Zacek was one of the nine original founders of Victory Gardens in 1974, Zacek became the theater’s first official artistic director in 1977. As such, he was a central figure in the Chicago theatre renaissance which began in the mid-70s with the arrival of companies like Victory Gardens, Steppenwolf and Wisdom Bridge, and reached its peak during the '80s. While other companies took on a more national focus over time, Victory Gardens and Zacek continued to devote themselves to the development of Chicago talent, and formed the Victory Gardens 12-member Playwrights Ensemble to develop their writers’ work. These efforts led to the theatre receiving the 2001 Tony Award for regional theatre.
Two hundred forty-three plays have been produced at Victory Gardens Theater. Of these, 142 have been world premiere productions, and 151 were written by Chicago authors. The works of Jeffrey Sweet and James Sherman are frequently produced at the theatre.
The 37th annual awards JEff ceremony also will recognize recipients in 26 categories for theatrical productions opening during the 2004-05 season (August 1, 2004-July 31, 2005). The ceremony will be held downtown for the first time in several years at the Drury Lane Theatre Water Tower Place.