Jeff Awards perform excellent virtual show


Drury Lane (Photo courtesy of Drury Lane)
Drury Lane (Photo courtesy of Drury Lane)

The Equity Jeff awards were announced virtually this year. The 52nd annual recognition ceremony of excellence in performances and technical aspects had a lot of pluses.

Even though the ceremony was Nov. 9, it is still worth seeing on the Jeff Awards YouTube channel.

The good part of the virtual event is you can tune in when you want, watch, take a break, see performance clips and meet the nominees from your couch. Among the clips are scenes from “Color Purple,” “Bug” and “Spamalot.”

So, grab a snack, glass of wine and hear who takes top honors among a field of superb nominees.

Jeff Chairman John Glover gives a fine introduction to the whys and therefore of the event. Popular Chicago actor (actress is seldom used now) and former Jeff award recipient Michelle Lauto handles  hosting duties.

Because Covid interrupted the season, the Jeff Committee attended a mere 78 shows this year. That may seem a lot to people outside Chicago but the theater community here counts approximately 250 production companies in and around the city.

Jeff Equity productions that qualified for an award were limited to those shown between Aug. 1, 2019 through mid-March 2020. The hope is that some of the interrupted and not staged shows will be performed next year.

Here are some of the top winners. But even knowing them it is still fun to watch the ceremony.

Drury Lane Productions collected awards for “An American in Paris,” (Production – Musical -Large and Choreography) and “The Color Purple,” Director – Musical.)

Windy City Playhouse was recognized for “The Boys in the Band” (Midsize Production, Director, Scenic Design and Ensemble).

Court Theater received awards for “King Hedley II” (Production – Play- Large and  Kelvin Rostin, Jr. Principal Role and A.C. Smith, Supporting Role).

Porchlight Music Theatre garnered awards for “Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies” (Revue, Ensemble – Musical, Musical Direction and Lorenzo Rush, Jr. ,Performer)

Steppenwolf Theatre’s “Bug” received (Performer in a Principal Role for Carrie Coon, and technical awards for scenic and lighting design)

For a full list please visit Jeff Awards. For related information see ChicagoTheaterandArts.

Jodie Jacobs


Jeff Awards on YouTube


Some theater venues around town. (J Jacobs photo)
Some theater venues around town. (J Jacobs photo)


To hear which shows, actors, and everyone involved in equity theater productions ranging from choreographers to costume designers receive recognition by the Jeff Committee, tune into YouTube tonight, Nov. 9, 2020 at 7 p.m. CST for the 52nd annual excellence awards.

The nominees had a different time frame to qualify in this year of the Covid-19 pandemic. But there were still 30 artistic and technical categories. Please see CTAA Jeff Award Nominations.

For more information visit Annual Equity Jeff Nominations and Jeff Awards.


Jeff Equity nominations to be announced


Empty theater venues are the norm since Covid shut theaters mid March. (Drury Lane shot)
Empty seats are the norm since Covid shut theaters mid March. (Drury Lane shot)

The Jeff Awards which have been recognizing outstanding theater artists and productions since established in 1968, will announce the 2020 Equity nominations Sept.15, 2020.

The date for the online Equity Awards, a program similar to the Non-Equity Awards presented in June, will also be announced on Sept. 15.

Eligibility is for productions staged from Aug. 1, 2019 through March 13, 2020.

“This season brought a wonderful range of stories and performances to Chicago stages. There is a lot to celebrate despite the pandemic and civil unrest that interrupted some openings and productions runs this spring and summer,” said Jeff Awards Chair John Glover.

“We are so fortunate to have so much creative recognition worthy work on Chicago states, so we knew that a show needed to go on this fall,” Glover said.

He added, “During these times, it is even more important to remember and promote the value that the arts bring to our lives and the vital role theater plays in opening ourselves up to a variety of perspectives.”

For more information on the Jeffs visit Jeff Faq.

Jeff Awards Non Equity nominations

Mlima's Tale at Raven Theatre. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)
Mlima’s Tale at Raven Theatre. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

Even though Chicago’s theater companies, arguably the most in the U.S. at 250, are now shuttered except for virtual experiences, their 2019-20 productions are still being recognized by the Jeff Awards.

