Conceived while students at The University of Iowa in 1997 by Michael Patrick Thornton and William Nedved, the idea for The Gift was to grow and nurture an ensemble and lay roots in an artistically underserved Chicago neighborhood. Heavily influenced by a class called “Alternative Approaches To Acting” taught by Dr. Eric Forsythe, the name of the theatre came from Jerzy Grotowski’s Towards A Poor Theatre:
“Acting is a particularly thankless art. It dies with the actor. Nothing survives him but the reviews, which do not usually do him justice anyway, whether he is good or bad. So the only source of satisfaction left to him is the audience’s reactions. The actor, in this special process of discipline and self-sacrifice, self-penetration and molding, is not afraid to go beyond all normally acceptable limits…The actor makes a total gift of himself.”
The mission of The Gift is to tell great stories onstage with honesty and simplicity.
The ensemble is composed of actors, directors, writers, and improvisers. For over ten years, The Gift has earned and deepened its reputation as an ensemble dedicated to acting of the highest caliber and a welcome home for new plays. Natural Gas, giftED., giftLIT. and giftFILM offer, respectively, improvisation performances steeped in the Chicago “long form” tradition of montage, a two year high school training apprenticeship rich in the ensemble approach toward making theatre, a literature department offering readings and workshops, and a film company featuring the talents of the ensemble.
The open hand logo is a representation of an approach toward building a character called “Three Parts of the Body”, taught to Thornton at Iowa by Dr. Forsythe. The hand represents body (wrist) heart (palm) and mind (fingers). The three lines represent love, life, and the ability to overcome obstacles. The colors of The Gift are a nod to both The University of Iowa and the original cover design of Towards A Poor Theatre, both of which feature yellow & black.
The Gift believes a play never closes until everyone who saw it stops thinking about it and that art is, at its best, a sacred conversation between actor and audience, revealing the joy and pain of being human. In other words, a gift.