Erica Daniels, the chief executive director and executive artistic director of Victory Gardens Theater is stepping down from those leadership roles at the iconic Chicago company, it was announced Monday.
The move comes in the wake of weeks of tumult over the theater’s board of directors’ restructuring of the company’s leadership team.
“Early last week, after listening to the voices of the artists, staff and others in the artistic community who expressed disagreement and growing outrage with decisions by the Board after Chay Yew resigned, I had decided to cede the artistic director role,” Daniels said via statement. “Unfortunately, the vitriol has really escalated in recent days, which included many hurtful and personal accusations and misstatements about me. I care too much about Victory Gardens and its mission to let this continue, and therefore I have decided to leave the Theater. I have always been committed to the mission and values of Victory Gardens and leave here very proud of the outstanding work that Chay and I did together.”
In recent days, the theater at 2433 N. Lincoln, had been the site of protests by local theater activists over Daniels’ appointment to the role of artistic director without a nationwide search, and the boarding up of the theater’s entrance during the George Floyd unrest. Artists turned the boarded-up windows into canvases featuring the names of black persons killed by police.
In addition, the board of directors’ chairman Steve Miller will also step down from his leadership position. In a statement, Miller said: “I regret that a more transparent process did not occur. I should have listened more to members of the community, as well as to board members who attempted to guide a more equitable and inclusive process. As the board leader, I take full responsibility for these flaws. I feel that the accusations that have been aimed at Erica are undeserved, and it saddens me that Victory Gardens is losing a person who has done so much for the theater and our entire community.”
Miller will remain a member of the board, which is set to hold a meeting later this week to discuss a plan to fill both of Daniels’ former jobs and “the path forward that reflects our mission of producing stories that reflect the diverse stories of our world, inspire dialogue toward meaningful civic change and create an inclusive theater experience,” the statement said.
The news comes two days after Andrew Alexander, the owner and executive producer of The Second City announced he was exiting that company following accusations of institutional racism at the Wells Street improv hub. Anthony LeBlanc was named interim executive producer.
Daniels was president of Second City Theatricals until 2016.