Record number of Jeff Award nominees per category

Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s revival of Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Follies’

THE EQUITY JEFF AWARD NOMINATIONS were announced last week, and the bounty was even more, well, bounteous than in years past.   There were 197 nominations in 34 categories for the span between August 1, 2011, and July 31, 2012, covering 118 productions by 55 producing organizations.

What that translates into away from the raw numbers is more nominees per category than in past years. Depending upon one’s point of view, this either means more recognition for the undeniably deep field of talent in Chicago, or dilutes the impact of the award.

Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune fell into the latter camp, arguing in an August 22 piece: “Unless you’re living in Lake Woebegon, to find worthies under almost every rock devalues the worth of the nomination.”

Among the worthies, three shows tied for the most nominations, each garnering seven nods. Those are: Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies; Court Theatre’s production of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, adapted by Oren Jacoby; and House Theatre of Chicago’s tenth-anniversary remounting of its first production, Death and Harry Houdini, which played for most of this past year at the Chopin Theatre and also ran for a month at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami.

The 44th annual Jeff Awards ceremony takes place Monday, Oct. 15 at Drury Lane Oakbrook. Tickets are $75 ($65 for Actors Equity members) and may be purchased in advance at the Jeff’s website.

Executive Director Vinnie LaceyTHE FALL THEATER SEASON kicks off this week with the third annual Chicago Fringe Festival, running August 30-Sept. 9 at a half-dozen locations in Pilsen.

Executive director Vincent Lacey and co-founder Sarah Mikayla Brown have steadily grown the profile of this grassroots labor of love. This year, Chicago Fringe features 24 performances from local artists and 22 from elsewhere in the United States, plus two international troupes – The Interpreters from South Korea and Le Petite Famille from France and Canada.

As with most North American fringe festivals, the artists were selected by a lottery process rather than curated. You pays your money and you takes your chances. But with 100 percent of the box office going to the performers, at least you know you’re truly supporting a struggling artist.

SPEAKING OF A HIGH ROI, the guy who had that thing that was “[bleeping] golden” gets paroled from the federal pen in Colorado for a run at the Athenaeum Theatre.

Blagojevich, Blagojevich, a new comedy by Michael K. Feinstein running Sept. 7-22, imagines a day in the life of the disgraced-and-soon-to-be-incarcerated former governor, played by Darren Stephens (no relation to the husband on Bewitched).

As we head into the final months of the heated election season, the show might serve as a cautionary tale – or at least a comic respite.

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