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Jeff Awards nominations a reminder of exceptional theater season

A scene from the Goodman Theatre production of "2666," one of the six "large theater" nominees for the 2015-16 Equity Jeff Awards. (Photo: Liz Lauren)

Unlike Broadway’s annual Tony Award nominations, which more often than not are seen as the “great box office hope” for currently running productions, Chicago’s Equity Jeff Awards celebrate outstanding artistic achievement in productions that have already run their course. Their glory lingers primarily in the memory of all those who saw them.

Live theater in this city is an ephemeral art far more than a commercial one. But it is grandly ephemeral. Just peruse the massive list of Equity Jeff Award nominations for the season that ran Aug. 1, 2015 through July 31, 2016. Among those 178 nominations in 32 categories are six world premiere plays and four new adaptations — all strong contenders; a hugely impressive showing by Aurora’s Paramount Theatre (with a total of 14 nominations for four grand-scale musicals; and 12 nominations each for a variety of shows, both musical and dramatic, presented by the Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Goodman Theatre, and Porchlight Music Theatre. And that is just the start.

Brittany Burch (from left), Caroline Heffernan, John Gawlik and Lynda Newton in The Gift Theatre world premiere of David Rabe’s “Good for Otto.” (Photo: Claire-Demos)
Brittany Burch (from left), Caroline Heffernan, John Gawlik and Lynda Newton in The Gift Theatre world premiere of David Rabe’s “Good for Otto.” (Photo: Claire-Demos)

Six productions received nominations in the coveted Ensemble category, including Goodman’s “2666,” a century-and-continent-spanning epic adapted from Robert Bolano’s novel, in which 15 actors played 80 roles; “Charm,” from Northlight Theatre, the true story of a transgender woman teaching etiquette to LGBTQ youth in Chicago; Writers Theatre’s “Death of a Streetcar Named Virginia Woolf: A Parody”, a comic mash-up of four classic American plays; Chicago Shakespeare’s “Ride the Cyclone,” a quirky musical about the “afterlife” of teens who died in an amusement park accident; Timeline Theatre’s “Spill,” a bristling expose of the BP Deepwater Horizon 2010 oil spill; and The House Theatre of Chicago’s “United Flight 232,” a chilling chronicle of an airplane crash by those who survived.

Porchlight Music Theatre’s “Dreamgirls,” with Kyrie Courter (from left), Candace C. Edwards, Donica Lynn and Katherine Thomas. (Photo: Kelsey Jorissen)
Porchlight Music Theatre’s “Dreamgirls,” with Kyrie Courter (from left), Candace C. Edwards, Donica Lynn and Katherine Thomas. (Photo: Kelsey Jorissen)

The 48th Annual Equity Jeff Awards ceremony will be held Oct. 17 at Drury Lane Oakbrook, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace. Performances featuring cast members from nominated musicals and revues, and video segments from nominated plays, will highlight the ceremony. Pre-show appetizers and cash bar will be offered from 6 to 7:30 p.m., followed by the awards ceremony, directed by Michael Weber, with a buffet to follow.

Advance purchase tickets, which include the ceremony and pre- and post-show parties, are $75 ($55 for members of Actors’ Equity Association, United Scenic Artists, Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, Stage Managers’ Association, The Dramatists Guild of America, and American Federation of Musicians). The public is invited to attend. To purchase tickets, visit www.jeffawards.org.

NOTE: The formal announcement of the nominations by two of Chicago’s most renowned actors — Mike Nussbaum (currently co-starring in “Bakersfield Mist,” a TimeLine Theatre production), and Deanna Dunagan (winner of a Tony Award for her performance in “August: Osage County”) — is now online at www.jeffawards.org.

Following is a complete list of the 2016 Equity Jeff Award nominations:

PRODUCTION – PLAY – LARGE

“2666” – Goodman Theatre

“Arcadia” – Writers Theatre

“Between Riverside and Crazy” – Steppenwolf Theatre Company

“Charm” – Northlight Theatre

“The House That Will Not Stand” – Victory Gardens Theater

“Long Day’s Journey into Night” – Court Theatre

“The Tempest” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater

PRODUCTION – PLAY – MIDSIZE

“Good for Otto” – The Gift Theatre

“Le Switch” – About Face Theatre

“The Mutilated” – A Red Orchid Theatre

“Pilgrim’s Progress” – A Red Orchid Theatre

“The Rainmaker” – American Blues Theater

“United Flight 232” – The House Theatre of Chicago

PRODUCTION – MUSICAL – LARGE

“Man of La Mancha” – Marriott Theatre

“Oklahoma!” – Paramount Theatre

“Ride the Cyclone” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater

“War Paint” – Goodman Theatre

“West Side Story” – Paramount Theatre

Zoe Nadal played Maria and Will Skrip was Tony in “West Side Story,” at Aurora’s Paramount Theatre. (Photo: Liz Lauren)
Zoe Nadal played Maria and Will Skrip was Tony in “West Side Story,” at Aurora’s Paramount Theatre. (Photo: Liz Lauren)

