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The Gift Theatre Announces New Leadership; Plans For New Theatre Space In Jefferson Park

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The Gift will also exit its longtime home at 4802 N. Milwaukee Ave.

The Gift Theatre Announces New Leadership; Plans For New Theatre Space In Jefferson Park

As The Gift Theatre embarks on its 20th anniversary, its Board of Directors today announced a change in artistic leadership and plans for a new performance space in Chicago's Jefferson Park neighborhood. Co-founder and Artistic Director Michael Patrick Thornton will step down from his post after helming the theatre for two decades.

He will be succeeded by a trio of Co-Artistic Directors including Ensemble Members Brittany Burch, Jennifer Glasse and Associate Artistic Director, Ensemble Member and Casting Director Emjoy Gavino. The Gift will also exit its longtime home at 4802 N. Milwaukee Ave. and launch a capital campaign to open a new theatre space in Jefferson Park. Thornton will remain firmly with the company, playing a leading role in fundraising efforts for The Gift's new home. The Gift will announce its 2022 season shortly, and will perform at various venues across Chicago until its new venue is complete.

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, December 6, 2021, 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 thegifttheatre.org. Please note: proof of vaccination (or a negative COVID test within 72 hours of the event) and masking are required.

Comments Michael Patrick Thornton, "On December 6th - our 20th anniversary - we celebrate our past and we toast to our future. For two decades, I have been given the tremendous gift of faith to serve as The Gift's Artistic Director. It has been the role and responsibility of a lifetime: thrilling, surreal, humbling and joyous. 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, 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. All three have made me a better artist and human being, but far more importantly, they've made The Gift better; it's time for them to lead. This is merely the end of one chapter and the beginning of another in the long and beautiful love story that is The Gift, a story written every single day by so many. New leadership, new space... 'tis the season to ring in the new. I'm absolutely ecstatic to introduce you to The Gift's future at our Birthday Party on December 6th, twenty years to the day of our very first opening night. So come on out and celebrate this special anniversary, because you are The Gift; you always have been, you always will be. Here's to the next twenty years."

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."

Gale continues, "I am thrilled that The Gift has a bench of talent that is ready to move into the artistic direction of the theater. In a true Gift spirit of thinking dynamically, Mike and the Ensemble leadership have worked hard to create a triumvirate artistic directorship model that we are confident will work well for the growth of The Gift. The trio of Brittany Burch, Emjoy Gavino and Jennifer Glasse brings a wealth of knowledge, professionalism, strength and teamwork to the artistic needs of The Gift, and we believe they will keep up the momentum that The Gift has, and help take it forward for the next years ahead."

About The Gift's New Leadership Team

Brittany Burch will serve as The Gift's Director of New Play Development. Burch became an ensemble member with the Gift in 2011 after moving to Chicago in 2010 to study with the School at Steppenwolf. It was there she met Michael Patrick Thornton and Sheldon Patinkin who subsequently cast her in her first Chicago production The Lonesome West. From there she went on to perform with The Gift in numerous TENs, the extended run of Northwest Highway, Absolute Hell, Oh The Humanity, Thinner Than Water, Othello, Royal Society of Antarctica, Good For Otto, Richard III, Unseen and Pilgrims. Other Chicago credits include Carmilla and The Shadow Over Innsmouth with Wildclaw Theatre; A Midsummer Night's Dream, Macbeth, Hamlet with Lakeside Shakespeare; the New Stages production of Ask Aunt Susan with The Goodman; Reverb with Redtwist; The Birthday Party (U/S), Annie Bosh is Missing and the world premiere of The Minutes by Tracy Letts at Steppenwolf. Regionally, Brittany has worked with Portland Center Stage, Artists Repertory Theatre and Profile Theatre in Portland, Oregon; Perseverance Theatre in Juneau, Alaska; Chautauqua Theatre Company in upper state New York; and The New Theatre in Kansas City. She has a BA from Willamette University and has also studied with the British American Drama Academy in London, Chautauqua Theatre Company, Dell'Arte International School of Physical Theatre, as well as the aforementioned School at Steppenwolf. Her film/television credits include Chicago PD and the short films Jeri's Grill, Tour Manager, Grow Old With Me. Brittany is proudly married to the amazing and talented Sherman Edwards and enjoying her most recent and most challenging role yet as a mom.

Emjoy Gavino will serve as The Gift's Director of Access. She moved from the Pacific Northwest to Chicago in 2006, where she eventually found her way onto its stages. She graduated from The School at Steppenwolf where she met so many who make up her chosen family, including Gift luminaries, Sheldon Patinkin, Michael Patrick Thornton and fellow co-artistic directors Brittany Burch and Jennifer Glasse. She has been a casting director for American Theatre Company, the Hypocrites, Theatre on the Lake, Victory Gardens Theater and The Gift Theatre, where she has also served as an associate artistic director. Chicago Acting Credits include Animal Farm, You Got Older, The Drunken City (Steppenwolf Theatre); Do You Feel Anger (A Red Orchid); Kentucky (The Gift); Vietgone (Writers); Bull in a China Shop (About Face); You on the Moors Now (The Hypocrites); Realish Housewives (Second City); Failure: A Love Story (Victory Gardens); Electra (Court); Working (Broadway Playhouse); Act(s) of God (Lookingglass); ...Neo-Futurist Christmas Carol (The Neo-Futurists). Regional acting credits: Repertory Actors Theatre, ACT, Village Theatre, Court Theatre at The Getty Villa and Studio Theatre. Currently: A Christmas Carol (The Guthrie Theatre). Television: The Exorcist, Mob Doctor, Chicago Fire/Med. Emjoy is a 3Arts Make a Wave grantee, a 2020 3Arts awardee and the founder and executive director of The Chicago Inclusion Project, an artist-led organization dedicated to bringing together artists and audiences typically separated by ethnicity, gender identity, physical ability, and economic status.

Jennifer Glasse will serve as The Gift's Director of giftED. She hails from the West Side of Chicago and is an Ensemble Member at The Gift Theatre where her credits include Wolf Play, Doubt: A Parable, Hang Man and A Life Extra Ordinary. Other Chicago credits include Oedipus Rex (Court Theatre), Breath, Boom (Eclipse Theatre), The Book Club Play (16th Street Theatre), The Mutilated (a Red Orchid Theatre), Love and Information (Remy Bumppo Theatre), Saturday Night/Sunday Morning (Steppenwolf Garage), For My Brothers Whenever I May Find Them (Step Up Productions), The North Plan (Theatre Wit), Amuse Bouche (Pavement Group) and The Darkest Pit (Prop Theatre). Television credits include Chicago Fire, The Chi and Somebody, Somewhere. Jennifer earned her degree in Musical Theatre from North Central College. She is also a graduate of The Conservatory at Act One Studios and The School at Steppenwolf, 2010. She is proudly represented by Shirley Hamilton Talent. Recently, Jennifer became a 2021 recipient of the 3arts Make a Wave grant. As Director of giftED., The Gift's two-year acting sequence for Chicago-based high school students, she is excited for the opportunity to finally bring theatre back to her home of the Garfield Park and West Humboldt Park neighborhoods. Jennifer is a seasoned teaching artist and has taught all over Chicago at studios and theatres including Acting Studio Chicago, Provision Theatre, Hope Theatre, Chicago Lights, Vagabond School and Barrel of Monkeys (now PlayMakers Laboratory Theatre). From 2013-2021, she was a teaching artist at the Court Theatre and had the honor of working every year with her beloved Harper High School students in Englewood.


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