The next chapter of the Gift Theatre in Jefferson Park is set to begin with a new artistic leadership team and a new location, as the Gift prepares to honor co-founder Michael Patrick Thornton
by BRIAN NADIG
As it celebrates its 20th anniversary, Gift Theatre co-founder Michael Patrick Thornton is stepping down from his artistic director position but plans to play a leading role in raising funds for the group’s new theater in Jefferson Park.
The Gift recently vacated its former 40-seat studio at 4802 N. Milwaukee Ave., which was once a shoe store, and plans to open a new, larger theater at a yet-to-be publicly named location, expected to be near the Milwaukee-Lawrence intersection. Thornton has said that his goal for the Gift is to always have a theater in Jefferson Park, the community he grew up in.
The Gift’s 2022 season will be performed at various venues in the Chicago area while the Gift’s new home is being worked on.
“I marvel at what we’ve accomplished together and cannot wait to see The Gift grow for another twenty years. The time has finally and excitingly come to hand The Gift off to its next generation of leadership. This artistic succession plan has been in the works for years, and I am so excited to personally prioritize the active campaign to open The Gift’s new theatrical home. With the power trio of Ensemble Members Brittany Burch, Emjoy Gavino and Jennifer Glasse ( who will all take on the of co-artistic directors), The Gift is in the hands of three brilliant women of astounding artistry whose intelligence, passion and aesthetics will be written brightly across the canvas of the American Theatre,” Thornton said.
The Gift will pay tribute to Thornton, welcome its new artistic leadership and unveil its vision for a future home at its 20th Anniversary Birthday Party on Monday, Dec. 6, 20 years to the day of the theatre’s very first opening night. Guest are invited to mingle with the Gift ensemble, enjoy appetizers, cocktails and dessert, and celebrate 20 years of Gift productions at the Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Ave. in Jefferson Park. The party begins at 7 pm, with a VIP reception at 6 pm. Tickets ($50, $110 and $200 levels) are currently available at www.thegifttheatre.org. Please note: proof of vaccination (or a negative COVID test within 72 hours of the event) and masking are required.
In a joint statement, Brittany Burch, Emjoy Gavino and Jennifer Glasse said, “Over the last few years, we’ve gotten the chance to reflect on what kind of theatre we want to create and what environments will welcome the changes necessary. Guided by the tenets of learning, accessibility and new work, we are thrilled to step into this new moment in Chicago theatre as a team. The Gift was built on a foundation of love and community and we cannot wait to take what we’ve learned as artists in this company and actively pursue change in the industry and growth in our art and ensemble.”
Laura Gale, Chair of The Gift Theatre Board of Directors adds, “There is really no way to thank Mike for the two decades of energy, talent and creativity that he put into the artistic direction for The Gift. Mike’s leadership not only brought a theater to Jefferson Park, but introduced new plays, a renowned Ensemble and recognition for The Gift as a cultural gem in Chicago. We are grateful for his vision and direction. The Gift is poised to take its next major steps, and moving into a new venue will require Mike’s attention for the capital campaign. The good news is that Mike is not leaving The Gift; he is moving into a new role with continued major responsibilities.”