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Jeffrey Sweet (born May 3, 1950) is an American writer, journalist, songwriter and theatre historian. Sweet's father was James Sweet, a science writer for the University of Chicago who aided Supreme Court chief justice Earl Warren in drafting two anti-McCarthy speeches; his mother is violinist Vivian Sweet.

Sweet has been a playwright, screenwriter, lyricist, critic, journalist, teacher, theatre historian, and sometime songwriter and director. He is a resident member of Chicago's Victory Gardens Theater, where thirteen of his plays—including Flyovers, The Action Against Sol Schumann, The Value of Names, Berlin '45, With and Without, Court-Martial at Fort Devens, and Bluff have been produced. His most recent play, Class Dismissed, opened there in March, 2009 under the direction of artistic director Dennis Zacek.[1]

His involvement with musical theatre includes writing the book to a musical version of Murray Schisgal's play Luv with lyrics by Susan Birkenhead and music by Howard Marren. Originally produced off-Broadway under the title Love, it won Outer Critics Circle prizes for best book and best score. It was subsequently revived off-Broadway at the York Theatre in New York, directed by Patricia Birch, under the title What About Luv? and was later produced in London and Tokyo. He also collaborated with Melissa Manchester on a musical called I Sent a Letter to My Love based on the novel by Bernice Rubens. Sweet is also the author of Something Wonderful Right Away (an oral history of Chicago's The Second City troupe), The Dramatist's Toolkit and Solving Your Script (two texts on dramatic writing).

Sweet's plays fall into two groups—those inspired by historical-political subjects and those springing from more personal impulses. The most produced of the former is The Value of Names, a story set against the backdrop of the aftermath of the blacklist. In it, a young actress finds herself facing the prospect of working with the director who named her father to HUAC during the McCarthy era. Since its 1983 premiere at the Actors Theatre of Louisville, Names has been revived a number of times in the past few years, most notably in a series of productions starring Jack Klugman (the most recent at the Falcon Theatre was nominated for "best play" in the Ovation Awards of Los Angeles; it was a remounting of the 2006 production directed by James Glossman at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, NJ). Other actors who have played in it include Howard Morris, Ed Asner, Garry Marshall, Hector Elizondo, Shelley Berman, Byrne Piven, Warren Mitchell, Allen Swift, Robin Groves, Helen Hunt, Sally Murphy and Larry Block.

Flyovers, which premiered at Victory Gardens in 1998, represents a more personal project. The story of a film critic who returns to the small town in Ohio where he grew up and encounters threats he thought he left behind years ago, the play anticipated the confrontation between red state and blue state cultures. The original production, directed by Dennis Zacek, starred William Petersen, Amy Morton, Marc Vann and Linda Reiter. Gary Cole and Teddi Sidall took over for Petersen and Morton when the run was extended. The play won a Joseph Jefferson Award for its script, and it was recently published in Victory Gardens Theater Presents Seven New Plays From the Playwrights Ensemble, an anthology from Northwestern University Press. A showcase production in New York in 2009, produced by Artistic New Directions, 78th Street Theatre Lab and Jeff Landsmann, starred Richard Kind, Michele Pawk, Kevin Geer and Donna Bullock. Northwestern University Press also published an anthology containing nine of his scripts in under the title The Value of Names and Other Plays by Jeffrey Sweet; Chicago Tribune theatre critic emeritus Richard Christiansen wrote the foreword.

Sweet has also written for other media, including hundreds of hours of television as well as radio adaptations of some of his plays. His work for the soap opera One Life to Live resulted in a Writers Guild of America Award for writing for a daytime serial in 1992 and an Emmy nomination. Under the title of "creative consultant," he also co-wrote the adaptation of Hugh Whitemore's Pack of Lies for the Hallmark Hall of Fame. The script, officially credited to the pseudonym Ralph Gallup, was nominated for an Emmy, and the show won a Peabody Award.

Sweet serves as a member of the Council of the Dramatists Guild, is a member of Ensemble Studio Theatre, and is an alumnus of New Dramatists. He contributes a regular column to the magazine, Dramatics.


  1. ^ Weiss, Hedy (1 April 2009). "1960s turbulence at Victory Gardens' 'Class'". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 31 August 2010. 

