The Joseph Jefferson Citations for excellence in non-Equity Chicago theatre were awarded June 9, 6:30 PM, at Park West on Armitage Avenue in Chicago. The Citations Wing of the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee chose winners from among 67 nominations in 16 categories.
Forty awards were presented, with Pegasus Theatre the big winner -- 10 citations in all, all for the Kentucky Cycle. American Blues Theatre won seven for Flight of the Phoenix and Stalag 17. Circle Theatre received five awards.
Special awards this year went to Bob Sickinger for helping develop the concept of Off-Loop Theatre in Chicago by restoring the Hull House Theatre (now Famous Door), a venerable playing space. Fight choreographer David Engel also took a special award for his work on The Kentucky Cycle.
According to critic Mary Shen Barnidge (The Reader and This Month ON STAGE magazine), who attended the event, the ceremony featured performances of "You're The Bottom" from the musical revue Fairy Tales, a scene from The Kentucky Cycle, a scene from Master Harold And The Boys, and a scene and song from In A Pig's Valise.
Of the acclaim for The Kentucky Cycle, Barnidge said, "The critics loved it; financially it was a disaster. Half of Pegasus was working on half or no salary. They were going to terminate [director] Warner Crocker's contract -- though he resigned instead. But by cracky it got the award!" (Crocker contacted Playbill On-Line after this awards story was posted to contradict Barnidge's account: "During the time of Kentucky Cycle everyone on staff and in the show was getting paid their full salaries. I wasn't threatened with losing my job until after the show had already closed its run. I did not resign. I was fired.")
According to Barnidge, Crocker said, as he picked up the awards for outstanding director and production, "Certain words occur to me -- irony, closure and gratitude. Someone asked me, `where did the Kentucky Cycle leave you as an artist?' Unemployment. If everyone who's come up to me and said how wonderful and brilliant they thought the show was had actually gone to see the damn show, it would've been more of a success."
Chris Thometz, taking the outstanding actor award for Red Dragon, admitted that Chris Johnson (the adaptor) "didn't think I could play a psychopathic serial killer."
Kentucky Cycle costume designer Joanne Kalec said, "A costume is just a costume until there's an actor inside it."
The oft-nominated Joe Cerqua, finally winning for sound design (on The Kentucky Cycle), said "This ruins the whole Susan Lucci thing for me."
Barnidge's own thoughts on the awards: "In the egregiously overlooked department were European Rep's Uncle Vanya, getting only one nomination (for costume design) and National Pastime's The Adding Machine. But I was very glad to see Red Orchid and Defiant Theatre get something."
Ninety-six productions, between April 1, 1996 and March 31, 1997, were judged for nominations. Here are the Jeff Citation winners (please note that ties are not uncommon), in BOLD CAPS:
CHRIS STOLTE Canus Lunis Balloonis, A Red Orchid Theatre.
REBECCA GILMAN, The Glory Of Living, Circle Theatre.
JULIE JENSEN, The Lost Vegas Series, Zebra Crossing Theatre.
CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON Red Dragon, The Defiant Theatre.
TIMOTHY HENDRICKSON, CARMEN ROMAN & PHOENIX COMPANY, The Flight Of The Phoenix, American Blues.
Kelly Nespor, I Was Really Very Hungry, Live Bait.
Mark Richard, Thank You, Jeeves, City Lit/Ivanhoe.
THE KENTUCKY CYCLE Pegasus Players.
Master Harold And The Boys, Excaliber Shakespeare Company.
Orphans, CT20 Ensemble.
Stalag 17, Harvest Productions w/American Blues Theatre.
BONDAGERS, Shattered Glove Theatre.
THE KENTUCKY CYCLE, Pegasus Players
STALAG 17, Harvest Productions w/American Blues.
Canus Lunis Balloonis, A Red Orchid Theatre.
Five Women Wearing The Same Dress, Circle Theatre.
ACTOR IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE:
MARTY HIGGINBOTHAM, The Glory Of Living, Circle Theatre.
TED KOCH, Orphans, CT20 Ensemble.
RODERICK PEEPLES, Orphans, CT20 Ensemble.
DARRYL MAXIMILLIAN ROBINSON, Master Harold And The Boys, Excaliber Shakespeare Company.
CHRIS THOMETZ, Red Dragon, Defiant Theatre.
Mark Richard, Thank You, Jeeves, City Lit/Ivanhoe.
