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January 27, 2008

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Megan

Hi Kris,

I just read the TOC post and my gut instinct was that the angry and misled commenters are disgruntled Jeff Committee Members. My general impression of some (but not all) of the Jeff folks way back during my days as an ensemble member of a Citation-eligible (e.g. "non-professional") theatre company was that they were fairly friendly, suburban-ish, over-40 folks who thought it was cute we were giving theatre a try in our gritty urban space, and that, given the chance, they'd probably rather have been enjoying gin-and-tonics at intermission in the Goodman lobby. Perhaps the decision on the name and branding change was made without as much involvement of the total membership as some of them would have wished...

Mark Jeffries

Let's just say that Julie Johansen (she posts her full name on Jones' blog) thinks that the Drury Lane Water Tower production of "Morning's at Seven" with Jessica Tate (OK, Mona from "Who's the Boss?" for some of you) is one of the best shows she's ever seen.

And in her post on the David Schwimmer "Our Town" kerfuffle on Jones, she claimed she went to NU with Schwimmer. She sure doesn't write like she went to school with Schwimmer.

Nick Keenan

Megan, I think you may be on to something here. It's definitely an up-for-grabs moment in the history of the organization. There's clearly some internal debate and also internal desire for innovation at the Jeffs right now. But then again, brand auditors don't do their job without talking to everyone in the organization first, and then outsiders (the 20 artistic and managing directors they consulted) second. I'd be very surprised if all Jeff committee members didn't see these recommendations coming - it was certainly released to Chicago Theaters with the approval if not editing power of the Jeff leadership since they're the ones paying for it - and I just don't see disgruntled Jeff members as the blog lobbying types during a period of flux. Especially when they could just go to the marketing committee directly and get the results they wanted.

Oof. It's very hard for me to see the raw disdain on the TOC blog comments right now. The fact that they even care just boggles my mind. One troll is dismissible, sure, but something really unsettles me about three passionate if inarticulate nay-sayers reading that particular blog post. It's like waking up from your normal life one day and realizing you suddenly have a team of arch-villains bent on your destruction but no one bothered to set you up with superhero powers.

Your question cuts me to the quick, Kris. They're subscribers for all I know - I don't think they're Jeff, I don't think they're industry (unless they're non-working union cronies, but I doubt that too), and I certainly don't think they're casual audience members. I just know that they'd probably look at me funny.

I guess it underscores the fact to me that storefront theater has a massive image problem - right here in Chicago - that's gone untreated for too long. I think we're proud of our Non-Eq work, but we can be apologetic of that pride to the general public - the people we work with at our day jobs.

The Jeffs aren't apologetic. They give us awards, and mail out the press release when they do. They show up and clap. God bless 'em.

Megan

Nick, I think you're on to something, too. It's been awhile since I've even thought about the Jeff Committee; and yes, I doubt they are the flaming-comment types. My personal dealings with a Jeff Citation chairperson were always pleasant and he was utterly supportive of the company in which I was involved. I had thought perhaps committee members weren't fully included in the discussions that preceded this change. And I share your distress about the TOC commenters' ire--whoever they may truly be.

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  • Kris Vire
    I write about theater for Time Out Chicago. I write more about it here.

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