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Danni Smith to Star in FUN HOME at Victory Gardens; Cast Announced!

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Victory Gardens Theater begins its 43rd season with Fun Home, with music written by Jeanine Tesori, book and lyrics written by Lisa Kron and directed by Gary Griffin.

Fun Home runs September 19 - November 12, 2017, with the press performance on Wednesday, September 27, 2017, at 7:30 pm at Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue.

Hailed as one of Broadway's most original musicals and the winner of 5 Tony Awards, Fun Home is a groundbreaking story inspired by Alison Bechdel's best-selling graphic memoir. In this intimate musical, Alison sets out to unravel the many mysteries of her childhood through a series of memories and conversations - from her coming out to her moving journey to acceptance. Gary Griffin (Hand to God, Never the Sinner) directs this emotionally charged family drama.

Playing Alison in this Chicago premiere is Danni Smith. The cast of Fun Home includes Preetish Chakraborty, Leo Gonzalez, Sage Elliott Harper, Stella Rose Hoyt, Rob Lindley and Hannah Star. Complete casting to be announced at a later date.

"We are thrilled to give a home to Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori's timeless and moving new musical about our modern American family: estranged fathers, graphic novels, and queer sensibilities," commented Artistic Director Chay Yew. "I'm also elated that director Gary Griffin is returning to Victory Gardens to helm this Chicago production, making it a unique theatrical experience for our audiences."

ABOUT THE ARTISTS:

Jeanine Tesori (Music) For Broadway: Fun Home (2015 Tony Award winner); Violet; Caroline, or Change; Shrek the Musical; Thoroughly Modern Millie; Twelfth Night (LCT); John Guare's A Free Man of Color. Delacorte: Mother Courage (starring Meryl Streep). Opera: A Blizzard on Marblehead Neck (libretto, Tony Kushner; Glimmerglass); The Lion, the Unicorn and Me (libretto, J.D. McClatchy; Washington National Opera). Her songs are featured in the Netflix revival of Gilmore Girls. She is the artistic director/co-founder of A Broader Way, an arts empowerment program for girls from underserved communities; the founding artistic director of Encores! Off-Center; and a lecturer in music at Yale University and Columbia University. Ms. Tesori is a member of the Dramatists Guild.

Lisa Kron (Book and Lyrics) has been writing and performing theater since coming to New York from Michigan in 1984. Her work has been widely produced in New York, regionally, and internationally. Her play Fun Home, a musical written with composer Jeanine Tesori and based on the graphic novel by Alison Bechdel, earned her 2 Tony Awards in 2015, for Best Book of a Musical and Best Original Score (with Jeanine Tesori); the show also won the Tony Award for Best Musical. Other plays include The Ver**zon Play, which premiered 2012 Humana Festival; In The Wake which received Lortel and GLAAD Media Award nominations, was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, named a "Best Play of 2010" by TimeOut and Backstage, and was included in the Best Plays Theater Yearbook 2010-2011; Well, which premiered at The Public Theater, was named a "Best Play of 2004" by the New York Times, the Associated Press, the Newark Star Ledger, Backstage, and the Advocate, included in the Best Plays Theater Yearbook of 2003-2004, and moved to Broadway where both she and Jayne Houdyshell received Tony nominations for their performances. 2.5 Minute Ride, which had its New York premiere at The Public Theater, received OBIE, L.A. Drama-Logue, New York Press, and GLAAD Media Awards, and continues to be performed by Lisa and others all over the world;101 Humiliating Stories, which received a Drama Desk nomination for its PS122 premiere and was a part of Lincoln Center's 1993 "Serious Fun!" performance series. Lisa is a founding member of the legendary OBIE and Bessie Award-winning collaborative theater company The Five Lesbian Brothers whose plays, Oedipus at Palm Springs, Brave Smiles, Brides of the Moon and The Secretaries have all been produced by their theatrical home, New York Theatre Workshop, and have been performed widely throughout the country both by the Brothers and by other companies. Their plays are published by T.C.G. in the anthology, "Five Lesbian Brothers/Four Plays" and also by Samuel French. Lisa has received playwriting fellowships from the Lortel and Guggenheim Foundations, Sundance Theater Lab, the Lark Play Development Center, and the MacDowell Colony, the Cal Arts/Alpert Award, a Helen Merrill Award, and grants from the Creative Capital Foundation and New York Foundation for the Arts. She was a resident playwright at the American Voices New Play Initiative at Arena Stage. As an actor, Lisa's professional career as began in 1983 when Michael Kahn chose her as member of the ANTA Company, which toured three plays in rep for a season. Since then she has acted in her own plays and the plays of the Five Lesbian Brothers, and also seen in such productions as the Foundry's Good Person of Szechwan at LaMama, The Normal Heart at The Public Theater, Spain at M.C.C., and The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told, at NYTW. Lisa is a member of Actors Equity and serves on the Council of the Dramatists Guild of America.

