Tony Winning Playwright David Rabe Joins Gift Theatre Ensemble
Conceived in 1997 by Michael Patrick Thornton and William Nedved, The Gift Theatre's mission was to grow and nurture an ensemble while laying roots in an artistically underserved Chicago neighborhood. Today, The Gift Theatre thrives in Jefferson Park as Chicago's most intimate Equity theater, home to a nationally respected ensemble and daring new plays.
Rabe received a Tony Award for Best Play in 1972 for Sticks and Bones and also received Tony Award nominations for Best Play in 1974 for In the Boom Boom Room, 1977's Streamers and 1985's Hurlyburly. His critically acclaimed play Good for Otto received its world premiere at The Gift Theatre in 2015.
"Working with The Gift on Good for Otto, holed up in a hotel, pouring over text, and forging many more rewrites than I'd anticipated, more than anything I'd ever written before on a play already in rehearsal, I went into our ongoing rehearsals every day knowing that the actors of the ensemble would be there ready to take an enthusiastic run under Mike's simpatico eye at whatever I'd come up with," says Rabe. "And then at a recent reading of a play whose scary, elusive tone escapes many actors, the ensemble members seated at the table with Mike and me found that tone within a few pages so effectively that their performances prompted such contagious laughter in all of us that it brought things to a halt more than once. It was some time ago that Mike invited me into the ensemble, but I'm hesitant to join anything other than unions or guilds. But a few days ago, remembering the reading, I thought: David, wake up. What are you waiting for? I wrote Mike to see if the door was still open. He checked with the cocker spaniel who he said makes these decisions, and I was told he approved. I'm ready to go."
Similarly thrilled, Thornton comments, "Today marks the culmination of over a decade of producing and collaborating with David Rabe and his stunning works of art. From the earliest days of The Gift, David's ouevre-powerfully searching, poetic, magical, haunted, and yearning-has always felt absolutely central to the emotional and ethical heart of The Gift. He has been such an aesthetic north star for us for so long that we are humbled and vivified to call David Rabe an ensemble member of The Gift. We're excited to get to work."
The ensemble is composed of actors, directors, writers and improvisers. For more than 15 years, The Gift Theatre has earned and deepened its reputation as an ensemble dedicated to acting of the highest caliber and a welcome home for new plays.
The now 32-member ensemble also includes: Danny Ahlfeld, Maggie Andersen, Cyd Blakewell, Brittany Burch, Hillary Clemens, John Kelly Connolly, Paul D'Addario, Jenny Connell Davis, Brendan Donaldson, Will Eno, James D. Farruggio, Ed Flynn, Gabriel Franken, John Gawlik, Andrew Hinderaker, Marti Lyons, Alexandra Main, Laura Marks, Kenny Mihlfried, Benjamin Montague, Darci Nalepa, Keith Neagle, William Nedved, Lynda Newton, Sheldon Patinkin (in loving memory), Maureen Payne-Hahner, Mary Ann Thebus, Michael Patrick Thornton, Erica Weiss, Jay Worthington and Kyle Zornes.
TEN, The Gift's annual kickoff celebration of ten-minute plays curated by artistic director Michael Patrick Thornton and associate artistic director Paul D'Addario took place in January. The all-new season consists of three world premieres and kicks off in February with Mona Mansour's war-torn drama Unseen, directed by ensemble member Maureen Payne-Hahner (February 10-April 9), followed by Claire Kiechel's futuristic 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 thegifttheatre.org or call 773-283-7071.