CHICAGO: In a message to supporters, Victory Gardens executive artistic director Erica Daniels has announced her decision to leave the company, while board president Steve Miller is stepping down from the chairmanship of the theatre’s board.
This comes after weeks of vocal opposition—as well as the complete departure of the theatre’s esteemed playwrights ensemble and withdrawal of the playwrights who were to be included in Victory Gardens’ Ignition festival—in response to the board’s decision to forgo a national search to replace departing artistic director Chay Yew and instead restructure the Victory Gardens leadership structure in a way that promoted Erica Daniels to the new dual role of executive artistic director.
The uproar reached new heights over the weekend as theatre artists took to the street outside Victory Gardens’ Lincoln Park theatre to protest the organization’s silence in response to police violence against Black people and the Black Lives Matter movement. The organizational silence left many writing on Victory Gardens’ boarded-up windows and doors with queries wondering where Victory Garden’s voice was and why a theatre dedicated to diversity and inclusion would not participate in the #OpenYourLobby movement, in which theatres across the country have partly reopened their buildings to provide a respite for Black Lives Matter protesters.
In her statement to supporters, Daniels said she had made the decision to rescind her dual role at Victory Gardens “after listening to the concerns and anger being expressed by artists and other directly and on social media about the board’s process for filling Chay’s role.
Additionally, Steve Miller, who has served as the theatre’s board chair for eight years, is stepping down from that role, effective immediately.
“I regret that a more transparent process did not occur,” Miller said in a statement. “I should have listened more to members of the community, as well as to board members who attempted to guide a more equitable and inclusive process. As the board leader, I take full responsibility for these flaws.” He also expressed his sadness “that Victory Gardens is losing a person who has done so much for the theatre and our entire community.”
Included in the message to supporters was a statement from the executive committee of the Victory Gardens board saying they are working on a short-term plan with Daniels to ensure a smooth transition. They have also pledged “to conduct a more transparent and inclusive process as we work to identify and fill the executive and artistic director positions, with our steadfast commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion going forward.”