Victory Gardens Theater
Victory Gardens Theater is a theater in
Chicago, Illinoisdedicated to the development and production of new plays and playwrights. The theater was founded in 1974 when seven Chicago artists, Warren Casey, Cordis Heard, Roberta Maguire, Mac McGuinnes, Cecil O'Neal, June Pyskacek, and David Rascheeach fronted $1,000 to start a company outside the Chicago Loop. The theater's first production, "The Velvet Rose", by Stacy Myattpremiered on October 9, 1974.
The company’s initial home was on the top floor of the Northside Auditorium Building, 3730 N. Clark Street. Its second production -- a country-western musical co-produced with commercial producers called "The Magnolia Club" by
Jeff Berkson, John Karrakerand David Karraker-- was the company’s first hit.
In 1975, director
Dennis Zacekstaged "The Caretaker" by Harold Pinter, beginning a relationship that led to Zacek being named artistic director in 1977.
Key on-going collaborators worked with the company for the first time in the Clark Street space, including actor
William L. Petersen, Marcelle McVay, director Sandy Shinner, and playwrights Steve Carterand Jeffrey Sweet. All of these people continue relationships with the company today. McVay, who is married to Dennis Zacek, subsequently became managing director and Sandy Shinner later became associate artistic director.
In 1981, the success of Sweet’s third play with the company, "Ties", led to it being transferred to an extended run in the larger space downstairs at the Body Politic Theater at 2257 N. Lincoln. When "Ties" closed, downstairs became Victory Gardens’ new home. Upon the demise of the Body Politic company some years later, Victory Gardens acquired the whole building, housing four stages.
In 1989, Zacek’s staging of
James Sherman’s "Beau Jest" was such a hit that it moved for a long run off-Broadway and was subsequently staged in hundreds of productions around the world. Sherman recently shot a film version of the play starring Lanie Kazan and Seymour Cassel.
In 1997, resident playwrights
Steve Carterand James Shermanwere joined by Claudia Allen, Dean Corrin, Lonnie Carter, Gloria Bond Clunie, John Logan, Nicholas Patricca, Douglas Post, Charles Smith, Jeffrey Sweetand Kristine Thatcheras the founding members of the company’s Playwrights Ensemble.
In 2001, Victory Gardens received the
Tony Awardfor Regional Theatre, one of four Chicago companies to be so honored the other three being the Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Goodman Theatre, and Chicago Shapespeare Theater.
In 2006, Victory Gardens opened a re-designed
Biograph Theaterat 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue as its new home. The Biograph, the notorious location of the ambush of gangster John Dillinger, opened with a party hosted by William L. Petersen, who played Dillinger at Victory Gardens at the beginning of his career. The space at 2257 N. Lincoln has been redubbed the Victory Gardens Greenhouse and is mostly rented to a variety of non-profit companies including Shattered Globeand Remy Bumppo Theatre Company.
* [http://www.victorygardens.org/ Victory Gardens Theater Web Site]
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