The name honors Dennis Zacek, now in his 27th season as Victory Gardens' artistic director, and Marcelle McVay, Victory Gardens' longtime managing director, and its first paid employee.
"I'm delighted to say that the support of the board on this matter was unanimous," said John Palmer, president of the board or Victory Gardens Theater. Palmer made the name official May 5 at a reception at the West Loop loft of Lynn and Allen Turner. Turner was the theatre's first board president, back in 1977.
Palmer added, "Here we are in the midst of renovating a hugely popular, historic Chicago landmark building with the intent to put it to wonderful new use. I cannot think of a more fitting tribute than naming what will be the very heart of this new complex — a new, 299-seat state-of-the-art mainstage for live theatre — in honor of Dennis and Marcie. This is clearly a show of the board's appreciation and support for their extraordinary and long-term commitment to this theatre."
In his comments to assembled funders, patrons and supporters, Zacek noted, "It has been our privilege to work with the tremendously talented theatre artists and dedicated audiences of Chicago. We are forever grateful to the founders of Victory Gardens Theater who gave us such a wonderful opportunity."
McVay added, "Now, more than 30 years later, we are deeply honored to be recognized in such a permanent way by our board of directors. Dennis and I will work to be worthy of such acknowledgement by developing playwrights and programs that will enrich our community in the expanded Victory Gardens Theater at the Biograph." Zacek and McVay have been the prime forces behind Victory Gardens since its founding 31 years ago. McVay was the theatre's first employee, hired in 1974. Zacek joined Victory Gardens' artistic board in 1975, and was appointed sole artistic director in 1977, a position he has held ever since.
Zacek and McVay met as students at Northwestern University, were married in 1972, and have spent virtually their entire working lives together overseeing Victory Gardens' artistic mission and institutional growth.
VG is devoted to world premieres and Chicago premieres of works by a stable of resident writers known at the "Victory Gardens ensemble." Occasionally, the work of non-ensemble members is mounted.
Under Zacek and McVay's leadership, Victory Gardens received the 2001 Tony Award honor for outstanding resident theatre.
The theatre was founded in 1974 in the top floor of the Northside Auditorium Building (now the Cabaret Metro) and moved in 1981 to its current location at 2257 N. Lincoln Avenue and expanded in 1995 with the purchase and rehab into the upstairs Body Politic space. In 1997, VG officially formed the Victory Gardens Playwrights Ensemble.
Victory Gardens has purchased and already begun renovations to the nationally landmarked Biograph movie house, located at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. In it will be the 299-seat Zacek-McVay Theater, "designed to deliver the intimacy for which Victory Gardens' performances have become known, while greatly enhancing the theatre's technical production capabilities." The new facility will also house a smaller black box theatre, an open box office design, increased seating and amenities for persons with disabilities, a concession stand featuring alcohol sales and boxed sandwiches, a comfortable lobby environment, larger bathrooms, and a balcony-level rehearsal/special events room.