BY ALICE YORK
Gala Chairs Gabrielle Griffin, Sylvia Margolies, Beverly Price, Anupy Singla and Sue E. Wallace welcomed more than 300 guests to Victory Gardens Theater’s 2018 Chicago Stories Gala at the Four Seasons just last month. One of the biggest stories to come from an evening resplendent in dialogue? The record-breaking $473,000 it raised towards underwriting world premieres, educational programming, and making theater available to underserved and disabled audiences.
Hosted by Lin Brehmer, of WXRT fame, and veteran Chicago actor Marc Grapey, best known for his work on The West Wing and Sex and the City, the evening kicked off with a cocktail reception and silent auction followed by a seated dinner complete with performances of this year’s celebrity playwrights’ 5-minute productions.
Golden Globe Award-winner Rachel Brosnahan (The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) and Michael Rose, who as chairman and CEO of Metropolitan Capital Bancorp, Inc. has worked to level Chicago’s financial playing field, served as guest playwrights, sharing their unique Chicago stories with the help of talented local actors.
The 2018 Chicago Stories playwrights join the ranks of past celebrity playwrights, including actors, athletes, politicians, and personalities such as David Eigenberg, BD Wong, Denis O’Hare, Rick Bayless, Jeff Garlin, Phil Jackson, Bill Kurtis, John Mahoney, Lisa Madigan, Brandon Marshall, Mike Royko, and William Petersen.
The evening also included a lively live auction, featuring a culinary getaway to Burgundy, France; a Broadway opening; dining experiences at Girl and the Goat and Momotaro; Blackhawks and Cubs box seats, and more. A paddle raise supported Victory Gardens’ education program, serving more than 1000 students each year. The Scholarship Subscription Series and other complementary initiatives draw more than 1500 students from throughout the to attend dedicated matinee performances and participate in spirited post-performance discussions about the work on stage and its connections to their own lives, all free of charge.
Soul Spectacular brought guests to the dance floor with a rousing live revue of classic soul music.
Merle Reskin, part of the original Broadway cast of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific and dedicated patron of the arts, and renowned theater director Gary Griffin, received the first ever Victory Gardens Theater Impact awards in recognition of their exceptional contribution to the arts and artists in Chicago. Both Reskin and Griffin have played crucial roles over the course of Victory Gardens’ 40-plus years, ensuring its place as an artistic space and dynamic community, keeping a vital dialogue alive.
Under the leadership of Artistic Director Chay Yew and Managing Director Erica Daniels, Tony Award-winning Victory Gardens Theater has cemented its reputation for artistic excellence, inclusivity, and accessibility. Since its founding in 1974, the company has produced more world premieres than any other Chicago theater, a testament to its dedication to the development, production, and support of new and vital American theater.