COD Theater Instructor Earns Prestigious Jeff Award

By Mike McKissack

College of DuPage Theater instructor John Tovar earned a 2013 Jeff Award for his fight choreography in A Red Orchid Theatre's "The Opponent."

Established in 1968, the Jeff Awards committee evaluates more than 250 productions in the Chicago area in dozens of categories. Two awards ceremonies are held annually: the Equity Jeff awards, which recognize productions operating under union contracts, and the Non-Equity Jeff Awards, which recognize productions operating without union contracts.

Tovar, who became hooked on theater when he played an extra in his high school's production of "West Side Story," described working on "The Opponent" as one of the highlights of his career and credits its success to a great team effort on the part of the actors, design team, director and writer.

"The nomination wouldn't have happened if it wasn't for everyone involved in the production," Tovar said. "The biggest factor that came into play was the trust the actors had with each other. If you don't trust the other actor to do the choreography just right, injuries can happen."

Tovar went on to explain that despite his success as a fight choreographer, teaching has provided him with the most satisfaction.

"I found no greater joy than when a student has that 'aha' moment when they finally understand a particular lesson and it changes them," he said. "You can't get that from performing onstage. No matter how much an audience enjoys a performance, nothing feels better than inspiring a student."

After earning a bachelor's degree from Illinois State University where he was the recipient of the esteemed Jean Scharfenberg Acting Award, Tovar trained in stage combat at the Actor's Gymnasium in Evanston and later became certified by the Society of American Fight Directors (SAFD). Since then, he has choreographed more than 100 productions throughout the Chicago are for companies including About Face Theatre, Buffalo Theatre Ensemble, Drury Lane Oakbrook, Fox Valley Repertory, Route 66 Theatre and Steppenwolf Theater.

In addition to teaching stage combat at College of DuPage, Tovar has taught classes in a variety of institutions, including Ball State University, DePaul University and Illinois State University, and has conducted regional workshops at Cease and Desist, the Central Illinois Stage Combat Workshop, Havoc in the Heartland, Rumble in the Rockies, Seattle Sockeye and the Winter Wonderland Workshop. He is also the Executive Director of Movement and Combat Education (MACE).

Click here for more information about the Theater program at College of DuPage.