The Gift Theatre Announces Casting for World Premiere of PILGRIMS

The Gift Theatre Announces Casting for World Premiere of PILGRIMSThe Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee Avenue, presents the world premiere of Claire Kiechel's play Pilgrims, co-directed by Artistic Director Michael Patrick Thornton and guest artist Jessica Thebus, June 2-July 30, 2017. Press opening is on Thursday, June 8 at 7:30 p.m.

Pilgrims features ensemble members Brittany Burch (Jasmine) and Ed Flynn (Soldier), with guest artist Janelle Villas (Girl). The design team includes Arnel Sancianco (set), Izumi Inaba (costumes), Heather Gilbert (lights), Chris Kriz (sound), Alexandra Main (props) and John Tovar (fight choreography).

"I think The Gift is one of the best places in the city to do new work," says Thebus. "An exciting new play like this one requires expansive imagination and absolute commitment to the actor as the heart of an unexpected and powerful emotional story. The Gift has those things, not just in its company but in its ethic."

On a spacecraft on its way to colonize a newly discovered planet, a soldier and a teenage girl live together in one of the ship's cabins with only an outdated robot and each other for company. When they are quarantined in their close quarters due to a potential outbreak, they're forced to explore their own traumatic pasts in a dying society. What does it mean to create a new society? What does it mean to be a Pilgrim today?

"When I read Pilgrims, it floored me," says Thornton. "It looks and behaves like no other play. At The Gift, we believe that great plays make us feel less alone, orient our role in the universe, and maybe-just maybe, if we're lucky-even provide a space to heal. Pilgrims achieves all of these. 'How do we heal?' is the question at its center and, for the quarantined characters sharing a small room aboard a spacecraft, an unavoidable, inevitable one. Claire Kiechel is one of the most exciting playwrights working in America right now. Her voice is singular and her worlds are intoxicating and genuine and true. We're honored to host her world premiere."

Performance schedule

Previews: Friday, June 2 - Wednesday, June 7

Press Opening: Thursday, June 8 at 7:30 p.m.

Regular Run: Friday, June 9 - Sunday, July 30

Curtain: Thursdays - Fridays at 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; Sundays at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets for Pilgrims range from $30-$40 and are available by calling the Gift's box office at 773-283-7071 or visiting

Two show subscription packages are also available for purchase and include the following: Two Show Weekday Gifter ($64), Two Show Weekday Gifter for Two ($128), Two Show Anytime Gifter ($70) and Two Show Anytime Gifter for Two ($140). The Gift offers both an Audio Described performance (Sunday, July 9 at 2:30 p.m.) and Captioned performance (Saturday, July 29 at 3:30 p.m.). Tickets for those accessible performances are $15 using code GiftAccess.

Claire Kiechel's (playwright) plays include Pilgrims (The Lark's Playwrights' Week 2016, The Kilroys' The List 2016); Lulu Is Hungry with composer Avi Amon at Ars Nova's ANT Fest 2016; and Some Dark Places of the Earth at The New School for Drama. Her work has also been presented or developed by the Alley Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, The Civilians' R&D Group, Colt Coeur, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Hangar Theatre, Naked Angels, the Orchard Project, and Pipeline Theatre Company. Kiechel is a current member of Ensemble Studio Theatre's group Youngblood, a 2016 recipient of South Coast Repertory's Elizabeth George Emerging Writers Commission, and a recipient of the 2017 Humana Festival Commission for The Actors Theatre of Louisville Professional Training Company.

Michael Patrick Thornton (co-director) most recently directed the world premiere of Gift Ensemble Member David Rabe's Good For Otto. At The Gift, Michael has directed over a dozen productions including War of the Worlds (75th Anniversary Production) the Chicago Premiere of Will Eno's Oh, The Humanity (and other exclamations), Prairie View, Night & Her Stars, Stop/Kiss; Santa's Great American Depression Holiday Show! America; White People; Three Sisters; Long Day's Journey Into Night; Hurlyburly (Joseph Jefferson Award: Actor In Leading Role); A Young Man In Pieces; Language Of Angels; County Fair; and Orestes 2.0. Elsewhere: Of Mice and Men (Steppenwolf) the World Premieres of Sean Graney's IS N UR B1UDS7REEM... and Mark Harvey Levine's LA 8AM (Collaboraction) and Picasso At The Lapin Agile (Noble Fool).

Jessica Thebus (co-director) is a theater artist, director, and educator. Most recently, she directed Richard III at The Gift Theater and Miss Bennet, Christmas at Pemberly, at Northlight. Among others are Steppenwolf Theater Company where she directed four large spectacle evenings at Millenium Park, the plays Sex With Strangers by Laura Eason, Intimate Apparel by Lynn Nottage, Dead Man's Cell Phone by Sarah Ruhl, When the Messenger Is Hot by Laura Eason, No Place Like Home devised by the company, Lady Madeline by Mickle Maher, Sonia Flew by MeLinda Lopez, and the Youth Theater program (1998-2001). Northlight Theater is also an artistic home for Jessica where she has directed six plays and where she recently adapted and directed Shining Lives: a Musical which received a Joseph Jefferson award nomination for best new work. Jessica has also worked often at the Goodman Theatre, (most recently directing Buzzer by Tracey Scott Wilson, and previously both The Clean House and the world premiere of Stage Kiss by Sarah Ruhl) and Lookingglass Theater Company (In The Garden, a Darwinian Love Story by Sarah Gmitter, All Fall Down adapted from Richard Cahan's book, and Our Town by Thornton Wilder).

The Gift's 16th season consists of three world premieres and kicked off in February with Mona Mansour's war-torn drama Unseen, directed by ensemble member Maureen Payne-Hahner, followed by Claire Kiechel's Pilgrims, co-directed by ensemble member Michael Patrick Thornton and guest artist Jessica Thebus (June 2-July 30). The season closes with Janine Nabers' time-hopping love story A Swell in the Ground, directed by guest artist Chika Ike (October 13-December 10). Season subscriptions are available for as little as $75. The Gift subscribers ("Gifters") receive admission to three shows, free parking at Gale Street Inn, free admission to all Wednesday night "Natural Gas" improv shows and invitations to special subscriber-only special events. Subscribe at or call 773-283-7071.

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