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Victory Gardens Theater announces 2018 Next Generation Fellows
From a press release
2018-01-15

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Chicago, IL— Victory Gardens Theater announces Jess McLeod and Aaron Todd Douglas as the 2018 Next Generation Fellows. Beginning in February 2018, the Next Generation Fellowship will provide comprehensive mentorship, requisite training, and experience for these future leaders of color, preparing them to helm arts institutions or departments on the national and local level. The program is made possible by a generous grant fromThe Field Foundation of Illinois.

"Victory Gardens' Next Generation Fellowship furthers our institutional commitment to inclusion, diversity and equity. It is imperative that we as a theater community invest in future theater leaders that represent our audiences, communities, and stories told on our stages. We are thrilled to have Jess McLeod and Aaron Todd Douglas as our first Next Generation Fellows," said Artistic Director Chay Yew. "Victory Gardens is extremely grateful to The Field Foundation for their generous support to make this a reality."

"The Field Foundation is interested in compelling art, levers of justice, and furthering Chicagoans to create the city of tomorrow," said Angelique Power, President of The Field Foundation of Illinois. "Because of this we are thrilled to support Victory Gardens Theater's exploration of how this theater can be a critical catalyst in propelling brilliant leaders of color forward in their careers. Keep an eye on these Fellows!"

The Victory Gardens Theater's Next Generation Fellowship is a new professional development program for mid-career persons of color that will prepare and groom underrepresented theatre professionals for leadership positions in the American Theatre. Through hands-on experience, mentorship, and career-guidance, Fellows will be given tools to become the next generation of arts leaders. Thanks to the generous grant from The Field Foundation, fellows will be fully integrated into the Victory Gardens Theater staff and compensated for their time.

For more information about the program visit victorygardens.org/about/work-with-us/nextgeneration .

About the 2018 Next Generation Fellows

Jess McLeod ( Samuel G. Roberson Artistic Fellow ) is the Resident Director of Hamilton ( Broadway in Chicago ), a Resident Director at Victory Gardens Theater and was the Goodman Theatre's 2017 Michael Maggio Directing Fellow. Chicago credits include Short Shakes! A Midsummer Night's Dream ( Chicago Shakespeare Theater ), 2.5 seasons with Chicago Voices ( Lyric Unlimited/Lyric Opera of Chicago ), a revamped Marry Me A Little ( Porchlight Music Theatre ), Idris Goodwin's How We Got On ( Haven Theatre Chicago ), Lauren Yee's in a word ( Strawdog Theatre Company ), Shawn Pfautch's Season on the Line ( The House Theatre of Chicago ); poet Kevin Coval's one-man show L-vis Live! ( Victory Gardens Theater ); Venus( Steppenwolf Next Up! ); Bathsheba Doran's Kin ( Griffin Theatre ); Jenni Lamb's Suicide Kills ( American Theater Company ); Babes In Arms ( Porchlight Revisits ); and Chris Miller and Nathan Tysen's Fugitive Songs, Zanna, Don't, and The Pajama Game ( The Music Theatre Company ). She has directed workshops of new plays or musicals for the Goodman Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, American Theater Company, Steep Theatre and The American Music Theatre Project, and served as Labrunner for Timber Lake Playhouse's Summer Playwrights Lab ( 2011-12 ). Upcoming shows include Stacy Amma Osei-Kuffour's Hang Man ( The Gift Theatre ); projects in the pipeline include Mill Girls ( Book by Samantha Beach, Music & Lyrics by Diana Lawrence ) and Ellen Bond, Union Spy ( Written by Jenni Lamb, Music & Movement by Tanji Harper & Blu Rhythm Collective ).

