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The 52nd Annual Equity Jeff Awards Celebrate Excellence in Chicago Theatre; Winners Announced

The Jeff Awards has recognized 39 recipients for the 2020 awards, selected from among 142 theater artist nominees across 30 artistic and technical categories.

In its 52nd annual celebration of theater excellence, the Jeff Awards has recognized 39 recipients for the 2020 awards, selected from among 142 theater artist nominees across 30 artistic and technical categories.

Award-winning Chicago actor, singer and teaching artist Michelle Lauto hosted the online awards announcement program and tribute to the theater community that featured work of many of the nominated productions and more than a dozen local theater artists as presenters. The program can be accessed for free on the Jeff Awards YouTube channel at https://bit.ly/JeffAwards.

Drury Lane Productions captured the most honors this season, with five awards going to "An American in Paris," including Production - Musical (Large) and Choreography, and three for "The Color Purple," which spotlighted Lili-Anne Brown as Director - Musical. Windy City Playhouse garnered five awards, including four for the play "The Boys in the Band" highlighting Midsize Production and Director and Scenic Design, as well as Ensemble, which it shared with "The Leopard Play, or Sad Songs for Lost Boys" at Steep Theatre Company.

"King Hedley II" at Court Theater was awarded both Production - Play (Large) as well as performer honors for Kelvin Rostin, Jr. in a Principal Role and A.C. Smith in a Supporting Role. Porchlight Music Theatre collected awards for this season's musical revue "Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies" with honors for Ensemble - Musical, Musical Direction by Jermaine Hill and Lorenzo Rush, Jr. as Performer in a Revue.

Steppenwolf Theatre's production of "Bug" drew three honors including Performer in a Principal Role for Carrie Coon, and technical awards for scenic and lighting design. Awards for "Kill Move Paradise" at TimeLine Theatre Company recognized Wardell Julius Clark for Director - Play (Large) and Artistic Specialization of Breon Arzell for inventive movement choreography. As part of its final bow, the recently closed Mercury Theater Company took home two awards for midsize theater, recognizing "Monty Python's Spamalot," for Production - Musical and L. Walter Stearns as Director - Musical.

Additional performance awards were presented to Rebecca Spence in "Every Brilliant Thing" at Windy City Playhouse and Deanna Reed-Foster in "The First Deep Breath" at Victory Gardens Theater. Four performers in Drury Lane Productions were also recognized, including Josh Drake and Skyler Adams ("An American in Paris"), and Nicole Michelle Haskins and Eben K. Logan ("The Color Purple").

Among the technical awards, Mikhail Fiksel in Sound Design and Steve Cuiffo, as Illusion and Lip Sync Consultant within Artistic Specialization, received recognition for their work in "Dana H." at Goodman Theatre. Other honors went to designers Mike Durst (Lighting) and Jeffrey Levin (Sound) for "Grey House," Joe Schermoly (Scenic) for "The Gulf" at About Face Theatre, William Boles (Scenic) for "The Boys in the Band," and Kevan Loney (Projection) for "An American in Paris." Costume design awards went to Theresa Ham for "Beauty and the Beast" at Paramount Theatre and Kristy Leigh Hall for the Remy Bumppo Theatre Company production of "Howards End."

The Jeff Awards New Work category this season honored three authors and their productions including Lee Edward Colston II for "The First Deep Breath" at Victory Gardens Theater, A Red Orchid Theatre's Levi Holloway for "Grey House," and Loy A. Webb for her play "His Shadow: A Parable" performed by 16th Street Theater. Ladysmith Black Mambazo also received the award for Original Music in a Play for "Lindiwe" at Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

The traditional Equity season runs August 1st through July 31, however ended this year on March 13 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the course of the 2019-2020 season, Jeff Awards members attended the openings of 78 productions. From these, 64 productions became "Jeff Recommended." With two productions having runs so short (due to the pandemic shutdown), a total of 62 productions became eligible for 2020 award nominations.

