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    Posted November 26, 2007

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Joseph Jefferson Awards Celebrate Equity Actors, Theatres

At a star-studded gala on Monday, October 29, 2007, the 39th annual Joseph Jefferson Awards celebrated excellence in Chicago-area Equity theatre from the 2006-2007 season. More than 700 actors, stage managers, musicians, designers, directors, producers and theatre-goers gathered at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie to honor 122 nominees from outstanding Equity theatrical productions in a wide variety of categories.

For the first time, Actors' Equity became an official participant of the gala, sponsoring the Outstanding Ensemble Award, which went to Steppenwolf Theatre's production of AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY which has transferred to Broadway. Central Regional Vice President Dev Kennedy and Central Regional Director Kathryn Lamkey presented the award to Steppenwolf's David New.

In their remarks, Ms. Lamkey noted that Equity was founded in 1913 to "to advance, promote, foster, and benefit all those connected with the art of the theatre and particularly the profession of acting and the conditions of persons engaged therein. As we enter our 95th year, we now represent some 48,000 actors and stage managers in the US and 1400 members in Chicago, who are a vital core within the vibrant and ever-growing Chicago theatre community."

"With this sponsorship, we also recommit ourselves to the goal of our founders and commit to work together with the Chicago Theatre Community to further the art of theatre and to benefit all actors and stage managers, for such cooperation represents the true meaning of ensemble."

Central Regional Vice President Dev Kennedy added: "As actors and stage managers, we face uncertainty in our chosen profession, but we are also filled with passion for what we do. Equity is a democratic, member driven organization Union that creatively builds and defends the economic framework that allows us to practice our craft and provide for ourselves and our families."

The Steppenwolf Theater led the play recipients with six awards for AUGUST OSAGE COUNTY, while top Outstanding Musical honors went to the Porchlight Music Theatre Chicago, with five awards, including 4 for RAGTIME. The Goodman, Northlight, Marriott, Court, Lookingglass, About Face, Chicago Shakespeare, Remy Bumppo, Next, Shattered Globe, Theatre Wit, and Writers' Theatres all took home awards.

Acting award recipients in Play categories included Ben Carlson as the tragic prince in "Hamlet" at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Deanna Dunagan as the flawed matriarch in Steppenwolf's "August: Osage County," veteran Maury Cooper as the appraiser in Shattered Globe Theatre's "The Price," and Penny Slusher as the doddering wife in Writers' Theatre's "Another Part of the Forest." A rare tie in the Solo Performance category resulted in 2 recipients: Matt Sax, the hip-hop principal in Lookingglass Theatre's "Clay," and Lance Stuart Baker in "Thom Pain (based on nothing)" produced by Theater Wit. Musical acting awards honored New York favorites David Hess in Marriott Theatre's "Shenandoah" and Ernestine Jackson in Court Theatre's "Raisin." Douglas Vickers received the Cameo Performance award for his role as a muckraking pawn in "The Best Man" at Remy Bumppo Theatre Company.

The biggest ovation of the evening went to former CRB member Dan Proctor, the much-loved actor who was shot in the head by an assailant in 2005. Proctor, who is currently undergoing rehabilitation, made an appearance on behalf of The Actors Fund, which has assisted him with his medical bills. "I'm back," he said, to thunderous applause.

In memoriam: Central Region Councillor Tom Joyce paid a special tribute to Chicago producer Tony DeSantis, who died this past June. DeSantis built the Drury Lane theatre chain and was given an Honorary Life Membership in Equity in 2005 for his exemplary record of providing employment for Equity members.

CRB member Mark David Kaplan and Equity member Renee Matthews presided over the evening, which included scenes and musical numbers from the 14 nominated productions. CRB member Michael Weber, himself a nominee for Director-Musical, directed the ceremony.

Jackie Taylor, Black Ensemble Theatre's Founding Executive Director, received a Special Award for her lifetime of dedicated leadership in celebrating the contributions of African-Americans through theatre and related arts.

For a complete list of Award winners, visit

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