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    Posted November 18, 2008

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Joseph Jefferson Awards Celebrate 40th Anniversary in Chicago

Equity's Best Ensemble Award went to Chicago Shakes' FUNK IT UP ABOUT NOTHIN'

Actors' Equity Presents Coveted Best Ensemble Award To Chicago Shakespeare's "Funk It Up About Nothin'" On Monday, October 20, at a star-studded gala celebrating 40 years of the Jeff Awards, The Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee presented 37 awards to celebrate excellence in Chicago-area Equity theatre. Over 700 gathered at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie to honor 150 nominees from Equity theatrical productions that opened between August 1, 2007, and July 31, 2008.

For the second year in a row, Actors' Equity sponsored the coveted "Best Ensemble" Award, which was garnered by Chicago Shakespeare's FUNK IT UP ABOUT NOTHIN', a musical "ad-Rap-tation" of the Bard's comedy. Equity Regional Vice President Dev Kennedy and Senior Business Rep Christine Provost presented the award to the cast. Another Chicago Shakespeare production, Ron Wells adaptation of THE COMEDY OF ERRORS, brought home four additional Jeffs.

Chicago Dramatists, known for its nurturing of new works, was honored with four awards, including three for their critically acclaimed cop drama, A STEADY RAIN, co-starring Randy Steinmeyer (Outstanding Actor in a Principal Role).

Beginning this season, the Jeff Awards honored the work of Large and Midsize theatres in separate categories for productions and technical elements. The two tier system allows separate awards for each tier in seven award categories: Production - Play, Production - Musical, Production - Revue, Scenic Design, Costume Design, Lighting Design, and Sound Design.

The Marriot Theatre's stunning production of LES MISÉRABLES led the musical honors with four Awards including Outstanding Director (Dominic Missimi, in a director-tie with Jim Corti, for Drury Lane Oakbrook's SWEET CHARITY), Outstanding Actor in a Principal Role (John Cudia), and Outstanding Actor in a Supporting Role (Richard Todd Adams).

Drury Lane Oakbrook, under the new leadership of Kyle DeSantis, scored big with its musical SWEET CHARITY, garnering awards for Outstanding Director, Outstanding Principal Actress (Summer Naomi Smart) and Outstanding Choreography (Mitzi Hamilton).

The Goodman Theatre's THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL was recognized for its leading actress Lois Smith and supporting actress Hallie Foote.

Jeff Winner E. Faye Butler in Northlight's ELLA

Northlight Theatre's ELLA, the imagining of an Ella Fitzgerald concert rehearsal, came away with three trophies, including Outstanding Actress in a Revue for CRB member E. Faye Butler. Ms. Butler was competing with herself, having also been nominated for AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' at the Goodman.

Other "Best Supporting" Awards went to Mark Ulrich (JUNO AND THE PAYCOCK, Artistic Home), Jessie Mueller (CAROUSEL, Court Theatre), James Rank (AMERICAN DREAM SONGBOOK, Next Theatre).

Nilaja Sun won Best Solo Performance for NO CHILD…at the Lookingglass Theatre Company.

Eileen Boevers, founder and recently retired Executive Director of Apple Tree Theater, received a Special Award for her lifetime of contributions to Chicago theatre, including producing, directing, performing, writing, and theatre education.

The evening was amiably hosted by Cindy Gold and Nancy Voigts. Other presenters included Jeff founders Guy Barile and Felix Shuman, and Art Kassul, the first Award recipient for Outstanding Actor in a Principal Role - Play, in 1969. Central Regional Board member Michael Weber directed the overall production.

For a complete list of Award Winners, visit

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