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Ensemble Member Hillary Clemens
Ensemble Member

HILLARY CLEMENS joined the Ensemble in 2007. She figured it was a good move because Sheldon Patinkin was joining at the same time, because she’d never felt more challenged and safe at a theatre, because Mike Thornton invited her in a letter so beautiful and inspiring that it made her cry, and because she is not a fool.

Hillary’s Gift roles have included Donna in HURLYBURLY, Elvira in BLITHE SPIRIT, Irina in THREE SISTERS, Linda in TALK RADIO, Ellen/Mrs. Saunders/Victoria in CLOUD 9, Katie in DIRTY, Widow in VIGILS, Mari in MINE, and Crystal in BETHANY (for which she received a Joseph Jefferson Award nomination for Principal Actress). She also served as The Gift’s Casting Director from 2010-2015.

Elsewhere, she has worked with Chicago Shakespeare, Court Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Writers’ Theatre (where she also received a Jeff nomination for her performance in PICNIC), Lookingglass Theatre, ACT Seattle, Seattle Shakespeare, Lake Tahoe Shakespeare, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Indiana Festival Theatre, Apple Tree Theatre, American Players Theatre, Asolo Repertory Theatre, Kansas City Actors Theatre, the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival, Coterie Theatre, and Kansas City Repertory Theatre.

She has appeared in a number of national commercials, feature films, web series, industrials, and voiceovers, and very briefly yelled at someone while standing near a horse on an episode of NBC’s Chicago Fire.

Sometimes she is a headshot photographer.

Hillary sings, plays the ukulele, is a useless gardener, does the New York Times Crossword daily, is a heist movie enthusiast, can’t whistle, can recite the entirety of 1985’s CLUE from memory, is left-handed, is no longer fluent in French, arrives too early for everything, reads and reads and reads, makes great chicken noodle soup, tries to say “yes” to her kids as much as possible, is absolutely not a morning person, will never willingly jump out of an airplane, types 80 wpm, has seen every episode of MURDER, SHE WROTE, and is always up for ordering mozzarella sticks.

From January 2017 to January 2021, Hillary researched and wrote a daily (and then weekly, after having a second baby) primary-sourced factual summary of the actions of the Trump administration, which ultimately amassed about 4,000 readers seeking opinion-free verified information in an accessible format. She’s proud of the project, is very glad it’s over, and is currently pursuing other forms of advocacy and service.

Hillary is married to actor/educator/director Matt Schwader, with whom she’s been lucky enough to perform in many productions all over the country, including as Romeo and Juliet, Gatsby and Daisy, and various other doomed lovers.

After a brief detour to Seattle, they relocated to the Kansas City area in 2016 to raise their children closer to family. Hillary misses Chicago a lot (especially her home at The Gift and her friends and the Puppet Bike), but she does not miss waiting for the 92 bus in a polar vortex. Kansas City–where she grew up–has great theatre, great food, the Royals, and most of her close family, so it’s working out pretty well so far.

She hopes to be back on The Gift stage as often as she can, and she will forever be intensely proud to be a member of The Gift Ensemble.

Since moving to Missouri, Hillary and her husband have also both joined the artistic board of Kansas City Actors Theatre. Her KCAT roles so far have included Nora in A DOLL’S HOUSE, Sally in A LIE OF THE MIND, and voices in the company’s ongoing radio theatre series, in addition to her operational efforts on strategic planning and equity/diversity/inclusion.

Being a working actor and a mother of two small children is very complicated, but it helps to have family nearby, a close-knit theatre community, a supportive spouse, and determination. Hillary is also certain that becoming a parent has made her a better actor.

Hillary is a graduate of Loyola University Chicago and The School at Steppenwolf, and she is a member of Actors’ Equity and SAG-AFTRA.

Her philosophy of acting (and life) is maybe best boiled down to: “It’s not about you.” She does not always succeed in this, but that’s the goal, anyway.

The Gift Theatre Roles
Ellen/Mrs. Saunders/VictoriaCLOUD 9