Founded in 1968 to note outstanding achievement in categories somewhat similar to the Academy Awards, the Jeff Awards started with recognizing equity productions (operating under union contracts) but added non-equity in 1973.

The Non-Equity Award Nominations were just announced. Each year the plays under consideration are performed from April 1 through the season to March 1.

To be Jeff recommended, Jeff committee members have to see one element of excellence on opening night, then the production can be considered for category nominations. Committee members range from producers, theater educators and scenic designers to playwrights, musicians and theater critics and other professional theater positions. For more information visit JeffAwards/Judging.

The Non-Equity Nominations just announced are for 21 categories that among other segments include new works, musical and play productions, musical and play directors, musical and play lead performers, musical and play supporting performers, solo performers. Nominations also go to such important complementary work as costume and scenic design, choreography and sound and lighting design.

Cast of 'Head Over Heels,' a Kokandy Productions show at Theater Wit. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)
Cast of ‘Head Over Heels,’ a Kokandy Productions show at Theater Wit. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

You may not be familiar with all the Chicago area’s non-equity theater production companies but hopefully when the COVID-19 threat is over all will reopen and you can experience their stage work.

As an example in the Production – Musical category are Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre for Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Black Button Eyes Productions for Ghost Quartet, Underscore Theatre Company for The Ballad of Lefty & Crabbe, BoHo Theatre for Big Fish and Kokandy Productions for Head Over Heels.

In the Production-Play category Raven Theatre has The Undeniable Sound of Right Now, Steep Theatre Company has First love is the Revolution, Lifeline Theatre has Middle Passage, Jackalope theatre Company has PYG or the Mis-Edumacation of Dorian Belle and Griffin theatre company has Mlima’s Tale.

Several production companies are also noted in multiple categories for other shows. Please visit JeffAwards/Non-Equity Nominees to see the entire list.

Jodie Jacobs


Jeff Award Judging in May

Head Over Heels review

Mlima’s Tale review


Jeff Award judging on hold until May


Lookingglass Theatre, in Chicago’s Historic Water Works is among the production companies to suspend its current show (J Jacobs photo)

Most show goers know by now that many theaters in the Chicago area have suspended or postponed their current 2020 productions in accordance with state and local recommendations to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Ticket holders not sure if the show they were planning to see is currently on, should call the theater to check. Lookingglass Theatre (see photo) was among the latest to cancel its current production.

Given that so many shows have been cancelled or delayed and that going to a show even if it is still on has becomes health risk, the Jeff Awards, a group that usually sends judges to Chicago area’s opening nights, has suspended its judging of productions until May 1.

The organization will re-access the decision on that date if judging should resume.

Even though audiences may attend a show because they are season subscribers or because they are attracted by a production’s theme or title so don’t pay attention to whether the theater or the show receives an award from the Jeff Committee, the production companies, actors and associated directors and designers do care if they receive Jeff recognition.

The Jeff Awards have been recognizing excellent theater (also spelled theatre) productions and individuals since 1968. With approximately 250 theater production companies in the Chicago area, that means attending a lot of shows to nominate and award the ones deemed the best.

Since 1973, awards have not gone to just Equity (union) productions, but are also handed out to nonequity productions.

Anyone visiting the Review section of Theatre In Chicago can see if a show has received the note “Jeff Recommended.” What that means is that a Jeff judge thought that at the opening night performance at least one element was considered excellent. The production is then eligible for award nominations.

Jeff Awards Chairman John Glover explained the decision to temporarily suspend judges’ visits.

“Our social responsibility to the community also includes our own volunteer members. While many of the productions we had planned to attend have been cancelled or postponed, our members are such dedicated theater supporters that many plan, in an unofficial capacity, to evaluate each situation and where possible, pay for and attend local theater when productions are available, in an effort to continue to support the local theaters during this difficult time. I am proud to be part of an organization that is such a champion for theater excellence and the companies that bring it to life,” said Glover.

For more information visit Jeff Awards. For questions about eligibility visit and

Jodie Jacobs


Some thoughts on the Jeff Awards


Chicago cast of ‘Six’ (Photo by Liz Lauren) “Six” the British musical mounted by Chicago Shakespeare received Beat Musical (large category) and Best Ensemble Musical/Revue. It will return to Chicago at the Broadway Playhouse July 2010.

