50th Equity Jeff Award Nominations Announced, New Director and Ensemble Categories Added

50th Equity Jeff Award Nominations Announced, New Director and Ensemble Categories Added

Sydney Charles, Jacqueline Williams, Ernest Perry Jr., Michael Aaron Pogue, Ronald L Conner and Kamal Angelo Bolden — a portion of the Jeff-nominated ensemble of “Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3)” by Suzan-Lori Parks, directed by Jeff-nominated Niegel Smith at the Goodman Theatre, which leads the 2018 Equity Jeff Nominations with 15. | Photo: Liz Lauren

By Jason Epperson

The Jeff Awards Committee has announced 178 nominations for plays and musicals to be honored at the 2018 Equity Jeff Awards ceremony, their 50th time doing so. And as the organization has been grappling with retaining their community standing, they are making some changes. Earlier this year — with the non-Equity nominations — it was revealed that gender designations would be eliminated from the awards. The new format doubles the number of nominees in half as many categories, and two winners are selected from each. And now, for the Equity awards, three new trophies will be handed out.

The Ensemble award has long been perhaps the most coveted of the categories. Its an award sorely lacking at the Tonys, and a symbol of the pride that Chicago theatermakers place in ensemble-focused work.  There will now be two ensemble awards — one for plays, and one for musicals and revues.

The “Director–Play” and “Director–Musical” categories have been split into four awards along the “Large” and “Midsize” theater divisions that the Production award and design categories have been divided among for the last decade, acknowledging artists working with vastly different budgets. However, the choreography and musical director categories remain unchanged, perhaps muddying up the somewhat controversial “Large” and “Midsize” designations.

The Goodman leads the list with 15 nominations, followed by Court with 13, Porchlight with 12, Marriott with 11, and 10 each for Chicago Shakespeare, Paramount, and Victory Gardens. Twenty-four of the plays and musicals nominated are world premieres. Noticeably, the world-renowned Steppenwolf only garnered one nomination, after receiving just two last year.

The Equity Jeff Awards honor productions in the Chicago area that are affiliated with Actors Equity Association. The eligibility period included theatrical productions that opened between August 1, 2017 and July 31, 2018. Jeff Awards judges attended opening nights of 141 Equity productions offered by 43 producing organizations. 111 productions were “Jeff Recommended,” making them eligible for award nominations.

The 50th Annual Equity Jeff Awards ceremony will be held on Monday, October 22nd, at Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. Special appearances are planned to help celebrate the golden anniversary. Pre-show appetizers and a cash bar will be offered from 6:00 to 7:30 PM, followed by the awards ceremony, directed by Michael Weber. A buffet reception will immediately follow. Advance purchase tickets are $85 ($65 for theatrical union members).

2018 EQUITY JEFF AWARD NOMINEES

PRODUCTION – PLAY – LARGE
“All My Sons” – Court Theatre
“Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3)” – Goodman Theatre
“Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” – Court Theatre
“Macbeth” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater
“A View from the Bridge” – Goodman Theatre

PRODUCTION – PLAY – MIDSIZE
“The Cake” – Rivendell Theatre Ensemble
“Jitney” – Congo Square Theatre Company
“Machinal” – Greenhouse Theater Center in association with North Central College
“Southern Gothic” – Windy City Playhouse
“Traitor” – A Red Orchid Theatre

PRODUCTION – MUSICAL OR REVUE – LARGE
“Cabaret” – Paramount Theatre
“Five Guys Named Moe” – Court Theatre
“Fun Home” – Victory Gardens Theater
“Million Dollar Quartet” – Paramount Theatre
“Ragtime” – Marriott Theatre

PRODUCTION – MUSICAL – MIDSIZE
“Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story” – American Blues Theater
“Hair” – Mercury Theater Chicago
“Memphis” – Porchlight Music Theatre

ENSEMBLE – PLAY
“Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3)” – Goodman Theatre
“Jitney” – Congo Square Theatre Company
“Machinal” – Greenhouse Theater Center in association with North Central College
“Southern Gothic” – Windy City Playhouse
“Support Group For Men” – Goodman Theatre
“The Taming of the Shrew” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater
“Traitor” – A Red Orchid Theatre
“The Wolves” – Goodman Theatre

ENSEMBLE – MUSICAL OR REVUE
“Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story” – American Blues Theater
“Five Guys Named Moe” – Court Theatre
“Forever Plaid” – Theatre At The Center
“Hair” – Mercury Theater Chicago
“Million Dollar Quartet” – Paramount Theatre

