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UToledo Faculty Members’ Play Wins 6 Theatre Awards in Chicago

The Chicago production of a play written and directed by Dr. Matt Foss and designed by Stephen Sakowski, both associate professors of theatre at The University of Toledo, has won six out of the seven nominations it received for the prestigious 2020 Non-Equity Jeff Awards.

Similar to the Tony Awards in New York, the Jeff Awards recognize Chicago’s top theater each year.

This battle scene is from the 2019 production of “All Quiet on the Western Front” at the Red Tape Theatre in Chicago.

“This is the first time a production that began in this department has ever gone on to a professional version and several professional awards,” said Dr. Edmund Lingan, professor and chair of UToledo’s Department of Theatre and Film. “We are extremely proud of Matt Foss and his team.”

“All Quiet on the Western Front” won for Best Production of a Play and for Best Ensemble —two of the top awards in Chicago theater each year. Two UToledo alumni, Austin Rambo (Theatre 2019) and Bianca Caniglia (Environmental Science and Women’s Studies 2018), were part of the Chicago production’s ensemble cast.

The production also was won awards for Best Choreography (Leah Urzendowski) and Sound Design (Dan Poppen).

Sakowski received the award for Best Lighting Design of the year, and Foss the prize for Best New Work.

Dr. Matt Foss, associate professor of theatre at The University of Toledo

Dr. Matt Foss, associate professor of theatre at The University of Toledo

Foss adapted Erich Maria Remarque’s historic novel “All Quiet on the Western Front” for the stage, and it premiered at The University of Toledo with a student cast in fall 2018 in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, the war in which the novel is set.

The professional premiere of the play featured a unique collaboration between The University of Toledo co-producing the production with Red Tape Theatre and the Greenhouse Theatre Center — two professional companies in Chicago. UToledo’s support resulted in an extension of classroom learning in a professional setting, with Sakowski and a number of former students also participating in the project. The opening of the production culminated in a showcase event highlighting the UToledo College of Arts and Letters’ commitment to the arts, student experiences and innovation.

In 2019, the play received the Kennedy Center’s David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award, recognizing the year’s outstanding new work premiered at a college or university.

More information about the 47th Annual Non-Equity Jeff Awards can be found at jeffawards.org.


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