Gary Griffin (Director) Victory Gardens Theater: Hand to God, Never the Sinner, Appropriate. London: Pacific Overtures (Donmar Warehouse, Olivier Award, Best Musical Production and Olivier Nominee, Best Director). Broadway: Honeymoon in Vegas, The Color Purple. Off-Broadway: Saved (Playwrights Horizons); The Apple Tree, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Pardon My English, The New Moon (Encores). Regional: Antony and Cleopatra, Camelot, West Side Story (Stratford Festival); work at McCarter, Alliance, Hartford Stage, Signature, Kansas City Rep., The Muny. Chicago: Road Show, Gypsy, Sunday in the Park With George, Follies, Amadeus, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures (Chicago Shakespeare Theatre); The Merry Widow, The Mikado, Oklahoma (Lyric Opera of Chicago); The Detective's Wife, Loot (Writers Theatre). Associate Artistic Director, Chicago Shakespeare Theater. 10 Joseph Jefferson Awards for Directing.

Preetish Chakraborty is in 8th grade and has been trained in Indian classical vocal music since age 6 and was the 2nd runner up in the very popular Indian singing reality show Saregamapa Lil Champs by Zee TV (in Mumbai, India). He has done several stage shows in many cities in the US as well as in India. Preetish has been a member of the Young Naperville Singers boys choir and he was recently offered admission in the prestigious American Boychoir School in Princeton, NJ after his performance with them.

Leo Gonzalez makes his first professional on-stage debut with Fun Home. Leo is 13-years-old from Oak Park, Illinois. He is actively involved in the BRAVO! Performing Arts Academy at Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School and has performed in multiple musical theater shows under the direction of Tina Reynolds.

Sage Elliott Harper makes her Victory Garden Theater debut. Sage's recent credits include Mary Poppins (Jane Banks at Mercury Theater as well as at Night Blue Theater), Seussical (Jojo at Marriott), Billy Elliott (Keeley Gibson at Drury Lane), The Christmas Schooner (Marie Claire at Mercury Theater), Les Misérables (Young Cosette at Drury Lane), Ruthless (Big Noise), as well as local productions of Annie (Annie at Winnetka Children's Theater), and Les Misérables (Young Cosette at New Trier High School).

Stella Rose Hoyt makes her debut with Victory Gardens Theater. She is a 5th grade student at Clark Middle School and has been singing Broadway tunes since she was three. Recent credits include Molly in Theatre at the Center's production of Annie Warbucks, Mary Lennox in The Secret Garden at the Drama Group Theatre, and Young Cosette in Les Misérables. Stella recently filmed a commercial for McDonald's and is represented by Gray Talent Group.

Rob Lindley makes his Victory Gardens Theater debut. He has been seen on stage at About Face Theatre (The Tempermentals), Northlight (Funnyman), Goodman (Candide), Asolo Rep (My Fair Lady), Court Theatre (Carousel, James Joyce's The Dead, Caroline or Change, Secret Garden, and Angels and America: Part 1 & 2), Writers' Theatre (Bach at Leipzig, and Oh Coward! - which won Rob a Jeff Award for Best Actor in a Revue). Rob directed the Off-Broadway and National Tours of 50 Shades: The Musical! and many productions for Porchlight Music Theatre including Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill, Far From Heaven, and How to Succeed in Business... Rob also directs many star-studded gala concerts for many organizations including the annual Chicago Sings!, concerts for Porchlight and the Flory concert for the Chicago Humanities Festival. Rob's vocal trio Foiled Again has two recordings available on iTunes and other online outlets, "Foiled Again: Live" and "Blanket of Winter."

Danni Smith recently appeared as Sally Bowles in Cabaret at Theatre at the Center. Other Chicagoland theater credits include Bridges of Madison County, Mamma Mia, Man of La Mancha, and City of Angels (Marriott Theatre); A Christmas Story: The Musical and Mamma Mia (Paramount Theatre); Chess (Porchlight Music Theatre); The Wild Party, See What I Wanna See, and Violet (Bailiwick Chicago); Jesus Christ Superstar, Always Patsy Cline, Passion, and Pump Boys and Dinettes (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre); Romeo and Juliet, Comedy of Errors, Richard III, and Twelfth Night (Lakeside Shakespeare); Macbeth and Henry VIII (Illinois Shakespeare Festival). She stars in indie feature film The Gateway. Danni is a graduate of Ball State University and has been honored with four Joseph Jefferson Awards. She is co-founder of women-focused musical theatre company Firebrand Theatre.

Hannah Starr is a performer, writer, and artist originally from Eau Claire, WI. Most recently Hannah played the Emcee in No Stakes Theatre Project's production of Cabaret and last fall was seen as Olive Ostrovsky in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at pH Comedy Theater. Hannah's solo show, BOOMBOX, premiered last December at The Beat Lounge at the Second City Training Center, where she is now known as "that girl who always carries around that old boombox". She is a member of 99 Problemz: Chicago's Improvised 90's Sitcom and performs improv and sketch comedy regularly throughout the city. She's a graduate of Columbia College Chicago, The Conservatory at The Second City Training Center, and has trained at the MacPhail School of Music, iO, Brave New Workshop, and HUGE Improv 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 Za?ek, 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 Za?ek-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.


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