unnamed (2)The Gift Theatre artistic director Michael Patrick Thornton announces the world premiere of intriguing and touching drama The Royal Society of Antarctica by Naperville native Mat Smart (whose play Naperville, which opened Off-Broadway in November, is a New York Times Critics’ Pick). The Royal Society of Antarctica is directed by Gift ensemble member John Gawlik and features Gift ensemble members Paul D’Addario (Bethany), Lynda Newton (Thinner Than Water), John Connolly (Broadsword), Jay Worthington (Thinner Than Water) and Brittany Burch (Othello) with guest artists Aila Peck (Promethean Theatre’s The Lark), Brian Keys (Profiles Theatre’s Hellcab) and Kyle Zornes (Artistic Director of The Gift’s Natural Gas).

Gift ensemble members: Paul D’Addario, Lynda Newton, John Connolly, Jay Worthington and Brittany Burch

The Royal Society of Antarctica, follows Dee (Aila Peck) as she returns to her birthplace at the blindingly bright McMurdo Station in Antarctica to work as a janitor and seek answers to her mother’s disappearance in this wonderfully weird and touching new play perfectly suited to The Gift’s intimate space.

Playwright Mat Smart is the recipient of the 2014 Otis Guernsey New Voices Award from the William Inge Center for the Arts. Plays include Naperville (Slant Theatre Project), Samuel J. and K. (Williamstown Theatre Festival, Steppenwolf for Young Adults), The Steadfast (Slant Theatre Project), Tinkers to Evers to Chance (Geva), The Hopper Collection (Magic Theatre, Huntington Theatre Company) and The 13th of Paris (City Theatre, Seattle Public Theatre, Horizon Theatre, Warehouse Theatre, LiveWire). He has been commissioned by South Coast Rep, Huntington and Denver Center Theatre Company. An avid baseball fan and traveler, Mat has been to all 30 of the current MLB stadiums, all 50 states and six continents. He is currently a member of the Dorothy Strelsin New American Writers Group at Primary Stages.

Sheldon Patinkin, Gift ensemble member and vital figure in the development of improv in Chicago, was originally set to direct The Royal Society of Antarctica before his passing in September.

“Sheldon loved the play, but he wanted to push me further,” says Smart. “It’s a three-act play, and he felt that the end of the second act needed more of a cliffhanger. I knew he was right, and that prompted me to do a big rewrite this summer.

“I went to the bottom of the world to find this play—working as a janitor for three months at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. It’s perfect that it will premiere in my hometown at The Gift.”

“We are thrilled to give Mat’s quirky and beautiful play its premiere,” says Thornton. “For over 12 years, Sheldon taught The Gift how to be an ensemble, and it’s painfully bittersweet but also kind of perfect that Mat’s play—about unlikely ensembles—was the last play Sheldon ever worked on. I’m overjoyed they got a chance to collaborate. There is no artist at The Gift better suited to take over the reins than ensemble member John Gawlik. John has been a keen nurturer and director of our most blazing premieres, a staunch advocate for new voices, and together he and Mat will bring our audience on an unforgettable journey.”

The Royal Society of Antarctica previews run February 26 – March 1 at The Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee Avenue. Opening night is Thursday, March 5. The show runs Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. through April 26. Single tickets, $25-$35, are available at or by calling the box office at 773-283-7071.


Brittany Burch – Tamara

John Connolly – Ace

Paul D’Addario – UT Tom

Brian Keys – Miller

Lynda Newton – Pam

Aila Peck – Dee
Jay Worthington – UT Tim
Kyle Zornes – Jake

About The Gift Theatre

The Gift Theatre is dedicated to telling great stories on stage with honesty and simplicity. Most recent productions include: Bethany, Othello, Thinner Than Water, TEN 2014; Broadsword, Mine, and Vigils. The company also sponsors the giftED Ensemble, a rigorous two-year afterschool course for creative and motivated high school students on Chicago’s Northwest side, and the literary program/Salon Series giftLIT.

The 2015 Season begins in January with TEN, The Gift’s annual kickoff celebration of ten-minute plays curated by artistic director Michael Patrick Thornton and associate artistic director Paul D’Addario. Following Mat Smart’s The Royal Society of Antarctica (March 5-April 26), director Marti Lyons (Bethany) returns for Body & Blood written by Gift Co-Founder, William Nedved (June 15- August 9). The season closes with David Rabe’s (Hurlyburly, Streamers) Good For Otto (September 25-November 23) directed by Gift Co-Founder and Artistic Director, Michael Patrick Thornton. Subscriptions for the entire 2015 season, which includes three world premieres, are available for as little as $75. The Gift subscribers (“Gifters”) receive admission to three shows, free parking at Gale Street Inn, free admission to all Wednesday night “Natural Gas” improv shows and invitations to special subscriber-only special events. Subscribe at or call 773-283-7071.

The Gift Theatre is conveniently located at 4802 N. Milwaukee in Chicago’s Jefferson Park neighborhood, and is easily accessible by the CTA Blue Line, the Lawrence and Milwaukee Avenue buses and the Kennedy Expressway. For more information about The Gift Theatre’s productions and programs, visit