NEW WORK
Dan Collins and Julianne Wick Davis – “Trevor the Musical” – Writers Theatre
Ellen Fairey – “Support Group For Men” – Goodman Theatre
Minita Gandhi – “Muthaland” – 16th Street Theater
Keith Huff – “Six Corners” – American Blues Theater
Boo Killebrew – “Lettie” – Victory Gardens Theater
Aline Lathrop – “The Hero’s Wife” – 16th Street Theater
Leslie Liautaud, Carl Menninger, and Amy Rubenstein – “Southern Gothic” – Windy City Playhouse
Novid Parsi – “Through The Elevated Line” – Silk Road Rising

NEW ADAPTATION
Jennifer Blackmer – “Alias Grace” – Rivendell Theatre Ensemble
Robert Falls – “An Enemy Of The People” – Goodman Theatre
Barbara Gaines and Ron West – “The Taming of the Shrew” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater
David Kersner and Althos Low – “20,000 Leagues Under The Seas” – Lookingglass Theatre Company
Brett Neveu – “Traitor” – A Red Orchid Theatre

DIRECTOR – PLAY – LARGE
Dexter Bullard – “Mies Julie” – Victory Gardens Theater
Niegel Smith – “Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3)” – Goodman Theatre
Vanessa Stalling – “The Wolves” – Goodman Theatre
Ivo Van Hove – “A View from the Bridge” – Goodman Theatre
Chay Yew – “Lettie” – Victory Gardens Theater

DIRECTOR – PLAY – MIDSIZE
David H. Bell – “Southern Gothic” – Windy City Playhouse
Cheryl Lynn Bruce – “Jitney” – Congo Square Theatre Company
Jacob Harvey – “Machinal” – Greenhouse Theater Center in association with North Central College
Michael Shannon – “Traitor” – A Red Orchid Theatre
Lauren Shouse – “The Cake” – Rivendell Theatre Ensemble

DIRECTOR – MUSICAL OR REVUE – LARGE
Nick Bowling – “Ragtime” – Marriott Theatre
Marc Bruni – “Trevor the Musical” – Writers Theatre
Gary Griffin – “Fun Home” – Victory Gardens Theater
Michael Heitzman – “42nd Street” – Drury Lane Productions
Ron OJ Parson – “Five Guys Named Moe” – Court Theatre

DIRECTOR – MUSICAL – MIDSIZE
Daryl Brooks – “Memphis” – Porchlight Music Theatre
Lili-Anne Brown – “Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story” – American Blues Theater
Brenda Didier – “Hair” – Mercury Theater Chicago

PERFORMER IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE – PLAY
Ian Bedford (Eddie) – “A View from the Bridge” – Goodman Theatre
Janet Ulrich Brooks (Queen Elizabeth II) – “The Audience” – TimeLine Theatre Company
Heather Chrisler (Young Woman) – “Machinal” – Greenhouse Theater Center in association with North Central College
Edward Gero (U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia) – “The Originalist” – Court Theatre
John Judd (Joe Keller) – “All My Sons” – Court Theatre
Tara Mallen (Della) – “The Cake” – Rivendell Theatre Ensemble
Caroline Neff (Lettie) – “Lettie” – Victory Gardens Theater
Geno Walker (Terry Kilbourn) – “To Catch A Fish” – TimeLine Theatre Company
Alex Weisman (Jordan) – “Significant Other” – Theater Wit and About Face Theatre
Larry Yando (Dodge) – “Buried Child” – Writers Theatre

PERFORMER IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE – MUSICAL
Dawn Bless (Patti) – “A New Attitude: In Tribute To Patti LaBelle” – Black Ensemble Theater
Matt Crowle (Charley Kringas) – “Merrily We Roll Along” – Porchlight Music Theatre
Jason Grimm (The Suspects) – “Murder For Two” – Marriott Theatre
Rob Lindley (Bruce Bechdel) – “Fun Home” – Victory Gardens Theater
Liam Quealy (Huey Calhoun) – “Memphis” – Porchlight Music Theatre
Nathaniel Stampley (Coalhouse Walker, Jr.) – “Ragtime” – Marriott Theatre
Zachary Stevenson (Buddy Holly) – “Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story” – American Blues Theater
Eli Tokash (Trevor) – “Trevor the Musical” – Writers Theatre
Tiffany Topol (Girl) – “Once” – Paramount Theatre
Kathy Voytko (Mother) – “Ragtime” – Marriott Theatre

