OFF BEAT

OFFBEAT: Victory Gardens Theater new season includes actress Sandra Oh

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-03-04T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Victory Gardens Theater new season includes actress Sandra OhBy Philip Potempa philip.potempa@nwi.com, (219) 852-4327 nwitimes.com

Victory Gardens Theater announced this week the 2013-14 Season, which will include the "co-world premiere of "Appropriate" by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, directed by Gary Griffin, developed, in part, by IGNITION 2012 and presented in association with Actors Theatre of Louisville. The next stage year also will bring the world premiere of Victory Gardens Ensemble Playwright Marcus Gardley's "The Gospel of Lovingkindess" and the classic "Death and the Maiden" by Ariel Dorfman, directed by Chay Yew and featuring actress Sandra Oh.

In line with its mission to cultivate new American voices and to represent Chicago's many cultural communities, Victory Gardens will host what it is describing as "three to four of the most exciting, diverse storefront theater companies" under the new Resident Theater Program, which the theater's administration says will "make the Lincoln Park venue the city's new cultural performing arts center."

Up to 10 additional shows will be available to Victory Gardens subscribers as part of its Resident Theater series. I'm told a full slate of theaters and shows will be announced in the following weeks with a joint statement from these companies.

"I'm most excited by the relevance and power of these plays that speak to the pressing issues of our city and nation," said Victory Gardens Artistic Director Chay Yew.

"The 2013-14 Season represents a major expansion of our programming at Victory Gardens. Not only am I proud to welcome one of my favorite actors and good friend Sandra Oh, but also the acclaimed director Gary Griffin and Chicago's newest addition, Ensemble Playwright Marcus Gardley. Several national theatre artists have also lent their voice to our cause, expressing a firm belief in our mission, vision and endeavors. Plus, we're furthering our reach into new, culturally diverse communities by inviting and cultivating several new resident companies to perform in our space. There's a lot of excitement and theater happening."

First up, it's "Appropriate" Nov. 8 to Dec. 8 and about what happens when the Lafayettes descend upon a crumbling Arkansan plantation to liquidate their dead patriarch's estate. His three adult children collide over clutter, debt, and a contentious family history. But after a disturbing discovery surfaces among their father's possessions, the reunion takes a turn for the explosive, unleashing a series of crackling surprises and confrontations.

"Branden Jacobs-Jenkins is an undeniably unique, dynamic and political voice in American Theatre," Yew said.

"Inspired by Chekhov and Eugene O'Neill, Branden's fiercely original play speaks powerfully and relevantly to America's timeless issues of race, history and family. I first read Branden's new play 'Appropriate' during the selection process for Victory Gardens' 2012 IGNITION Festival. During the IGNITION workshop process—and before the public reading—I immediately promised him a production at Victory Gardens. I knew this play had to be experienced by our Chicago audiences."

IGNITION, Victory Gardens, bill as the theater's "daring and hugely successful new play development initiative," was conceived to support the theater's mission of new play development and diversity. In the spring of 2010, 120 writers of color under 40 years of age from around the United States submitted new scripts for the first phase of IGNITION. The top six plays were then selected, workshopped and presented as staged readings in a week long festival later that same summer. IGNITION plays include the Pulitzer finalist "The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity," "Year Zero" and "We Are Proud to Present…", among others.

Next, it's the world premiere of "The Gospel of Lovingkindness" by Marcus Gardley and directed by Yew, running Feb. 21 to March 23, 2014.

Set in 1996, the streets of Bronzeville are set ablaze by crime, evictions, gun and gang violence. No one knows this better than Reverend Isaac Seer and his wife, both who just lost their only son to a senseless homicide. Now, they must decide whether to leave their home in the embattled Ida B. Wells Projects, or stay to lead their community towards an uncertain future. Victory Gardens Ensemble Playwright Gardley penned this powerful, poetic, gospel-inspired drama about life, love and loss in Chicago's South Side community.

"I'm utterly thrilled to be making my debut as a Playwright's Ensemble Member at Victory Gardens," Gardley said.

"The Gospel of Lovingkindness is giving me an opportunity to explore Bronzeville, a neighborhood with deep roots and rich culture. I can't wait to bring this story to life on one of Chicago's finest stages."

And for an added bonus for the new season, it's a new production of "Death and the Maiden" by Ariel Dorfman and directed by Yew and featuring Sandra Oh for a run June 13 to July 13, 2014.

Dorfman's explosively provocative, award-winning drama is set in a rocky new democracy. Gerardo has just been chosen to head the commission that will investigate the crimes of the old regime when his car breaks down and he is picked up by a kind doctor.

Oh, the award-winning star of ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," will play Gerardo's wife, Paulina, who thinks she recognizes the doctor as the man who tormented her as she lay blindfolded in a military detention center years before. "Death and the Maiden" is a riveting, haunting play about revenge, trauma and forgiveness.

"I'm thrilled to return to the theater working with my long-time friend Chay Yew again," Oh said.

"I've always been a passionate advocate for local theaters and it's wonderful to support Victory Gardens Theater and its important mission of new work and diversity. Death and the Maiden is a potent play that can be set in any time and place, and the issues of survival, abuse and redemption are still relevant and important. I’m excited to bring this play to a new audience and reacquaint audiences with this New Play Classic."

Subscriptions start at just $100 for the 3-play season plus access to resident productions, many rental company productions, and all additional public programming at the theater. Subscriptions will be on sale March 11 at victorygardens.org and by phone at the Victory Gardens Box Office at The Biograph, the history filled old movie theater that is now the Victory Gardens Theater home, at 2433 N. Lincoln in Chicago. FYI: (773) 871-3000.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at philip.potempa@nwi.com or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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