New artistic director for Chicago theater

Playwright and director Chay Yew will be the next artistic director of Chicago’s Victory Gardens Theater.

Yew will follow the retiring Dennis Zacek, who has headed the playwright-oriented theater since 1977. Under Zacek’s leadership, the theater received the Regional Tony Award in 2001 and moved into the historic Biograph Theater in 2006 after an $11.8 million renovation. Recent acclaimed productions include Kristoffer Diaz’s Pulitzer finalist “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity.”

Yew — who grew up in Singapore, moved to Los Angeles in the 1980s for college, and began his career in Hollywood as the assistant to Lisa Henson at Columbia Pictures — has been a prominent figure in regional play development across the country for over a decade. He was founding director of the Mark Taper Forum’s Asian Theater Workshop, and also produced multiple seasons at Taper Too, including new works by Luis Alfaro and Jessica Goldberg.

Yew’s own plays include “Porcelain,” “A Language of Their Own” and “Red,” while his directing credits include productions at The Public, Playwrights Horizons, New York Theater Workshop, Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Boston’s Huntington Theater, among others.

“When I read Victory Gardens’ mission statement, it felt like a perfect fit,” Yew told Daily Variety. “There are very few homes for American playwrights. The question is how to open doors for the next generation, and in particular playwrights of color.”

Yew is better known on the two coasts than he is in Chicago, although his work has been produced at several of the city’s storefront theaters and he has directed productions at the Windy City’s Goodman and Northlight Theaters.”I know many of the artists in Chicago and I’m looking forward to becoming part of the community,” says Yew. “In many respects, it’s a tighter and more complicated community than New York, and it’s got such a variety of theaters with different aesthetics that are talking to each other. I think there’s less homogeneity in Chicago than in New York.”

Yew plans to direct one or two shows a season at Victory Gardens, although he won’t produce his own plays. “I consider that a conflict of interest,” he said. “My job is to create opportunities for others rather than take up a slot or two.”

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