Victory Gardens Executive Director Jan Kallish To Exit Position

Executive Director Jan Kallish today announces plans for her departure from Victory Gardens at the end of November 2012.  Kallish has been with Victory Gardens since February 2009. General Manager Chris Mannelli will assume managing director duties while the board conducts a search for her successor.

“For the past four years, it has been my honor and privilege to work with the talented and fiercely dedicated staff and board at Victory Gardens, where the challenging and all important mission of new work is respected and celebrated,” says Jan Kallish.  “In my time here, among the many artistic and fiscal accomplishments, we welcomed new Artistic Director Chay Yew, opened and dedicated the Richard Christiansen Theater, and produced the world premiere of Chad Deity as part of IGNITION before moving the play to New York.  Making the decision to leave VG was a difficult one.  I look forward to my next chapter as I continue to teach at DePaul and embark on my next adventure in producing and managing theater. I am confident that I am leaving VG in a strong place and I know that it is in good hands with the thrilling artistic vision of Chay Yew, a brilliant artist and national leader of new work, and someone I am fortunate to call a colleague and friend. The Victory Gardens Board is to be commended for their leadership during a time of transition.”

During her tenure at Victory Gardens, Jan Kallish oversaw the Artistic Director transition from Dennis Zacek’s retirement after 34 years, through to the national search for current Artistic Director Chay Yew.

Chay Yew comments, “Throughout my time at Victory Gardens, Jan Kallish has been an invaluable collaborator. We celebrate her decision to embark on another chapter of her career in the entertainment field; I know great things are in store for Jan wherever she lands next. A passionate and fiercely talented administrator, she has done exemplary work throughout her tenure, and Victory Gardens is in a better place as a result of it. I look forward to building on Jan's accomplishments, making Victory Gardens an even stronger home for new American playwrights and plays.”

In the past four years, under Jan’s leadership, the theater acquired significant new funding and increased corporate, foundation and individual giving were increased.  Kallish spearheaded the recruitment of new board members and raised the board requirements to meet industry standards.  In her first year, Jan introduced historic restoration fees, premium ticket sales and dynamic pricing to the theater, all first-time streams of earned revenue.  Because of Kallish’s efforts, Board President Steve Miller recently pledged a six-figure leadership gift, which is a fivefold increase over his prior giving level.

Steve Miller says, “Jan has been instrumental in moving Victory Gardens Theater forward during a period of great transition.  Not only has our own institution's artistic and executive leadership experienced the recent retirements of our founders, but the theater world as a whole is in an era of profound change.  The Theater's Board of Directors is extremely grateful for Jan's guidance, as well as her immense talent and accomplishments on the development side.  We wish Jan the best of success in her future endeavors, and we look forward to finding opportunities for further collaboration.”

Kallish ushered in the construction and opening of the Richard Christiansen Theatre, including the creation of the Campaign for Growth and conceived the idea for the name and created and implemented the strategy for the Artists Tribute Fund, which raised over $300,000 for the naming of the theater.  She oversaw the purchase and renovation of the new administrative offices, located at the Biograph Theater.

As Executive Director, Jan Kallish produced two plays from the first IGNITION during the 2009-10 season—The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity by Kristoffer Diaz and Year Zero by Michael Golamcowhich significantly raised the profile of the new play festival.  She created the team of New York producers to bring The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity to New York for a successful run at Second Stage in spring 2010.  Both productions went on to New York and The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

In recent years, under Kallish’s direction, a company-wide effort has been initi

ated to attract and retain youthful and racially-diverse audiences—bringing people of all ages and from every neighborhood to the theater. As a result of successful community engagement efforts, student audiences increased 500 percent this past season.  She oversaw Blackbird, the largest box office hit in the theater’s history. Victory Gardens auxiliary programming Fresh Squeezed attracted new audiences with performances by Mike Daisey, Kevin Coval, JoMama Jones, Arlene Malinowski, Tim Miller and Holly Hughes, among others. Jan championed and grew a  relationship with Young Chicago Authors and Louder Than A Bomb, and VG's arts education program Drama in the Schools continues to  flourish, with additional and new VG initiatives such as the Teen Arts Council and Now Is The Time, a community-wide initiative aimed at inspiring young Chicagoans to make change and to stop violence and intolerance.

Prior to joining VG in 2009, Jan Kallish served as Executive Director of Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre from 1997 to 2003. Under her leadership, the historic landmark (Adler & Sullivan, architects, 1889) completed a $14 million renovation. There she created a home for the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, and as a presenter, an acclaimed international dance series that included The Bolshoi Ballet, The Eifman Ballet of

St. Petersburg, The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ballet Nacional de Cuba, Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, Ballet Hispanico, Dance Africa, and the Birmingham Royal Ballet. Ms. Kallish also launched and was Executive Producer of Ovations! Concert Celebrations of Great American Musicals. Modeled after City Center Encores! in New York City, Kallish produced Strike Up the BandOne Touch of VenusBabes In ArmsPromises, Promises, and Call Me Madam, all at the Auditorium Theatre. As A theatrical producer, credits include The Color Purple, Broadway and first North American tour; A Catered Affair, Broadway; associate producer, Execution of Justice by Emily Mann (About Face Theatre, Chicago). She has served as a consultant to Matthew Bourne’s NewA dventures (U.S. tours of Edward Scissorhands and Car Man) and from 2006 to 2007 as CEO of the Nederlander Broadway China joint venture in Beijing, where she oversaw operations for the first licensed performing arts joint venture in China, and oversaw renovations plans for Shanghai Majestic Theatre, Shanghai.

Kallish is a Tony Award voter, a member of the Broadway League, the International Society of Performing Arts (ISPA), active with the Theatre Communications Group (TCG) and serves on theBoard of The League of Chicago Theatres. She is an adjunct faculty member of DePaul University’s Theatre School in Chicago, where she teaches commercial theater management.

About Victory Gardens Theater

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 a leader in developing and producing new theatre work and cultivating an inclusive theater community. Victory Gardens’ core strengths are nurturing andproducing 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. Our commitment to developing, supporting and producing new theatre work makes Victory Gardens an American Center for New Plays.

In 2006, Victory Gardens successfully completed an $11.8 million renovation of Chicago’s famed Biograph Theater, and moved two blocks north from its longtime venue at 2257 N. Lincoln Avenue, to its beautiful new home in one of Chicago’s most celebrated historic landmarks.  Renamed Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, the new venue is a state-of-the-art 299-seat mainstage which has greatly expanded the company’s artistic flexibility.

In 2009, Victory Gardens completed the second phase of renovation at the Biograph, building an intimate, new, 109-seat studio theater on the second floor.  On March 1, 2010, at a special launch event for Victory Gardens $1 million Campaign for Growth, the theater’s new studio was officially named the Richard Christiansen Theater, in honor of the Chicago Tribune chief critic emeritus and longtime champion of Chicago’s live theater scene.  Visit www.victorygardens.org for more details.

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