The 50th Equity Jeff Award Winners

The 50th Equity Jeff Award Winners

Photo: Zachary Stevenson and the cast of American Blues’ BUDDY: THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY | Michael Brosilow

By Abigail Trabue

Prior to the non-Equity nominations earlier this year, the Jeff Awards announced perhaps the most progressive rule change in their history — the removal of gender from the acting award categories. While it was likely a necessary move, as the organization was faced with nominating multiple non-binary performers, some women (though perhaps thrilled for their non-binary colleagues) were concerned that it would just lead to a heck of a lot of men getting awards. Thankfully, the genderless non-Equity ceremony in June could be considered a success for parity — in the acting categories, at least. Certainly, the Jeff Committee released a sigh of relief.

Fast-forward to the August announcement of the Equity Jeff nominations, and things didn’t look so rosy — about 2/3 of the nominees were men. So it’s not a surprise that at tonight’s 50th Equity Jeff Awards ceremony, not many awards went to women. While it’s easy to point fingers solely at the Jeffs (and certainly the Jeffs need to take a deep look at their biases), a cursory glance at the eligible productions reinforces the larger problem that was glaringly on display tonight — Equity theaters are doing a terrible job at providing roles for women. In fact, American Theater made it pretty clear last year that our city’s theater scene isn’t working for women in any artistic specialization.

Still, the 50th Jeff awards went on at Drury Lane Oakbrook, and there are some bright spots. American Blues Theater’s “Buddy-The Buddy Holly Story” received the most awards including: Production – Musical – Midsize, Director Lili-Anne Brown, Principal Performer in a Musical Zachary Stevenson, Music Director Michael Mahler, and Ensemble – Musical or Revue. Special awards were presented to four Chicago theatres over 50 years old. The recipients were Goodman Theatre (1925), Drury Lane Productions (1949), Court Theatre (1955), and The Second City (1959). Collectively, they have received more than 1,400 nominations and over 350 awards, dating back to the first ceremony. 

The 50th Equity Jeff Award Winners are:

PRODUCTION – PLAY – LARGE

“A View from the Bridge” – Goodman Theatre

PRODUCTION – PLAY – MIDSIZE

“Traitor” – A Red Orchid Theatre

PRODUCTION – MUSICAL – LARGE

“Ragtime” – Marriott Theatre

PRODUCTION – MUSICAL – MIDSIZE

“Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story” – American Blues Theater

DIRECTOR – PLAY – LARGE

Ivo van Hove – “A View from the Bridge” – Goodman Theatre

DIRECTOR – PLAY – MIDSIZE

David H. Bell – “Southern Gothic” – Windy City Playhouse

Michael Shannon – “Traitor” – A Red Orchid Theatre

DIRECTOR – MUSICAL – LARGE

Nick Bowling – “Ragtime” – Marriott Theatre

DIRECTOR – MUSICAL – MIDSIZE

Lili-Anne Brown – “Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story” – American Blues Theater

ENSEMBLE – PLAY

“The Wolves” – Goodman Theatre

ENSEMBLE – MUSICAL

“Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story” – American Blues Theater

PERFORMER IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE – PLAY

Tara Mallen – “The Cake” – Rivendell Theatre Ensemble

Caroline Neff – “Lettie” – Victory Gardens Theater

PERFORMER IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE – MUSICAL

Jason Grimm – “Murder For Two” – Marriott Theatre

Zachary Stevenson – “Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story” – American Blues Theater

PERFORMER IN A REVUE

Lorenzo Rush, Jr. – “Five Guys Named Moe” – Court Theatre

SOLO PERFORMANCE

Kate Fry – “The Belle of Amherst” – Court Theatre

PERFORMER IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – PLAY

Matt DeCaro – “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” – Drury Lane Productions

Keith Kupferer – “Cal in Camo” – Rivendell Theatre Ensemble

PERFORMER IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – MUSICAL

Matt Crowle – “South Pacific” – Drury Lane Productions

Gavin Rohrer – “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

Boo Killebrew – “Lettie” – Victory Gardens Theater

NEW ADAPTATION

Jennifer Blackmer – “Alias Grace” – Rivendell Theatre Ensemble

Brett Neveu – “Traitor” – A Red Orchid Theatre

CHOREOGRAPHY

Jared Grimes – “42nd Street” – Drury Lane Productions

ORIGINAL MUSIC IN A PLAY

Shawn Pfautsch and Matt Kahler – “Hatfield & McCoy” – The House Theatre of Chicago

MUSIC DIRECTION

Michael Mahler – “Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story” – American Blues Theater

SCENIC DESIGN – LARGE

Todd Rosenthal – “20,000 Leagues Under the Seas” – Lookingglass Theatre Company

SCENIC DESIGN – MIDSIZE

Scott Davis – “Southern Gothic” – Windy City Playhouse

LIGHTING DESIGN – LARGE

Thom Weaver – “Macbeth” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater

LIGHTING DESIGN – MIDSIZE

Nick Belley – “Hair” – Mercury Theater Chicago

COSTUME DESIGN – LARGE

Susan E. Mickey – “The Taming of the Shrew” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater

COSTUME DESIGN – MIDSIZE

Paul Kim – “The Explorers Club” – Citadel Theatre

SOUND DESIGN – LARGE

André Pluess – “Macbeth” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater

SOUND DESIGN – MIDSIZE

Christopher Kriz – “Mary’s Wedding” – First Folio Theatre

PROJECTION DESIGN

Joseph A. Burke – “Elf the Musical” – Paramount Theatre

ARTISTIC SPECIALIZATION

Eleanor Kahn – Properties Design – “Southern Gothic” – Windy City Playhouse

About author

Abigail Trabue

Abigail has worked as an actor/director in Chicago for over ten years, and along with husband Jason Epperson founded Lotus Theatricals in 2015, and PerformInk Chicago and Kansas City in 2016 (where she serves as Managing Editor of both publications). When not talking shop, Abigail is raising three padawans with Jason, drinking lots of coffee, converting school buses into RV's, and eating all the foods at Disney World. You can find her on Twitter @AbigailTrabue

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