Twice a year, the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee honors theatrical productions and artists with “Jeff Awards” – one set of awards for Equity theatre and one set of awards for non-union theatre. The 2015 Non-Equity Jeff Awards ceremony was held at Park West last Monday night, June 8th. Unlike the major awards show the night before (the Tonys), there were no official “winners,” no “Best Musical” or “Best Play.” That is because, as the Jeff Awards website puts it, “The Committee does not endorse the use of the words best or winner. There are no losers in the Chicago theatre community, and Jeff recipients are cited for outstanding achievement rather than the more competitive notion of best.” I admire that attitude, one that was displayed whole-heartedly at the Non-Equity Jeff Awards ceremony, at which the various theatre companies cheered each other on. Continue reading
The director and adaptor of Oracle Theatre’s The Jungle, Matt Foss, writes in the director’s notes about Upton Sinclair’s disappointment that his book “led to sweeping pure-food laws, rather than to changes in the living and working conditions of America’s workers.” In comparison, Foss’s adaptation focuses tightly on the workers, creating the most disturbing, powerful, impactful piece of theatre I have seen all year.
In The Jungle, brutality and corruption reign supreme, particularly over the poor and unwary. While unions remain a shadowy specter around the edges of the play, the gains they have made are starkly obvious against the nigh impossible working conditions in the play. The Jungle follows a small group of Lithuanian immigrants who arrive in Chicago in the early 1900s, knowing no English beyond the city’s name. They have minimal savings and a friend who owns a delicatessen – very modest beginnings, but by the end of the play, their starting point seems unreachably high. Continue reading