Every Westporter knows the Tonys. The award — named for Antoinette Perry — is given in a number of categories, for excellence in Broadway theater.
You may not know the Jeffs. Honoring Joseph Jefferson, they’re the Tonys’ Chicago counterpart.
Scott Weinstein knows Jeff Awards. The 2006 Staples High School graduate has already earned 2 of them. On October 21, he’s up for a third.
Like so many alums in the theater world, Weinstein gained broad experience through Staples Players. He acted in “Urintetown,” “The Diary of Anne Frank,” “Cabaret” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
He directed in the One-Act Festival, and was a master carpenter on tech.
At Northwestern University, Weinstein majored in theater and minored in political science. He acted and directed, in everything from “Noises Off” to Shakespeare.
Gradually — because “I was never a good enough actor for the director in my brain” — he focused on directing.
It’s not an easy profession. “There’s a lot of hustle,” Weinstein notes. “You’re always working on 3 or 4 projects at once.”
He’s been fortunate to work consistently — and on shows he is passionate about.
Right out of college, he started a company called Buzz 22 with friends. It developed new work — “a very Chicago thing to do,” he notes. One of their shows was produced at Steppenwolf.
Weinstein was hired as resident director for the first national tour of “Million Dollar Quartet.” He handled the Chicago and Las Vegas productions, and one for Norwegian Cruise Lines.
He currently splits time between Chicago and New York. Right now he’s developing new plays, including a musical comedy about surviving the Dark Ages. (Hey, you never know…). He’s also working on a re-imagining of “South Pacific” for the Finger Lakes Music Festival.
Everything he does today has its roots at Staples, Weinstein says. That’s where he learned “the vocabulary for talking about theater, and telling stories.” Most fellow theater majors did not enter Northwestern with those backgrounds in acting, directing and set building, he says.
Whether he is developing new musicals or devising a modern take on a classic, Weinstein believes that “music is timeless. It connects us.”
He is excited about theater today. “Amazing new voices are pushing things in exciting new directions. Boundaries are expanding. It’s more representative of what we are, and what our country looks like.
“I get to work with great collaborators, and brilliant writers. I’m glad that theaters trust me to do bold takes.”
Last week, Weinstein returned to his alma mater. He spoke with David Roth’s theater classes about his career after Players, and life as a director.
“It was surreal,” he says of his visit. “I have such vivid memories of the Black Box, hearing professionals talk to us.”
Ahead for Weinstein: directing “Something Rotten” and “Grease” in Chicago, and “Million Dollar Quartet” in Phoenix.
Plus, of course, that Jeff Awards ceremony. He’s been nominated for “Noises Off,” at the Windy City Playhouse.