Victory Gardens Theater has announced that André De Shields will be the Keynote Speaker for the Voices of Tomorrow: Their World on Stage virtual showcase on Wedesday, December 9, 2020 at 7:00p.m. The online event will present powerful and moving spoken word and artistic works created by CPS students in Victory Garden’s Drama in the Schools program, performed by professional Chicago actors. Registration for the free event is available here.
The five students whose winning pieces will be featured at the event are Askia B. for When We Bleed It’s a Joke, Ayanna G. for A Mother’s Cry, Maya H. for Chicago, Jaden M.S. for Animosity, and Maylia W. for 2020 So Far/Remembering 2020.
Following two rounds of judging by a panel of artists, artistic producers and educators, their powerful works were chosen out of 60 submissions from participating Chicago Public Schools. Victory Gardens is honored to provide a platform to uplift these students’ voices, and each will receive a scholarship and have their pieces performed by professional Chicago actors at Voices of Tomorrow.
Former Chicago actor and friend of Victory Gardens André De Shields will share his insights as an artist who has embraced his power to make an impact in his community and the world. De Shields is the triple-crown winner of the 2019 awards season, having won the Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, and Tony Awards for best featured actor in a musical for his critically acclaimed performance as Hermes in Hadestown. The Actors’ Equity Foundation followed suit with the Richard Seff Award, honoring veteran stage actors’ best supporting performances of the year. Mr. De Shields recently received the 2020 Grammy Award for Musical Theater Album for Hadestown, an honorary Doctor of Arts Degree from Boston Conservatory at Berklee, the 2019 Project1Voice Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2019 SAGE Joyce Warshow Lifetime Achievement Award, The York Theatre Company’s 2019 Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement in Musical Theatre, and was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame. He received the Key to the City of Baltimore from Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young in August, 2019. Prior to his Tony Award win, Mr. De Shields was best known for his show-stopping performances in four legendary Broadway productions: The Wiz , Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Emmy Award), Play On! (Tony Nomination), and The Full Monty (Tony Nomination). In a career spanning fifty one years, he has distinguished himself as an unparalleled actor, director, and educator, receiving in 2018 the 8th Annual Off Broadway Alliance Legend Award, and the 33rd Annual Bob Harrington Life Achievement Bistro Award. Among his other accolades are the 2009 National Black Theatre Festival’s Living Legend Award and the 2007 Village Voice Obie Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance. De Shields can currently be seen on Netflix as the Algebra Tutor in “John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch” and on The CW as Chubby in “Katy Keene.” His latest film projects include Charles Busch’s The Sixth Reel and Lin Manuel Miranda’s directorial debut, Tick, Tick… Boom!. De Shields is a proud member of AEA, SAG-AFTRA, and SDC. www.andredeshields.com
Sponsorships are also available for the event. For more information, contact Kelly Carr, Development Associate, at firstname.lastname@example.org. All donations from the evening will support StudentsFirst, VG’s education programs serving Chicago youth through immersive arts education.
The Host Committee for the event is Anu Behari, Penny Brown, Chanel W. Coney, Brienne Letourneau, Kate Tillotson, and Sue E. Wallace.
Chicago students have experienced a year unlike any other, between the 2019 teacher’s strike, COVID-19, and social movements in response to systemic racism and police brutality. Utilizing skills learned from VG’s Drama in the School curriculum, students will use their artistic voices to address the ever-changing world around them and tell their own stories.
“Victory Garden’s work with students in our CPS partner schools and organizations has always been vital to our mission and annual programming. With our theaters quiet due to the pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to direct more of our focus to bolstering the voices of tomorrow. Given everything that is going on in our city, our nation, and the world, it is critical that we help students lift their voices, and that we listen to them,” comments Acting Managing Director Roxanna Conner. “We know that today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders, and it is vital that they know that we are listening-especially in these moments of uncertainty. VG is doing all that we can to provide our students with the tools to process the world around them and empower them to steer us forward.”
All students participating in VG’s StudentsFirst education programs were invited to submit their work to be presented in this showcase. Students whose pieces were selected for the showcase will each receive a scholarship prize and have their work performed by professional actors at the Voices of Tomorrow event. Participating schools include Harlan Community Academy (Roseland), Simeon Career Academy (Chatham), Kenwood Community Academy (Kenwood), Senn High School (Edgewater), Alcott College Prep (North Center), Lincoln Park High School (Lincoln Park), Prosser Career Academy (Belmont Cragin) and Dunbar Vocational Career Academy High School (Douglas).
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman. She stars in and served as Executive Producer for the short independent films Hide and Seek, Balancing Act, Rom-Com Gone Wrong, Belongingness and When the World was Young. She is also the Executive Producer for The Cactus, The Language Lesson, The Writer and Cream and 2 Shugahs.