SOLO PERFORMANCE
Janet Ulrich Brooks (Eppie Lederer aka Ann Landers) – “The Lady With All The Answers” – Theatre At The Center
Kate Fry (Emily Dickinson) – “The Belle of Amherst” – Court Theatre
Minita Gandhi (Solo Performer) – “Muthaland” – 16th Street Theater
Stacy Keach (Ernest Hemingway) – “Pamplona” – Goodman Theatre
James Leaming (Solo Performer) – “This Wonderful Life” – American Blues Theater

PERFORMER IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – PLAY
Sydney Charles (Matilda “Tillie” Binks) – “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” – Court Theatre
Shannon Cochran (Lady Bracknell) – “The Importance of Being Earnest” – Writers Theatre
Matt DeCaro (Winston Churchill/Harold Wilson/Tony Blair/Archbishop) – “The Audience” – TimeLine Theatre Company
Matt DeCaro (Big Daddy) – “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” – Drury Lane Productions
Deanna Dunagan (Nancy Reagan, First Lady of the United States) – “Blind Date” – Goodman Theatre
Jason Grimm (Various Roles) – “Bunny Bunny: Gilda Radner, A Sort of Love Story” – Mercury Theater Chicago
Anthony Irons (Steve) – “How To Use A Knife” – Shattered Globe Theatre
Anthony Irons (Turnbo) – “Jitney” – Congo Square Theatre Company
Keith Kupferer (Flynt) – “Cal in Camo” – Rivendell Theatre Ensemble
Andrus Nichols (Beatrice) – “A View from the Bridge” – Goodman Theatre

PERFORMER IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – MUSICAL
Jenna Coker-Jones (Amy) – “Company” – Mercury Theater Chicago
Matt Crowle (Luther Billis) – “South Pacific” – Drury Lane Productions
Shanésia Davis (Mrs. Wilkinson) – “Billy Elliot the Musical” – Porchlight Music Theatre
Sean Fortunato (Dad) – “Billy Elliot the Musical” – Porchlight Music Theatre
Veronica Garza (Roz) – “9 To 5: The Musical” – Firebrand Theatre
Hollis Resnik (Fraulein Schneider) – “Cabaret” – Paramount Theatre
Gavin Rohrer (Jerry Lee Lewis) – “Million Dollar Quartet” – Paramount Theatre
Hannah Starr (Medium Alison) – “Fun Home” – Victory Gardens Theater
Katherine Thomas (Sarah) – “Ragtime” – Marriott Theatre
Aaron Umsted (Will Parker) – “Oklahoma!” – Marriott Theatre

PERFORMER IN A REVUE
Yando Lopez (Jinx) – “Forever Plaid” – Theatre At The Center
Lorenzo Rush, Jr. (Big Moe) – “Five Guys Named Moe” – Court Theatre
Jasbir Singh Vazquez (Ensemble) – “Gaslight District” – The Second City e.t.c.

SCENIC DESIGN – LARGE
Scott Davis – “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” – Court Theatre
Kevin Depinet – “The Taming of the Shrew” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Courtney O’Neill – “Plantation!” – Lookingglass Theatre Company
Todd Rosenthal – “20,000 Leagues Under The Seas” – Lookingglass Theatre Company
Todd Rosenthal – “The Doppelgänger” – Steppenwolf Theatre Company

SCENIC DESIGN – MIDSIZE
Jeff Bauer – “How To Use A Knife” – Shattered Globe Theatre
Scott Davis – “Southern Gothic” – Windy City Playhouse
José Manuel Díaz-Soto – “The Explorers Club” – Citadel Theatre
Angela Weber Miller – “Mary’s Wedding” – First Folio Theatre
Arnel Sancianco – “The Cake” – Rivendell Theatre Ensemble

COSTUME DESIGN – LARGE
Mara Blumenfeld – “The Importance of Being Earnest” – Writers Theatre
Linda Cho – “Schiller’s Mary Stuart” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Theresa Ham – “Ragtime” – Marriott Theatre
Susan E. Mickey – “The Taming of the Shrew” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Alison Siple – “In the Next Room or the Vibrator Play” – TimeLine Theatre Company

