Victory Gardens Announces Casting For First Three Productions

Victory Gardens Theater under the direction of Artistic Director Chay Yew and Executive Director Erica Daniels, announces casting for its upcoming productions of Tiny Beautiful Things based on the book by Cheryl Strayed and adapted by Nia Vardalos, directed by Vanessa Stalling, The First Deep Breath by Lee Edward Colston II, directed by Steve H. Broadnax III, and How to Defend Yourself by liliana padilla, directed by Marti Lyons.

The cast for Dhaba on Devon Avenue by Madhuri Shekar, directed by Chay Yew and Right to Be Forgotten by Sharyn Rothstein, directed by Gary Griffin will be announced at a later date.

Tiny Beautiful Things

Based on the book by Cheryl Strayed

Adapted for the Stage by Nia Vardalos

Co-Conceived by Marshall Heyman, Thomas Kail, and Nia Vardalos

Directed by Vanessa Stalling

September 6-October 13, 2019

Press Opening: September 13, 2019

The cast of Tiny Beautiful Things includes Janet Ulrich Brooks (Sugar), August Forman (Letter Writer 3), Eric Slater (Letter Writer 1) and Jessica Dean Turner (Letter Writer 2). Jessica Dean Turner is replacing previously announced Echaka Agba.

Based on the best-selling book by Cheryl Strayed and adapted for the stage by Nia Vardalos, Tiny Beautiful Things personifies the questions and answers that "Sugar" was publishing online from 2010-2012. When the struggling writer was asked to take over the unpaid, anonymous position of advice columnist, Strayed used empathy and her personal experiences to help those seeking guidance for obstacles both large and small. Directed by Vanessa Stalling (Photograph 51 Court Theatre, A Shayna Maidel TimeLine Theatre, The Wolves Goodman) Tiny Beautiful Things is a story about reaching when you're stuck, healing when you're broken, and finding the courage to take on the questions which have no answers.

The First Deep Breath

By Lee Edward Colston II

Directed by Steve H. Broadnax III (replacing previously announced director Malika Oyetimein)

November 15-December 22, 2019

Press Opening: November 22, 2019

The cast of The First Deep Breath includes Patrick Agada (Alexander "AJ" Jones), David Alan Anderson (Pastor Albert Melvin Jones II), Gregory Fenner (Leslie Carter), Jalen Gilbert (Tyree Fisher), Melanie Loren (Dee-Dee Jones), Clinton Lowe (Abdul Malik), Deanna Reed-Foster (Pearl Thomas), and Celeste Williams (Ruth Jones).

Originally developed as part of Victory Gardens 2018 Ignition Festival of New Plays, The First Deep Breath tells the story of Pastor Albert Jones who is planning a special church service to honor his late daughter Diane on the sixth anniversary of her death. But when his eldest son, Abdul-Malik, returns home from prison, the First family of Mother Bethel Baptist Church is forced to confront a hornet's nest of long-buried secrets. Written with a ferocious passion by Lee Edward Colston II The First Deep Breath finds each member of the Jones clan desperately fighting to stay afloat and disregarding the caution that sometimes a family that stays together drowns together.

How to Defend Yourself

By lilana padilla

Directed by Marti Lyons

January 24-February 23, 2020

Press Opening: January 31, 2020

The cast of How to Defend Yourself includes Isa Arciniegas (Diana), Anna Crivelli (Brandi), Jayson Lee (Eggo), Ariana Mahallati (Mojdeh), Ryan McBride (Andy), Andrea San Miguel (Nikki), and Netta Walker (Kara).

How to Defend Yourself circles around seven college students who gather for a DIY self-defense workshop after a sorority sister is raped. They learn how to "not be a victim", how to use their bodies as weapons, how to fend off attackers. The form of self-defense becomes a channel for their rage, trauma, confusion, anxiety, and desire--lots of desire. Challenged to determine what they want and how to ask for it, the students must ultimately face the insidious ways rape culture steals one's body and sense of belonging. Developed as part of Victory Gardens 2018 Ignition Festival of New Plays and the winner of the 2019 Yale Drama Series Prize, How to Defend Yourself is funny, raw and brutally honest - a triumph from playwright lilana padilla. The production will be directed by Marti Lyons (Cambodian Rock Band, Native Gardens Victory Gardens, Witch Writers Theatre).

Subscriptions start at just $99 are on sale at and by phone at the Victory Gardens Box Office at 2433 N. Lincoln, 773.871.3000.

Victory Gardens Theater is located at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue, in the heart of Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood.

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