Michael Patrick Thornton

Co-Founder, Artistic Director

Artistic director & co-founder of The Gift, Michael was most recently seen onstage in the Kennedy Center workshop of fellow Gift ensemble member Andrew Hinderaker’s Colossal and onstage at The Gift in the world premiere of Hinderaker’s Dirty. Previous stage credits include: U.S. Premiere of Absolute Hell at The Gift Theatre directed by fellow Gift ensemble member Sheldon Patinkin and the Midwest Premiere of Will Eno’s Middletown at Steppenwolf, directed by Les Waters. Michael directed the Chicago Premiere of Will Eno’s Oh, The Humanity (and other exclamations) at The Gift as well as Of Mice and Men at Steppenwolf. Other directing with The Gift includes: 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. Other directing: the World Premieres of Sean Graney’s IS N UR B1UDS7REEM…and Mark Harvey Levine’s LA 8AM (Collaboraction Sketchbook) and Picasso At The Lapin Agile (Noble Fool). Michael was a very grateful assistant director on Steppenwolf’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning August: Osage County.

A Joseph Jefferson Award-winning actor, Michael was most honored with a Jeff Nomination for his performance in The Gift’s World Premiere of ensemble member Andrew Hinderaker’s Suicide, Incorporated. Other acting at The Gift: the world premiere of Will Eno’s Brief Study of an Endless Thing and David Rabe’s It’s Just The Moon (TEN: 2012, 2013) The Ruby Sunrise, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, The Good Thief (Joseph Jefferson Award—Solo Performance, directed by Gift ensemble member John Gawlik) and Boys’ Life. Elsewhere: Cherry Docs (Next, directed by Kate Buckley) A Skull in Connemara (Northlight—After Dark Award: Best Production, directed by B.J. Jones); The Day Maggie Blew Off Her Head (Serendipity); Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Ivanhoe—Directed by Page Hearn, R.I.P.) Flanagan’s Wake! (Noble Fool) the San Antonio tour of Zoo Story and the title role in Steppenwolf’s The Elephant Man.

A graduate of The School at Steppenwolf, The Second City Conservatory, and The Second City Directing Program, Michael has trained at the iO Improv Program and under Mick Napier at Annoyance Theatre and occasionally teaches at Second City, The School at Steppenwolf, and Columbia College. He regularly improvises with Natural Gas, with Susan Messing in Messing With A Friend / Thornton & Messing (seen at Steppenwolf and at The Annoyance thru the TBS/Just For Laughs Festival) and with Kirby Longbrake in Mike And Kirby: No Suggestions, Please and Jillian Burfete in Thornton & Burfete at The Second City.

As a writer, Michael’s plays have been workshopped in New York through Young Playwrights, Inc. and in Chicago through Second City. His play The Princess And The Bear was performed at Western Michigan University and published in excerpt along with his creative non-fiction in Third Coast Press and The Packingtown Review. He is a proud staff writer for Chicago’s live magazine salon-in-a-saloon, “The Paper Machete”, a playwright when he needs to be, finishing his second novel, A Low Hum and forever at work on the short story collection The Invention of Monsters.

Michael’s awards/distinctions include: Tree of Life Award: Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago; Chicago Finalist: National Shakespeare Contest (Mitzi-Newhouse Theatre; Lincoln Center); 3Arts Artist Award; Northlight Theatre’s Jack Springer Award for Outstanding Performance; The Tim Meier & Helen Coburn Meier Foundation Achievement Award, The Second City Foundation’s Jim Zulevic Chicago Arts Award, The Joseph Jefferson Award for Solo Performance and induction into The St. Patrick High School Hall of Fame.

Michael has played Dr. Gabriel Fife on ABC’s Private Practice & appeared in FOX’s The Chicago Code and Ron Howard’s The Dilemma. He lives blissfully in the Jefferson Park neighborhood of Chicago with his wife, Lindsey Barlag Thornton.  Michael is honored to serve as Artistic Director and thanks his wonderful family, prodiguously talented ensemble, and selflessly committed and passionate Board of Directors and committee members for helping make these dreams come true.