Ex-Officio member of the DCPA’s Board of Trustees in 2003, and four years later, she was elected to the DCPA’s Helen G. Bonfils Foundation at which time she also became a full voting member of the DCPA Board.

After a period of reflection, and with an eye toward the vibrant future of the DCPA, Judi is stepping down after 17 years of service to the DCPA’s Board, but her legacy will live on for generations.

As she is fond of quoting, “there’s no business like show business,” and her enthusiastic involvement in Denver’s cultural scene has been her favorite production. Here are just a few of her leading roles that have shaped the Denver Center and Colorado’s cultural landscape.

Early 1980s

Judi and Marvin joined the Directors Society, a philanthropic subscription to the Denver Center Theatre Company wherein members enjoy a pre-show dinner, an artistic presentation and premium seats to locally produced plays and musicals.

Judi joined the Denver Center Alliance as a lifetime member, a philanthropic group of individuals who serve as ambassadors and fundraisers for the DCPA.


Judi Wolf at the Tantalus premiere

In 1991, the City of Denver opened the Temple Hoyne Buell Theatre as Denver’s home for Broadway shows. At that time, the couple endowed the Marvin & Judi Wolf Room on the Mezzanine level of the Buell as a reception space. The room was painted to resemble the view from their home in La Jolla, California, and if you look closely enough, you’ll find an Easter egg in the form of what else? A wolf.

After the Buell opened to rave reviews, Marvin and Judi suggested to Seawell that the DCPA launch a philanthropic membership for patrons with a love of the best touring shows direct from New York City. They held an intimate poolside party at their home to recommend the opening night subscription package to their friends, and the Best of Broadway Society was born. It proved to be so popular, that, ultimately, a second night was added, and the group continues to this day. Each evening boasts pre-show dinner, an exclusive behind-the-scenes presentation, and center orchestra seats to the biggest and best Broadway shows to come to town.

Later that year, Seawell invited Judi to join his Chairman’s Council as a representative of the Directors Society Steering Committee.


An ever-present guest at the organization’s annual Saturday Night Alive gala and a frequent table captain and hostess, Judi redefined the word “surprise” for Marvin, first by being the high bidder on a car — a 2000 Lincoln LS, and second when she promptly presented it to Marvin as a birthday present.


Judi Wolf at The Little Mermaid opening

As a representative of the Chairman’s Council, Judi was named an Ex-Officio member of the DCPA Board of Trustees.

For years, the DCPA shared the Historic Tramway building — which housed its administrative and production facilities — with the Auraria campus. When the college relocated, the organization had an opportunity to expand its theatre education program on the third floor and add a fourth floor for its former National Center for Voice & Speech, which was created to assist performers with vocal problems. The Wolfs contributed toward the project adding the Marvin & Judi Wolf Museum of the Voice on the newly added fourth floor.

But the moments that really catapulted Judi into the spotlight were the DCPA’s “see and be seen” events. She came dressed as Glinda the Good Witch at the Wicked gala, in a toga for Tantalus, in a flamenco dress for American Mariachi, and hands down the most memorable…as a mermaid for the world premiere of Disney’s The Little Mermaid complete with a trail of bubbles.


Women with Hattitude 2024. Photo by Amanda Tipton Photography

As a way to deepen their participation in the Denver Center Theatre Company’s locally produced plays, she and Marvin also sponsored The Miracle Worker and The Diary of Anne Frank.

In 2005, Judi became a Founding Member of the Women’s Voices Fund, a first-in-the-nation endowment fund to foster the work of female playwrights and directors. In its first year alone, the effort attracted 100 founding members, each of whom contributed $5,000 over five years. To date, the Women’s Voices Fund has provided support for 53 plays written by women, 44 plays directed by women and currently totals $1.7 million.

In the same year, the Denver Center kicked off one of its most popular fundraising events and Judi was literally centerstage. The Women with Hattitude luncheon, a benefit for the Women’s Voices Fund, features a spontaneous fashion show whereby an individual from each table is selected to strut the runway and show off their best chapeaux. Judi’s fashion sense was on full display and later nabbed her a spot as a judge of the fun-filled competition.


Judi was elected to the Board of the Helen G. Bonfils Foundation, which was established to support the Denver Center for the Performing Arts. As such, she served as the Foundation’s representative and full voting member on the DCPA Board of Trustees. 


Janice Sinden, Marvin and Judi Wolf, and Martin Semple at the Wolf Theatre opening

Judi’s flair and love of costumes was again on display at the DCPA’s Theatre Threads costume fashion show. Not only did she appear as the grand finale in a gold sequined costume from the Denver Center Theatre Company’s 2008/09 production of Richard III, but it also was announced that she had made a significant financial contribution to the costume department because according to her, “without costumes, a play is just…radio.” This ongoing contribution continues today and is celebrated in a pre-show display called “Judi Wolf’s Costume Column,” which provides insight into the design and process of each production’s costumes. She later shared that, “It was a fine idea to become [the DCPA’s] costume department’s Fairy Godmother — what fun!”


Feeling a kinship with another spunky Colorado legend, Judi and Marvin signed on as sponsors of the Denver Center Theatre Company’s The Unsinkable Molly Brown. Both married for love. Both did important philanthropic work. Both were born with grit and determination. And both left a lasting mark on the Denver community.


In June 2018, the DCPA announced the most ambitious project in its facility master plan — renovation of the Stage and Ricketson theatres and an overhaul of all backstage and support areas. The Wolfs, once again, were ready to lend a hand…this time with the largest single gift in the DCPA’s history. Their lead gift inspired Trustees, patrons and community members to contribute the needed $17 million for its Grander Opening capital campaign. In gratitude for this generous gift, the former Stage Theatre was renamed the Marvin & Judi Wolf Theatre. “DCPA founder and our good friend Donald Seawell, had a vision, which was to create a theatre for the community — where dreams were realized and imaginations soared,” said Judi. “We are proud to continue his legacy and ensure that this crown jewel is enjoyed for generations to come.”

Judi and Marvin Wolf at Saturday Night Alive

While clearly Judi’s relationship with the DCPA has been considerable, it’s by no means exclusive. Over the years she appeared as the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella with the Colorado Ballet, recited poetry during a concert with the Colorado Symphony, and even conducted the National Repertory Orchestra in the “Toreador Song” from Carmen. She served on the boards of the Central City Opera, University of Denver Humanities Institute, American National Theatre and Academy, and Colorado Council on the Arts. She co-chaired the Colorado Performing Arts Festival twice and was honored in 2012 as the Citizen of the Arts by the Fine Arts Foundation.

But beyond the arts — backstage, if you will — she has always been sincere, appreciative and warm. Whether she takes a moment to speak Spanish with a staff member, makes a phone call to share her overwhelming praise for simply doing your job, or greets you effusively like you are her best friend, she always makes you feel welcome and important, seen and heard.

After the passing of her beloved husband Marvin in March of 2020, Judi with the love and support of her three sons Lance, Victor and Marco, grandsons Grant, Devon, Logan and Caleb and “daughters-in-love” has quietly assumed more of a supporting role, content to watch a new generation of DCPA leaders continue the hard work she started. And while her visits to the DCPA are now rare, her incredible presence will never be replaced.

She is, and will always be, Denver’s leading lady.