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André De Shields to Give Keynote for Victory Gardens Theater's VOICES OF TOMORROW Gala

Voices of Tomorrow: Their World on Stage is an online event supporting VG’s StudentsFirst education programs, December 9 at 7:00p.m. CST.

André De Shields to Give Keynote for Victory Gardens Theater's VOICES OF TOMORROW Gala

Victory Gardens Theater has announced that André De Shields will be the Keynote Speaker for the Voices of Tomorrow: Their World on Stage virtual showcase on December 9, 2020 at 7:00p.m. The online event will present powerful and moving spoken word and artistic works created by CPS students in Victory Garden's Drama in the Schools program, performed by professional Chicago actors. Registration for the free event is available at

The five students whose winning pieces will be featured at the event are Askia B. for When We Bleed It's a Joke, Ayanna G. for A Mother's Cry, Maya H. for Chicago, Jaden M.S. for Animosity, and Maylia W. for 2020 So Far/Remembering 2020.

Following two rounds of judging by a panel of artists, artistic producers and educators, their powerful works were chosen out of 60 submissions from participating Chicago Public Schools. Victory Gardens is honored to provide a platform to uplift these students' voices, and each will receive a scholarship and have their pieces performed by professional Chicago actors at Voices of Tomorrow.

Former Chicago actor and friend of Victory Gardens André De Shields will share his insights as an artist who has embraced his power to make an impact in his community and the world. He is the triple-crown winner of the 2019 awards season, having won the Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk and Tony Awards as Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his unanimously critically acclaimed performance as Hermes, Messenger to the Gods, in Hadestown. André continues to be known for his show-stopping performances in four legendary Broadway musicals: The Wiz (Title Role), Ain't Misbehavin' (Emmy Award), Play On! (Tony Nomination), and The Full Monty (Tony Nomination). In a career spanning fifty years, he has distinguished himself as an unparalleled actor, director, and educator. His other numerous accolades include the 2019 Actors Equity Foundation's Richard Seff Award, the 2018 Off Broadway Alliance Legend Award, the 2009 National Black Theatre Festival's Living Legend Award, the 2007 Village Voice OBIE Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance, and eight AUDELCO Awards for Outstanding Performance, Direction and Choreography.

Registration for the free event is available at

Sponsorships are also available for the event. For more information, contact Kelly Carr, Development Associate, at All donations from the evening will support StudentsFirst, VG's education programs serving Chicago youth through immersive arts education.

The Host Committee for the event is Anu Behari, Penny Brown, Chanel W. Coney, Brienne Letourneau, Kate Tillotson, and Sue E. Wallace.

Chicago students have experienced a year unlike any other, between the 2019 teacher's strike, COVID-19, and social movements in response to systemic racism and police brutality. Utilizing skills learned from VG's Drama in the School curriculum, students will use their artistic voices to address the ever-changing world around them and tell their own stories.

"Victory Garden's work with students in our CPS partner schools and organizations has always been vital to our mission and annual programming. With our theaters quiet due to the pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to direct more of our focus to bolstering the voices of tomorrow. Given everything that is going on in our city, our nation, and the world, it is critical that we help students lift their voices, and that we listen to them," comments Acting Managing Director Roxanna Conner. "We know that today's students are tomorrow's leaders, and it is vital that they know that we are listening-especially in these moments of uncertainty. VG is doing all that we can to provide our students with the tools to process the world around them and empower them to steer us forward."

All students participating in VG's StudentsFirst education programs were invited to submit their work to be presented in this showcase. Students whose pieces were selected for the showcase will each receive a scholarship prize and have their work performed by professional actors at the Voices of Tomorrow event. Participating schools include Harlan Community Academy (Roseland), Simeon Career Academy (Chatham), Kenwood Community Academy (Kenwood), Senn High School (Edgewater), Alcott College Prep (North Center), Lincoln Park High School (Lincoln Park), Prosser Career Academy (Belmont Cragin) and Dunbar Vocational Career Academy High School (Douglas).

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