Laura Gale is the President of Crossmedia451, Inc., a privately held Chicago-based change management and leadership/business development firm. She is also an executive career coach for Right Management, a publicly held global career management company. In addition, Laura serves on the board for the Coleman Entrepreneurship Center, and Women In Entrepreneurship Institute (WEI) at DePaul University; she is proud to be one of the Founding Forty members at WEI. Laura was named one of the Top 100 Diverse Corporate Executives by Diversity MBA magazine, and is a recipient of the prestigious Luminaire Award from Women in Production in New York. She co-authored a two-book series on Cross-Media Publishing in her role as a publishing subject matter expert.
Throughout her professional career, Laura has held senior management roles at Fortune 500 companies as well as being a partner in a technology services firm funded by private equity.
Laura came to know The Gift through her work and friendships in the Jefferson Park neighborhood. “This is the neighborhood we moved into after living in Washington, D.C. for a few years, and I love it,” she says. Throughout her life, Laura has enjoyed live performances, and her introduction to The Gift made her appreciate Chicago storefront theatre. “It’s important to me to support equity theatre in particular, and to fully support bringing diverse plays and people into the Jefferson Park neighborhood,” she says. After getting to know The Gift and its people, Laura fully embraced its spirit and joined the Board in 2012; she is committed to helping The Gift get to the next stages of its growth, and position the theatre for the future.
Treasurer, Finance Chair
Paul Botts is the Executive Director of the Wetlands Initiative of Chicago, a non-profit dedicated to restoring the wetland resources of the Midwest. His career in environmental conservation began in this 1990s as a staff member of the Illinois Chapter of The Nature Conservancy; and he would later combine his passions as the Chicago Programs Director at the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation (2005-2011), which funds both the arts and conservation. Paul has been involved with non-profits for over thirty years; his first experience being the Center for Great Lakes think-tank, in addition to previously serving on the Board and as an officer at the Alliance for the Great Lakes.
A Chicago native and a jazz pianist – Paul has played backup piano for a local improv troupe and accompanied various jazz groups throughout the city’s music scene (including at several of The Gift events!).
Paul came by his Gift addiction the hard way: during the early 2000s while working in theatre management, he hired John Gawlik as a staff member, who then talked him into hiring Michael Patrick Thornton to direct a play. “It was a lot of fun, along with some gray hairs, but seeing actual theatre pros do their thing up close, helped clarify who should actually be doing that.” Since then, Paul has become a part of the theatre as an audience regular and diligent Board member. “Being part of The Gift’s story this past decade-plus, and getting to know Jefferson Park, has been pure pleasure.”
Catherine Dunlap is an independent consultant focused on proposals, projects, and campaign management for both public and private clients. She has served as a Mayoral Appointee under two Chicago administrations, as part of Governor Pritzker’s Transition Team on Infrastructure, and as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. In addition, Catherine also served as the North Region Manager of the Chicago Park District, where she established the Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse, the Chicago Park District’s only teaching greenhouse.
Catherine’s father was a professional musician, who founded the Beverly Morgan Park Music Club, a South Side jazz non-profit, and often held late night band practice in the basement of their family home. Growing up with a passion for the arts, Catherine’s time spent both on stage and working with production, created a natural segue into her professional life which often finds her staging large-scale public events like Chicago’s Million Mom March.
During her tenure with the Chicago Park District, Catherine also focused on retaining funding for artistic programming for Chicago’s Northwest Side. Coincidentally, The Gift’s Artistic Director Michael Patrick Thornton was also involved with the park district during the same period, winning a Chopin Park Junior Citizen award (which displays Catherine’s name!) however, their paths would not officially cross until years later – at the theatre.
Catherine first attended a production of Northwest Highway (2011) and was intrigued by the dialogue regarding noise pollution, as she was serving on the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission at the time. Then during her first season as a subscriber, Catherine was pulled from the audience by Ensemble Member Cyd Blakewell to finish the production of Dead (written by Craig Wright for TEN); as a cancer survivor, the title and experience was haunting and wonderful – and she was hooked.
“The By-laws of The Gift contain a commitment to remain in Jefferson Park. The Northwest Side is almost a desert when it comes to map theatre, and The Gift does world class work and will always remain here. Astounding.” Another memorable production, War of the Worlds (2013), Catherine notes, “It was amazing. The artists are friendly, approachable, and appreciative – there’s no showboating. You have the chops, but you also have to have a good soul, and that’s who The Gift Ensemble and guest artists are.”
