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May 05, 2008


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I've always assumed the eligibility rules are in place primarily because there are only so many shows the entire committee would be able to see. As it is, I think these people are at the theatre six nights a week some weeks- a dream come true for some of us theatre junkies, but nevertheless a bit grueling. That said, Kris, I agree with you that that whole "Recommended" hurdle results in some real head-scratching come Nomination time. I could talk about shows I've been involved with that I thought should have at least been Recommended (given some of the shows that *were* Recommended, sheesh), but of course I'm not objective about those. I loved "The Life" but agree that there was certainly more Jeff-worthy work happening in "Songs for a New World." And "Mr. Spacky" was one of my favorite things I saw last year- from here on out I plan to catch everything Strange Tree does (though admittedly I was a touch disappointed by Crucible the Musible). It's sad that they'll have no chance of getting Jeff recognition until they meet the Jeff's production requirements for non-union companies.
I think part of the problem is that some members of the committee have a deep bias against certain types of shows- i.e., some of them love only musicals, some of them despise musicals- but the musical theatre-hounds sometimes wind up judging opening nights for straight and avant garde stuff, and the musical haters sometimes wind up at opening for "Songs for a New World." And the Jeff Committee members are asked to recuse themselves on opening nights based on people they might know in the project, but never based on their own personal bias and taste regarding the type of theatre. Also, their own mood and how things go opening night can have a lot to do with it. Some committee members (like some critics, alas) can let their opinions be influenced by stuff like trouble finding parking, whether the theatre is sufficiently warm/cool and how comfortable their seat is. This is a not a blanket assertion meant to describe all or even most committee members- but when your opening night has the wrong seven people attending due to their tastes and mood, you're screwed no matter how good you are. And because of the number of votes required for Recommendation, sometimes you're screwed even if the wrong *two or three* judges are sent to your opening. On the other hand, how else *is* a Jeff judge supposed to evaluate a production than based on their own tastes and bias? What I consider the 'objective' evaluation of something is usually just *my* opinion in disguise.
Regarding the actual nominations- one disappointment of mine was that "Hound of the Baskervilles" didn't get an acting or ensemble noms. It wasn't just the adaptation that was solid.
I agree absolutely with the nominations regarding "Hope Springs Infernal"- script issues aside (it didn't feel bad per se so much as insufficiently developed), there was some riveting moments of spectacle that the light and sound were big part of in that. I maybe would have considered Joey Steakley in that for the supporting category.
Is Chemically Imbalanced Comedy Jeff Eligible? I thought Sarah Graber was great in that.

Mark Jeffries

CIC invites the Jeff people--I believe a couple of their shows have been recommended, but have never made the second round.

Of the eligible companies, I get the feeling that Factory and WNEP *don't* invite the Jeff people anymore, considering comments made by the former Factory artistic director in their programs (and on his WGN radio show) and the former WNEP artistic director (and husband of the current WNEP artistic director) in his blog. Anyone else?


By the way, for those of you wondering, justly, what the hell I'm talking about re: Chemically Imbalanced, I should have specified their production of 'The Book of Liz.'

And even more by the way, speaking of being a theatre junky, I just realized after tonight I'll have seen nine shows in two weeks- Nine,
Our Town,
Enchanted April,
Carter's Way,
Dead Man's Cell Phone,
Puddinhead Wilson,
Love, Lust, and Marriage,
and See What I Wanna See down at Illinois Theatre Center.

Now that's sad. Hell, maybe I should apply to be on the Jeff Committee.

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

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