From 2005-08, McLeod served as Director of Programming for The New York Musical Theatre Festival, where she oversaw all curating and directed pop/musical theatre fusion concerts such as The Unauthorized Musicology of Ben Folds. New York directing credits include Joyce Carol Oates' The Corn Maiden, Harrison David Rivers' Fell, Rachel Axler's Kitchen Sink ( Cherry Lane Studio ), Joe Keenan and Brad Ross' The Times ( Sonnet Repertory Theatre ), and The Last Five Years ( Arthur Seelen Theatre ). McLeod holds an M.F.A in Directing from Northwestern University and a B.A. from Williams College, and has taught or lectured at both, as well as at NYU, Yale University, NSLC, and The Calhoun School in New York.

An avid teaching artist and believer in youth and community engagement, McLeod has also served as Festival Coordinator for Young Chicago Authors' Louder Than A Bomb Poetry Festival ( the world's largest youth poetry festival ) and worked as a Teaching Artist for Storycatchers Theatre.

Aaron Todd Douglas ( Marcelle McVay Management Fellow ) is a theatre artist who acts, directs, writes and teaches. He is a member of the Acting Faculty at Northwestern University, a member in good standing of AEA and SAG/AFTRA, and a former NEA Art Works Panelist. He is a founding ensemble member and a Playwright in Residence of Congo Square Theatre Company. He received an International Ibsen Scholarship from The Norwegian Ministry of Culture in cooperation with Teater Ibsen for his play, The Master Comic. Aaron Todd is thrilled at the World Premiere of his playwrighting debut: Upstate, produced by MPAACT Theatre. Recent projects include directing the World Premiere of Kia Corthron's play, Megastasis,at Eclipse Theatre, and acting in Writers Theatre's The Importance of Being Earnest.

Directing projects include: Ruined ( Eclipse Theatre, Jeff Award Nomination- Best Ensemble, Best Production ), Radio Golf ( Raven Theatre, African American Arts Alliance-Special Recognition for Direction ), The Nativity ( Congo Square/The Goodman ), 12 Angry Men ( Raven Theatre, Jeff Award Winner Best Ensemble, Nomination Best Director ), Smash Hit by Steve Broadnax ( Cultural Conversations Festival ), Pill Hill ( Black Theatre Alliance Award—Best Director, Best Production ETA Creative Arts ), Talented Tenth ( Black Theatre Alliance Award—Best Production ), African Company Presents Richard III ( Congo Square Theatre Company ).

A Chicago stage veteran, Aaron Todd has acted and directed at many of Chicago's finest theatre companies including The Goodman, ETA Creative Arts, Chicago Theatre Company, Victory Gardens Theater, Chicago Shakespeare, Raven Theatre, The Court and Steppenwolf. He was recently commissioned to pen an original work by Rivendell Theatre Ensemble.

Congo Square Theatre Company acting credits include the multiple Jeff Award winning production of Seven Guitars, The Piano Lesson, Before it Hits Home, Spunk, and Ali. He originated the role of Flip in the world premiere of Stick Fly by Lydia Diamond ( the play was later produced on Broadway ) and performed in Joe Turner's Come and Gone at The Goodman Theatre commemorating the Goodman's historic completion of Wilson's Century Cycle.

Other acting credits include: Tree and Wheatley ( Victory Gardens Theater ), Wait Until Dark ( Court Theatre ), Journal of Ordinary Thought ( Chicago Theater Company ), Iphigenia 2.0 ( Next Theatre ), Fortunes of the Moor ( ETA Creative Arts ), The State of Mississippi v. Emmet Till ( Pegasus Players ),Julius Caesar ( Chicago Shakespeare ), Perfect Mendacity ( Steppenwolf ), and Measure for Measure ( Goodman Theatre ).

On Camera acting credits include: Resurrecting McGinn( s ) ( Gaffney Films- Best Drama at the Amsterdam Film Festival, The One Film Festival ), He Sends Rain ( Silverwave Entertainment LLC ), Breathing Room ( FFB/Driven Entertainment- New Harvest Festival/ San Diego Film Festival ), The Porter( 99Film Collective Productions- Winner-HBO/Kodak Chase Legacy Film Festival ), Ernie the Clown ( Maddhouse Productions ), Season 2 of the acclaimed web series You're So Talented, and Chicago PD.

