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Gift Theatre’s 2016-2017 season showcase for female playwrights

Michael Patrick Thornton, artistic director of The Gift Theatre. (Photo: Claire Demos)

The Gift Theatre, under the artistic direction of Michael Patrick Thornton, has announced that its 2017 season will feature of three world premieres by women playwrights.

The new season, which begins in February, will open with the debut of “Unseen,” Mona Mansour’s drama of a war photographer, to be followed by Claire Kiechel’s futuristic “Pilgrims” and Janine Nabers’ time-hopping love story, “A Swell in the Ground.”

In a prepared statement Thornton onserved: “The Gift’s season is dedicated to epic intimacy which explores the question: Who have we become? From an explosive Istanbul, to pioneering spacecraft, to intimate spaces in New York, our 2017 season is about wounded lovers trying their best to recover from trauma. I’m ecstatic that this will be our first season comprised entirely of world premieres by women playwrights.”

The Gift Theatre also announced that funding for 4802—the new play research and development wing of The Gift—is complete. In 4802, artists/artistic teams will be given residencies in the Gift Theatre’s storefront, providing dedicated tailor-made time, space, and support for their work. (Applications for 4802 will be live at on Sept. 1, 2016.)

4802 exists for one purpose: To nurture the creation of vital works of theater that explore and explode what is possible in a storefront space,” said the program’s co-director, Andrew Hinderaker. “We want to nurture the development of theater pieces that celebrate the strengths of storefronts while dreaming the boundaries of our form bigger: Plays that draw on the unique resources and talents of The Gift Theatre, while furthering the growth of our own company and ensemble; plays that kick the door open to populations all too often left out in the cold; and plays that make the Chicago storefront—and The Gift Theatre—a center for vital new American plays.”

As usual, The Gift’s year will begin in January with “TEN” (Jan. 5-8 and Jan. 12-15), the theater’s annual celebration of world premiere ten-minute pieces by The Gift and guests, curated by Thornton and associate artistic director Paul D’Addario.

Here is a closer look at The gift’s 2017 season:

+ “Unseen,” (Feb. 10 – April 19, 2017), by Mona Mansour, directed by ensemble member Maureen Payne Hahner. Conflict photographer Mia wakes up in the Istanbul apartment of her on-again, off-again girlfriend after being found unconscious at the scene of a massacre she was photographing. Mia can’t even remember being there, but she wired photos of the site hours before being found. The two women resume their volatile push-pull when Mia’s well-meaning Californian mother arrives from the United States, trying to help unravel the mystery of what happened to her daughter.

+ “Pilgrims,” (June 2 – July 30, 2017), by Claire Kiechel, directed by ensemble member Michael Patrick Thornton and guest artist Jessica Thebus. On a spacecraft on its way to colonize a newly discovered planet, a soldier and a young girl live together in one of the ship’s cabins with only an outdated robot and each other for company. When they are quarantined in their close quarters due to a potential outbreak, they’re forced to explore their own traumatic pasts in a dying society through risqué role-playing and dangerous games.

+ “A Swell in the Ground,” (Oct. 13 – Dec. 10, 2017), by Janine Nabers, directed by guest artist Chika Ike. In intimate rooms throughout New York, four friends from college fight through 17 years of love affairs, shattered dreams and compromised lives. Flipping back and forth through time like a photobook, this play, whose title is from a line in an Emily Dickinson poem, looks at how Olivia, Nate, Abigail, and Charles try to reconcile the lives they imagined with the lives they live.

The Gift season subscription, including admission to the two remaining plays of 2017 – “The Grapes of Wrath” (a superb production that runs through Aug. 14), and “A Life Extra Ordinary,” a world premiere mystery by Melissa Ross, are now available. Call (773) 283-7071 or visit