Lauren Yee, who wrote Samsara

Last year Victory Gardens Theater was handed off to a new artistic director, Chay Yew, and now the time has come for him to oversee his first Ignition Festival. Focused on work by emerging playwrights of color, the biennial event debuted spectacularly in 2008, when it introduced Chicago to Kristoffer Diaz’s subsequently celebrated The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity. The field this time around features five plays that will receive staged readings over the course of two weekends.

First up is Seven Spots on the Sun by Martin Zimmerman (Fri 8/3, 7 PM), about a Latin American doctor who loses his wife in the midst of a civil war. Next comes Samsara by Lauren Yee (Sat 8/4, 3 PM), in which an American couple desperate for a baby decide to lease a surrogate mother in India. A. Rey Pamatmat’s The Shotgun Message (Sat 8/4, 7 PM) takes on still more controversial material: teenage cam whores and the pedophiles who love them. A journalist gets trapped in the middle of the ugly business—and if Chekhov has taught us anything, it’s that that title shotgun’s going to go off.

The following weekend’s lead-off play, Yussef El Guindi‘s Dr. Ali Goes Native (Fri 8/10, 7 PM), concerns an anthropologist whose attempt to help a student work through personal issues gets a little unorthodox. Then, in Appropriate by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (Sat 8/11, 7 PM), three siblings excavate family secrets at their dead father’s old plantation.

The plays have a chance to move on to further development at Victory Gardens—and even a full-scale production such as Chad Deity earned.