Victory Gardens’ Incoming Artistic Director Ken-Matt Martin on Leadership and The Road Ahead

Victory Gardens Theater  has found its new Artistic Director in the multi-hyphenate and accomplished producer Ken-Matt Martin (he/him/his). Chicago artists may know him best as the Associate Producer at The Goodman, where he co-created and curated the Future Labs new play development program with Jonathan Green and Quenna Barrett. Regionally, Martin’s resume is just as impressive, beginning with his co-founding of Pyramid Theatre Company in Des Moines, IA, a company inspired by the Black Arts Movement. He served as Pyramid’s Executive Director until 2018, and it is there where his aesthetic compatibility to Chicago becomes clear. At Pyramid, Martin directed Ike Holter’s Prowess, and produced Hooded: Or Being Black for Dummies, both shows that ran to great success at Chicago companies. He then put his skills to action to national acclaim as the Producing Director of Williamstown Theatre Festival where he produced the revivals of Raisin in the Sun directed by Robert O’Hara, Ghosts starring Uma Thurman, and numerous other world premieres. 

Continue reading “Victory Gardens’ Incoming Artistic Director Ken-Matt Martin on Leadership and The Road Ahead”

Letter from the Editor: Visions for 2021

Your Life Does Not Have To Be A Crisis

I find it exceptionally hard to look backwards at this time of year, I enjoy designing what could be, much more than living in what was. This is why sharing my visions for the future with you all is a yearly privilege that brings me so much joy. Dreaming, visualizing, creating opportunity for change like this has only in recent years been met with this kind of love, attention, and intention. It gives me great hope for our future. 

Speaking with this kind of optimism, being struck with this kind of inspiration, after our year of crisis feels strange. Hope is a word that doesn’t sit in our mouths the way that it used to, it no longer slides off the tongue as easily as it did more than a decade ago. Living in crisis and neglecting hope is a critical error on our part. To lose hope is to lose opportunity. Opportunity to co-create something different. Even if that something different is just experiencing what you are doing — differently.  Continue reading “Letter from the Editor: Visions for 2021”

Behind The Curtain: Anna D. Shapiro Speaks About Steppenwolf’s Executive Leadership Transition, Board Relationships, the Pandemic, and the Epidemic of Racism

It is no secret that Steppenwolf Theater Company is one of my artistic homes in Chicago. When the news came out about Brooke Flanagan’s appointment for Executive Director, and David Schmitz’s departure to OSF, I was excited and disappointed all at once. David deserves an excellent opportunity such as this, and Brooke seemed highly qualified for the job, but there had been no job search for the Executive Leadership position.

Once during my fellowship at Steppenwolf, Anna told me she saw my value to the institution, and to our field, in my ability ask the hard questions. With that in mind, I made a phone call, at first asking for a conversation, which became an interview. 

Rarely do our leaders seize an opportunity to tell the truth. When controversial decisions are made, I often ask arts leaders if they will sit down and speak to me about their decision-making process. They will always speak to me off the record, for my own education as an aspiring artistic leader. When it comes to going on the record? To date, every single leader has said no. Until now.

On May 27th, we spoke at length about not only Brooke’s transition, but her own transition into the position of Artistic Director, board relationships, racial inequity, the mysterious career “pipeline,” and police violence against Black people.  The world has already changed so much since then. I encourage you to read this in its totality. This is a rare offering of truth, and I hope it invites other leaders to be more transparent in their processes. My questions are in bold, all other responses are Anna’s unedited thoughts. Continue reading “Behind The Curtain: Anna D. Shapiro Speaks About Steppenwolf’s Executive Leadership Transition, Board Relationships, the Pandemic, and the Epidemic of Racism”

Two-Month-Old Letter Reveals Artists Called for Transparent Leadership Search at Victory Gardens Theater in March

Below is the unedited text of a letter sent by over sixty artists who had previously worked at or are currently affiliated with Victory Gardens’ Theater. This letter was sent on March 2nd, 2020. Erica Daniels was appointed on May 5th, 2020.  Several of the signatories of the original letter have permitted us to publish their names. 

“To The Board of Directors and Executive Leadership at Victory Gardens Theater,

We are writing as artists and artistic affiliates who have had the pleasure of working at and with Victory Gardens Theater at one point or another in its forty-six year history, witnessing first-hand its great strides as a leader and cultural change-agent in our field. Continue reading “Two-Month-Old Letter Reveals Artists Called for Transparent Leadership Search at Victory Gardens Theater in March”

Mass Resignation: A Letter from the Victory Gardens Playwrights Ensemble

On Friday May, 22nd, 2020, the Playwrights Ensemble of Victory Gardens resigned en masse via a public letter on Medium. See the full letter below.

Victory Gardens Theater Playwrights Ensemble:

Luis Alfaro, Marcus Gardley, Ike Holter, Samuel D. Hunter, Naomi Iizuka, Tanya Saracho, Laura Schellhardt

________________________________________________________________

We, as an ensemble of resident artists at this venerable institution, are deeply
disturbed by the notion that our creative home aspires to be a truth-telling temple on its stage, but not in its administration.

This is unacceptable.

The Board of Directors, who are of service to our community, took it upon themselves to eliminate communication with the ensemble, artistic staff, stakeholders and artists who have labored for a decade to build up this theater and its new audience.

For over five months, and after receiving a letter signed by over 60 of its biggest supporters asking for accountability, the board sat on a plan to reorganize the institution.

It ignored the limitless possibility of what the field might have presented in terms of viable local and national leadership.
Continue reading “Mass Resignation: A Letter from the Victory Gardens Playwrights Ensemble”