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The Jeff Awards to Honor Chuck Smith With Lifetime Achievement Award

The Jeff Awards to Honor Chuck Smith With Lifetime Achievement Award

Smith currently serves as resident director and member of the Board of Trustees of the Goodman Theatre.

Recognizing a lifetime of theater excellence, the Joseph Jefferson Awards will honor director Chuck Smith at the organization's 54th Anniversary Equity Awards ceremony Monday, October 17th at Drury Lane Theatre. Smith is a Chicago native who has represented professional theater by directing and producing productions across the country for over half a century. A nationally recognized director and five time Jeff Award nominee, Smith currently serves as resident director and member of the Board of Trustees of The Goodman Theatre. He is also a resident director at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe in Sarasota, FL and an associate member of MPAACT and The American Blues Theater in Chicago.

Smith is a product of the Chicago Public School system and served in the United States Marine Corps. He landed one of his first roles in 1963 in the Dramatic Arts Guild's production of McAdame and Eve. By 1970 he was on stage at The Goodman Theatre in The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail. Smith went on to study theater at Loop College, then Governors State University, while working as a computer programmer for the Illinois Department of Public Aid. His early artistic influences included veteran Chicago playwright Ted Ward, which led to Smith's involvement with the Experimental Black Actors Guild (X-BAG), Kuumba Theatre, eta Creative Arts Foundation and other independent black theaters.

Lauded with numerous honors, Smith is the recipient of the Paul Robeson Award and the Award of Merit by the Black Theatre Alliance of Chicago, and a 2001 Chicago Tribune Chicagoan of the Year. He has also been inducted into the Chicago State University Gwendolyn Brooks Center's Literary Hall of Fame. In addition, Smith won a Chicago Emmy Award as associate producer/theatrical director for the NBC teleplay Crime of Innocence and was theatrical director for the Emmy-winning Fast Break to Glory and the Emmy-nominated The Martin Luther King Suite.

At The Goodman Theatre, Smith's credits include the Chicago premieres of Objects in the Mirror; Pullman Porter Blues, By the Way, Meet Vera Stark; The Good Negro; Race; Proof and The Story; the world premieres of By the Music of the Spheres and The Gift Horse; James Baldwin's The Amen Corner, which transferred to Boston's Huntington Theatre Company where it won the Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) Award for Best Direction; A Raisin in the Sun, Blues for an Alabama Sky; August Wilson's Two Trains Running and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom; Ain't Misbehavin'; the 1993 to 1995 productions of A Christmas Carol; Crumbs from the Table of Joy; Vivisections from a Blown Mind and The Meeting. He also served as dramaturg for the theater's world premier production of August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean and then directed the critically acclaimed remount in 2022.

Active for many years with Victory Gardens Theater, Smith directed the world premiere of Knock Me a Kiss as well as Master Harold...and the Boys, Home, Dame Lorraine and Eden, for which he received a Jeff Award nomination. In New York, Smith directed the premiere of Knock Me a Kiss and The Hooch for the New Federal Theatre. Regionally, his directing credits include Death and the King's Horseman (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Birdie Blue (Seattle Repertory Theatre), The Story (Milwaukee Repertory Theater), Blues for an Alabama Sky (Alabama Shakespeare Festival) and The Last Season (Robey Theatre Company).

At Columbia College, Smith was a faculty member, facilitator of the Theodore Ward Prize playwriting contest for 20 years, and editor of the contest anthologies Seven Black Plays and Best Black Plays. He was a founding member of the Chicago Theatre Company, where he served as artistic director for four seasons and directed the Jeff-nominated Suspenders and the Jeff-winning musical Po'. Additional directing credits include productions at Fisk University, Roosevelt University, Eclipse Theatre, Northlight Theatre, MPAACT, Congo Square Theatre Company, The New Regal Theater, Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre, Pegasus Players, the Timber Lake Playhouse in Mt. Carroll, Illinois and the University of Wisconsin (Madison).

Smith also holds an honorary PhD from Governors State University. His legacy continues today as he develops inspiring, inclusive and challenging theater projects. Members of the Jeff Awards eagerly await his future works.

The 54th Anniversary Equity Jeff Awards will take place October 17, 2022, at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook, IL. The ceremony will be directed by Jim Corti and hosted by E. Faye Butler, with musical direction by David Fiorello.

To purchase tickets and learn more about the program and the Jeff Awards, visit

Information can also be found on social media including Facebook (Jeff Awards), Instagram (@thejeffawards) and Twitter (@josephjefferson).

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