The gala 46th Annual Equity Jeff Awards at Drury Lane Oakbrook Oct. 13, spread awards among numerous theatres honoring a season of outstanding productions.
Goodman Theatre’s revival of Brigadoon, the Scottish tale of a mystical town appearing every 100 years, received the Production-Musical large tier award, Costume Design for Mara Blumenfeld and Choreography for Rachel Rockwell. Hank Williams: Lost Highway, a biography of the singer/songwriter at American Blues Theater, won for Midsize Musical, lead actor Matthew Brumlow and Music Director Malcolm Ruhl. Next to Normal at Drury Lane Productions, a rock musical of a mother struggling with bipolar illness, received awards for Principal Actress Susie McMonagle, and for Director William Osetek.
I n the revue categories, Porchlight Music Theatre’s Ain’t Misbehavin’ , celebrating Fats Waller and other greats of the Harlem Renaissance, won for Production-Revue, for Director Brenda Didier, and for the band’s pianist and conductor, Austin Cook. Renee Matthews took home the Actress in a Revue award for Old Jews Telling Jokes, and John Hartman won Actor in a Revue for Depraved New World at The Second City.
The prestigious Ensemble Award, sponsored by Actors’ Equity Association, went to Seanachaí Theatre Company’s production of The Seafarer, Irish playwright Conor McPherson’s boozy mystical story of a high stakes card game on a dark Christmas Eve. Seanachaí, newly renamed Irish Theatre of Chicago, featured Brad Armacost, Ira Amyx, Shane Kenyon, Kevin Theis and Dan Waller in this talented, hilarious ensemble.
From Writers Theatre, The Dance of Death, a battle of wits between a tyrant and his manipulative wife, received the Production-Play award for a large theatre, along with its two principal actors Larry Yando and Shannon Cochran. The Normal Heart, Larry Kramer’s tale of the early indifference in N.Y. about the HIV/Aids crisis, presented by TimeLine Theatre Company, was honored with awards for Production-Play for a midsize theatre and for Director Nick Bowling.
Chicago continues to be a hub for premiering new works. The award for New Work went to Rebecca Gilman, an Artistic Collective member at Goodman Theatre for Luna Gale, a tale of a social worker at the center of a custody dispute, which premiered at Goodman. John Mossman won the New Adaptation award for The Goddess, a reimagining of Paddy Chayefsky‘s screenplay of a small town girl’s evolution to world famous screen siren, presented by The Artistic Home.
Solo Performance honor went to Gwendolyn Whiteside for Grounded at American Blues Theater, along with Sound Design to Lindsay Jones. Supporting Actress awards went to Jessica Rush for Gypsy at Chicago Shakespeare Theater and to Sandra Marquez for A View From the Bridge at Teatro Vista. Supporting Actor awards went to Mike Nussbaum for Smokefall, a joint production of Goodman Theatre and South Coast Repertory, now in a remount at Goodman, and to Mark David Kaplan in the comic role of Thenardier in Les Misérables from Drury Lane Productions. Les Mis also won for Projection Design by Sage Marie Carter. PigPen Theatre Co.’s The Old Man and the Old Moon, produced by Writers Theatre, won for Original Music in a Play composed by PigPen Theatre Co. and for Sound Design by Mikhail Fiksel. The House Theatre’s Dorian received nods for portrait artist Jeff Klapperich and Lighting Design by Rebecca A. Barrett and Lee Keenan.
In a year of enormous loss to the theatre community, the ceremony featured a moving photographic memorial that honored 24 theatre professionals and was underscored by the cast of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown from Theatre at the Center.
The capacity audience enjoyed live performances from all nominated musicals and revues and video performances from nominated plays. The Equity Awards ceremony was directed by Michael Weber, with music direction by Linda Madonia and stage management by Colleen Tovar. Merril Prager, Equity Wing Chair of The Jeff Awards Committee, served as producer for the evening. Director Henry Godinez and actor Gene Weygandt emceed the event.
