Gabriele Frontera and Nick Manhattan (aka Gabriele Schafer and Nick Fracaro) are the directors of Thieves Theatre, a group founded in 1981. Its stated aesthetic in an early brochure was:

"to exchange identities with and articulate the voices of those who are stigmatized, quarantined, disenfranchised. The task is to break through the barriers between us and them in order to find the common ground on which true community is dependent. Our endeavor is to achieve all the elements necessary for a dialogue towards a more permanent reconciliation."

But perhaps the essential motivation for the tipi project and, in fact, the force behind the entire history of the company could be seen as an ongoing romance with the outlaw; a continuing study of the unconsciously dissident.

Thieves Theatre's name and guiding inspiration are derived from the writings and life of Jean Genet. The company grew from a 1981 production of Genet's Deathwatch at the Illinois State Penitentiary in collaboration with an inmate drama group called The Con Artistes. Choosing the penitentiary was an aesthetic decision; the idea of site-specific extended into the choice of actors and later came to incorporate "real-life specific", if you will -- not ignoring the reality of the circumstances behind the forth wall. Stemming from a dissatisfaction with the insular nature of most theatre, the goal was to place the text into a meaningful context. Too much theatre takes place in the context of theatre and, as a result, the reverberations never leave the theatre. The context found with Deathwatch and explored further since is that of the disenfranchised; and the power of the disenfranchised when empowered and legitimized by theatre.