Legendary actress Julie Harris raised a glass of champagne with members of the Victory Gardens Theater at noon Chicago time May 7 in celebration of the troupe's Special Tony Award honor for outstanding regional theatre.
The Tony Awards nominees and special awards, including the regional-theatre citation recommended by the American Theatre Critics Association, were announced 8:30 AM (ET) May 7. Harris is starring the Victory Gardens' world premiere of Claudia Allen's Fossils, May 11-July 1.
Five-time Tony Award winner Julie Harris toasted with Victory Gardens artistic director Dennis Zacek, managing director Marcelle McVay, Victory Gardens board members and administrative staff, subscribers, fans, actors, theatre designers, and members of Chicago's theatre community.
The 27-year-old company is devoted to producing new works from a specific pool of talent nurtured in-house. The Tony honor comes at an important time for the company: Members of the board have recently questioned why the company has not expanded its mission more.
Victory Gardens Theater is at 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. in Chicago. The Tony honor for regional theatre is based on a recommendation by the American Theatre Critics Association. Actors Theatre of Louisville, Denver Center Theatre Company and Chicago's Goodman Theatre and Steppenwolf Theatre are among the many companies so honored. Chicago is the only city to have three Tony-honored resident companies. The award is given to a regional theatre company that has displayed a continuous level of artistic achievement contributing to the growth of theatre nationally. A $25,000 grant will be made by Clairol's Nice 'n Easy to the not-for-profit Victory Gardens Theater, founded in 1974.
The company was founded in 1974 in what is now the Cabaret Metro (3730 N. Clark St.). Dennis Zacek became artistic director in 1977, and supervised its move to its Lincoln Avenue home in 1981. The company has a mainstage and a smaller second stage.
Victory Gardens has an operating budget of $1.6 million and 4,500 subscribers, 10 percent more than 1999-2000. Visit the website at http://www.victorygardens.org.
The Tony Awards ceremony is June 3 in New York City. Members of the Victory Gardens will be there to accept the award.
— By Kenneth Jones