Victory Gardens announces 2011–2012 season
Victory Gardens Theater tonight released most of its slate for the 2011–2012 season—the last to be chosen by outgoing artistic director Dennis Zacek. Some points of interest for those trying to read the tea leaves about VG's future:
- No mention is made in tonight's release of Zacek's retirement after 34 years at the helm, which he announced last July, or of the search for his replacement. Associate artistic director Sandy Shinner, though, gets the press-release quotation spot that's traditionally the domain of the artistic director; Zacek has made it very clear that he wants Shinner to be his replacement and disapproves of the board of directors' national search.
- The only play in tonight's announcement by a member of Victory Gardens's Playwrights Ensemble, which Zacek established in 1996, is taking place at another theater. John Logan's Red, which the Goodman Theatre announced last night to open its own season under Robert Falls's direction, will also take a slot in VG's subscription season, "satisfying the huge audience demand for this electrifying story." Though Logan and Falls go way back professionally, I'll admit I wondered last night if some might see the Goodman production as a slight to Victory Gardens; it appears, though, that the two theaters have worked out a mutually beneficial arrangement.
- If VG missed out (sort of) on a big post-Broadway premiere in Red, it snagged another in Sarah Ruhl's In the Next Room or the vibrator play. In Ruhl's first Broadway production, it earned a Tony nomination for best play last season (and lost to Red). Ruhl has relationships with several Chicago theaters, including the Goodman, which premieres her Stage Kiss this spring, so this seems like a big get for VG, which will use it as the season opener in September.
- The season will also include Theresa Rebeck's What We're Up Against, in a National New Play Network "rolling world premiere" with San Francisco's Magic Theatre and Houston's Alley Theatre (January–February), and Jackie Sibblies Drury's We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South-West Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915 (March–April)—the latter a product of VG's Ignition festival for young writers of color, a project of Shinner's that's already produced a Pulitzer finalist in Kristoffer Diaz's The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity. One more play for May–June is TBA.
- For those keeping count, this means that even though Victory Gardens is satisfying its subscribers' expectation of five plays, it's only producing four at the Biograph. The release doesn't specify whether the announced plays are in the downstairs mainstage or the upstairs studio, but given the length of the runs and the size of VG's subscriber base, I'd bet they're all downstairs. Even so, that leaves the mainstage unaccounted for from mid-October until late January. Another rental, perhaps, like this season's ill-fated outing by Chicago Muse? A return of The Snow Queen? Or simply a dark theater, in what might be viewed internally as a rebuilding year? We'll have to wait and see.