Collectively, they’ve been entertaining Chicago theatergoers for 284 years.
And later this month, the Equity Jeff Awards will recognize Drury Lane Theatre, Court Theatre, Goodman Theatre and Second City for their individual 50-plus years of presenting live theater to Chicago-area audiences.
“These four award-winning theatres laid their Chicago foundations in drama, comedy and musical theater more than half a century ago and have endured to this day,” Monday’s announcement from the Jeff Awards stated. The Equity Jeffs are celebrating their own 50th anniversary this year.
Begun in 1925, the Goodman Theatre has been recognized at one of the best regional theaters in the country, and its productions have garnered two Pulitzer Prizes (for Lynn Nottage’s “Ruined” in 2009 and David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross” in 1984), 22 Tony Awards (including best regional theater) and more than 160 Jeff Awards. The Goodman became the first theater in the world to produce all 10 plays in the August Wilson American Century Cycle, and its annual production of “A Christmas Carol” will celebrate its 41st anniversary this year.
Drury Lane Theatre bowed in 1949, beginning with Drury Lane Evergreen Park (which closed in 2003) and the opening of Drury Lane Oakbrook Terrace in 1984. In the past 30 years alone, Drury Lane Oakbrook has staged more than 2,000 productions (primarily Broadway musicals, comedies and new works) and concerts from some of the biggest names in the music world. The theater has received more than 350 Jeff Award nominations since 1968 (the first year for the accolades) for its work at the Evergreen Park, Oakbrook Terrace and former Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower locations.
Starting in 1959 as a small cabaret theater under the auspices of Viola Spolin, Howard Alk, Bernie Sahlins and Paul Sills, Second City elevated improv to an art form, evolving into a world-class comedy/theater troupe. Alumni of its stage work include Bill Murray, John and Jim Belushi, Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Joan Rivers, Alan Arkin and Tina Fey.
Court Theatre has been holding court in Hyde Park since 1955, beginning with its first production at Hutchinson Courtyard at the University of Chicago. Originally conceived as a summer outdoor drama festival, Court Theatre evolved into a full-out professional theater company presenting critically acclaimed dramas and musicals. It is the recipient of numerous Equity Jeff Awards.
The theaters will be honored at the Equity Jeff Awards ceremony Oct. 22 at the Drury Lane Theatre (100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace), which recognizes excellence in Chicago area equity theater productions. For tickets to the event, visit jeffawards.org.