When the 2019 Jeff Awards Ceremony took place Oct. 21 at Drury Lane Oakbrook, two production companies received five awards each from the volunteer Jeff Committee.

In the Midsized category, RemyBumppo’s multiple recognition included Best Production for “Frankenstein.” In the Large category, Court Theatre’s multiple awards included  “Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf” and ”Photograph 51.”

Other theater companies receiving multiple awards for their productions were as follows: Lookingglass (4) Chicago Shakespeare (3), Steppenwolf (3) Black
Ensemble (3) Windy City Playhouse (3) Firebrand partnering with TimeLine (2) TimeLine (alone 2), Paramount (2) and Porchlight (2).

First Folio, Goodman, American Blues Theater, Marriott and Theatre at the Center each received one award as did the new musical, “Miracle” about the Chicago Cubs, staged at the commercial (rented out space) Royal George Theatre.

Cast of Miracle The Musical 108 years in the Making at Royal George Theatre. (Photo by Michael Brosilow) The Michael Mahler and Jason Brett - "Miracle" - William A. Marovitz and Arny Granat production won a New Work-Musical Award
Cast of Miracle The Musical 108 years in the Making at Royal George Theatre. (Photo by Michael Brosilow) The Michael Mahler and Jason Brett – “Miracle” – William A. Marovitz and Arny Granat production won a New Work-Musical Award

Those shows were excellent. But the Chicago area has 250 theater companies, many of which, such as Writers Theatre, also turn out excellent productions. Some of those productions received nominations.

However, when the voting was in, the Jeff committee focused on a very few productions and  even ignored some outstanding individual performances in productions by companies that had been recognized for another show.

Given that theater here is amazingly alive and well, maybe the Jeff Committee needs to be expanded or some of its criteria changed or we need an additional award organization.

Feel free to leave a comment on this site.

For a complete list of the Jeff Award recipients see Jeff Awards.

To learn which shows were nominated and an explanation of the Jeff Awards visit  Jeff Nominations Announced.

Jodie Jacobs

Non Equity Jeff nominations announced

One of the spaces at The Den, a popular multi-show venue. (The Den photo)
One of the spaces at The Den, a popular multi-show venue. (The Den photo)

The number of theater companies in Chicago varies each year with some going “dark” more than Monday nights and some opening or reforming but a number often used is 250. That’s companies, not venues which are often shared.

Some use mostly equity (union) players. Others can’t afford to. The Jeff Committee divides its awards into non-equity, announced early June, and equity, announced mid October. Both awards are important recognition of excellence.

Non-equity nominees were announced today, April 22 2019 regarding the 68 productions recommended for awards out of 144 eligible productions submitted for Jeff recommendation.

The eligible non-equity shows were produced between April 1, 2018 and March 31, 2019 and included 14 world premieres. Thirty-three theater companies had works receiving at least one nomination.

Of these Raven received 12 nominations, BoHo theatre 11 and Haven theatre company 10. Other companies receiving nominations include Steep Theatre Company, The Artistic Home, Black Button Eyes Productions, Sideshow Theatre Company, Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre, Underscore Theatre Company,Jackalope Theatre Company, Kokandy Productions, Lifeline Theatre, Broken Nose Theatre, First Floor Theater, Pegasus Theatre Chicago, Pride Films and Plays, Redtwist Theatre, Refuge Theatre Project, City Lit Theater Company, Griffin Theatre Company, Interrobang Theatre Project, Red Tape Theatre, Trap Door Theatre and UrbanTheater Company.

The list of the 2019 Non-Equity Jeff Award Nominees is quite extensive as it covers 22 categories ranging from Ensemble, Production-Musical, Production-Play to individual contributions as performers, directors, choreographers and design.  For a complete list, visit  Jeff Awards.

A quick peek shows the following nominees

Production-Musical category
“The Bridges of Madison County” – Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre
“Bright Star” – BoHo Theatre
“Grand Hotel” – Kokandy Productions
“Haymarket” – Underscore Theatre Company
“The Total Bent” – Haven Theatre Company

Production -Play category
“Birdland” – Steep Theatre Company
“Dutch Masters” – Jackalope Theatre Company
“Eclipsed” – Pegasus Theatre Chicago
“Hooded, Or Being Black for Dummies” – First Floor Theater
“Requiem for a Heavyweight” – The Artistic Home
“Tilikum” – Sideshow Theatre Company
“Yen” – Raven Theatre

The 46th Annual Non–Equity Jeff Awards will be announced June 3, 2019 at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave., Chicago at 7:30 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m. with several cash bars ). Tickets are $45 in advance and $50 on June 3. For tickets visit Athenaeum.