About The Field Foundation

Founded in 1940 by Marshall Field III, the Field Foundation is a private, independent foundation that has been dedicated to the promise of Chicago for over 80 years. The Field Foundation aims its grant-making toward the goal of community empowerment through funding nonprofits working in Justice, Art and Leadership Investment.

We seek to invest in organizations working to address systemic issues in divested communities. At the center of the Field Foundation's work is the idea of community empowerment. We want to clarify that we do not claim to "empower" the "powerless," rather we see many of Chicago's community-based organizations as immense sources of power that need support. We envision these "local power grids" as organizations, networks, alliances and seek to learn more about them for potential investment of our limited dollars. Community empowerment is also our personal north star. A way of asking the sector to hold us accountable for our work, and to ensure that our dollars are spent on powering specific communities.

About Victory Gardens Theater

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Chay Yew and Managing Director Erica Daniels, Victory Gardens is dedicated to artistic excellence while creating a vital, contemporary American Theater that is accessible and relevant to all people through productions of challenging new plays and musicals. Victory Gardens Theater is committed to the development, production and support of new plays that has been the mission of the theater since its founding, set forth by Dennis ZaÄćek, Marcelle McVay, and the original founders of Victory Gardens Theater.

Victory Gardens Theater is a leader in developing and producing new theater work and cultivating an inclusive Chicago theater community. Victory Gardens' core strengths are nurturing and producing dynamic and inspiring new plays, reflecting the diversity of our city's and nation's culture through engaging diverse communities, and in partnership with Chicago Public Schools, bringing art and culture to our city's active student population.

Since its founding in 1974, the company has produced more world premieres than any other Chicago theater, a commitment recognized nationally when Victory Gardens received the 2001 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. Located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, Victory Gardens Biograph Theater includes the ZaÄćek-McVay Theater, a state-of-the-art 259-seat mainstage and the 109-seat studio theater on the second floor, named the Richard Christiansen Theater.

Victory Gardens Ensemble Playwrights include Luis Alfaro, Philip Dawkins, Marcus Gardley, Ike Holter, Samuel D. Hunter, Naomi Iizuka, Tanya Saracho and Laura Schellhardt. Each playwright has a seven-year residency at Victory Gardens Theater.

For more information about Victory Gardens, visit www.victorygardens.org . Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/victorygardens, Twitter @VictoryGardens and Instagram at instagram.com/victorygardenstheater/

Victory Gardens Theater receives sustaining support from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Joyce Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The REAM Foundation, Shubert Foundation, Venturous Theater Fund of the Tides Foundation, and Wallace Foundation. It receives major funding from Crown Family Philanthropies, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, and Polk Bros. Foundation. Major funders also include: Allstate Insurance, Alphawood Foundation, Paul M. Angell Family Family Foundation, Edgerton Foundation, Exelon, Field Foundation of Illinois, Illinois Arts Council Agency, David Rockefeller Fund, Bill and Orli Staley Foundation, Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, Time Warner Foundation Inc., Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation. Additional funding this season is provided by: Alliance Bernstein, Charles H. and Bertha L. Boothroyd Foundation, Capital Group Private Client Services, Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, The Chicago Foundation for Women, ComEd, Nathan Cummings Foundation, Golden Country Oriental Foods, John R. Halligan Charitable Fund, ITW, JCCC Foundation, Mayer Brown LLP, The McVay Foundation, Metropolitan Capital Bank & Trust, National Endowment for the Arts, Negaunee Foundation, Roberta Olshansky Charitable Fund, Origin Ventures, Pauls Foundation, PNC Financial Services Group, Prince Charitable Trusts, Seabury Foundation, Charles & M.R. Shapiro Foundation, Wrightwood Neighbors Association. In-kind support is provided by: Dimo's Pizza, Fiesta Mexicana, Italian Village Restaurants, Southwest Airlines, Suite Home Chicago and Whole Foods Market.This project is partially supported by an Incent Ovate Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events.


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