Victory Gardens Theater Announces Lineup for 10th Anniversary IGNITION Festival of New Plays 2018 Festival runs August 3 – 5, 2018

Victory Gardens Theater Artistic Director Chay Yew, Managing Director Erica Daniels and Director of New Play Development Skyler Gray announce the lineup for the 10th Anniversary IGNITION Festival of New Plays, including Prosthesis by Robert AskinsUntitled Road Trip Play by Lauren Yee;White History by Dave HarrisHow to Defend Yourself by Lily PadillaSeeing Eye by Nick Malakhow; and The First Deep Breath by Lee Edward Colston II. The 2018 Festival runs August 3 -5, 2018 at Victory Gardens Theater, located at 2433 N Lincoln Avenue.

All readings are free and open to the public, though a reservation is strongly encouraged. For more information or to RSVP, visit or call the Victory Gardens Box Office at 773.871.3000.

IGNITION’s six selected plays will be presented in a festival of readings and will be directed by leading artists from Chicago, including Halena Kays, Marti Lyons, Jess McLeod, Ron OJ Parson, Vanessa Stalling and Chay Yew.

“We’re proud to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Victory Gardens’ IGNITION Festival of New Plays. Since its inception in 2008, we have given world premiere productions to a new generation of American playwrights from Branden Jacobs-Jenkins to Lauren Yee, from Jackie Sibblies Drury to Kristoffer Diaz. We’re thrilled to have shared these plays with Chicagoans and the world,” says Artistic Director Chay Yew. “And this year is no different. We continue to give a home to brave and singular theatrical voices who shine light on our diverse humanity, whose plays create meaningful dialogue towards a more unified world. We need these voices more than ever.”

“The plays and playwrights in this year’s festival feature an incredible mix of perspectives, styles and voices. Each writer is exploring the world we live in, and the people in it, with a nuance and urgency that brings the pain, uncertainty, joy and hope of being alive in this moment in time to life. I could not be prouder to share these plays with our audiences, and to have my first IGNITION Festival include such a dynamic group of writers,” remarks Director of New Play Development Skyler Gray.

The 2018 Lineup Includes:

Friday, August 3 at 7:30pm


By Robert Askins

Directed by Jess McLeod

George has sewn an iPhone into his neck. Now, he can send saws spinning and turn lights on with just a thought, but his Dad doesn’t like that. George’s father, a real prosthetist, steps in to try to save his son. But George doesn’t want to be saved by him. He’s trying to find god.

About Robert Askins

Cypress, Texas born Robert Askins is the author of the Tony-nominated and Obie Award-winning Broadway hit, Hand to God, which enjoyed a run on London’s West End and was nominated for the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy. His comedy Fish Display was part of the 2012 Ojai Playwrights Conference, and his playPermission, also developed at OPC, had its world premiere off-Broadway at MCC Theater in spring 2015. Askins has developed work with Plan B, HBO, and Chernin Entertainment. He is currently working on a new musical and plays with La Jolla Playhouse, the Alley Theatre, and Joey Parnes Productions. Askins is the recipient of two EST/Sloan grants, the Helen Merrill Emerging Playwrights Award, and an Arch and Bruce Davis Award for Playwriting. Askins is a graduate of Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

Saturday, August 4 at 11am

Untitled Road Trip Play

By Lauren Yee

Directed by Chay Yew

Originally commissioned by Portland Center Stage (Portland, Oregon. Chris Coleman, Artistic Director), Lauren Yee’s Untitled Road Trip Play follows an immigrant couple as they drive across America in 1998. As they travel to their new home in Portland, they struggle to find common ground in everything from personal philosophy to what to put in the tape deck. Twenty years later the same man recreates the road trip with his adult daughter, with the same car, same map, and same music. A Honda Civic connects these worlds as time and space weave these two journeys together. But sometimes getting there is half the battle.

This season, Lauren Yee premiered Cambodian Rock Band (music by Dengue Fever) at South Coast Rep and The Great Leap at Denver Center, Seattle Rep, and Atlantic Theatre. Upcoming: Cambodian Rock Bandat Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Victory Gardens; The Great Leap at the Guthrie, American Conservatory Theatre, Arts Club, InterAct Theatre; King of the Yees at Baltimore Center Stage, SF Playhouse; and The Song of Summer at Trinity Rep. Recent honors: Kesselring Prize, Primus Prize, upcoming Hodder Fellowship at Princeton, the #1 and #2 plays on the 2017 Kilroys List. Finalist for ATCA/Steinberg Award and Edward M. Kennedy Prize. Ma-Yi Writers’ Lab member, alumni playwright of Playwrights Realm. Current commissions: Geffen, La Jolla Playhouse, Lincoln Center/LCT3, Mixed Blood, Portland Center Stage, Second Stage, Trinity Rep. BA: Yale. MFA: UCSD.

Saturday, August 4 at 3pm

White History

By Dave Harris

Directed by Halena Kays

Bonnie and Todd, a cage-free kale-bred white couple, have just moved into a new home after accidentally burning down their last one. Soon after, an exiled KKK Member kicks in their front door with a rope and a revolver, mistaking them for the Black couple that moved in across the street. Naturally, there is a dinner party. White History contends with the violence of America’s foundation and the comedy of American progress.