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467075 videos foundNext > 

Cover by Jeffrey Sweet

scene from Cover by Jeffrey Sweet. Adrien Cirou and Sassan.

Howard Jeffrey: Sweet Seductive Screams

(c) 2008 QVQ Publishing Words and Music Howard Jeffrey.

Reva & Jeffrey - "Sweet Child"

A Reva, Jeffrey and Colin O'Neill MV.

Jeffrey Sweet's "You Only Shoot the Ones You Love:" Russians

A scene about Russians from Jeffrey Sweet's one-man show "You Only Shoot the Ones You Love," playing at FringeNYC 2011. To learn more, please visit http://Hy...

Jeffrey Sweet Dreams

Wayne Jeffrey Sweet Caroline

Wayne Jeffrey live Aug 1 2008 @ Daniel O'connell's Pub.

Jeffrey Sweet: You Only Shoot the Ones You Love

Playwright and Second City historian Jeffrey Sweet in excerpts from his one-man show at Ensemble Studio Theatre, "You Only Shoot the Ones You Love." Video pr...

Niet Jeffrey - Sweet Child o' Mine

Creepy Jeffrey's "Sweet Egyptian Helmet"

With the violence unfolding in Egypt, perhaps you've seen some of the makeshift helmets that folks have put together to prevent themselves from being pelted ...

I need your love I need your grace by Jeffrey Sweet

This is a song I wrote this year! Me playing the piano and singing.

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12 news items

Broadway World
Mon, 13 Oct 2014 08:56:15 -0700

As I was reading The O'Neill: The Transformation of Modern American Theater by Jeffrey Sweet and walking through Launchpad of the American Theater: The O'Neill Since 1964, a 50th anniversary exhibit at the New York Public Library for the Performing ...
Broadway World
Thu, 16 Oct 2014 10:33:08 -0700

Select New York credits: Ross Howard's Picture Ourselves in Latvia (U.S. Premiere, published by Samuel French, produced by New Light Theatre Project), Victor Bumbalo's Questa (New York premiere - Wings Theatre), Responsible Parties by Jeffrey Sweet ...
The Daily Tribune
Wed, 24 Sep 2014 12:41:15 -0700

The Jewish Ensemble Theatre in West Bloomfield Township, meanwhile, kicked off its season with Jeffrey Sweet's “The Value of Names,” running through Oct. 12. This meta show follows a pair of ex-best friends — a Hollywood director and an actor — as ...

American Theatre

American Theatre
Tue, 23 Sep 2014 17:09:41 -0700

It may be hard to believe, but, according to producer Albert Poland, this was once the cover headline on the Chicago Daily News. Imagine a city so excited about the prospect of a theatre making its home there that it was the top story on the front page.

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Free Press
Wed, 08 Oct 2014 21:06:00 -0700

... music and stage magic, 3 p.m. Sun. Macomb Center for the Performing Arts, 44575 Garfield, Clinton Twp. 586-286-2222. www.macombcenter.com. $25, $30, $15 ages 12 and younger. “The Value of Names”: By Jeffrey Sweet, directed by Yolanda Fleischer.

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Free Press
Wed, 01 Oct 2014 20:56:15 -0700

“The Value of Names” Jewish Ensemble Theatre takes on Jeffrey Sweet's play about the lingering effects of McCarthysism. Through Oct. 12. Aaron DeRoy Theatre, 6600 W. Maple, West Bloomfield. 248-788-2900. www.jettheatre.org. $48 with discounts ...
Fri, 26 Sep 2014 21:00:44 -0700

1999 The season at Chicago's Victory Gardens Theatre kicks off tonight with Bluff, a new comedy-drama by playwright Jeffrey Sweet. Directed by Sandy Shinner, Bluff will star Jon Cryer known for his work in film, such as "Pretty In Pink." The play tells ...

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Free Press
Tue, 23 Sep 2014 21:03:46 -0700

Sun. Detroit Puppet Theater, 25 E. Grand River, Detroit. 313-961-7777. www.puppetart.org. $10, $5 children. “The Value of Names” Jewish Ensemble Theatre takes on Jeffrey Sweet's 1983 play about showbiz and the lingering effects of the McCarthy era ...

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