Jan Kallish Is Chicago Victory Gardens' New Exec Director

News   Jan Kallish Is Chicago Victory Gardens' New Exec Director
Tony Award-winning Victory Gardens Theater, Chicago's leading producer of new plays, announced that Jan Kallish will be the company's new executive director, succeeding Marcelle McVay.
Jan Kallish
Jan Kallish

Kallish, formerly executive director of Chicago's Auditorium Theatre, was picked for Victory Gardens' top executive position after a nationwide search. The McVay position of managing director will now be called executive director. Dennis Zacek is the artistic director.

VGT is nationally known for its Playwrights Ensemble, a group of in-house writers whose work is nurtured and regularly produced.

Kallish, a Chicago native, is a producer of the North American touring production of The Color Purple, which was mounted in Chicago in 2007, as well as the Broadway production, which opened in 2005. Kallish is also an adjunct faculty member at DePaul University's Theatre School in Chicago, where she teaches commercial theatre management.

About her new position, Kallish stated, "I am thrilled and honored to join the Victory Gardens team. I have long been an audience member, an admirer of the company, and have the greatest respect for Dennis and Marcelle and their work. Victory Gardens' mission of developing new plays is a gutsy endeavor, where the biggest risks are taken. Victory Gardens' Playwrights Ensemble is unique, locally and nationally. The company is a leader in its commitment to diversity in all its forms, on stage and behind the scenes. I look forward to helping build on Dennis and Marcelle's innumerable accomplishments to ensure Victory Gardens' continued growth and vitality. And I am so happy to be part of Chicago theatre again."

In addition to The Color Purple, Kallish's producing credits include A Catered Affair (Broadway); Princess Caraboo (in development; book and lyrics, Marsha Norman; music, Jenny Giering; director, Gary Griffin); associate producer, Execution of Justice by Emily Mann (About Face Theatre, Chicago). She has served as a consultant to Matthew Bourne's New Adventures (U.S. tours of Edward Scissorhands and Car Man). From 2006 to 2007, she served as CEO of the Nederlander Broadway China joint venture in Beijing, where she oversaw operations for the first licensed performing arts joint venture in China, and oversaw renovation plans for Shanghai Majestic Theatre. "Jan brings Victory Gardens an impressive amount of theatre experience in both the not-for-profit and commercial world which will serve well the artists and audiences of Victory Gardens," said McVay. "I look forward to working side by side with her over the next few weeks to assure a smooth transition."

Zacek stated, "Jan is an established, respected leader in Chicago's arts community, and we were delighted to discover during the search process she is also completely in sync with Victory Gardens' new play mission and commitment to diversity. Particularly at this important moment in the theatre's history, I'm confident Jan will bring considerable energy and commitment to all of our endeavors, as Marcelle has done so successfully for the past 34 years."

During Kallish's tenure as executive director of Chicago's Auditorium Theatre, the historic landmark completed a $14 million renovation. There she created a home for the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, and as a presenter, an acclaimed international dance series that included The Bolshoi Ballet, The Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg, The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ballet Nacional de Cuba, Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, Ballet Hispanico, Dance Africa and the Birmingham Royal Ballet. She launched and was executive producer of Ovations! Concert Celebrations of Great American Musicals. Modeled after City Center Encores! in New York City, the series offered Strike Up the Band, One Touch of Venus, Babes In Arms, Promises, Promises and Call Me Madam, all at the Auditorium Theatre.

In a recent letter to VGT subscribers, McVay, who announced her planned exit last fall, wrote, "I will miss the artists and audiences with whom I have been united in sharing the mission and values of Victory Gardens. Together, we successfully established Victory Gardens as a premier regional theatre dedicated to playwrights and their works. That has brought great joy and meaning to my life as I hope it has to many others. However, I have long planned to have a new career, 'post-Victory Gardens.' With the next ten years of my working life, I hope to make a contribution in education, human services or possibly grant making."

On May 18 the League of Chicago Theatres will honor McVay at their 30th Anniversary Gala benefit. McVay was a founding member of the League of Chicago Theaters, and has been actively involved in promoting growth and unity for the Chicago theatre community for more than 30 years.


Currently on stage at VGT, enjoying a successful, critically acclaimed run through March 1, is the world premiere of Living Green by Ensemble member Gloria Bond Clunie.

Upcoming 2008-09 productions include the world premiere of Ensemble member Jeffrey Sweet's Class Dismissed, March 20-April 26; the Chicago premiere of Aditi Brennan Kapil's Love Person, May 15-June 14, and the Chicago premiere of David Harrower's Blackbird, starring William L. Petersen, July 3-Aug. 9.

For tickets or information, call the Victory Gardens box office at (773) 871-3000 or visit http://www.victorygardens.org.

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