Jeff Awards 2014: Non-Equity Wing winners and recap

Oracle Productions and Theo Ubique take top honors for The Mother and Passion

Photographs: Eleanor Kahn; Chris Ocken; Adam Veness; Joshua Albanese; Matthew Gregory Hollis
Clockwise from top left: Katherine Keberlein in The Mother; Amanda Drinkall and Mike Tepeli in Great Expectations; Danni Smith and Peter Oyloe in Passion; David Schlumpf in Sweet Smell of Success; Patrick Gannon in The Tennessee Williams Project

Oracle Productions, which earlier Monday was named the recipient of this year's Broadway in Chicago Emerging Theater Award by the League of Chicago Theatres, got another big seal of approval Monday night from the Jeff Awards committee. Oracle's 2013 production of Bertolt Brecht's The Mother took home five plaques at the Non-Equity wing awards ceremony, including best production, ensemble and best actress in a play for Katherine Keberlein.

Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre, the Rogers Park storefront outfit that's long had a strong grip on the Non-Equity Jeffs' musical categories, racked up four more for its production earlier this year of Stephen Sondheim's Passion, with wins for best production, best actress for Danni Smith and supporting actress for Colette Todd.

Two awards were given for new work, to Philip Dawkins's Miss Marx: or the involuntary side effect of living, produced by Strawdog Theatre Company, and Manny Tamayo's Incident on Run #1217, a Factory Theater production.

Griffin Theatre Company received this year's special award, in recognition of the company's 25th anniversary. Griffin artistic director Bill Massolia referenced the company’s touring production of the military docudrama Letters Home, from which an excerpt was performed before he spoke. The soldiers represented in the piece, Massolia said, often refer to their service as a calling. “Our response is, Theater is our calling,” Massolia said. “It’s our job to reflect their stories, because if we don’t do it, who will.” (Griffin also scored a competitive nod, with actor Norm Woodel took home an award for supporting actor in a play for Griffin's Golden Boy.)

Married presenters, actor Lindsey Pearlman and Stage Left Theatre artistic director Vance Smith, delivered the awards for best actor and actress in a play with an amusing, conflicting pair of overlapping intro speeches. Patrick Gannon, who won best actor for playing three roles in the Hypocrites’ The Tennessee Williams Project, said earlier in the day he’d been in a hospital bed being treated for kidney stones. “I dragged myself out of bed for this, and God, am I glad I did.”

The winning ensemble of Oracle’s The Mother claimed the stage to sing the bolshevik reprise from their show. Accepting best production of a musical for Passion, Theo Ubique artistic director Fred Anzevino perhaps unavoidably paid tribute to the room full of artists whose passion sustains them, "because we ain't getting paid, a lot of us."

Among the evening's performances, the cast of Bailiwick Chicago's Dessa Rose got quite the ovation for a medley from the show. A series of live scenes from six of the nominated straight plays didn't always work out of context, but those from Incident on Run #1217, Steep Theatre's The Knowledge and Strawdog Theatre Company's Great Expectations offered tastes of what made the productions special.

Sound designer Stephen Ptacek may have technically given the briefest speech—it was silent—but Factory's writer, Tamayo, got one of the largest cheers with a single sentence, referencing his company's rare Jeff recognition: "Ladies and gentlemen: The Factory Theater—attention has been paid."

The complete list of winners is below.

Production—Play
The Mother – Oracle Productions

Production—Musical
Passion – Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre

Ensemble
The Mother – Oracle Productions

Director—Play
Jason Gerace, Great Expectations – Strawdog Theatre Company

Director—Musical or Revue
Lili-Anne Brown, Dessa Rose – Bailiwick Chicago

Actor in a Principal Role—Play
Patrick Gannon, The Tennessee Williams Project – The Hypocrites

Actress in a Principal Role—Play
Katherine Keberlein, The Mother – Oracle Productions

Actor in a Principal Role—Musical
David Schlumpf, Sweet Smell of Success – Kokandy Productions

Actress in a Principal Role—Musical
Danni Smith, Passion – Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre

Actor in a Supporting Role—Play
Norm Woodel, Golden Boy – Griffin Theatre Company

Actress in a Supporting Role—Play
Nora Lise Ulrey, The Children’s Hour – Pride Films and Plays

Actor in a Supporting Role—Musical
Tommy Bullington, Return of Neverland – Quest Theatre Ensemble

Actress in a Supporting Role—Musical
Colette Todd, Passion – Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre

New Work
Phillip Dawkins, Miss Marx: or the involuntary side effect of living – Strawdog Theatre Company
Manny Tamayo, Incident on Run #1217 – Factory Theater

New Adaptation
Steve Gooch, The Mother – Oracle Productions

Original Music in a Play
Jonathan Guillen & Nicholas Tonozzi, The Mother – Oracle Productions

Music Direction
Kory Danielson, Passion – Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre

Choreography
Linda Fortunato, Kiss of the Spider Woman – BoHo Theatre

Scenic Design
Andrei Onegin, The Playboy of the Western World – Raven Theatre

Lighting Design
Diane D. Fairchild, A Tale of Two Cities – Lifeline Theatre

Costume Design
Izumi Inaba, The Life and Death of Madam Barker – Red Tape Theatre

Sound Design
Stephen Ptacek, The Killer Angels – Lifeline Theatre

Artistic Specialization
John Fournier, The Life and Death of Madam Barker (Music & Lyrics) – Red Tape Theatre

Fight Choreography
David Woolley, The Playboy of the Western World – Raven Theatre

Special Award
Griffin Theatre Company

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