Danielle Gallet is a water resource strategist and urban planner with over twenty years of project and business management experience. Her work involves designing and implementing strategies and policies that solve current issues related to water management and her projects span regional, national, and international borders. Danielle is a sought-after public speaker in addition to being an Adjunct Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago where she teaches a Graduate-level course on water policy and management. Prior to her work in water services and urban planning, Danielle worked in the private equity field for seven years, which provides her with a unique perspective on the relationship between financial markets, the built environment, and natural resource management.
Danielle is a member of the American Water Works Association (AWWA); she currently serves on the national Water Loss Control Committee and was the prior Chair of the Water Efficiency Committee for the Illinois Section. She is also a member of the International Water Association, and the American Planning Association (APA) where she serves as part of the national Water Working Group. Danielle has a BA in Business Management and an MA in Urban Planning and Policy.
Danielle was introduced to The Gift when her father gifted her a season subscription for Christmas. After taking in all the amazing performances during that 2006 Season—which featured Hurlyburly, The Clearing, and The Good Thief—she practically tackled Michael Patrick Thornton in the vestibule post-show, insisting on helping in some way. Over the years, Danielle has helped develop marketing and promotional ideas including the Come Closer tagline and event series, and finally joined the Board in 2018. With a background in the performing arts as a dancer and choreographer, Danielle is passionate about the arts and creative expression, and is most grateful to be a part of The Gift family.
Lori Dimun is the President and CEO of the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. She leads the artistic and organizational vision of the Harris Theater, serving its mission to be a home for music and dance, connecting diverse audiences with outstanding artists from across the city of Chicago and around the world.
Prior to joining the Harris Theater, Lori spent seven years in event management at Steppenwolf Theatre, and two years as a high school theatre educator. She is a graduate of the University of Chicago’s Civic Leadership Academy and holds a M.Ed. in Secondary Education and a BA in Theatre from Drury University in Springfield, MO.
While at Steppenwolf, Lori had the pleasure of working with and getting to know the founders of The Gift, Michael Patrick Thornton and Will Nedved, as well as many of the artists that make up The Gift’s brilliant Ensemble. “I was immediately drawn to the care and respect The Gift shares as an ensemble of artists and the incredible voices it represents on its stage. To me, The Gift represents the best of what Chicago theatre can and should be for artists, audiences, funders, and our neighborhoods. I feel lucky to be part of The Gift family.”
Co-Founder of Steppenwolf Theatre Company
Jeff Perry is an actor, teacher, and co-founder of The Steppenwolf Theatre Company, where he has served as Steppenwolf’s Artist Director and has been an integral part to the founding of the School at Steppenwolf, where he continues to teach and direct. Perry has acted in—and occasionally directed—more than 40 Steppenwolf productions. His many acting credits at Steppenwolf include Balm in Gilead, The Time of Your Life, Picasso at Lapin Agile, 1990 Tony Award-winning The Grapes of Wrath, The Caretaker, and Streamers. In 2008, Perry was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in a Play.
Beyond Perry’s impressive accomplishments in theater, he has also seen success on the big screen and television. After moving to Los Angeles, Perry appeared in several films, including Remember My Name, A Wedding, The Grifters, Storyville, Wild Things, and The Human Stain. He also has numerous television credits, including his role as Inspector Harvey Leek on the crime drama Nash Bridges, and recurring roles on My So-Called Life, LA Law, Prison Break, and Scandal.
More recently Perry guest starred on Lost, Fringe, and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. He also notably played Meredith Grey’s estranged father, Thatcher Grey, on the popular drama Grey’s Anatomy.
Jasper Lukose is a versatile media professional focusing the last two decades of his career in broadcasting, corporate communications, and marketing. He spent over eight years as an on-air personality and executive producer with two Chicago radio stations. Currently, Jasper serves in a strategic national role with a publicly traded media company where his experience in broadcasting, marketing, business development, and intellectual property law blend to create revenue opportunities for over 100 radio stations around the country.
Jasper also has a background in education and has taught media and public relations at the undergraduate level. Outside of the media arena, Jasper has served in key leadership roles in non-profit organizations, concentrating his efforts in corporate training and board governance, brand management, and investor/donor affairs.
Jasper has a passion for the arts and has been involved with various expressions of art from a young age. Jasper was introduced to The Gift by a colleague in law school who shares a mutual passion for the theatre. As a member of The Gift board, Jasper hopes to continue to raise awareness about the importance of the arts, and to cultivate opportunities for artistic expression in and around Chicago.
Jasper is a graduate of the Moody Bible Institute (B.A.), Benedictine University (M.B.A), and The John Marshall Law School (J.D.).