Victory Gardens' Playwrights Become "Alumni"; Four New Writers Named to Ensemble
By Kenneth Jones
Victory Gardens Theatre, the Tony Award-winning Chicago resident theatre known for its Playwrights Ensemble, will welcome Philip Dawkins, Marcus Gardley, Samuel D. Hunter and Tanya Saracho into the fold, artistic director Chay Yew and executive director Jan Kallish announced.
The appointment of the emerging writers is for a seven-year residency. Existing Ensemble members now become "alumni."
During the residencies, "VG aims to develop and produce the playwrights' new plays," "the artists will be deeply involved in the everyday life and business of the organization" and will participate in VG's educational programs. VG "will collaborate with the playwrights to create Chicago-based work."
After the residency, the playwrights will immediately join the Alumni, maintaining an artistic relationship with Victory Gardens.
The Playwrights Ensemble of the past 16 years is now being billed as "Alumni." Their future "artistic relationship" with VG suggests possible future productions but does not explicitly announcing that.
The Victory Gardens Playwrights Ensemble Alumni are Claudia Allen, Dean Corrin, Lonnie Carter, Steve Carter, Gloria Bond Clunie, Nilo Cruz, Joel Drake Johnson, John Logan, Nicholas A. Patricca, Douglas Post, James Sherman, Charles Smith, Jeffrey Sweet and Kristine Thatcher.
The world premiere of new Ensemble member Dawkins' play Failure: A Love Story will be in the 2012-13 Victory Gardens season. The world premiere of his Gardley's play Chicago Is Burning will be in the 2012-13 Victory Gardens season.
The Chicago premiere of Hunter's play The Whale will be in the 2012-13 Victory Gardens season.
Yew said in a statement, "Former artistic director Dennis Zacek has bestowed upon these wonderful playwrights a tremendous gift for the last 16 years. This ensemble has written a significant body of great plays while at Victory Gardens. They have been teachers and mentors to generations of playwrights. It is very exciting to pass the baton to a new generation."
About the incoming Victory Gardens Theatre Playwrights Ensemble members:
Philip Dawkins' critically-acclaimed play The Homosexuals received a Joseph Jefferson Nomination for New Work after its world premiere this past summer with About Face Theatre, under the direction of Bonnie Metzgar. It enjoyed a twice extended, sold-out run this past summer. Dawkins' play Failure: A Love Story was part of the 2011 Lark Playwrights' Week, and his play Miss Marx or The Involuntary Side Effect of Living will receive a staged reading as part of Steppenwolf's First Look Series. Other credits: Dead Letter Office (Dog and Pony Theatre); Yes to Everything! (Chicago, NY,CA, DC); Perfect (The Side Project); Ugly Baby (Chicago Opera Vanguard/Strawdog Theatre Company); A Still Life in Color (T.U.T.A. Company); The Man with a Shattered World (Ethington Theatre, AZ); SAGUARO (Estrogen Fest; Estrogenius Festival, NY; 16th Street Theatre, Berwyn; Painted Filly, Ireland.). His plays for young performers, which were written for Northlight Theatre, are published through Playscripts and have been performed all over Chicago and North America. Dawkins is a graduate of Loyola University, Chicago, an artistic associate of About Face Theatre, a founding member, with artistic partner Eric C. Reda, of Chicago Opera Vanguard, and he is currently commissioned by The Goodman as part of the 2011-12 Playwrights' Unit. He taught playwriting in public schools for ten years through Chicago Dramatists and is now teaching playwriting at Northwestern University. He also teaches Kung Fu to little, tiny, children through Rising Phoenix Kung Fu.