The Jeff Awards has been honoring outstanding theatre artists annually since it was established in 1968. With 55 members representing a wide variety of backgrounds in theatre, the Jeff Awards Committee is committed to celebrating the vitality of Chicago area theatre by recognizing excellence through its recommendations, awards, and honors. The Jeff Awards fosters the artistic growth of area theatres and theatre artists and promotes educational opportunities, audience appreciation, and civic pride in the achievements of the theatre community. Each year The Jeff Awards evaluates more than 250 theatrical productions and holds two awards ceremonies. Originally chartered to recognize only Equity productions, the Jeff Awards established the Non-Equity Wing in 1973 to celebrate outstanding achievement in non-union theatre. The next Non-Equity awards ceremony will be held on June 8, 2015, at Park West.This year’s Jeff winners in musical theatre and combined categories:
PRODUCTION – MUSICAL – LARGE
Brigadoon – Goodman Theatre
PRODUCTION – MUSICAL – MIDSIZE
Hank Williams: Lost Highway – American Blues Theater
PRODUCTION – REVUE
Ain’t Misbehavin’ – Porchlight Music Theatre
DIRECTOR – MUSICAL
William Osetek – Next to Normal – Drury Lane Productions
DIRECTOR – REVUE
Brenda Didier – Ain’t Misbehavin’ – Porchlight Music Theatre
The Seafarer – Seanachaí Theatre Company
ACTOR IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE – MUSICAL
Matthew Brumlow (Hank Williams) – Hank Williams: Lost Highway – American Blues Theater
ACTRESS IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE – MUSICAL
Susie McMonagle (Diana) – Next to Normal – Drury Lane Productions
ACTOR IN A REVUE
John Hartman (Ensemble) – Depraved New World – The Second City
ACTRESS IN A REVUE
Renee Matthews (Bunny) – Old Jews Telling Jokes – Daniel Okrent & Peter
Gwendolyn Whiteside (The Pilot) – Grounded – American Blues Theater
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – MUSICAL
Mark David Kaplan (Thénardier) – Les Misérables – Drury Lane Productions
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – MUSICAL
Jessica Rush (Louise) – Gypsy – Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Rachel Rockwell – Brigadoon – Goodman Theatre
Malcolm Ruhl – Hank Williams: Lost Highway – American Blues Theater
SCENIC DESIGN – LARGE
Collette Pollard – In the Garden: A Darwinian Love Story – Lookingglass Theatre Company
SCENIC DESIGN – MIDSIZE
Katie-Bell Springmann – Cock – Profiles Theatre
LIGHTING DESIGN – LARGE
William Kirkham – The Little Prince – Lookingglass Theatre Company
in association with The Actors Gymnasium
LIGHTING DESIGN – MIDSIZE
Rebecca A. Barrett and Lee Keenan – Dorian – The House Theatre of Chicago
COSTUME DESIGN – LARGE
Mara Blumenfeld – Brigadoon – Goodman Theatre
COSTUME DESIGN – MIDSIZE
Bill Morey – How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying –
Porchlight Music Theatre
SOUND DESIGN – LARGE
Mikhail Fiksel – The Old Man and the Old Moon – Writers Theatre
SOUND DESIGN – MIDSIZE
Lindsay Jones – Grounded – American Blues Theater
PROJECTIONS / MEDIA DESIGN
Sage Marie Carter – Les Misérables – Drury Lane Productions
Austin Cook – Piano/Conductor – Ain’t Misbehavin’ – Porchlight Music Theatre
Jeff Klapperich – Portrait Artist – Dorian – The House Theatre of Chicago
2013-2014 EQUITY STATISTICS
In its 46th Equity season, August 1, 2013 through July 31, 2014, the Jeff Awards Committee judged the opening nights of 134 productions from 49 producing organizations. Of these, 94 productions were “Jeff Recommended”, which made them eligible for award nominations.