Marcelle McVay to Depart Victory Gardens in Fall


The Board of Directors of Victory Gardens Theater announces the departure of its long-time Managing Director, Marcelle McVay.

McVay has been with Victory Gardens for 34 years serving as the theater's administrative leader for 27 of those years.  She along with her husband, Artistic Director Dennis Zacek, have united Victory Gardens' artistic and business goals as an organization wholly dedicated to developmental theater.

In 2001, McVay, Zacek and Associate Artistic Director Sandy Shinner accepted the regional theatre Tony Award on behalf of Victory Gardens. More recently, McVay played a key leadership role in the successful $11.5 million renovation of Victory Gardens' new home at Chicago's historic Biograph Theater.  

In announcing her decision to explore other career options in a letter to subscribers, McVay wrote "I have worked at Victory Gardens for almost my entire working life. In many ways, the theater has been my life and many of you have been like family to me.  Thank you for your support of Victory Gardens and of me personally over those years. However, I have long planned to have a new career 'post Victory Gardens.'  With the next ten years of my working life, I hope to make a contribution in education, human services or possibly grant making."

Separately, McVay added, "I will miss the artists and audiences with whom I have been united in sharing the mission and values of Victory Gardens. Together, we successfully established Victory Gardens as a premier regional theater dedicated to playwrights and their works. That has brought great joy and meaning to my life as I hope it has to many others."

Victory Gardens Associate Artistic Director Sandy Shinner responded, "Chicago's theater community owes a huge debt of gratitude to Marcie McVay for her 30-plus years of working creatively and tirelessly to build and support the off-Loop theater movement. As for Victory Gardens, with its unique, important, and risky mission of developing new work, Marcie McVay's name is synonymous with all the success the theater has enjoyed. There is a reason that her name is carved above the entrance of our beautiful new home at the Biograph: her passion, extraordinary fundraising abilities and boundless energy have kept the art and Victory Gardens alive."

The Board of Victory Gardens released the following statement: "Marcie McVay has been the heart and soul of the theater as Victory Gardens grew from its original location at 3730 N. Clark (now Cabaret Metro) to a shared spacewith the Body Politic Theatre at 2257 North Lincoln Avenue, and now to the beautifully renovated Victory Gardens Biograph Theater where our productions are currently performed. She leaves an indelible mark as Managing Director of Victory Gardens. We are, however, fortunate that Marcie will be leaving behind a strong organization with a clear mission and committed audience. We are confident Victory Gardens will attract new outstanding managerial talent. We are also pleased that our Artistic Director Dennis Zacek will continue focusing on our mission of producing new works by our esteemed Playwrights Ensemble and other nationally acclaimed playwrights - furthering our growth as an American Center for New Plays."

To identify experienced candidates to succeed McVay, the Board of Directors has formed a search committee that will be led by long-time Board member Harold Pendexter, former Chief Administrative Officer of USG Corporation. McVay's departure is expected to take place this fall.

McVay has worked with Victory Gardens Theater since its inception in 1974 as Business Manager, Development Director, and Managing Director. Actively involved in promoting growth and unity for the Chicago theater community, she was a founding member of the League of Chicago Theaters and PACT (Producers Association of Chicago-Area Theaters) and acted as Chief Negotiator during the first two rounds of contract talks between PACT and Actors' Equity Association. McVay is currently on the Board of Season of Concern. She serves as an Illinois Arts Council panelist and has served in that capacity for the National Endowment for the Arts Theater Program and City Arts III.  McVay was Co-Coordinator of Arts in the City School, a comprehensive arts integrated curriculum effort involving eight arts organizations (including VGT) at Lincoln Park High School for eight years and was instrumental in expanding that program to elementary neighborhood schools through Annenberg funding. She also served on the Advisory Committee for the development of the Chernin Arts Center, a model community arts center, and on an Arts & Business Council Committee that produced "Diversifying Chicago's Arts Audiences: A Progress Report."  She has received numerous awards on behalf of Victory Gardens, including the 2001 Regional Theatre Tony Award which McVay, Artistic Director Dennis Zacek and Associate Artistic Director Sandy Shinner accepted, Actors' Equity's Rosetta Lenoire Award for Victory Gardens' accomplishments in non-traditional and affirmative casting, the Columbia College Entrepreneurship Award, and the Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce's 2008 Community Contributor of the Year Award.

Working with a $3.1 million annual budget in 2008/09, Victory Gardens continues to expand its artistic and institutional boundaries in its new home at Chicago's historic Biograph Theater under the guidance of Artistic Director Dennis Zacek, Associate Artistic Director Sandy Shinner, Incoming Board President Jeffrey Rappin, a dedicated staff and board, and the support of more than 5,000 loyal subscribers.

Victory Gardens Theater is designated an Established Regional Arts Institution by the Illinois Arts Council (IAC), and is partially supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, a CityArts Program 4 Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, and the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.  For complete information, visit

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