The Equity Awards will be held on October 21 at Drury Lane Oakbrook.

Jodie Jacobs

Thoughts on the Jeff Awards

Benson, Mahler, Stevenson and McCabe (preview) in Buddy-The Buddy Holly Story, an American Blues theater revival. (Michael Brosilow photos)
Benson, Mahler, Stevenson and McCabe (preview) in Buddy-The Buddy Holly Story, an American Blues theater revival. (Michael Brosilow photos)

Some very fine performances and productions were honored at the 50th anniversary of the Jeff Awards Oct. 22 at Drury Lane in Oakbrook Terrace.

As an example, American Blues Theater’s “Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story”  received the most awards:  Production – Musical -Midsize, Director Lili-Anne Brown, Principal Performer in a Musical Zachary Stevenson, Music Director Michael Mahler,and Ensemble – Musical or Revue.

But think about it.  When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences name the Oscar winners each year, movie goers who haven’t seen the award-winning shows still can catch them on DVD, Netflix and other film distributes.

There are arguably many people who would still like to see the American Blues Theater’s production. Continue reading “Thoughts on the Jeff Awards”

Four Chicago theatres receive special Jeff recognition


Goodman Theatre is among four longtime Chicago area theatres to be honored at Jeff Awards (Goodman Theatre photo)
Goodman Theatre is among four longtime Chicago area theatres to be honored at Jeff Awards (Goodman Theatre photo)

When the Joseph Jefferson Awards holds its annual ceremony and dinner on Oct. 22, 2018 to recognize the best acting and production components of last season’s Equity shows, there will be four additional awards.

To mark the Jeff Awards 50th anniversary, Goodman Theatre, started in 1925, Drury Lane Theatre, begun in 1949, Court Theatre founded in 1955 and The Second City, dating back to 1959, will be honored for enriching the Chicago theatre scene for more than 50 years. Over the past 50 years, the four theatres have racked up more than 1,400 nominations and 350 awards. Continue reading “Four Chicago theatres receive special Jeff recognition”

Jeff Awards in the Non-Equity category are announced


If you attended a theatre performance in the Chicago area last season you thought worthy of special recognition you should check out the Jeff Award nominations.

Jeff Awards are given to outstanding shows and cast and production members in both the equity and non-equity category taking place between April 1 of one year and March 31 of the following year.

First up this year are the 45th Annual Non-Equity nominations that were just announced for shows that occurred from the beginning of April 2017 through the end of March, 2018.

There are 115 nominations in 19 categories so the list is long but here are a few tidbits.

Griffin Theatre Company eceived several Jeff Award nominations this year that included its production of 'Ragtime.' (Michael Brosilow photo)
Griffin Theatre Company eceived several Jeff Award nominations this year that included its production of ‘Ragtime.’ (Michael Brosilow photo)

Griffin Theatre Company led the way with 14 nominations followed by Pride Films and Plays (3 with Permoveo Productions) and the Steep Theatre Company with 11 nominations.

Next were BoHo Theatre and Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre with each garnering 8 nominations. Interroband Theatre Project and Kokandy Productins each received 7 nominations.

Scott Weinstein received best director nominations for “Ragtime” and Violet,” both Griffin Theatre productions.

Nominated for best musical production were “Bonnie & Clyde” (Kokandy), “Marie Christine” (BoHo), “Ragtime” (Griffin), “Sweeney Todd” (Theo Ubique) and “Violet” (Griffin).

The best play production category named ”Foxfinder” (Interrobang), “Ideation” (Jackalope), “The Invisible Hand” (Steep) “Lela & Co.” (Steep) and “The Light” (New Colony).

To see who was nominated in the acting and production categories visit Jeff Non-Equity.

The award announcement and ceremony is June 11, 2018  at the Athenaeum Theatre. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the awards begin at 7:30 p.m.. Tickets are $45 in advance and $50 on June 11. For tickets and more information visit Athenaeum.  For more Jeff Award info visit