Columbia theatre community honored in 25th annual Black Theatre Alliance Awards

By Mateusz Janik, Staff Reporter

Courtesy Michael Brosilow
AnJi White (pictured) was nominated for The Ethel Waters Award for Best Actress in an Ensemble for her role in “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf.”

Editor’s Note: In addition to her nomination for the show “Caroline, or Change,” Breanne Jacobs works as a media sales rep for the Chronicle.

AnJi White was not aware of the Black Theatre Alliance Awards until she was a first-time nominee in 2016 for the Ruby Dee Award for Best Leading Actress in a Play.

“I don’t tend to really focus on that. I just focus on the work, and if that happens, that’s nice,” White said.

This year’s nominees for the 25th annual awards include: AnJi White, former acting major; Michael Pogue, 2006 acting alumnus; Therese Ritchie, 2018 theatre design alumna; Breanne Jacobs, senior musical theatre major; and Jacqueline Penrod, associate chair and associate professor in the Theatre Department. 

The awards ceremony will be hosted by Columbia in the Conaway Center, 1104 S. Wabash Ave., Monday, Oct. 14.

Founded in 1995 by Vincent Williams, a 2003 performing arts management alumnus, the Black Theatre Alliance Awards honor excellence in theatre, dance and technical arts by African Americans and Chicago performers.

AnJi White, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf”

White was nominated for The Ethel Waters Award for Best Actress in an Ensemble for her role in “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf,” which is also nominated separately for a Target Community Relations Award for Best Ensemble.

“[‘For Colored Girls’] deserves recognition because the eight of us really put ourselves in vulnerable situations,” White said. 

Produced by Court Theatre at the University of Chicago, 5535 S. Ellis Ave., the show follows the story of seven women who experience the challenges of being women of color through movement, music, and poetry.

Michael Pogue, “The Recommendation”

Pogue is nominated for The Sidney Poitier Award for Best Leading Actor for his role in “The Recommendation,” produced by Windy City Playhouse, 3014 W. Irving Park Road.

Pogue said Columbia’s networking opportunities helped him to receive more roles and nominations.

“As soon as I started auditioning and doing a few understudying roles on a professional level while attending school, [that] was around the first time that I started hearing about the BTAAs and other actors getting nominations,” Pogue said.

Breanne Jacobs, “Caroline, or Change”

Jacobs is nominated for The Phylicia Rashad Award for Most Promising Actress for her role in “Caroline, or Change,” produced by Firebrand Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee Ave., and TimeLine Theatre Company.

“Breanne Jacobs is the definition of a hard worker to me,” said Caitlin Dobbins, senior musical theatre major and Jacob’s former roommate. “[Jacobs] came [to] Chicago with no connections … and she has done so much within the four years that she has been here. There’s no one [else] that I would ever think that wouldn’t deserve something like this.”

Therese Ritchie, “No Child…”

For recent graduate Ritchie—nominated for the Ed Burbidge Award for Best Set Design in “No Child…,” produced by Definition Theatre Company—Columbia provided hands-on experience in theatre design.

“I started going to Columbia in 2015. It was my third college because I was in New York for a hot second, dropped out [and then] went to a local university closer to back home,” Ritchie said.

Now, she is currently attending graduate school at Northern Illinois University where she said other graduate students with BFAs do not have the same skill set as her.

Jaqueline Penrod, “Eclipsed”

Ritchie also happens to be nominated alongside her mentor, Jacqueline Penrod, associate chair and associate professor in the Theatre Department at Columbia.

Penrod—nominated for the Ed Burbidge Award for her work in “Eclipsed,” produced by Pegasus Theatre, 1105 W. Chicago Ave.—said she appreciates the acknowledgment from the Black Theatre Alliance Awards, but said she does not need the attention to know if her work is good.

“It’s both a nice thing [and] not the thing that’s gonna make my season,” Penrod said. “[I’m] more focused on storytelling and theatre-making.”

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