Marcus Gardley is a poet-playwright who recently won the 2011 PEN Laura Pels award for Mid-Career Playwright. His most recent play Every Tongue Confess premiered at Arena Stage starring Phylicia Rashad and directed by Kenny Leon. It was nominated for the Steinberg New Play Award, the Charles MacArthur Award for Best Play and was the recipient of the Edgerton New Play Award. His musical, On the Levee, premiered last summer at Lincoln Center and was nominated for 11 Audelco Awards including outstanding playwright. Last Spring, his critically acclaimed epic And Jesus Moonwalks the Mississippi was produced at the Cutting Ball Theater and received the SF Bay Area Theater Critics Circle Award nomination for outstanding new play and had two sold-out extensions. His Bay Area plays, This World in a Woman's Hands (October 2009) and Love Is a Dream House in Lorin (March 2007) have been hailed as the best in Bay Area theatre. The latter was nominated for the National Critics Steinberg New Play Award. He has had six plays produced, including dance of the holy ghosts at Yale Repertory Theatre (now under a Broadway option,) (L)imitations of Life at the Empty Space in Seattle, WA, and like sun fallin' in the mouth at the National Black Theatre Festival. He is the recipient of the Helen Merrill Award, a Kesselring Honor, the Gerbode Emerging Playwright Award, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre Award, a Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation Grant, a NEA/TCG Playwriting Participant Residency, the Eugene O'Neill Memorial Scholarship and the ASCAP Cole Porter Prize. He holds an MFA in Playwriting from the Yale Drama School and is a member of New Dramatists, The Dramatists Guild and the Lark Play Development Center.
Samuel D. Hunter's recent plays include A Bright New Boise (2011 Obie Award for playwriting, 2011 Drama Desk nomination for Best Play; original production by Partial Comfort Productions in NYC, recent production at Woolly Mammoth Theater Company), The Whale (Denver Center Theatre Company), A Permanent Image (commissioned and produced by Boise Contemporary Theater), Jack's Precious Moment (Page 73 Productions at 59E59), Five Genocides (Clubbed Thumb at the Ohio Theater), Norway (Phoenix Theatre of Indianapolis; Boise Contemporary Theater), I Am Montana (Arcola Theatre, London; Mortar Theater, Chicago). He has active commissions from MTC/Sloan, Seattle Rep, and South Coast Rep. His plays have been developed at the O’Neill Playwrights Conference, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, PlayPenn, Ojai Playwrights Conference, the Lark Playwrights Workshop, Juilliard, LAByrinth, Rattlestick, Seven Devils Playwrights Conference, 24Seven Lab and elsewhere. Internationally, his work has been translated into Spanish and presented in Mexico City and Monterrey, and he has worked in the West Bank with Ashtar Theatre of Ramallah and Ayyam al-Masrah of Hebron. At Ashtar, he co-wrote The Era of Whales which was performed in Ramallah and Istanbul. He is the recipient of the 2011 Sky Cooper Prize, 2008-2009 PONY Fellowship from the Lark, two Lincoln Center Le Compte du Nuoy Awards, others. He is a core member of the Playwrights Center, a member of Partial Comfort Productions and is an alum of Ars Nova's Playgroup. He has taught at Fordham University, Rutgers University, and Marymount Manhattan College. A native of northern Idaho, he lives in New York City. He holds degrees in playwriting from NYU, The Iowa Playwrights Workshop and Juilliard.
Tanya Saracho is a Goodman Theater Fellow at the Belic Institute for the Study of Women and Gender at Columbia College, an artistic associate with About Face Theater, the founder of The Ñ Series and the co-founder and former artistic director of Teatro Luna: Chicago's All Latina Theatre. She has been the lead artist in most of Teatro Luna's ensemble-devised works including Generic Latina, Dejame Contarte, The Maria Chronicles, SOLO Latinas, SOLO Tú, S-E-X-Oh! and Lunatic(a)s. Her plays include El Nogalar, inspired by The Cherry Orchard (Goodman Theatre and commissioned by Teatro Vista); an adaptation of The House on Mango Street for Steppenwolf (2009); Our Lady of The Underpass with Teatro Vista (2009); Surface Day with Steppenwolf/Chicago Children’s Humanity Festival (2008); Jarred (A Hoodoo Comedy) with Teatro Luna (2008); Kita y Fernanda at 16th Street Theatre (2008) and Quita Mitos with Teatro Luna (2006) and Next Theater (2011). Saracho is a recipient of an NEA Distinguished New Play Development Project Grant and winner of the Ofner Prize given by the Goodman Theatre, a 3Arts Artists Award, named Best New Playwright of 2010 by Chicago Magazine, named one of nine Latino Luminaries by Cafe Magazine and recipient of the Revolutionary Award given by the National Museum of Mexican Art. Her upcoming works include a history-inspired fiction titled The Good Private for About Face Theater, about a transgendered civil war soldier; an adaptation of a Juana Inés de la Cruz play for Oregon Shakespeare; and two Mellon Foundation commissions for Steppenwolf Theatre. Saracho is a director and Chicago actor; her voice can be heard around the country in radio and television commercials.
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