Let it never be said that Chay Yew, in his second year as artistic director of Victory Gardens Theater, soft-pedals his commitment to "diversity" or worries about being labeled politically correct in the extreme. Just take a look at his plans for the theater's 2013-2014 season and beyond.
In line with its mission to "cultivate new American voices and represent Chicago's many cultural communities," the theater plans to expand its subscription series by hosting "three or four of the most exciting, diverse storefront theater companies" on its stages as part of a new Resident Theater Program. The names of these theaters, and the shows they will present, will be announced in the coming weeks along with a joint statement from these companies.
Victory Gardens also has announced a new board of National Artistic Advisors that includes such high-profile talents as Luis Alfaro, Nilo Cruz, Eve Ensler, David Henry Hwang, Tony Kushner, David Lindsey-Abaire, John Logan, Craig Lucas, Sandra Oh (who stars in TV's "Gray's Anatomy," and will appear in one of the mainstage plays this season), Suzan-Lori Parks, Jose Rivera, Anika Noni Rose, Sarah Ruhl, Jeanine Tesori, Paula Vogel, George C. Wolfe and B.D. Wong. Many of these artists have worked at Victory Gardens in the past, or had their work produced by the company.
Meanwhile, there is the 2013-14 season itself. It will include:
± "Appropriate" (Nov. 8-Dec. 8), a play by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins in a co-world premiere with Actors Theater of Louisville, to be directed by Gary Griffin. In this story of the Lafayette family, the dead patriarch's three adult children arrive at his crumbling Arkansan plantation to liquidate his estate. As they collide over clutter, debt, and a contentious family history, a disturbing discovery unleashes some explosive confrontations.
± "The Gospel of Lovingkindness" (Feb. 21-March 23, 2014), a world premiere by Victory Gardens ensemble playwright Marcus Gardley, directed by Chay Yew. Set in 1996, as the streets of Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood are set ablaze and gripped by crime, evictions, gun and gang violence, the play focuses on Reverend Isaac Seer and his wife, who have just lost their only son to a senseless homicide. Now they must decide whether to leave their home in the embattled Ida B. Wells Projects, or stay to lead their community towards an uncertain future.
± "Death and the Maiden" (June 13-July 13, 2014): A revival of Ariel Dorfman's drama (inspired by events in Chile, but applicable to many "rocky new democracies"), is about a woman (played by Oh) who believes "the kind doctor" who recently helped her husband when his car broke down was the man who tortured her as she lay blindfolded in a military detention center years before. As it happens, the woman's husband has just been chosen to head the commission that will investigate the crimes of the old regime. Yew will direct.
For subscriptions to Victory Gardens, 2433 N. Lincoln, call (312) 871-3000 or visit www.victorygardens.org.