About Dave Harris

Dave Harris is a poet and playwright from West Philly. His plays have been featured at Theatre503 in London, The Kennedy Center, Great Plains Theatre Conference, Lesser America, and Fault Line Theatre Company amongst others. He is a member of The Working Farm at SPACE on Ryder Farm, a two-time finalist for the O’Neill Theater Conference, and a semi-finalist for The Relentless Award. Harris has received commissions and honors from Ensemble Studio Theatre, The American Playwriting Foundation, The Kennedy Center, Cave Canem, and Callaloo. His debut collection of poetry will be published next year from Button Poetry. BA: Yale ’16 / MFA: UC San Diego ’20.

Saturday, August 4 at 7:30pm

How to Defend Yourself

By Lily Padilla

Directed by Marti Lyons

Seven college students 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.

About Lily Padilla

Lily Padilla just finished her MFA at UC San Diego under the mentorship of Naomi Iizuka, Deborah Stein and Allan Havis. Her plays explore sex, intersectional communities and what it means to heal in a violent world. Selected works include How to Defend Yourself(w)holeness (Finalist for the Latinx Theatre Commons’ 2018 Carnaval), And Then You Wait (La Jolla Playhouse WOW Festival). Padilla is an EmergeNYC fellow with the Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics. She co-founded American Nightcap at INTAR, a late-night play series which gathered artists from diverse NYC theater communities. BFA NYU, Playwrights Horizons and Experimental Theatre Wing.

Saturday, August 5 at 11am

Seeing Eye

By Nick Malakhow

Directed by Vanessa Stalling

Intimidated by the prospect of dating apps and online profiles, Jason, who is blind, finds himself in a whirlwind romance with a stranger after taking a chance to find love the old fashioned way: at a bar. Their one night stand ignites a week-long romance in which both men feel like they are being seen for the first time. But what happens when people finally see us for who we really are? And even worse, what happens when we finally see ourselves?

About Nick Malakhow

Nick Malakhow is a Boston-based writer and theater educator who received his BA from Swarthmore College and his MA in Theater Education from Emerson College. He has taught English, Creative Writing, and Acting at the secondary level for over a decade in the greater Boston and Philadelpia areas. Nick grew up in the diverse town of Teaneck, New Jersey, the child of Dominican and Ukrainian parents. His short work has been produced by Fresh Ink, the Open Theatre Project, and as part of the 2018 Boston Theater Marathon. His full-length work has been developed at Emerson College. His play Seeing Eye was a finalist for inclusion in the Latinx Theater Commons’ 2018 Carnaval Festival of New Work.

Saturday, August 5 at 3pm

The First Deep Breath

By Lee Edward Colston II

Directed by Ron OJ Parson

Pastor Albert Jones 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. With each member of the Jones clan desperately fighting to stay afloat, sometimes a family that stays together drowns together.

About Lee Edward Colston II

Lee Edward Colston II is a Philadelphia native, former prison guard turned actor, playwright, director, acting teacher and author. Selected acting credits include: The Color Purple (Nat’l tour), Seven Guitars, Hoodoo LoveIn Arabia We’d All Be KingsHadestown (New York Theater Workshop), The Sign In Sydney Brustein’s WindowThe Winter’s TaleUncle VanyaMerchant of Venice, OthelloAvenue XSweat (The Public Theater, reading), Intimate Apparel (Shakespeare & Company).  Television credits include: “The Black List: Redemption” (NBC), “Mr. Robot” (USA). His plays include Roost (winner of the 2010 Life Media Award and 2013 Hidden River Arts Award), Solitary (winner of the 2018 Philadelphia Theater Workshop), & The First Deep Breath. He is currently a part of The National Black Theatre’s 2017-2018 ‘I AM SOUL’ playwriting fellowship. BFA: University of the Arts / MFA: The Juilliard School.

The IGNITION Festival of New Plays receives major support from The Joyce Foundation,  The Time Warner Foundation Inc., the Bill and Orli Staley Foundation, The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust,Southwest Airlines – Victory Garden Theater’s official travel sponsor, and Suite Home Chicago-Victory Gardens Theater’s housing sponsor for the 2018 IGNITION Festival.

Performances are at Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N Lincoln Avenue, in the heart of Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Admission to all festival readings and events is free, though an RSVP is strongly encouraged. For more information or to RSVP, visit or call the Victory Gardens Box Office at 773.871.3000.

About Victory Gardens 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 Začek, 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 Začek-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  Follow us on Facebook at, Twitter @VictoryGardens and Instagram at

Victory Gardens Theater receives major funding from The Wallace Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur FoundationDoris Duke Charitable FoundationJoyce FoundationVirginia B.Toulmin Foundation, Shubert FoundationThe REAM FoundationAlphawood FoundationAllstate Insurance,Exelon, the Paul M. Angell FoundationPolk Bros. FoundationCrown Family Philanthropies,Edgerton FoundationLloyd A. Fry FoundationThe David Rockefeller FundBill and Orli Staley Foundation, Time Warner Foundation Inc. and Illinois Arts Council Agency.

Additional funding is provided by:The McVay Foundation, Field Foundation of Illinois, Prince Charitable TrustsHarold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable TrustElizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special EventsNational Endowment for the ArtsSusan Payne/Metropolitan Capital Bank & TrustCharles & M.R. Shapiro FoundationWrightwood Neighbors AssociationAlliance BernsteinCharles H. and Bertha L. Boothroyd FoundationGolden Country Oriental FoodsJohn R. Halligan Charitable FundMayer Brown LLPRoberta Olshansky Charitable FundOrigin VenturesJane Saks/Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Chicago Foundation for Women,Southwest AirlinesItalian Village Restaurants, and Whole Foods Market.