Artistic director/co-founder of The Gift Theatre Company, Thornton recently directed John Conroy’s My Kind of Town for Steppenwolf’s First Look Festival as well as Of Mice and Men at Steppenwolf. In addition to his numerous directing credits with The Gift, he has directed We’ve Got Our Own Problems, Natural Gas, Best of Second City Directors’ Showcase at Second City, Picasso At The Lapin Agile (Noble Fool), and Julius Caesar (Crew Of Patches), among others. Thornton was an assistant director of Steppenwolf’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning August: Osage County.


A Jeff Award-winning actor, Thornton most recently appeared in Natural Gas, The Ruby Sunrise, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (The Gift), Museum Pieces (Second City), Messing With A Friend (with Susan Messing), and Steppenwolf’s The Elephant Man. Michael is a graduate of The School at Steppenwolf, The Conservatory Program and Directing Program at Second City, has trained in improv at iO and Annoyance and teaches at Second City, Columbia College, and The School at Steppenwolf. As a playwright, Thornton’s play, The Princess and the Bear, was published in excerpt by Third Coast Press and is being workshopped through a grant from The Second City Foundation.

Michael has received numerous awards including: Chicago Finalist: National Shakespeare Contest (Mitzi-Newhouse Theatre at Lincoln Center, New York), Northlight’s Jack Springer Award for Outstanding Performance, The Second City Foundation’s 2009 Jim Zulevic Chicago Arts Award, The 2009 3Arts Artist Award, and The Joseph Jefferson Award for Solo Performance.

Thornton currently plays Dr. Gabriel Fife on ABC’s “Private Practice.”


PJ Powers was a co-founder of TimeLine Theatre Company in 1997 and became Artistic Director in 1999. He has overseen the production of more than 60 productions, including nine world premieres and more than 20 Chicago premieres. TimeLine has garnered more than 50 Jeff Awards, including eleven for Outstanding Production. During PJ’s tenure, TimeLine launched the TimePieces play reading series and the Living History Educational Outreach Program in Chicago Public Schools, and they have been named “Best Theatre” by Chicago Magazine, the country’s “Company of the year” by the Wall Street Journal and “one of the nation’s top 10 most promising emerging professional theatres” in 2011 by the American Theatre Wing, founder of the Tony Awards. PJ has appeared on stage in more than 20 productions at TimeLine and other Chicago theatres. He served for six years on the Board of Directors for the League of Chicago Theatres, has been featured five times in New City’s articles on “Chicago Theatre’s 50 Leading Characters”, is a proud recipient of the 2008 Meier Achievement Award for mid-career artists and recently received a Goldman Sachs Senior Fellowship at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.


Mark Messing is a composer and musical agitator. He is Musical Director of circus punk marching band Mucca Pazza and has led the band from coast to coast through concert halls, public parks, neighborhood pubs and a dozen canoes on the Chicago River. They have travelled the country with their message of frenetic joy and through their benefit series they have brought funding and exposure to small local community organizations.


He has composed music for numerous independent films including The First Breath of Tengan Rei (2009) by Junko Kajino and Ed M. Koziarski, and has been musical director for hundreds of theater performances. As Musical Director for Redmoon Theater he composed for 100 tiny radios at the Museum of Contemporary Art, a 35-foot drum tree at Millennium Park and musicians on stilts at Puppetropolis.

His new company, Opera-Matic, performs Lullaby Parades on bicycle powered floats in Chicago neighborhoods at twilight.