PRODUCTION – MUSICAL – MIDSIZE

“Adding Machine: A Musical” – The Hypocrites

“Dreamgirls” – Porchlight Music Theatre

“Little Shop of Horrors” – American Blues Theater

“The Producers” – Mercury Theater Chicago

“Side Show” – Porchlight Music Theatre

DIRECTOR – PLAY

Edward Blatchford – “The Rainmaker” – American Blues Theater

Michael Halberstam – “Arcadia” – Writers Theatre

Aaron Posner and Teller – “The Tempest” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Vanessa Stalling – “United Flight 232” – The House Theatre of Chicago

Michael Patrick Thornton – “Good for Otto” – The Gift Theatre

DIRECTOR – MUSICAL

Nick Bowling – “Man of La Mancha” – Marriott Theatre

Jim Corti – “West Side Story” – Paramount Theatre

Brenda Didier – “Dreamgirls” – Porchlight Music Theatre

Rachel Rockwell – “Ride the Cyclone” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater

L. Walter Stearns – “The Producers” – Mercury Theater Chicago

Michael Weber – “Side Show” – Porchlight Music Theatre

ENSEMBLE

“2666” – Goodman Theatre

“Charm” – Northlight Theatre

“Death of a Streetcar Named Virginia Woolf: A Parody” – Writers Theatre

“Ride the Cyclone” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater

“Spill” – TimeLine Theatre Company

“United Flight 232” – The House Theatre of Chicago

ACTOR IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE – PLAY

Greg Matthew Anderson (Septimus Hodge) – “Arcadia” – Writers Theatre

Nate Dendy (Ariel) – “The Tempest” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Nicholas Harazin (Jimmy) – “Beautiful Autistic” – Chicago Dramatists

Timothy Edward Kane (Francis Henshall) – “One Man, Two Guvnors” – Court Theatre

Eamonn Walker (Pops) – “Between Riverside and Crazy” – Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Dan Waller (Conor) – “Spinning” – Irish Theatre of Chicago

Dexter Zollicoffer (Mama Darleena) – “Charm” – Northlight Theatre

ACTOR IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE – MUSICAL

Matthew Crowle (Leo Bloom) – “The Producers” – Mercury Theater Chicago

Alex Goodrich (Buddy) – “Elf The Musical” – Marriott Theatre

Colte Julian (Curly) – “Oklahoma! “ – Paramount Theatre

Michael Aaron Lindner (Arthur Conan Doyle) – “The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes” – Mercury Theater Chicago

Nick Sandys (Sherlock Holmes) – “The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes” – Mercury Theater Chicago

Nathaniel Stampley (Cervantes/Don Quixote) – “Man of La Mancha” – Marriott Theatre

ACTRESS IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE – PLAY

Jennifer Engstrom (Celeste) – “The Mutilated” – A Red Orchid Theatre

Jessica Ervin (Ester) – “Dry Land” – Rivendell Theatre Ensemble

Mary Beth Fisher (Judy) – “Domesticated” – Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Bryce Gangel (Amy) – “Dry Land” – Rivendell Theatre Ensemble

Linda Reiter (Bessie) – “Marvin’s Room” – Shattered Globe Theatre

Rebecca Spence (Susan Pierce) – “How the World Began” – Rivendell Theatre Ensemble

AnJi White (Nina) – “Sunset Baby” – TimeLine Theatre Company

ACTRESS IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE – MUSICAL

Michelle Aravena (Rose Alvarez) – “Bye Bye Birdie” – Drury Lane Productions

Klea Blackhurst (Hazel Burke) – “Hazel, a Musical Maid in America” – Drury Lane Productions

Christine Ebersole (Elizabeth Arden) – “War Paint” – Goodman Theatre

Patti LuPone (Helena Rubinstein) – “War Paint” – Goodman Theatre

Donica Lynn (Effie Melody White) – “Dreamgirls” – Porchlight Music Theatre

Alexis J. Rogers (Ms. Divine) – “Don’t Make Me Over (in Tribute to Dionne Warwick)” –

Black Ensemble Theater

ACTOR OR ACTRESS IN A REVUE

Shari Addison (Aretha) – “Dynamite Divas” – Black Ensemble Theater

Lisa Beasley (Ensemble) – “A Red Line Runs Through It” – The Second City e.t.c.

Rashada Dawan (Gladys) – “Dynamite Divas” – Black Ensemble Theater

Peter Kim (Ensemble) – “A Red Line Runs Through It” – The Second City e.t.c.