COSTUME DESIGN – MIDSIZE
Paul Kim – “The Explorers Club” – Citadel Theatre
Robert Kuhn – “Hair” – Mercury Theater Chicago
Emily McConnell – “Hatfield & McCoy” – The House Theatre of Chicago
Bill Morey – “Memphis” – Porchlight Music Theatre
Bill Morey – “Merrily We Roll Along” – Porchlight Music Theatre
Mieka van der Ploeg – “The Skin of Our Teeth” – Remy Bumppo Theatre Company

SOUND DESIGN – LARGE
Robert E. Gilmartin – “Murder For Two” – Marriott Theatre
Ray Nardelli – “Skeleton Crew” – Northlight Theatre
André Pluess – “Hard Times” – Lookingglass Theatre Company
André Pluess – “Macbeth” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Rick Sims – “20,000 Leagues Under The Seas” – Lookingglass Theatre Company

SOUND DESIGN – MIDSIZE
Christopher Kriz – “The 39 Steps” – Buffalo Theatre Ensemble
Christopher Kriz – “The Heavens Are Hung in Black” – Shattered Globe Theatre
Christopher Kriz – “Mary’s Wedding” – First Folio Theatre
Jeffrey Levin – “Machinal” – Greenhouse Theater Center in association with North Central College
Jeffrey Levin – “Welcome to Jesus” – American Theater Company
Stephen Ptacek – “The Skin of Our Teeth” – Remy Bumppo Theatre Company

LIGHTING DESIGN – LARGE
Brian Sidney Bembridge – “Hard Times” – Lookingglass Theatre Company
Christine Binder – “20,000 Leagues Under The Seas” – Lookingglass Theatre Company
Jesse Klug – “Million Dollar Quartet” – Paramount Theatre
Yael Lubetzky – “Cabaret” – Paramount Theatre
Thom Weaver – “Macbeth” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater

LIGHTING DESIGN – MIDSIZE
Nick Belley – “Hair” – Mercury Theater Chicago
Cat Davis – “De Troya” – Halcyon Theatre
Denise Karczewski – “Billy Elliot the Musical” – Porchlight Music Theatre
Lee Keenan – “Hatfield & McCoy” – The House Theatre of Chicago
Rachel Levy – “Welcome to Jesus” – American Theater Company
Eric Watkins – “Machinal” – Greenhouse Theater Center in association with North Central College
Cat Wilson – “The Wolf at the End of the Block” – 16th Street Theater

CHOREOGRAPHY
Christopher Carter – “Memphis” – Porchlight Music Theatre
Jared Grimes – “42nd Street” – Drury Lane Productions
Josh Prince – “Trevor the Musical” – Writers Theatre
Alex Sanchez – “Newsies” – Marriott Theatre
Alex Sanchez – “Oklahoma!” – Marriott Theatre

ORIGINAL MUSIC IN A PLAY
Justin Ellington – “Father Comes Home From the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3)” – Goodman Theatre
Christopher Kriz – “Mary’s Wedding” – First Folio Theatre
Shawn Pfautsch and Matt Kahler – “Hatfield & McCoy” – The House Theatre of Chicago
André Pluess – “Hard Times” – Lookingglass Theatre Company
André Pluess – “Macbeth” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater

MUSIC DIRECTION
Jermaine Hill – “Memphis” – Porchlight Music Theatre
Michael Mahler – “Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story” – American Blues Theater
Doug Peck – “Fun Home” – Victory Gardens Theater
Abdul Hamid Royal – “Five Guys Named Moe” – Court Theatre
Tom Vendafreddo – “Once” – Paramount Theatre

PROJECTION DESIGN
Joseph A. Burke – “Elf the Musical” – Paramount Theatre
Joseph A. Burke – “Women Laughing Alone With Salad” – Theater Wit
Anthony Churchill – “Merrily We Roll Along” – Porchlight Music Theatre
Stephan Mazurek – “Lettie” – Victory Gardens Theater
Mark “Trace” Umstattd – “De Troya” – Halcyon Theatre

ARTISTIC SPECIALIZATION
Christopher Carter – Movement/Musical Staging – “Five Guys Named Moe” – Court Theatre
Matt Hawkins – Fight Choreography – “Macbeth” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Eleanor Kahn – Properties Design – “Southern Gothic” – Windy City Playhouse
Elizabeth Margolius – Movement Direction – “Machinal” – Greenhouse Theater Center in association with North Central College

About author

Jason Epperson

Jason is a producer, manager, and designer with 17 years of experience in Chicago, New York, and in the touring market. In 2015, he founded Lotus Theatricals - the publisher of Performink, and an independent commercial producing company - with Abigail Trabue.

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