Michael Patrick Thornton

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Michael Patrick Thornton
Occupation TV and theatre actor, director, teacher and playwright

Michael Patrick Thornton is an American actor and theater director. He recently played the character of Dr. Gabriel Fife in the ABC drama series Private Practice. He is a native of Jefferson Park, a neighborhood on Chicago's northwest side.


Artistic director & co-founder of The Gift Theatre, Michael was most recently seen onstage as King Richard III in The Gift Theatre's production of RICHARD III at Steppenwolf in a historic production where Thornton became the first actor to ever act onstage while wearing a robotic exoskeleton. Other recent stage credits include Iago in Othello at The Gift Theatre and in Actors Theatre of Louisville’s 50th anniversary production of Our Town and onstage at The Gift in the world premiere of Hinderaker’s Joseph Jefferson Award-nominated Dirty. Previous stage credits: U.S. premiere of Absolute Hell at The Gift Theatre directed by fellow Gift ensemble member Sheldon Patinkin and the Midwest premiere of Will Eno’s Middletown at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, directed by Les Waters.

Directing credits at The Gift: the world premiere of Gift Ensemble Member David Rabe's Good For Otto, War of the Worlds, the Chicago Premiere of Gift Ensemble Member Will Eno’s Oh, The Humanity (and other exclamations) Prairie View, Night & Her Stars, Stop/Kiss; Santa’s Great American Depression Holiday Show! America; White People; Three Sisters; Long Day’s Journey Into Night; Hurlyburly (Joseph Jefferson Award: Actor In Leading Role); A Young Man In Pieces; Language Of Angels; County Fair; and Orestes 2.0. Elsewhere: Of Mice and Men (Steppenwolf) the World Premieres of Sean Graney’s IS N UR B1UDS7REEM…and Mark Harvey Levine’s LA 8AM (Collaboraction) and Picasso At The Lapin Agile (Noble Fool). Michael was a very grateful assistant director on Steppenwolf’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning August: Osage County.

A Joseph Jefferson Award-winning actor, Michael was honored with a Jeff Nomination for his performance in The Gift’s World Premiere of ensemble member Andrew Hinderaker’s Suicide, Incorporated. Other acting at The Gift: Will Eno’s Brief Study of an Endless Thing and David Rabe’s It’s Just The Moon (TEN: 2013, 2012) The Ruby Sunrise, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, The Good Thief (Joseph Jefferson Award—Solo Performance, directed by Gift ensemble member John Gawlik) and Boys' Life. Elsewhere: Colossal (Kennedy Center/UT-Austin Cohen Fest) Cherry Docs (Next, directed by Kate Buckley) A Skull in Connemara (Northlight—After Dark Award, directed by B.J. Jones) The Day Maggie Blew Off Her Head (Serendipity) Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Ivanhoe) Flanagan's Wake! (Noble Fool) Zoo Story and the title role in Steppenwolf’s The Elephant Man.

A graduate of The School at Steppenwolf, The Second City Conservatory, and The Second City Directing Program, Michael trained at the iO Improv Program, under Mick Napier at Annoyance Theatre, and occasionally teaches at Second City, The School at Steppenwolf, Acting Studio Chicago, and Columbia College. He regularly improvises with Natural Gas, with Susan Messing in Messing With A Friend / Thornton & Messing (seen at Steppenwolf and at The Annoyance thru the TBS Just For Laughs Festival). His two-person improv sets include: with Kyle Zornes in Thornes, Kirby O’Connell in Mike And Kirby: No Suggestioms, Please, and Jillian Burfete in Thornton & Burfete at The Second City. Michael’s two person improv show is called You & Me, most recently seen at Actors Theatre of Louisville, enjoys an open run at Chicago’s Den Theatre.

As a writer, Michael’s plays have been workshopped in New York through Young Playwrights, Inc. and in Chicago through Second City. His play The Princess And The Bear was performed at Western Michigan University and published in excerpt along with his creative non-fiction in Third Coast Press and The Packingtown Review. He is a staff writer for Chicago’s live magazine salon-in-a-saloon, “The Paper Machete” and working on his novel A Low Hum.

TV/Film: Elementary (CBS) The Exorcist (FOX), Dr. Gabriel Fife on ABC’s Private Practice, FOX’s The Chicago Code, Ron Howard’s The Dilemma and the independent feature film The View From Tall by Caitlin Parrish and Gift Ensemble Member Erica Weiss. He lives blissfully in the Jefferson Park neighborhood of Chicago with his wife, the performance artist Lindsey Barlag Thornton. Thornton is a graduate of The School at Steppenwolf and The Conservatory Program and Directing Program at Second City. In 2001 Michael (with Will Nedved) founded The Gift Theatre Company in Jefferson Park, Chicago.[1] He is currently the theater's artistic director.[2] He also teaches at Second City and The School at Steppenwolf.


Awards/distinctions: Tree of Life Award: Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago; Chicago Finalist: National Shakespeare Contest (Mitzi-Newhouse Theatre; Lincoln Center) 3Arts Artist Award; Northlight Theatre’s Jack Springer Award for Outstanding Performance; The Tim Meier & Helen Coburn Meier Foundation Achievement Award, The Second City Foundation’s Jim Zulevic Chicago Arts Award, The Joseph Jefferson Award for Solo Performance and induction into The University of Iowa and St. Patrick High School Hall of Fame.

Personal life[edit]

Thornton suffered a "spinal stroke" on St. Patrick's Day 2003 that left him comatose for three days and paralyzed from the neck down. After vigorous rehabilitation at The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, he subsequently regained some of his mobility, although not full use of either hand. He can walk with the assistance of a walker. He lives in Chicago and is married to the performance artist Lindsey Barlag Thornton.


Feature films[edit]

Year Film Role Other notes
2003 Shut-Eye Mac
2007 Counting Backwards Joe's Father voice
2011 The Dilemma B & V Worker


Year Title Role Other notes
2009–2011 Private Practice Dr. Gabriel Fife 14 episodes (season 3-4)
2011 The Chicago Code Kent Eschelman (CPD Union Rep) "St. Valentine's Day Massacre"
2016 The Jamz Stanton 4 Episodes
2016 The Exorcist Dr. John Rexroth "Chapter Six: Star of the Morning" 2017 Elementary Eli Kotite "Wrong Side of the Road"


External links[edit]