By Ellen Braunstein, Special to Chicago Jewish News
Victory Gardens Theater and Illinois Holocaust Museum have joined together to offer innovative programming to further their shared goals of combating hatred, prejudice and indifference.
Performances will be held at Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, while programs and exhibitions related to the theater productions will be held at Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center, 9603 Woods Drive, Skokie.
Victory Gardens in its 2018-19 season is featuring performances that deal with issues such as genocide and social justice. “We believe that theater belongs to the people and this is a town square,” said Chay Yew, Victory Gardens Artistic Director. “The question becomes what do we say on stage to make it a better place for us to become better citizens.”
The plays have discussions after every show and the Holocaust Museum is going to present readings and discussions concurrently at the museum.
Shoshana Buchholz-Miller, Vice President of Education and Exhibitions at the Illinois Holocaust Museum, said, “We hope by bringing together our two organizations, we will reach a broad audience to explore timely topics through multiple mediums, inspiring people to be Upstanders, as opposed to bystanders.”
One of the plays is “Cambodian Rock Band” which looks at the Cambodian genocide during which Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge purged a quarter of the population. “We see links between the stories the museum tells with the stories we tell through the shows we are doing,” Chay said of the partnership.
“How people can be moved to remove a large section of the population is part of what the Holocaust Museum is exploring as well,” Chay said. Another Victory Gardens Play, “Pipeline,” is a play about the school to prison pipeline leading to mass incarceration.
A Holocaust museum exhibit in 2019 called “Purchased Lives” examines the slave trade in the United States from 1809 – 1856.
“Given the climate of our administration currently, there are little factors that can shift the population to do the same thing again,” Chay said. “I think Holocaust museums all around the world are doing a great job of reminding us this could happen again — and it cannot ever happen again.” Theaters tell stories that bring to life the consequences and “hopefully the reminders that we should be careful to avoid this kind of very destructive behavior again. My fear is that the generation of Americans who do not know our global history or worse deny the Holocaust. Our job is to tell these stories to bring these people together to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”
The exhibit “Stories of Survival” currently at the museum focuses on objects of deep meaning that Holocaust and other genocide survivors brought with them to the U.S. when they left their communities as refugees and immigrants. “This aligns very well with some of plays that Victory Gardens has planned, which looks at scenes that relate to Judaism and the Holocaust and also LBGTQ rights,” Buchholz-Miller said.
Three programs at the museum will coincide with the plays. Oct. 2 will feature selections from the play “Indecent” and a discussion exploring the issues of art and censorship. Then on Jan. 13, a reading from “Cambodian Rock Band” and a discussion will follow. Finally, on Feb. 29, actors will perform a scene from “Pipeline” followed by a panel discussion about contemporary civil rights issues related to the school to prison pipeline.
Tickets for the 2018-19 Victory Gardens season will be available at the Victory Gardens Box Office, located at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, 773.871.3000 and www.victorygardens.org. Illinois Holocaust Museum members will receive 25 percent off performances on the following dates: “Indecent” (September 21 – 27, 2018), “Rightlynd” (November 9-15, 2018), “Pipeline” (February 1–7, 2019), “Cambodian Rock Band” (April 5–11, 2019) and “Miriam for President” (June 7–13, 2019).
Tickets to the events at the museum will be free to members or with paid Museum admissions for nonmembers and will be available for purchase on the Museum’s events page at https://www.ilholocaustmuseum.org/. Victory Garden Theater goers will receive 20% off adult tickets with the use of a promo code.