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.
From the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre in 2001, to its longstanding legacy of commissioning and programming new plays by living playwrights that speak to the politic of our here and now, Victory Gardens has been at the forefront of a movement of civic engagement and social change in artistic programming for many years.
In 2011, Victory Gardens was one of the first of its size and stature to appoint a leader of color as its Artistic Director — a historic appointment that started a slow but steady evolution of practitioners of color taking on leadership roles at predominately white institutions of all sizes nationwide. New appointments such as Eric Ting of Cal Shakes, Nataki Garrett Myers of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Maria Goyanes of Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Stephanie Ybarra of Baltimore Center Stage, Jacob Padrón of Long Wharf, and Hana Sharif at The Rep St. Louis — just to name a few.
Though the evolution has been gradual, Victory Gardens was among the first to take that brave step towards righting the wrongs of legacy-holders in the American theater landscape. A legacy that has excluded women and people of color from these leadership roles for decades. And a legacy we are still combating presently.
With that, the silence from the institution and the Board of Directors regarding plans or next steps in hiring a new Artistic Director are disconcerting, to say the least. It has been nearly three months since the public announcement of Chay Yew’s departure, and we are calling on the Board of Directors and current executive leadership for transparency in the next phase of their selection process.
Chay Yew’s departure provides a unique and crucial opportunity for Victory Gardens to continue its relentless record of leading a movement of change in the American Theater landscape by engaging with a large local and national pool of visionary new artistic leaders.
In the spirit of Victory Gardens’ mission of “creating an inclusive theater experience that belongs to everyone,” we ask that the Board of Directors and executive leadership hold an open, inclusive, equitable and transparent search for its new Artistic Director.
All our best,
Artists for Victory Gardens
Laura Alcala Baker
Cheryl Lynn Bruce
Wardell Julius Clark**
Devon de Mayo
*Denotes a member of the Victory Gardens Playwrights Ensemble.
**Editor-in-Chief Regina Victor has had artistic affiliation with Victory Gardens, and is a signatory of this letter.