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Posted November 8, 2005

'Seven Guitars,' 'Beauty and the Beast' Garner Top Awards at Joseph Jefferson-Equity Awards

Porchlight Music Theatre Chicago received five awards for their productions of Sweeney Todd and Closer Than Ever, represented by, from left: Walter Stearns, Artistic Director; Eugene Dizon, Musical Direction, Sweeney Todd; Peter Pohlhammer, Actor in a Supporting Role-Musical, Sweeney Todd; Rebecca Finnegan, Actress in a Principal Role-Musical, Sweeney Todd, and Actress in a Revue, Closer Than Ever; Michael Aaron Lindner, Actor in a Principal Role-Musical, Sweeney Todd, and Bethany Lindner

Chicago, November 7, 2005 - Twenty-nine Jeff Awards were spread among 20 productions and 13 theatres at the 37th annual awards ceremony held Monday evening at Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place in Chicago. Congo Square Theatre Company's production of "Seven Guitars" received the Jeff for Production-Play and Marriott Theatre's "Beauty and the Beast" received the Jeff for Production-Musical.

"Sweeney Todd," produced by Porchlight Music Theatre Chicago, received four Jeff Awards, followed by "Beauty and the Beast" by Marriott Theatre and "Seven Guitars" by Congo Square Theatre Company, each receiving three Jeff Awards. "Seven Guitars" by Congo Square Theatre Company also received top honors for Ensemble and Derrick Sanders for Director-Play.

Congo Square Theatre captured three of the top 2005 Jeff awards for their production of Seven Guitars by August Wilson, including Ensemble, Production-Play and Director-Play. Ensemble members are: first row from left, Kenn E. Head, Alexis J. Phillips, Derrick Sanders (Director) and Bakesta King; second row from left, Adam Thurman, TaRon Patton, Aaron Todd Douglas, Ann Joseph, Will Sims II and Manifa Days.

Both writing categories of Best New Work and Best Adaptation each had two recipients. New Work recipients are Bruce Norris for "The Pain and the Itch" and Adam Rapp for "Red Light Winter," both produced by Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Jeff Awards for New Adaptation went to Rebecca Gilman for "Dollhouse," produced by Goodman Theatre, and Andrew White for "1984," produced by Lookingglass Theatre Company.

Marc Robin

Marc Robin received the most individual honors, three Jeff Awards for productions produced by Marriott Theatre. They are Director-Musical for "Beauty and the Beast," Director-Revue for "Swing!" and shared the Jeff Award for Choreography with Mark Stuart Eckstein and Beverly Durand for "Swing!"

Rebecca Finnegan was the only other multiple recipient, receiving Jeff Awards for Actress in a Principal Role-Musical in "Sweeney Todd" and Actress in a Revue in "Closer Than Ever," both produced by Porchlight Music Theatre Chicago.

Other top acting honors went to Jefferson Mays, Actor in a Principal Role-Play, "I Am My Own Wife," Goodman Theatre; Michael Aaron Lindner, Actor in a Principal Role-Musical, "Sweeney Todd," Porchlight Music Theatre Chicago; Barbara Robertson, Actress in a Principal Role-Play, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Court Theatre, and "Mississippi" Charles Bevel, Actor in a Revue, "It Ain't Nothin' But the Blues," Northlight Theatre.

Supporting acting recipients are Tom Aulino, Actor in a Supporting Role-Play, "Take Me Out," About Face Theatre; Jayne Houdyshell, Actress in a Supporting Role-Play, "The Pain and the Itch," Steppenwolf Theatre Company; Peter Pohlhammer, Actor in a Supporting Role-Musical, "Sweeney Todd," Porchlight Music Theatre Chicago, and Renee Matthews, Actress in a Supporting Role-Musical, "The Full Monty," Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place.

Dennis Zacek

Dennis Zacek, Artistic Director of Victory Gardens Theater, received a special award for Outstanding Achievement in Chicago Equity Theatre. One of nine original founders of Victory Gardens in 1974, Zacek became the theater's first official artistic director in 1977 and has led the theater through recognition and growth in his 26 years in that position, including the 2001 Tony Award for regional theatre.

The Jeff Equity Awards ceremony was held in downtown Chicago for the first time in several years. A new format and script for the presentations were introduced as well as medleys of the nominated plays and musicals. The ceremony was sold out. Productions earning Jeff Awards were produced during the 2004-05 Equity season, running August 1, 2004 through July 31, 2005. Additional information and photographs are available at

Founded in 1968, the mission of The Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee is to honor excellence in theatrical productions in the Chicago theatre community. The committee, comprised of theatre professionals and experienced theatergoers, evaluates approximately 200 theatrical productions and holds two awards ceremonies annually. Originally chartered to recognize Equity productions, the Citations (non-equity) wing was founded in 1973 to celebrate outstanding achievement in non-union Chicago theatre, and that ceremony is held annually in June.

Click here for the complete list of recipients and nominees.

All photos courtesy of Joseph Jefferson Awards

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