Artistic director Chay Yew will depart Chicago's Victory Gardens Theater at the end of the 2019-20 season to pursue personal projects. A renowned stage director, playwright, and artistic leader, Yew has been at the helm of the regional theatre since July 2011, succeeding Dennis Začek following a tenure of 34 years.
During his leadership, Yew expanded upon Victory Gardens' commitment to new work development through his focus on a diverse roster of playwrights. In the last eight years, the theatre has been a home to writers Sarah Gubbins, Tanya Saracho, Antoinette Nwandu, Luis Alfaro, Boo Killebrew, Marcus Gardley, Lauren Yee, Karen Zacarias, Philip Dawkins, and many more.
Under Yew's leadership, Victory Gardens has continued to produce risk-taking world premieres, including Lucas Hnath's Hillary and Clinton, seen on Broadway last season, Alfaro's Mojada, seen at The Public recently, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' hit play Appropriate, Jackie Sibblies Drury's We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About The Herero Of Namibia, Formerly Known As Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika Between The Years 1884-1915, and Dawkins' Failure: A Love Story, which has been produced numerous times throughout the country. The winner of the 2019 Yale Drama Series Prize, How to Defend Yourself, by Liliana Padilla, will have its co-world premiere at Victory Gardens next year.
Behind the scenes, Yew put diversity, equity, and inclusion at the forefront of the Victory Gardens mission, creating the Director Inclusion Initiative, the Resident Theater Company Initiative, and the Rising Leaders of Color Fellowship. Through his passion for integrating art and social justice, Yew also created Victory Gardens' Public Programs that comprised AfterWords, a post-play dialogue after every performance; the Town Hall series; and Panel Conversations aimed at deepening audiences’ experience with the issues explored onstage.
“My journey with Victory Gardens has been a tremendous gift and joy. Together with my passionate board and staff, we’ve accomplished much in the last eight-and-a-half years and it is at this extraordinary moment in our theatre’s history that I have chosen to depart," says Yew. "It is important for me to set our next artistic leader up for success, taking our theater to even greater heights, building on what Dennis Zacek and I have created. From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank all the incredible artists, community partners and audiences who have made their home at Victory Gardens; my board chair, Steve Miller, for his unwavering belief and support throughout my tenure; and my Executive Director, Erica Daniels, for being a steadfast partner in helping me realize my vision for our theatre. I will serve through the end of our current season, and will foster artistic projects in future Victory Gardens seasons while exploring new opportunities and challenges."
Yew will finish his ninth and final season through June 2020. Kicking off 2020, he will direct Yee's play with music, Cambodian Rock Band, which Victory Gardens produced at the Signature Theatre Off-Broadway this winter.