Lynn Baber Launches New Chicago Theater Awards

Casting director and actor Lynn Baber, a veteran of Chicago theater, has announced she will be rolling out the “Lynn Baber Awards” this week via social media.

Baber, the former casting director for Northlight, and head of the Cherubs program at Northwestern, began forming the Awards only recently, saying that “as America’s most exciting theatre city we can’t continue with the Joseph Jefferson Committee being our only validating and award-giving body.” This first year, she’s putting together what she calls “celebratory awards,” which will feature a variety of categories with multiple winners.

Baber says she’s reached out to 60 theater professionals who have seen or been in at least 7 shows this season for comment on those who deserve recognition. She’s keeping the list of respondents confidential, but says she took care to work with a group of people who are “half men, half women, half people of color, and half white,” adding that she was “sensitive to inclusion regarding age, gender identity, ethnicity and race to the extent that I could be.”

Next year, Baber is hoping to transition into a larger “Chicago Theatre Professional Awards,” which will have a voting process open to established members of the theater community who have seen or participated in 7 shows. “In my dream for next year, every theater professional who sees theater (at least 7 plays in a season) enters their remarks about what deserves recognition/award/mention into a ballot or form that is accessible to them online; and at the end of the season, I’ll put all the remarks together to make awards. I don’t envision ONE winner. I think we’re going for recognition of excellence and support of the whole community.”

But for this year, it’s the “Lynn Baber Awards,” which is an attempt to keep the blame on her for any faults. “It’s all on me if it backfires,” she said on the comment form she shared with her group of nominators. “I think no one is better qualified to make a call on directors than actors and the creative teams that work with them. No one can say what made a better ensemble than ensembles and directors. Theatre professionals in Chicago are seeing each other’s shows. We have opinions. I asked people to remark on the elements of the 7 or more shows they were familiar with from either side of the footlights,” Baber said.

Baber said she considers herself in a unique position to organize a new awards program — deciding to call herself the “Doyenne” (the oldest, most experienced, and often most respected woman involved in a particular type of work) of Chicago’s Theater Community. “I think I’m’ safe assigning myself that title,” Baber said. “I’m going to go ahead and say that if you check with anyone in the theatre community who has been part of [it] since the early 1980s and they don’t think I can call myself the doyenne, I will back off. I will totally take it back.”

“I want to make a change,” she continued “I finally decided if I was going to do something about the situation of theatre awards in our city, I was going to have to start it myself.”

The “Lynn Baber Awards” will be announced live on social media in the coming week.

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