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Oracle Productions, Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre Win Big at 41st Annual Non-Equity Jeff Awards


"The Mother," a stage tale of class warfare, and "Passion," a musical of love and obsession, took home top honors for Oracle Productions and Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre respectively Monday, June 2, at Park West during the 41st Annual Non-Equity Jeff Awards ceremony recognizing excellence in non-union Chicago theatre. Oracle, with five awards, and Theo Ubique, with four awards, garnered the most honors at Monday night's ceremony.

Oracle Productions, a non-profit public access theater, uses a funding model like public television and radio and does not charge for tickets; donors contribute monthly or yearly and fund all productions and expenses. "The Mother", a smart political take on Bertolt Brecht's tale of class conscious awakening, follows a widow on her journey to union organizer and military resister. "The Mother" won for Production Play, Ensemble, Principal Actress in a Play for Katherine Keberlein, Original Music in a Play for Jonathan Guillen and Nicholas Tonozzi, and New Adaptation for Steve Gooch.

Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre's "Passion", Stephen Sondheim's moody musical which portrays a 19th century love triangle of a soldier, his lover, and an obsessive stranger, garnered four awards, for Best Production - Musical, Principal Actress Danni Smith, Supporting Actress Colette Todd, and Music Director Kory Danielson.

Sean Blake, a long-time Chicago actor and past multiple nominee, and Dana Tretta, musical actress Jeff award recipient and six time nominee, served as emcees for the award show, which recognized 127 nominees in 24 categories from 66 Jeff Recommended productions, and ultimately honored 25 recipients from 14 theatres with awards celebrating excellence in all aspects of Chicago Non-Equity theatre. Director and choreographer Brenda Didier directed Monday's ceremony, and Jeff Non-Equity Chair, John D. Glover, produced the event.

Diane Hires, the chair of the 55-member Jeff Committee, welcomed the audience and presented this year's Special Jeff Award to Griffin Theatre Company for its dedication to provocative and transformational theatre for Chicago audiences as well as its touring theater that engages and enlightens youth throughout the United States. Griffin Artistic Director Bill Massolia accepted the award on behalf of an entourage of Griffin company members, board members and friends.

Lili-Anne Brown, Artistic Director of Bailiwick Chicago, received the honor for Director of a Musical with her insightful production of Lynn Ahrens' and Steven Flaherty's "Dessa Rose". Jason Gerace took home the Director of a Play award for the adaptation of "Great Expectations" at Strawdog Theatre Company. The Choreography honor went to Linda Fortunato for her work in "Kiss of the Spider Woman" at BoHo Theatre.

Other individual acting awards in principal roles went to David Schlumpf for his portrayal of Sidney Falcone in "Sweet Smell of Success" at Kokandy Productions, and to Patrick Gannon for multiple roles in "The Tennessee Williams Project" produced by The Hypocrites. Supporting actor awards went to Norm Woodel as Bonaparte in Griffin Theatre Company's "Golden Boy", Tommy Bullington as Smee in Quest Theatre Ensemble's "Return to Neverland", and Nora Lise Ulrey as Mary Tilford in "The Children's Hour" produced by Pride Films and Plays.

Technical nods went to Andrei Onegin's scenic design and to David Woolley's fight choreography, both for "The Playboy of the Western World" at Raven Theatre; Diane D. Fairchild's lighting design for "A Tale of Two Cities" and Stephen Ptacek's sound design for "The Killer Angels", both at Lifeline Theatre; and Izumi Inaba's costume design for "The Life and Death of Madam Barker" at Red Tape Theatre.

Two New Work awards were bestowed: one to Phillip Dawkins for "Miss Marx: or the involuntary side effect of living" produced by Strawdog Theatre Company, and the other to Manny Tamayo for "Incident on Run #1217" produced by The Factory Theater. The Jeff Award for New Adaptation was presented to Steve Gooch for "The Mother" at Oracle Productions.

More than 600 guests attended Monday's awards gala, which also featured musical production numbers from the season's nominated musicals, including "Monty Python's Spamalot" (NightBlue Performing Arts Company), "Kiss of the Spider Woman" (BoHo Theatre), "Dessa Rose" (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre). In addition, live segments from nominated play productions were performed, including "Veronica's Room" from BoHo Theatre, "The Playboy of the Western World" from Raven Theatre, "The Knowledge" from Steep Theatre Company, "Incident on Run #1217" from Factory Theater, "Great Expectations" from Strawdog Theatre Company, and "The Mother" from Oracle Productions.

The Jeff Awards has been honoring outstanding theatre artists annually since established in 1968. With up to 55 members representing a wide variety of backgrounds in theatre, the Jeff Awards is committed to celebrating the vitality of Chicago area theatre by recognizing excellence through its recommendations, awards and honors. The Jeff Awards fosters artistic growth of area theatres and theatre artists and promotes educational opportunities, audience appreciation, and civic pride in the achievements of the theatre community. The Jeff Awards evaluates more than 250 theatrical productions and host two awards ceremonies annually. Originally chartered to recognize only Equity productions, the Jeff Awards established the Non-Equity Wing in 1973 to celebrate outstanding achievement in non-union theatre. The next Equity Awards Ceremony, honoring productions presented under union contracts, will be held on Monday, October 13, 2014, at the Drury Lane Oakbrook in Oakbrook Terrace.

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