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Pictured: Chay Yew
By Jason Epperson
Victory Gardens Theater Artistic Director Chay Yew has announced plans step down at the end of the season. Yew has held the post since July 2011. His ninth and final season will conclude in June 2020.
“My journey with Victory Gardens has been a tremendous gift and joy. Together with my passionate board and staff, we’ve accomplished much in the last eight and a half years and it is at this extraordinary moment in our theater’s history that I have chosen to depart. It is important for me to set our next artistic leader up for success, taking our theater to even greater heights, building on what Dennis Zacek and I have created,” Yew said. “From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank all the incredible artists, community partners and audiences who have made their home at Victory Gardens; my board chair, Steve Miller, for his unwavering belief and support throughout my tenure; and my Executive Director, Erica Daniels, for being a steadfast partner in helping me realize my vision for our theater. I will serve through the end of our current season, and will foster artistic projects in future Victory Gardens seasons while exploring new opportunities and challenges.”
During his tenure, Yew has focused the 45-year-old institution’s focus squarely on diversity, equity, and inclusion, creating the Director Inclusion Initiative, the Resident Theater Company Initiative, and the Rising Leaders of Color Fellowship, while nurturing the careers of now nationally prominent writers such as Luis Alfaro, Lee Edward Colston, Philip Dawkins, Jackie Sibblies Drury, Marcus Gardley, Ike Holter, Samuel D. Hunter, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Boo Killebrew, Antoinette Nwandu, liliana padilla, Madhuri Shekar, and Lauren Yee.
Victory Gardens has always focused on new plays, but under Yew seven world premieres eventually found their way to Broadway.
Board President Steve Miller comments, “We are so grateful to Chay for his leadership at Victory Gardens through the past eight-plus years. Chay has shepherded Victory Gardens to a new level of engagement and artistic excellence. He has heightened the theater’s visibility and leaves us in a very strong position poised for continued success.”
“It has been an honor to work alongside my friend, Chay, for the past three years,” Erica Daniels added. “In partnership with him, we have achieved artistic and financial success and Victory Gardens is poised to be Chicago’s National Center for New Plays. Joining with Chay in a mission steeped in new voices, inclusion, and meaningful civic change has been deeply gratifying. I am thrilled Chay will continue to have an artistic home at Victory Gardens and look forward to working with the board to move Victory Gardens into our semi-centennial.”
A formal search for a successor will begin soon.