🐥🐰Two small and relatively unknown theater companies — Broken Nose Theatre and Refuge Theatre Project — took the top honors Monday night as the 44th annual Non-Equity Jeff Awards. The awards, which celebrate excellence by companies that do not operate under the Equity union contract, were presented at the Athenaeum Theatre, a welcoming new home for the ceremony after years at Park West.
In an unusual twist, both companies also happened to be in their first year of eligibility for these Jeff awards.
Michael Perlman’s “At The Table,” produced by Broken Nose, earned four awards — cited for best production of a play, director of a play (Spenser Davis), ensemble, and actress in a supporting role in a play (Echaka Agba). And if you missed it the first time around, there is this good news: The play — which homes in on a diverse group of friends who spend a weekend in the country, where they engage in a debate over such hot topics as reproductive rights, race, gay marriage, gender equality in the arts, and more – will be remounted with the original cast for a five-week run this summer (June 29 – July 28) at The Den Theatre, 1333 N.Milwaukee. (For tickets visit www.brokennosetheatre.com.)
Top honors in the musical category went to Refuge Theatre Project for its production of “High Fidelity,” the story of a record store owner and his friends based on the popular movie starring John Cusack. “High Fidelity” received awards for best production of a musical, director of a musical (Christopher Pazdernik) and scenic design (Michelle Manni).
BoHo Theatre also received a three awards for two of its musical productions — “Next to Normal” and “Urinetown.” The Solo Performance Award went to Philip Dawkins for his work in “The Happiest Place on Earth,” a bittersweet history of his family’s relationship with Disneyland, produced by Greenhouse Theater Center and Sideshow Theatre Company.
Three new works also were recognized: Ike Holter’s “Prowess,” a fierce tale of Chicago’s mean streets, produced by Jackalope Theatre Company; Alex Lubischer’s “Bobbie Clearly,” about a community trying to make sense of a senseless act of violence in a Nebraska town, produced by Steep Theatre Company; and the enchanting new musical, “Northanger Abbey,” a musical adaptation of Jane Austen’s first novel, created by Robert Kauzlaric and George Howe, and produced by Lifeline Theatre.
A Special Jeff Award was presented to David Cerda, the artistic director and creative force behind Hell In A Handbag Productions, who was honored for both his theatrical and charitable contributions to the community. Paying homage to his love of drag and camp, his citation read: “Congratulations and thanks for “dragging” the Chicago theater world into your Hell in a Handbag with humor, heart, hilarity and humanity.”
In addition to performances from the season’s nominated musicals, the ceremony, directed by Brenda Didier and zestily emceed by actresses Alexis Roston and Lillian Castillo, featured memorial tributes to two vital forces in the Chicago theater community who died recently: Martha Lavey, longtime artistic director of Steppenwolf Theatre, and Samuel G. Roberson Jr., artistic director of Chicago’s Congo Square Theatre Company.
Here is a complete list of the 2017 Non-Equity Jeff Award recipients:
PRODUCTION, PLAY: “At the Table” (Broken Nose Theatre).
PRODUCTION, MUSICAL: “High Fidelity” (Refuge Theatre Project).
ENSEMBLE: “At the Table” (Broken Nose Theatre).
DIRECTOR, PLAY: Spenser Davis, “At the Table” (Broken Nose Theatre).
DIRECTOR, MUSICAL: Christopher Pazdernik, “High Fidelity” (Refuge Theatre Project).
ACTOR IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE, PLAY: George Seegebrecht (Hauptmann) in “Hauptmann” (City Lit Theater Company), and Gage Wallace (Terry) in “Taste” (Red Theater Chicago).
ACTOR IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE, MUSICAL: Henry McGinniss (Bat Boy/Edgar) in “Bat Boy The Musical” (Griffin Theatre Company).
ACTRESS IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE, PLAY: Amy Johnson (Tami) in “Falling” (Interrobang Theatre Project).
ACTRESS IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE, MUSICAL: Colette Todd (Diana) in “Next to Normal” (BoHo Theatre).
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE, PLAY: Justin Tsatsa (Josh) in “Falling” (Interrobang Theatre Project).
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE, MUSICAL: Scott Danielson (Officer Lockstock) in “Urinetown” (BoHo Theatre).
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE, PLAY: Echaka Agba (Lauren) in “At the Table” (Broken Nose Theatre).
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE, MUSICAL: Veronica Garza (Nancy/Tonya’s Mom) in “Tonya and Nancy The Rock Opera” (Underscore Theatre Company).
SOLO PERFORMANCE: Philip Dawkins in “The Happiest Place on Earth” (Greenhouse Theater Center and Sideshow Theatre Company).
ACTOR/ACTRESS IN A REVUE: Colette Todd (Angela) in “Honky Tonk Angels” (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre).
NEW PLAY: Ike Holter, “Prowess” (Jackalope Theatre Company), and Alex Lubischer, “Bobbie Clearly” (Steep Theatre Company).
NEW MUSICAL: Robert Kauzlaric and George Howe, “Northanger Abbey” (Lifeline Theatre.)
CHOREOGRAPHY: Aubrey Adams, “Urinetown” (BoHo Theatre).
ORIGINAL MUSIC IN A PLAY: Natasha Bogojevich, “Gentle” (TUTA Theatre Chicago).
MUSIC DIRECTION: Jeremy Ramey, “The Most Happy Fella” (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre).
SCENIC DESIGN: Michelle Manni, “High Fidelity” (Refuge Theatre Project).
LIGHTING DESIGN: Kevin D. Gawley, “A Wrinkle in Time” (Lifeline Theatre).
COSTUME DESIGN: John Nasca, “Priscilla: Queen of the Desert” (Pride Films and Plays).
SOUND DESIGN: Stephen Ptacek, “How We Got On” (Haven Theatre Company).
PROJECTION DESIGN: Anthony Churchill, “The Body of an American” (Stage Left Theatre).
FIGHT CHOREOGRAPHY: Ryan Bourque, “Prowess” (Jackalope Theatre Company).