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CHICAGO SUN TIMES: Jeff Award nominations show why Chicago is theater capital

If you want to know why all eyes on the national theater scene (and beyond) are on Chicago these days you need do nothing more than peruse the long and impressive list of Jeff Award nominations released Thursday evening.

The Jeffs honor excellence in Equity theaters operating in the Chicago area (and which now take the measure of companies with both "large" and "midsize" budgets). And for the season running Aug. 1, 2008, through July 31, 2009, the scope and quality of the productions mounted here is close to staggering (and this is during a recession, too).

Among the nominess is one Pulitzer Prize winner (Lynn Nottage's "Ruined," which got its start at the Goodman Theatre), and one Tony Award-winning play (Alan Bennett's "The History Boys"), staged by TimeLine Theatre and still in a record-breaking run here). On the musicals front, the nominees include a Broadway show almost reinvented in Chicago (Court Theatre's production of "Caroline, or Change"), and one brand new musical wholly devised here ("A Minister's Wife," at Writers' Theatre). A total of 16 nominations for the superb revivals of classic musicals mounted of late at Drury Lane Oakbrook Terrace suggest why that theater is now one of the hottest stages in the area. But it has plenty of terrific competition, too.

Winners of the Jeffs will be announced at the 41st annual Jeff Awards ceremony slated for Oct. 19 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie. A pre-show appetizer buffet will run from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., when the ceremony begins. The Second City, celebrating 50 years as a producer, will play a featured role at the event. Advance purchase tickets, which include the ceremony and the pre-show buffet, are $75 ($55 for members of Actors' Equity Association, United Scenic Artists, Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, and the Dramatists Guild of America). To purchase tickets, visit the Jeff Awards website at www.jeffawards.org.

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