Congratulations to Victory Gardens artistic director Dennis Zacek, who will receive the Illinois Arts Alliance Foundation 1997 Sidney R. Yates Award for individual achievement, March 14.
This 11th annual award honors "individuals, organizations, media and corporations who make significant contributions to the arts in Illinois." Zacek will receive the honor at a black-tie benefit at the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago. Sidney R. Yates, now in his 80s and an Illinois Congressman for many of those years, is well known for securing and protecting arts funding in Illinois.
Now in his 20th year at Victory Gardens, Zacek (rhymes with "paycheck") specializes in finding new plays and playwrights. He's directed over 140 productions in his career, including last season's Jelly Belly and Lemuel. A graduate of Northwestern University, Zacek also played Clarence Darrow in last season's Never The Sinner.
In a statement released after he received the award, Zacek quoted both Tony Kushner and Sir Ralph Richardson; Kushner for his idea of theatre as a "collective dream," Richardson for explaining, "At three minutes past 8, the curtain goes up, and you've got to pretend to believe, because no one else will believe you unless you believe it yourself. A great deal of our work is simply making ourselves dream. At three minutes past 8, you must dream."
Zacek's next project is the world premiere of a collaboration between Victory Gardens playwright-in-residence Steve Carter and multi-media artist Ed Paschke called Root Causes, opening March 20. Previous Yates winners include Irene Antoniou (of the Illinois Arts Council) and Ella Jenkins (children's singer; Yates Lifetime Achievement Award winner). According to Illinois Arts Alliance Foundation gala coordinator April Arnold, this year's lifetime achievement winner is Hope Abelson, Chicago's arts activist and "first lady of the arts." Abelson's accomplishments including securing the Organic Theatre's northside space and supervising the building of the Court Theatre in Hyde Park.
The Illinois Arts Alliance Foundation was founded in 1981 by a coalition of arts leaders and citizens concerned about the public policy of arts in Illinois. They work to increase public awareness that the arts are central to society and to advocate greater arts support by governments, corporations and foundations.
--By David Lefkowitz