A classic Chicago storefront theater – Charles Isherwood, The New York Times
What is a ‘Gift’ Theatre?
It’s the idea that every great story is a kind of love story.
That an Ensemble is only as good as how well it can support its weakest link, and its weakest link can change night to night, scene to scene, moment to moment.
The idea that a theatre ought to be accessible to all, for all.
That while theatre is also a business, our budget ought to reflect our values. To learn how we earn and spend responsibly.
It’s the idea that you should always remember where you came from, and if you start to forget—head home.
It’s the idea that if you can apply your gifts towards improving your neighborhood and city, then you should.
It’s the idea that plays should interrogate questions to which we don’t know the answer. This demands humility and entering the act of creation with awe and gratitude.
It’s the idea that when you build true relationships with neighbors and local businesses, everybody wins. And the underdogs will always win.
It’s the idea that theatre must retain its identity from film and TV. You can’t pause us; that’s why our doors stay shut after the play starts.
It’s the idea that a theatre is a community of principles. Some principles of The Gift include love, ensemble, intimacy, honesty, and most importantly, community.
Our mission is to share impossible-feeling stories with naked honesty, emotion, true ensemble artistry, and radical inclusivity. We believe a play never closes until everyone who saw it stops thinking about it, and that theatre is, at its best, a sacred conversation between actor and audience, revealing the joy and pain of being human. In other words, a gift.
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion
At The Gift, we fuel our commitment to diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion with love. Our goal is to tell great stories onstage with honesty and simplicity. But, for too much of our early production history, those stories were told from a narrow curatorial lens with respect to race. We now re-define ‘great stories’ as meaning: ‘stories which come from and are told by a multiplicity of backgrounds, abilities, and experience; stories which seek to humbly interrogate rather than dictate, stories which feel urgent, colossal, and impossible.’
Another area where we locate our commitment to diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion is within our ensemble.
An ensemble is one entity composed of many voices, bodies, identities, and ideologies; it is the genuine love for and celebration of each individual that fortifies the ensemble. We commit to making every person who experiences The Gift feel loved and celebrated for who they are. We define equality as: ‘every person is sacred and should be treated as such.’ We define ‘equity’ as:
‘giving individuals what they personally need in order to have an experience of joyous fairness and empowerment.’
As we continuously work towards building a better Gift, we interpret ‘access’ beyond push-button doors, audio/ASL described performances, and touch tours. We’re entering the realm of accessibility in economics (affordable tickets and subscriptions) and ultimately, access to the theatrical space itself creating a community anchor where people can gather, meet and have invigorating artistic and intellectual experiences.
Through steady action, we vow to create an environment through our theatre’s architecture, space, programming, organizational structure, culture, and events where diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion are the celebrated norm.
The open hand is a representation of an approach for building a character (also first learned in that class in Iowa) called Three Parts of the Body. The hand represents body (wrist), heart (palm), and mind (fingers) and the idea is that a perfect performance harmonizes all three. The three lines in the palm 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 and black.
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