Actor Michael Patrick Thornton is getting rave reviews for his performance as Shakespeare’s Richard III at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, and for a robotic breakthrough that helped make it all happen. Thornton is the first actor with paraplegia to do a stage performance with an exoskeleton.
A 2003 spinal stroke changed Thornton’s acting career; after his injury he played a continuing role in the TV series “Private Practice” while in a wheelchair. However, the addition of the exoskeleton makes it possible for him to play a role while standing up.
“I remember laying in a hospital bed here not being able to talk; and so to go from there to being onstage with my theater group, the Gift at Steppenwolf,” Thornton said. “It’s been one hell of a trajectory.”