Theater in Chicago is teeming with talent. Whether the storefront or the buildings that house several theater companies, one could probably attend a play 5 out of seven days in our wonderful city. For those of you unaware of the difference between the Equity and Non-Equity theaters, the Equity houses or companies are “union” and the non-equity are not. There are some theater companies that have “limited” Equity agreements where one or some of their actors are in the union and the others are not. Not being a “union” actor does not make for anything less in quality of performance. In fact, there are many actors who opt not to be union members ( for personal reasons) but are still powerful actors doing some fine work. Do not confuse the “non-equity” houses with Community Theater- it is NOT! These are devoted, talented people who love what they do and strive to give each audience a theatrical experience of the utmost quality.
Now, on to the Jeff Awards, celebrating excellence in Chicago Theatre and the wonderful event held tonight at Park West on Armitage Avenue. An evening filled with theater people expressing themselves as themselves instead of the many characters they play in the theaters. This is a fun group, indeed, possibly much more fun than the Equity Awards celebration in the fall. This is a little less formal and some of the performers,writers,musicians,directors etc are very informal. The evening started out with the introduction of all of the nominees as they paraded accross the stage allowing everyone to give them the honor they deserved for just being nominated. The process for getting this far begins on opening night. 5 plus 2 members of the Jeff Committee attend the opening and then vote as to some part or parts of the show being recommended. If it is recommended, the rest of the Jeff members attend during the run and then place their votes for the nominees and then later, for the winners. It is a long road to get there, but one that is of great importance to each and every theater person in our town. When you check our reviews at www.theatreinchicago.com you will always see which shows have been Jeff recommended.
There is a full gamut of categories, Musical, non-musical,Actors in each and best supporting as well- sort of like the Tony Awards but in my years of covering this award celebration, much more fun. These are performers who love what they do and are certainly not in it for the money, as many still work full time jobs to pay their bills, but knowing these people the way I do, I doubt that any of them would ever give up doing what they love to do! Kevin Bellie of Circle Theatre in Oak Park was the emcee for the evening and many of last year’s winners participated in the handing out of this years awards.
It was nice to see a mix of theater companies win the awards and I was glad to see some of our storefronts get as many nominations ( and awards) as they did. The Storefront Theater is a marvelous venue that Chicago has done very will with. From Rogers Park to Edgewater, from Edison Park to Uptown, and from Wicker Park/Bucktown to the Loop and even further south, we have lots of converted empty stores and lofts that now serve as venues for “live theater”. This is what makes our city so glorious!
I reviewed some of the nominees today and before the event began, marked my program with those I felt would win. I did just a little worse than last year ( I was 85% correct then) and this year I got 80%. I attended all but thirteen of the productions. To see the entire list of winners, visit www.jeffawards.org
On a personal note, I want to congratulate the lovely Sara Pavlak who sat with us and was very nervous ( first nomination- first award) on winning the award for Best Actress in A Supporting Role for her marvelous and chilling portrayal of Agnes in “Agnes of God” ( you can find my review in the archives). When she was announced, she floated to the stage to accept and then did the text and e-mail to let the folks back home know- I was as happy for her as if she was part of my own family. There are many congrats to offer and I will do it as I visit each company in the months to come to view the plays that will be nominated for the 39th Annual Non-Equity Jeff Awards. mark your calendar for June next year ( I will advise the date when I have it) and enjoy being on the “inside”, behind the curtain, so to speak in the world knows as Chicago’s theater community ( non-equity).