Victory Gardens Announces Casting and Schedule for 10th Anniversary IGNITION Festival

Victory Gardens Announces Casting and Schedule for 10th Anniversary IGNITION Festival

Top Row (L to R): Heather Chrisler, Anish Jethmalani, Caren Blackmore, Krystal Ortiz, Karen Isabel Rodriguez, A.C. Smith. Bottom Row (L to R): Francis Guinan, Carolyn Hu Bradbury, Amanda Drinkall, Arti Istak, Jeff Kurysz, Jacqueline Williams

Victory Gardens Theater has announced the lineup for the 10th anniversary IGNITION Festival of New Plays, including “Prosthesis” by Robert Askins; “Untitled Road Trip Play” by Lauren Yee; “White History” by Dave Harris; “How to Defend Yourself” by Lily Padilla; “Seeing Eye” by Nick Malakhow; and “The First Deep Breath” by Lee Edward Colston II. The six plays will be presented as readings, directed by Halena Kays, Marti Lyons, Jess McLeod, Ron OJ Parson, Vanessa Stalling and Chay Yew.

“We’re proud to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Victory Gardens’ IGNITION Festival of New Plays. Since its inception in 2008, we have given world premiere productions to a new generation of American playwrights from Branden Jacobs-Jenkins to Lauren Yee, from Jackie Sibblies Drury to Kristoffer Diaz. We’re thrilled to have shared these plays with Chicagoans and the world,” said Artistic Director Chay Yew. “And this year is no different. We continue to give a home to brave and singular theatrical voices who shine light on our diverse humanity, whose plays create meaningful dialogue towards a more unified world. We need these voices more than ever.”

The casts will include Breon Arzell, Caren Blackmore, Adithi Chandrashekar, Heather Chrisler, Amanda Drinkall, Matthew Elam, Tim Frank, Bernard Gilbert, Jalen Gilbert, Francis Guinan, Ryan Hallahan, Mike Hamilton, Carolyn Hu Bradbury, Arti Ishak, Anish Jethmalani, Jeff Kurysz, Gregory Linington, Ryan McBride, Krystal Ortiz, Michael Pogue, Tommy Rivera-Vega, Karen Isabel Rodriguez, Kelvin Roston Jr., Maggie Scrantom, A.C. Smith, Sasha Smith, Kiah Stern, Candace Thomas, Wandachristine and Jacqueline Williams.

“The plays and playwrights in this year’s festival feature an incredible mix of perspectives, styles and voices. Each writer this year is exploring the world we live in—and the people in it—with a nuance and urgency that brings to life the pain, uncertainty, joy, and hope of being alive in this moment in time. I could not be prouder to share these plays with our audiences, and to have my first IGNITION Festival include such a dynamic group of writers,” said Director of New Play Development Skyler Gray.

The 2018 festival runs August 3-5, and all readings are free and open to the public, though a reservation is strongly encouraged. For more information or to RSVP, visit or call the Victory Gardens Box Office at 773.871.3000.

The 2018 IGNITION Lineup (from the press release):

Friday, August 3 at 7:30pm
By Robert Askins
Directed by Jess McLeod
Dramaturgy by Skyler Gray

George has sewn an iPhone into his neck. Now, he can send saws spinning and turn lights on with just a thought, but his Dad doesn’t like that. George’s father, a real prosthetist, steps in to try to save his son. But George doesn’t want to be saved by him. He’s trying to find god.

“Prosthesis” features Heather Chrisler (Rachel), Francis Guinan (Perry), Ryan Hallahan (George) and Gregory Linington (Steve).

Victory Gardens will host a Happy Hour Welcome beginning at 6pm and an Ignition Opening Night Party at 9:30pm, both in the Victory Gardens Lobby.

Saturday, August 4 at 11am
“Untitled Road Trip Play”
By Lauren Yee
Directed by Chay Yew
Dramaturgy by Benjamin Fainstein

Lauren Yee’s “Untitled Road Trip Play” follows an immigrant couple as they drive across America in 1998. As they travel to their new home in Portland, they struggle to find common ground in everything from personal philosophy to what to put in the tape deck. Twenty years later the same man recreates the road trip with his adult daughter, with the same car, same map, and same music. A Honda Civic connects these worlds as time and space weave these two journeys together. But sometimes getting there is half the battle. “Untitled Road Trip Play” was originally commissioned by Portland Center Stage (Portland, Oregon. Chris Coleman, Artistic Director).

