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Circle Theatre’s seven Jeff Award nominations this year are even more incredible when you factor in that the theater was nominated in just about every category in which a theater could be, including actor, actress, supporting actor, supporting actress, direction, production, and technical.

Most other theaters would feel a deep sense of massive accomplishment. But then one has to factor in that Circle had 14 nominations last year, winning in four different categories: Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Musical), Best Actor in a Principal Role (Musical), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Musical), and Best Actress in a Principal Role (Musical).

The theater is proving to be a powerhouse in the Chicago scene.

“It was a good variety of award types,” said Managing Director Peter Storms with a humble casualness, “In some ways it really shows that we do everything well.” The 33-year-old Storms sat behind the bulky wooden desk in the office at the front of the building, looking simultaneously haggard and invigorated from an earlier rehearsal spent holding back coughs from his ebbing cold.

The big news beyond the nominations, of course, is Jürgen Hooper’s winning for Actor in a Principal Role for his performance in What’s Wrong with Angry? “He was practically onstage the entire time,” said Storms, “And he found a lot of depth in this character to make the audience really care about him.”

Storms explained that Hooper is both entertaining and interesting on and off stage, saying, “He’s very funny. He’s a really nice guy. In some ways he seems very young and in some ways he feels very mature and very wise.”

Hooper’s win was the only win of the seven nominations, a decision that Storms debated.

“I thought for sure we were going to win for set design this year for Bob [Knuth],” said Storms, explaining that when one sees the long, consistent hard work totaling “hundreds and hundreds of hours” that set designers traditionally give it is hard not to root for them.

“It’s really nice to have the nominations,” Storms quickly added, “Just to be recognized.”

Storms himself knows the ecstatic feeling of what it is like to be nominated for a Jeff Award.

Storms was nominated in 2004 for his sound design on Circle’s Fool for Love. “It was very exciting,” Storms said of the time.

Now Hooper”and Circle as a whole”is getting to celebrate the excitement of the young up-and-coming star’s win.

There were about 120 Jeff-eligible productions and 700 shows opening in Chicago last year, so Hooper, 23, beat out literally hundreds of actors to win this year’s coveted spot. “The competition is really stiff,” said Storms, “It’s a great compliment, testament, testimony, testimonial. I don’t know. My brain isn’t working.”

Storms is a testament to the exhaustive, committed nature of the theater world, visibly sick and tired, yet still having time for an interview to promote Circle’s exciting work.

“It’s really nice to be a part of a theater that does such great work,” said Storms, “It’s tiring, but it’s satisfying.”

Those non-stop productions include the upcoming Tales of the Lost Formicans from July 19 to August 27. For those who want to see the productions that will be honored at next year’s Jeff Awards ceremony, more information is available at www.circle-theatre.org or by calling 771-0700.


Circle Theatre's nods

What's Wrong with Angry? for Production (Play)

Tim Rock for Actor in a Supporting Role (Play) for What's Wrong with Angry?

Kelly Schumann for Actress in a Supporting Role (Play) for What's Wrong with Angry?

Jürgen Hooper for Actor in a Principal Role (Play) for What's Wrong with Angry?

Simone Roos for Actress in a Principal Role (Play) for Design for Living.

Michael Matthews for Director (Play) for What's Wrong with Angry?

Bob Knuth for Scenic Design for Design for Living