Melanie McCullough (Roberta) – “Dynamite Divas” – Black Ensemble Theater

SOLO PERFORMANCE

Manny Buckley (Alonzo Fields) – “Looking Over the President’s Shoulder” – American Blues Theater

Barbara Figgins (Angela) – “My Brilliant Divorce” – Irish Theatre of Chicago

Barry Shabaka Henley (Louis Armstrong and others) – “Satchmo at the Waldorf” – Court Theatre

Brian Quijada (Himself) – “Where did We Sit on the Bus?” – Teatro Vista in association with the

Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and Victory Gardens Theater

Gail Rastorfer (Mary Jane Kelly) – “The Unfortunates” – SoloChicago Theatre Company

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – PLAY

John Kelly Connolly (Timothy Archer) – “Good for Otto” – The Gift Theatre

Mike Nussbaum (Gregory Solomon) – “The Price” – TimeLine Theatre Company

Rob Riley (Barnard) – “Good for Otto” – The Gift Theatre

Mark Roberts (Uncle Jim) – “New Country” – Fair Trade Productions

Kelvin Roston Jr. (Damon) – “Sunset Baby” – TimeLine Theatre Company

Cliff Saunders (Crispin) – “The Heir Apparent” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – MUSICAL

Sean Fortunato (Sir Lancelot et al.) – “Monty Python’s Spamalot” – Theatre at the Center

Eric Lewis (Jimmy (James Thunder) Early) – “Dreamgirls” – Porchlight Music Theatre

Evan Tyrone Martin (Raymond Deagan) – “Far from Heaven” – Porchlight Music Theatre

Evan Tyrone Martin (Jake) – “Side Show” – Porchlight Music Theatre

Richard Ruiz (Sancho) – “Man of La Mancha” – Marriott Theatre

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – PLAY

Deanna Dunagan (Aunt Ruth) – “Marvin’s Room” – Shattered Globe Theatre

Brookelyn Hébert (Nina Mikhailovna Zarechnaya) – “The Seagull” – The Artistic Home

Elizabeth Ledo (Sarah) – “Le Switch” – About Face Theatre

Elizabeth Ledo (Irene Molloy) – “The Matchmaker” – Goodman Theatre

Miriam Silverman (Mavis) – “The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window” – Goodman Theatre

Jacqueline Williams (Makeda) – “The House That Will Not Stand” – Victory Gardens Theater

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – MUSICAL

Mary Antonini (Anita) – “West Side Story” – Paramount Theatre

E. Faye Butler (Motormouth Maybelle) – “Hairspray” – Paramount Theatre

Susan Moniz (Elsie Hickam) – “October Sky” – Marriott Theatre

Lia Mortensen (Joanne) – “Company” – Writers Theatre

Alene Robertson (Martha Watson) – “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” –

Drury Lane Productions

NEW WORK

Philip Dawkins – “Charm” – Northlight Theatre

Philip Dawkins – “Le Switch” – About Face Theatre

Rohina Malik – “Yasmina’s Necklace” – 16th Street Theater

Brian Quijada – “Where Did We Sit on the Bus?” – Teatro Vista in association with the

Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and Victory Gardens Theater

John Reeger, Julie Shannon and Michael Mahler – “The Man Who Murdered Sherlock Holmes” – Mercury Theater Chicago

Vanessa Stalling – “United Flight 232” – The House Theatre of Chicago

NEW ADAPTATION

Robert Falls and Seth Bockley – “2666” – Goodman Theatre

Frank Galati – “East of Eden” – Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Aaron Thielen and Michael Mahler – “October Sky” – Marriott Theatre

Mary Zimmerman – “Treasure Island” – Lookingglass Theatre Company and

Berkeley Repertory Theatre

CHOREOGRAPHY

William Carlos Angulo – “West Side Story” – Paramount Theatre

Matthew Crowle – “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas” – Drury Lane Productions

Brigitte Ditmars – “Xanadu” – American Theater Company

Danny Herman – “Nice Work If You Can Get It” – Theatre at the Center

Katie Spelman – “Oklahoma!” – Paramount Theatre

ORIGINAL MUSIC IN A PLAY

Diego Colon and Christopher Kriz – “The Grapes of Wrath” – The Gift Theatre

Daniel Knox – “The Glass Menagerie” – The Hypocrites

Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen – “East of Eden” – Steppenwolf Theatre Company

André Pluess – “Treasure Island” – Lookingglass Theatre Company and

Berkeley Repertory Theatre

Brando Triantafillou – “The Mutilated” – A Red Orchid Theatre

MUSIC DIRECTION

Austin Cook – “Little Shop of Horrors” – American Blues Theater

Ryan T. Nelson – “Man of La Mancha” – Marriott Theatre

Doug Peck – “Dreamgirls” – Porchlight Music Theatre

Tom Vendafreddo – “A Christmas Story, the Musical” – Paramount Theatre

Tom Vendafreddo – “Oklahoma!” – Paramount Theatre

Tom Vendafreddo – “West Side Story” – Paramount Theatre

SCENIC DESIGN – MIDSIZE

Thad Hallstein – “Jerusalem” – Profiles Theatre

Sarah E. Ross – “The Rainmaker” – American Blues Theater

Joe Schermoly – “The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence” – Theater Wit