“Untitled Road Trip Play” features Adithi Chandrashekar (Jenny), Carolyn Hu Bradbury (Mehry) and Anish Jethmalani (Joe).

Complimentary Bagels and Mimosas will be available at 9:30am in the Victory Gardens Lobby, followed by the reading of “Untitled Road Trip Play.”

Saturday, August 4 at 3pm
“White History”
By Dave Harris
Directed by Halena Kays
Dramaturgy by Sarah Slight

Bonnie and Todd, a cage-free kale-bred white couple, have just moved into a new home after accidentally burning down their last one. Soon after, an exiled KKK Member kicks in their front door with a rope and a revolver, mistaking them for the Black couple that moved in across the street. Naturally, there is a dinner party. “White History” contends with the violence of America’s foundation and the comedy of American progress.

“White History” features Caren Blackmore (Monica), Amanda Drinkall (Bonnie), Tim Frank (Todd), Mike Hamilton (KKK Man) and Michael Pogue (Perry).

Saturday, August 4 at 7:30pm
“How to Defend Yourself”
By Lily Padilla
Directed by Marti Lyons

Seven college students gather for a DIY self-defense workshop after a sorority sister is raped. They learn how to “not be a victim”, how to use their bodies as weapons, how to fend off attackers. The form of self-defense becomes a channel for their rage, trauma, confusion, anxiety, and desire–lots of desire. Challenged to determine what they want and how to ask for it, the students must ultimately face the insidious ways rape culture steals one’s body and sense of belonging.

“How to Defend Yourself” features Arti Ishak (Mojdeh), Ryan McBride (Andy), Krystal Ortiz (Diana), Tommy Rivera-Vega (Eggo), Maggie Scrantom (Brandi), Kiah Stern (Kara) and Sasha Smith (Nikki).

There will be a Ten-Year Celebration for the Ignition Festival at 9:30 pm at Dog Haus Grill, 2464 N. Lincoln Ave.

Sunday, August 5 at 11am
“Seeing Eye”
By Nick Malakhow
Directed by Vanessa Stalling
Dramaturgy by Jonathan Green

Intimidated by the prospect of dating apps and online profiles, Jason, who is blind, finds himself in a whirlwind romance with a stranger after taking a chance to find love the old fashioned way: at a bar. Their one-night stand ignites a week-long romance in which both men feel like they are being seen for the first time. But what happens when people finally see us for who we really are? And even worse, what happens when we finally see ourselves?

“Seeing Eye” features Breon Arzell (Robbie), Jeff Kurysz (Jason) and Karen Isabel Rodriguez (Jordan).

The reading of “Seeing Eye” will be audio described.

Complimentary Bagels and Mimosas will be available pre-show starting at 9:30 am in the Victory Gardens Lobby.

Sunday, August 5 at 1:45 pm
Artist Panel: This is America
Richard Christiansen Theater

Join us for a panel with festival artists as we discuss the power, pressures and challenges of being a storyteller in America today—and tomorrow.

Sunday, August 5 at 3pm
“The First Deep Breath”
By Lee Edward Colston II
Directed by Ron OJ Parson
Dramaturgy by Skyler Gray

Pastor Albert Jones is planning a special church service to honor his late daughter Diane on the sixth anniversary of her death. But when his eldest son, Abdul-Malik, returns home from prison, the First family of Mother Bethel Baptist Church is forced to confront a hornet’s nest of long-buried secrets. With each member of the Jones clan desperately fighting to stay afloat, sometimes a family that stays together drowns together.

“The First Deep Breath” features Matthew Elam (AJ), Bernard Gilbert (Abdul-Malik), Jalen Gilbert (Tyree Fisher), Kelvin Roston Jr. (Leslie Carter), A.C. Smith (Pastor Albert Melvin Jones III), Candace Thomas (Dee-Dee), Wandachristine (Ruth Jones), and Jacqueline Williams (Pearl Thomas).

There will be an Ice Cream Social at 6pm in the Victory Gardens Lobby.

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