The 2020 Equity Jeff Award recipients are:

Production - Play (Large)

"King Hedley II" - Court Theatre

Production - Play (Midsize)

"The Boys in the Band" - Windy City Playhouse

Production - Musical or Revue (Large)

"An American in Paris" - Drury Lane Productions

Production - Musical or Revue (Midsize)

"Monty Python's Spamalot" - Mercury Theater Chicago

Ensemble - Play

"The Boys in the Band" - Windy City Playhouse
"The Leopard Play, or Sad Songs for Lost Boys" - Steep Theatre Company

Ensemble - Musical or Revue

"Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies" - Porchlight Music Theatre

New Work

Lee Edward Colston II - "The First Deep Breath" - Victory Gardens Theater
Levi Holloway - "Grey House" - A Red Orchid Theatre
Loy A. Webb - "His Shadow: A Parable" - 16th Street Theater

Director - Play (Large)

Wardell Julius Clark - "Kill Move Paradise" - TimeLine Theatre Company

Director - Play (Midsize)

Carl Menninger - "The Boys in the Band" - Windy City Playhouse

Director - Musical or Revue (Large)

Lili-Anne Brown - "The Color Purple" - Drury Lane Productions

Director - Musical or Revue (Midsize)

L. Walter Stearns - "Monty Python's Spamalot" - Mercury Theater Chicago

Performer in a Principal Role - Play

Carrie Coon (Agnes White) - "Bug" - Steppenwolf Theatre Company
Kelvin Roston, Jr. (Hedley) - "King Hedley II" - Court Theatre

Performer in a Principal Role - Musical

Josh Drake (Jerry Mulligan) - "An American in Paris" - Drury Lane Productions
Eben K. Logan (Celie) - "The Color Purple" - Drury Lane Productions

Solo Performance

Rebecca Spence (Narrator) - "Every Brilliant Thing" - Windy City Playhouse

Performer in a Revue

Lorenzo Rush, Jr. (The Raconteur) - "Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies"
- Porchlight Music Theatre

Performer in a Supporting Role - Play

Deanna Reed-Foster (Pearl Thomas) - "The First Deep Breath"
- Victory Gardens Theater
A.C. Smith (Elmore) - "King Hedley II" - Court Theatre

Performer in a Supporting Role - Musical

Skyler Adams (Adam Hochberg) - "An American in Paris" - Drury Lane Productions
Nicole Michelle Haskins (Sofia) - "The Color Purple" - Drury Lane Productions

Scenic Design - Large

Takeshi Kata - "Bug" - Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Scenic Design - Midsize

William Boles - "The Boys in the Band" - Windy City Playhouse
Joe Schermoly - "The Gulf" - About Face Theatre

Costume Design - Large

Theresa Ham - "Beauty and the Beast" - Paramount Theatre

Costume Design - Midsize

Kristy Leigh Hall - "Howards End" - Remy Bumppo Theatre Company

Sound Design - Large

Mikhail Fiksel - "Dana H." - Goodman Theatre

Sound Design - Midsize

Jeffrey Levin - "Grey House" - A Red Orchid Theatre

Lighting Design - Large

Heather Gilbert - "Bug" - Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Lighting Design - Midsize

Mike Durst - "Grey House" - A Red Orchid Theatre

Choreography

Lynne Kurdziel-Formato - "An American in Paris" - Drury Lane Productions

Original Music in a Play

Ladysmith Black Mambazo - "Lindiwe" - Steppenwolf Theatre Company

Musical Direction

Jermaine Hill - "Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies" - Porchlight Music Theatre

Projection Design

Kevan Loney - "An American in Paris" - Drury Lane Productions

Artistic Specialization

Breon Arzell (Movement Choreographer) - "Kill Move Paradise"
- TimeLine Theatre Company
Steve Cuiffo (Illusion and Lip Sync Consultant) - "Dana H." - Goodman Theatre Multiple Nominations


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