The change will begin with the 28th annual Jeff Awards on Nov. 11.
The 40-member Jeff Committee will follow a complicated new voting procedure on its final ballot. In every one of the past 27 Jeff Award ceremonies, the committee named only one winner in each category excepting new work and adaptation, which have allowed for multiple winners for the past several years.
The committee’s vote to change the system came after four of the city’s largest theater companies Goodman, Steppenwolf, Victory Gardens and Marriott’s Lincolnshire lobbied for the switch and pulled their names from award consideration. Theater execs argued that multiple awards would better reflect the diversity of the local industry. Seven theater companies vied in 1969 for the first awards, a number that’s grown to 49.
The four groups now say they will attend the upcoming ceremonies and will meet with committee chairman Paul Faberson before deciding whether to join the competition for the remainder of the 1996-97 awards season. The four theater groups also say they will press for more involvement with the committee in the administration of the awards.
Some in the industry remain opposed to the change. “I feel that multiple award winners takes away from the prestige of winning,” says Debbie Bisno, artistic director of Roadworks Prods. and a Jeff nominee for best supporting actress . Multiple winners, she says, throw the awards “into a kindergarten type of situation where everybody is considered a winner.”