LINCOLN PARK — As Victory Garden Theater's new artistic director plows forward with innovative and diverse productions, the theater's board president has pledged a $350,000 gift to push the works forward.
Steve Miller pledged to match all gifts made to the theater on a 4-to-1 ratio until May 5, and after that on 1-to-1 ratio, until he reaches $350,000.
The gift is the largest in the theater's 38-year history.
"Our mission has always been to produce new work — new work from established playwrights and new work from new up and coming playwrights," Miller said. "I think that that’s been the bedrock of Victory Gardens from the beginning."
Miller has the full backing of the theater's newest artistic director, Chay Yew, who has been with the theater for a year and a half.
The theater's latest production, "Disconnect," was set in an Indian call center, and the theater's upcoming "The Whale" features a 600-pound main character who has holed himself up in an Idaho apartment after the death of his boyfriend.
"A lot of the work that we are doing is by diverse playwrights; some playwrights of color, some of whom are diverse in their sexual orientation," Miller said. "A lot of diversity in the playwrights and the work that they are producing. I think we are doing a really good job with engaging in Chicago's’s various communities."
Miller, principal and co-founder of Orgin Ventures, has been a member of Victory Garden's board for more than four years and has been involved with the theater since the late 1990s.
"As we continue the artistic conversation with our audiences, we are incredibly grateful to have the leadership and generosity of Steve Miller," Yew said.
The funds raised in the "Miller Match Challenge," (a name that Miller himself swears he did not come up with) are not earmarked for any project in particular, but will go toward the greatest needs of the theater.
"This money is used to produce our work, to pay actors, to build sets, to keep the theater running as business as usual," Miller said.
Miller is urging residents to come out to see "The Whale," which opens in previews Thursday through April 14. Regular performances run from April 16 to May 5, at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays, with additional shows at 4 p.m. Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays.
"This is important art. It does more than just entertain folks, it engages them in conversation about important things that our going on in this city," Miller said "The Whale" "is going to be pretty intense."