Adam Veness – “The New Sincerity” – Theater Wit

Chelsea M. Warren – “After All the Terrible Things I Do” – About Face Theatre

SCENIC DESIGN – LARGE

Tom Burch – “Sucker Punch” – Victory Gardens Theater

Kevin Depinet – “The Heir Apparent” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Kevin Depinet – “West Side Story” – Paramount Theatre

Jeffrey D. Kmiec – “Deathtrap” – Drury Lane Productions

Jack Magaw – “Long Day’s Journey into Night” – Court Theatre

LIGHTING DESIGN – MIDSIZE

Mike Durst – “Adding Machine: A Musical” – The Hypocrites

Diane D. Fairchild – “Where Did We Sit on the Bus?” – Teatro Vista in association with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and Victory Gardens Theater

Matt Gawryk – “The Glass Menagerie” – The Hypocrites

William C. Kirkham – “United Flight 232” – The House Theatre of Chicago

Richard Norwood – “ A Small Oak Tree Runs Red” – Congo Square Theatre Company

Michael Stanfill – “John Ball’s In the Heat of the Night” – Shattered Globe Theatre

LIGHTING DESIGN – LARGE

Lee Fiskness – “Sucker Punch” – Victory Gardens Theater

Jesse Klug – “Man of La Mancha” – Marriott Theatre

Jesse Klug – “West Side Story” – Paramount Theatre

Kenneth Posner – “War Paint” – Goodman Theatre

Aaron Spivey – “2666” – Goodman Theatre

Thom Weaver – “The Tempest” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater

David Weiner – “East of Eden” – Steppenwolf Theatre Company

COSTUME DESIGN – MIDSIZE

Jeremy W. Floyd – “The Explorers Club” – Windy City Playhouse

Frances Maggio – “The Producers” – Mercury Theater Chicago

Bill Morey – “Dreamgirls” – Porchlight Music Theatre

Bill Morey – “Far from Heaven” – Porchlight Music Theatre

Bill Morey – “Side Show” – Porchlight Music Theatre

COSTUME DESIGN – LARGE

Theresa Ham – “Hairspray” – Paramount Theatre

Ana Kuzmanic – “Treasure Island” – Lookingglass Theatre Company and

Berkeley Repertory Theatre

Nancy Missimi – “Elf The Musical” – Marriott Theatre

Brenda Winstead – “Nice Work If You Can Get It” – Theatre at the Center

Catherine Zuber – “War Paint” – Goodman Theatre

SOUND DESIGN – MIDSIZE

Christopher Kriz – “The Madness of Edgar Allan Poe: A Love Story” – First Folio Theatre

Steve Labedz – “United Flight 232” – The House Theatre of Chicago

Miles Polaski and Mikhail Fiksel – “Fulfillment” – American Theater Company and

The Flea Theater

Brian Quijada – “Where did We Sit on the Bus?” – Teatro Vista in association with the

Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and Victory Gardens Theater

Brandon Reed – “A Small Oak Tree Runs Red” – Congo Square Theatre Company

SOUND DESIGN – LARGE

Barry G. Funderburg – “The 39 Steps” – Theatre at the Center

Ryan Hickey – “Deathtrap” – Drury Lane Productions

Lindsay Jones – “Othello” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater

André Pluess – “Spill” – TimeLine Theatre Company

André Pluess – “Treasure Island” – Lookingglass Theatre Company and Berkeley Repertory Theatre

PROJECTIONS/VIDEO DESIGN

Joseph A. Burke – “1984” – Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Liviu Pasare – “In the Time of the Butterflies” – Teatro Vista

Shawn Sagady – “2666” – Goodman Theatre

Mike Tutaj – “ Chimerica” – TimeLine Theatre Company

Mike Tutaj – “ Ride the Cyclone” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater

ARTISTIC SPECIALIZATION

Chuck Coyl – Fight Choreography – “Sucker Punch” – Victory Gardens Theater

Christine Edison – Origami Art and Consultation – “Animals Out of Paper” – Shattered Globe Theatre

Mary O’Dowd and Amy Peter – Properties Design – “The Price” – TimeLine Theatre Company

Sarah E. Ross – Puppet Design – “Little Shop of Horrors” – American Blues Theater

Cassy Schillo – Properties and Set Dressing – “Deathtrap” – Drury Lane Productions

Johnny Thompson – Magic Design – “The Tempest” – Chicago Shakespeare Theater