David Warren, Interrogating The Nude, Strawdog Theatre Company.
Darrell W. Cox, The Baby Dance, Profiles Theatre.
ACTRESS IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE:
KERRY RICHLAN COX The Baby Dance, Profiles Theatre.
DEBORAH PUETTE The Glory Of Living, Circle Theatre.
Marguerite Hammersley, The Lost Vegas Series, Zebra Crossing.
Esther McCormick, The Road To Mecca, Raven Theatre Company.
Lily Shaw, I Was Really Very Hungry, Live Bait Theatre.
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:
JOHN ALCOTT The Kentucky Cycle, Pegasus Players.
NICK OFFERMAN The Kentucky Cycle, Pegasus Players.
Page Hearn, Thank You, Jeeves, City Lit/Ivanhoe.
Matt Shea, Fairy Tales, LeTraunik Taub Productions.
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE:
ELIZABETH LAIDLAW The Kentucky Cycle, Pegasus Players.
EILEEN NICCOLAI In A Pig's Valise, Shattered Globe Theatre.
LINDA REITER Bondagers, Shattered Globe Theatre.
JANELLE RIENSTRA SNOW , Five Women Wearing The Same Dress, Circle Theatre.
WARNER CROCKER (The Kentucky Cycle)
Lynn Ann Bernatowicz, Bondagers, Shattered Globe.
LOUIS CONTEY Stalag 17, Harvest Productions w/American Blues.
ROBIN STANTON The Glory Of Living, Circle Theatre.
Greg Kolack, Five Women Wearing The Same Dress, Circle Theatre.
Michael Menendian, An Enemy Of The People, Raven Theatre.
Steve Scott, Orphans, CT20 Ensemble.
LUKE CANTARELLA (Stalag 17 Harvest Productions w/American Blues Theatre.
PATRICK KERWIN The Flight Of The Phoenix, American Blues Theatre.
Kevin Hagan, A Summer's Day, American Blues Theatre.
Jeffrey Kolack, Five Women Wearing The Same Dress, Circle Theatre.
Michael Menendian, The Road To Mecca, Raven Theatre.
JOANNE WITZKOWSKI KALEC, The Kentucky Cycle, Pegasus.
Joanne Witzkowski Kalec, Passion, Pegasus.
Ann Kessler, Uncle Vanya, European Repertory Theatre.
Norwood Waters, Animal Farm, Bailiwick Repertory.
SHANNON MCKINNEY The Kentucky Cycle, Pegasus.
SHELLEY STRASSER HOLLAND Stalag 17, Harvest w/American Blues.
Shannon McKinney, Passion, Pegasus.
Richard Norwood, The White Whore And The Bit Player, Trap Door Theatre.
WILFREDO RIVERA, Nagasaki Dust, Bailiwick Repertory.
WHAYNE [sic] BRASWELL, Nagasaki Dust, Bailiwick Repertory.
ANDRE PLUESS & BEN SUSSMAN, Orestes, Roadworks Productions.
SEAN SINITSKI, Red Dragon, Defiant Theatre.
WHAYNE BRASWELL, Nagasaki Dust, Bailiwick Repertory.
BRIAN CALLAHAN & MATT CALLAHAN, Red Dragon, Defiant Theatre.
JOE CERQUA, Kentucky Cycle, Pegasus Players.
MICHAEL WEBER, Stalag 17, Harvest/American Blues.
ERIC LANE BARNES Fairy Tales, LeTraunik Taub.
SHAWN STENGEL Passion, Pegasus Players.
As explained by chairman of the Equity division of the Jeff Awards, Jerry Proffit, the difference between Jeff Awards and Jeff Citations is that Citations are given to non-Equity Chicago theatres and use a multiple nomination system. Because Citations are given to much smaller theatres, with less revenue and fewer resources, Citations are seen as more of a helping hand and a leg up. By contrast, regular Jeff Awards deal with professional Chicago theatres.
In September 1996, after viewing the selection of nominees for the 28th annual Joseph Jefferson "Jeff" Awards, honoring excellence in Chicago's Equity theatres, four major Chicago theatres -- The Goodman, Steppenwolf, Victory Gardens and Marriott's Lincolnshire Theatre (known collectively as "The Big Four" -- pulled out of the nominating process for next season, due mainly to the Jeff Committee's policy of not allowing multiple winners in categories. After three months of policy negotiations, all four theatres returned, however, on Jan. 23.
--By David Lefkowitz