Anthony Fleming, III, Jacqueline Williams, and A.C. Smith
in Fences
Anthony Fleming, III, Jacqueline Williams, and A.C. Smith
in Fences
The Court Theatre's productions of Fences of Man of La Mancha were the big winners at the 38th annual Joseph Jefferson Awards on Monday night, November 6, honoring the best in Chicago-area professional theater. A capacity crowd attended the awards, which were held at the historic 1,400-seat Merle Reskin Theatre. Ora Jones and Ed Kross were the evening's smooth and funny emcees.

The Court's staging of the August Wilson drama, about an aging African-American baseball player in the 1950's, took home awards for Best Play, Director (Ron OJ Parson), Principal Actor (A. C. Smith) and Principal Actress (Jacqueline Williams, who tied with Kirsten Fitzgerald for The Sea Horse). In addition, the Court's production of La Mancha won six awards, including Best Musical and Best Ensemble.

Other top honors went to the Northlight Theatre and Geva Theatre Center co-production of A Marvelous Party: The Noel Coward Celebration, which won four Jeffs;. Lydia R. Diamond won the Jeff for New Work-Play for Voyeurs de Venus at Chicago Dramatists; while the New Work-Musical Award went to composer Stephen Flaherty and director/writer Frank Galati for Loving Repeating: A Musical of Gertrude Stein produced by About Face Theatre and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

New Adaptation Jeffs were bestowed on David Ives for his version of Feydeau's farce A Flea in Her Ear at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, and to Raymond Fox, Heidi Stillman, and Laura Eason for adapting Dickens' The Old Curiosity Shop at Lookingglass Theatre Company.

The winner for Solo Performance was Michael Patrick Thornton as the Irish tough in Conor McPherson's The Good Thief, staged at the tiny Gift Theatre, which Thornton founded. A powerful young actor, Thornton suffered nearly-fatal spinal strokes when he was not yet 3, and now depends on a wheelchair or walking assistance. "Thank you for seeing past a walker and seeing an actor," he told the audience. "I'll try to do the same."

For a complete list of nominees and winners, click here.