Roosevelt University had an incredible presence - and showing – at this year’s non-equity Jeff Awards held in June at the Park West in Chicago.
A 2013 Theatre Conservatory alumnus, two artist staff members who work with Roosevelt’s musical theatre students and an assistant registrar for the University took top honors in this year’s awards ceremony.
And that was just the tip of iceberg, as 12 alumni and artist staff members in all who are affiliated with the Roosevelt community were nominated for non-equity Jeffs.
“It’s been an amazing year for the Theatre Conservatory and one of our best in terms of visibility at the Jeff awards and with Chicago’s theatre community,” said Sean Kelley, director of the Theatre Conservatory and associate dean of Roosevelt’s Chicago College of Performing Arts.
David Schlumpf, a 2013 Roosevelt graduate and the winner of a Jeff for his leading role in Kokandy Productions’ musical, Sweet Smell of Success, is one of the theatre conservatory’s amazing stories.
Making it in a big way these days on Chicago’s thriving theatre scene, Schlumpf had actually quit acting for five years, becoming discouraged while trying to make it in theatre in New York City in 2006.
Taking jobs in data entry, restaurant management, market research and other fields, he decided to pursue a Master of Fine Arts in Acting at Roosevelt in 2010 with the thought of going on to teach.
When he got into the Theatre Conservatory program, something just clicked – and the rest is history for Schlumpf, who was the only artist nominated for two non-equity Jeffs this year – including the award he won, as well as a nomination for best supporting actor in Bailiwick Chicago’s Dessa Rose.
“Roosevelt became the vehicle that helped refocus my artistic endeavors,” said Schlumpf, who has learned to think of himself as a small business owner who aims for roles fitting his unique, gritty and intense character type.
Thanks to internships he landed as a Roosevelt student at Chicago Shakespeare and Goodman theatres, Schlumpf was able to network and meet theatre professionals who helped him take his acting career full throttle.
“The Theatre Conservatory faculty kept encouraging me to pursue my acting and it’s truly been a fast and furious year for me,” said Schlumpf, who recently became an equity actor. “I’ve really come into my own in Chicago theatre,” he said.
Nicholas Tonozzi, winner of best original music in a play for Oracle Productions’ play and five-time Jeff award winner, The Mother, was never a Theatre Conservatory student. However, he is an active member of the Roosevelt community, helping all students as the University’s assistant registrar in charge of grading, transcripts and registration.
A cantor and chorister at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago and a member of the chorus this summer at Ravinia Festival’s Lerner and Lowe Musical Revue and Lord of the Rings Return of the King, Tonozzi plays cello, piano, mandolin and accordion.
He began composing music in 2009 as music director of Trap Door Theatre’s 12 Ophelias. After that came his award-winning score, composed with fellow Jeff winner Jonathan Guillen, of 12 original songs for The Mother, which is about Bolshevik revolutionaries overcoming oppression.
“I’m thankful I was able to write the Bolshevik anthem of my dreams,” joked Tonozzi, who patterned the show’s music around the idea of “We are the 99 percent.”
The assistant registrar recently wrote an original score for Trap Door Theatre’s Regarding the Just, which is also about Bolsheviks, and he is currently at work on a score for an adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, which opens in July at Oracle Theatre.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds for me as a composer,” he said.
Colette Todd is a Chicago-based performer and adjunct instructor in Roosevelt’s Theatre Conservatory who won a Jeff for best actress in a supporting role in the award-winning musical Passion.
Now in her second year at Roosevelt, Todd teaches music theory classes for the Theatre Conservatory’s musical theatre students.
“I just love the students at Roosevelt,” said Todd, whose career has included acting in musicals and singing with operas all over the Chicago area.
“Students in the Theatre Conservatory are enthusiastic and hardworking. It’s worth everything to me to be able to share my craft because Roosevelt students are go-getters. They are attuned to what’s going on in Chicago theatre and I expect them to go places,” she said.
Lili-Anne Brown , winner of a Jeff award for best director of Bailiwick Chicago’s musical Dessa Rose, joined Roosevelt’s Theatre Conservatory as a guest director in fall 2013.
A founder and artistic director of Bailiwick Chicago, Brown directed a Theatre Conservatory Musical Theatre Showcase production, Hearts of Darkness, in October 2013. She also will guest direct the Theatre Conservatory’s Spelling Bee in March 2015.
A veteran theatre professional who has worked with a number of Chicagoland companies, Brown said she’s become aware of the talent of Roosevelt theatre students who are taking part in Chicago’s theatre scene as interns, on auditions, with ensembles and in roles in productions all over town.
“They really are making an impression in our community, and I absolutely want to stay connected with Roosevelt’s program,” she said.
This year’s non-equity Jeff award nominees also included Roosevelt theatre alumni Derek van Barham, Chris Ballou, Jordan Phelps and Adam Veness and artist staff members James Morehead, Kevin O’Donnell and Matt Hawkins.
Current Roosevelt students and alumni took part in ensembles and in production of several of the shows nominated for Jeff awards. A number of Roosevelt students were volunteers who worked at awards ceremony as well.
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