Guest List: Michael Patrick Thornton

November 11, 2011

His character is romantically involved with the character "Naomi" who is played by actress Audra McDonald. When we last saw Dr. Fife in the Season 4 finale, he popped the question to Naomi & they jetted off east.

Life changed for the Chicago actor after becoming paralyzed by two strokes. Determined to get back on stage, Michael Patrick Thornton not only returned to acting, he also won the role of a disabled doctor on ABC'S Private Practice.

When Michael is not flying back and forth to Los Angeles, he lives and works in Chicago doing improv at The Gift Theatre which he founded.

According to Thornton, The Gift was founded in principle at The University of Iowa in 1999 by Michael Patrick Thornton and Will Nedved, and started producing in Chicago in 2001. Since then, they have mounted nearly 40 full productions and, with 40 seats, are the most intimate Equity theatre in the city of Chicago. Our ensemble members have both been nominated for and won The Jeff Award, and we have just launched our education program for northwest side teenagers called giftED.

Current Projects: Michael recently finished co-directing CLOUD 9 at The Gift and acting in Middletown at Steppenwolf. He improvises every Wednesday night at The Gift with Natural Gas. Thornton was recently appointed to Mayor Emanuel's Cultural Advisory Council and a co-curator of The 2012 season of Theatre on The Lake.

The Gift Theatre Company Gala
Copernicus Center
5216 W. Lawrence Avenue
Nov. 18

Gift Theatre Company taking big step forward with the help of Chicago arts and political leaders
RELEASE - The Gift Theatre Company, Chicago's hot young theater organization recently called "superb" by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, will celebrate its 10th anniversary on November 18th with a gala fundraiser co-chaired by key leaders of the city's world-renowned professional theater community.

Event chairman and Gift Artistic Director Michael Patrick Thornton, featured in ABC's Private Practice and recently seen in the Ron Howard film The Dilemma, said that despite those personal successes, "What I feel most grateful for in my life is what's happening inside our tiny storefront, where the Gift is coming into its own." Thornton added that "What makes Gift unique among all the great storefront theaters which have risen in Chicago is that we are of and from Jefferson Park and the Northwest Side, and that we plan to remain so no matter how high and far our great work takes us."

The anniversary gala is co-chaired by WGN's Dean Richards; Nora Daley Conroy, co-chair of Mayor Emanuel's Cultural Affairs Advisory Committee; Jeff Perry, co-founder of Steppenwolf Theatre; 45th Ward Alderman John Arena; and Douglas Brown, CEO of Cambridge Homes and a director of Theatre Communications Group which is the national association of repertory theaters. At the gala, Gift's award-winning ensemble will present an exclusive sneak peek of the company's 2012 subscription season.

The evening will feature a raffle having just one unique prize: an all-expenses-paid trip for two to Los Angeles where the winners will meet the cast and tour the set of Private Practice; have a private dinner with the show's star Kate Walsh as well as Michael Patrick Thornton; have lunch with Gift co-founder Will Nedved who wrote Gift's recent hit Northwest Highway and has written for several television series including Ugly Betty; and enjoy day passes to Disneyland. Only 2,500 raffle tickets will be sold for $10 each.

Tickets for the gala, costing $100 each, just went on sale; sales will be capped at 250. Gift board chairman George Karzas, owner of the Gale Street Inn, predicted that "This great event hosted by our friends at the Copernicus Center (5216 W. Lawrence) will be the biggest theatrical event on the Northwest Side since Grease; it's Gift Theatre's coming-out party." The gourmet buffet dinner will be catered by Wolfgang Puck Catering; the event begins at 6:00 with a cocktail hour featuring live music by The Jazz Unit.

Gift Theatre has been the subject of repeated glowing reviews by leading critics including the Tribune's Chris Jones (who called 2010's Suicide Incorporated "A deeply moving inquiry into what lives are worth", "a hugely exciting new play" and "stunning"); the Sun-Times' Hedy Weiss (who has rated several Gift productions "Highly recommended"); and Time Out Chicago (which gave 2011's sellout hit Northwest Highway 4 stars and called 2009's Talk Radio "riveting"). Gift's hit Ruby Sunrise was chosen in 2010 to be remounted at Chicago's Lakefront Theater. Renowned former Tribune critic Richard Christiansen called Gift's 2008 production of Streamers a "classic Off-Loop theater experience: a small storefront containing a powerhouse production."

The November event will also highlight GiftED, a rigorous afterschool program for high school students on Chicago's Northwest side. Creative and motivated students spend two years in this afterschool program learning all aspects of professional theater and developing their own creative voice. Participating students build a sense of ensemble with their peers, create meaningful and lasting relationships with the Gift family, and serve as the theater company's ambassadors to the neighborhood.

Chris Jones wrote in the Tribune that Northwest Highway "should not be missed!", and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel apparently agreed. The mayor, accompanied by Marj Halperin who is co-chair of the Emanuel administration's new citywide Cultural Affairs Advisory Committee, attended a performance in September. A few days later while speaking at a capital-fundraising event at the Goodman Theatre, Mayor Emanuel told the assembled dignitaries about the Gift Theatre performance and called it "superb!"

Gift Theatre Company's 10th-anniversary gala begins at 6:00 pm at the Copernicus Center, 5216 W. Lawrence Avenue in Chicago's Jefferson Park neighborhood. Tickets are $100 and can be purchased at Gift's website or by calling the theatre's box office at (773) 283-7071.

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