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Sandy Shinner out at Victory Gardens

Updated: June 7, 2012 6:48PM

Victory Gardens Theatre appears to have severed its principal ties with Sandy Shinner, the company’s long-serving associate artistic director, who has worked with the theater for more than three decades, and who was a major force in the development and launch of its exceptionally successful Ignition Festival.

Shinner learned the news while working on the company’s 17-year-old Access Project which teaches playwriting and performance to individuals with and without disabilities, helps develop opportunities for original works dealing with this subject, and produces the Crip Slam, a series of performances, readings and other events that promote and explore disability culture.

Though still unable to discuss her situation fully because talks are ongoing with Victory Gardens personnel, including artistic director Chay Yew (who has just completed his first season in that job), Shinner said: “The goals for the theater [which include the nurturing and production of new work and diverse voices] are goals that I have long supported and continue to support.”

Shinner, who along with Victory Gardens’ Dennis Zacek and Marcelle McVay (the company’s now retired longtime leaders), picked up the theater’s Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre in 2001, also produced the inaugural Ignition Festival, with both Kristoffer Diaz’s play, “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity,” and Michael Golamco’s “Year Zero,” produced Off Broadway following their Chicago runs.

Over the years, Shinner has directed many new plays at Victory Gardens (and beyond), including Johanna McClelland Glass’ “Trying,” which transferred from Chicago to Off Broadway’s Promenade Theatre.

“I hope the Ignition project will go forward,” said Shinner, “though there might be changes in its format.”

Although Shinner was in contention for the artistic directorship after Zacek’s retirement, Yew, an outsider to Chicago, was tapped for the job. More recently, New York-based Geoffrey Jackson Scott was hired to join the theater as Director of New Play Development and literary manager.

Shinner, whose production of the Midwest premiere of Catherine Trieschmann’s play, “Crooked,” is now running at Chicago’s Rivendell Theatre, will direct James Still’s play, “Illegal Use of Hands” for American Blues Theatre at the end of the summer. And she is in discussion with other Chicago companies. Shinner also will continue to teach directing at the Theatre School of DePaul University.

“I’m happy to do freelance work,” said Shinner, “but for me the crucial thing has always been developing the ongoing relationship between the audience and the stage at a theater.”

Phone messages left for Yew and for Victory Gardens’ executive director, Jan Kallish, were not returned.

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