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Ensemble Member Jay Worthington
Ensemble Member

JAY WORTHINGTON has been a proud Ensemble Member of The Gift Theatre since 2011 and most recently appeared onstage as Michal in The Gift’s visionary production of Martin McDonagh’s The Pillowman.

Born legally blind with Ocular Albinism, Jay fell in love with acting during adolescence, embracing the craft as an early means of excavating and exorcising the discrimination and trauma of living with severe vision loss in a sighted world.

“All my work is in some way, shape, or form, a reckoning with disability and the disabled experience. Acting, from a very early age, became a spiritual evolution of self-actualization, where I could embrace and give away all my pain and all my love, thereby revealing to both the audience and I what was buried underneath both: Truth.”

Years later, upon meeting Michael Patrick Thornton as an instructor while studying at The School at Steppenwolf, Jay’s initial encounters with The Gift felt equally revelatory: “Here was a theatre entirely built upon the spiritual ethos I felt like I’d been subconsciously stumbling toward my entire artistic journey: to tell great stories onstage with honestly and simplicity by bringing one’s actual full emotional and spiritual life to it. No one is acting at The Gift; our shows are autobiography filtered through the given circumstances of the play.”

Jay’s life journey as an artist living and working with severe vision loss was documented in the short film What You See Is Not The Truth and is available to watch online at this link.

He is a proud member of the Actors Equity Association and a graduate of The School at Steppenwolf.

Jay is also a teaching artist and formerly an Education Director of giftED. (Gift Education), The Gift’s two-year acting sequence for Chicago-based high school students. In addition, he has taught at Emerald City Theatre, TimeLine Theatre, Court Theatre, and Actors Training Center where he created and ran his own unique three-course adult acting sequence.

“I believe, when we allow ourselves to become truly present with a piece of art, or anything for that matter, the illusion of subject and object is lifted, the audience and actors realize they’re one entity having an experience of itself. In that symbiotic moment, a portal of healing is created for all involved. Once that portal has manifested, the only choice left to be made is whether or not one will step through. Will you step through?”

The Gift Theatre credits include: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, the world premiere of Ensemble Member Andrew Hinderaker’s Suicide, Incorporated, Night and Her Stars, Cloud 9, the world premiere of Gift Co-Founder and Ensemble Member William Nedved’s Prairie View for The Gift’s inaugural production of TEN, the U.S. premiere of Absolute Hell, Vigils, the Midwest premiere of Thinner Than Water, Othello, The Children, the world premiere of The Royal Society of Antarctica, the world premiere of Ensemble Member David Rabe’s Good for Otto, Richard III, The Grapes of Wrath, the world premiere of A Life Extra Ordinary, Love, America, Chupa Chaps, and Pledge Drive.

Additional select credits include: the world premiere of Brett Neveu’s To Catch A Fish (TimeLine Theatre), Frag and Yes to Everything (The Side Project), Macbeth and Henry VIII (The Illinois Shakespeare Festival), Ivanov (The Sinnerman Ensemble), directing a workshop production of Molly Brennan’s Battleaxe Betty (American Theatre Company), participating in Very Special Arts (VSA) Workshop Readings which focus on playwrights and artists who live and work with disability at the John F. Kennedy Center, shooting a commercial for BlindNewWorld – the first Blind awareness social change campaign in history available to watch at this link. Most recently Jay appeared in the films Dreaming Grand Avenue and The Last Shift.