Have to make it short and sweet today and regrettably late as life had a way of demanding my attention overnight to things I could never have expected. The good news is there is a very sweet side to these circumstances having been in attendance at The 41st Annual Non-Equity Joseph Jefferson Awards Ceremony! My self and the incomparable Tony Award nominated Chicago actress, Felicia Fields, presented the Jeff Awards for Best Musical and Best Play of the 2014 Season. As a side note, I have to muse on how this “Chicago actress being nominated for a Tony Award thing” is happening more and more. Jessie Mueller (sister to Andrew who played “Mark” in RENT, and daughter of Roger, who played “Abner Dillon” in 42nd STREET and Jill, who played “The Queen of Transylvania” in MY FAIR LADY) has just won New York’s Drama Desk Award and is nominated for a Tony for her role as Carole King in BEAUTIFUL on Broadway. Jessie joins other Chicago actors who jump to mind like Deanna Dunagan, Rondi Reed and Amy Morton of Steppenwolf. This is another strong indicator of how second to none Chicago talent really is. “Look what you started, Felicia!” God, I was thrilled to stand beside her at the podium last night!

The ceremony was rowdy and raucous at Park West as groups from production to production at night club tables cheered their own actors, designers, directors and choreographers. There is an identity to this particular collective of artists that gives Chicago Theatre its bold edge as the vanguard, avant garde, that keeps Chicago in the foreground as adventurous, innovative and experimental. It strikes me how important they are and how much we need to nourish them. I heard so many titles of original works I so wish I could have seen as they swept awards for excellence. I thought back to my days as a 19yo at The Hull House Theatre on Belmont making my debut as a non-equity actor under the direction of the great Bob Sickinger. The energy of those days in front of Chicago audiences for the first time! Having critics write favorable reviews about our company!

Now at Paramount Theatre, I watch young non-Equity actors experience professional theatre with us. For me, the light in their eyes is a reward in itself…and how they reach and grow and excel. Many are becoming full-fledged, card carrying Equity actors taking on its benefits and the challenges. Curious, I researched that at Paramount we are moving forward into Season Four having hired 240 Equity contracts since we began 3 years ago and that 23 actors have become Equity so far… and we are not even finished casting next season.

As our actors grow, so does our audience. This synergy, the cycle of interaction back and forth from the stage, is what I recognize as mutually progressing the art we do in The Theatre. Nothing excites an audience more than seeing great performances in great productions. Ladies and gentlemen, the more you attend and support live theatre the more artists can continue growth in their craft that has such a positive influence on all of us.

I am really preachy this afternoon! Can I get an “Amen” in here?!

Love & thanks,