The Williamston Theatre is a non-profit organization, with a board of directors that provides guidance and oversight, and a dedicated staff of theatre professionals.
The Theatre was founded in 2004 by four theatre professionals who desired to create theatre for, by and about people in this part of the world. In 2008, Tony Caselli, John Lepard, Christine Purchis and Emily Sutton-Smith received the prestigious Robert Busby Award from the Lansing State Journal for extraordinary overall contributions to theatre in the Greater Lansing area. In 2014, the Williamston Theatre was selected by the American Theatre Wing as one of the top twelve up-and-coming small theatre companies in the country with their National Theatre Company Award.
John Lepard, Executive Director
John has been acting professionally since he joined the Screen Actors Guild in 1991. Over the years, he has worked at such venues as The Signature Theatre in New York, St. Louis Rep, Hartford Stage, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, The Gem in Detroit, and Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC. He has also been featured in over 20 films and Television series. John received his BA in Theatre from Michigan State University and his MFA in Acting from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Recent appearances on Michigan stages include Frankie and Johnny in the Clair De Lune (Thespie Award, Best Actor), This Wonderful Life (Pulsar Award, Best Actor, Wilde Award, Best Actor), Leaving Iowa (World Premiere, Thespie Award, Best Actor, Detroit Free Press Award, Best Actor), Bus Stop (Wilde Award, Best Supporting Actor, Detroit Free Press Award, Best Supporting Actor). Since opening the Williamston Theatre, John has directed over 15 plays including The Lion In Winter, Talley’s Folly, The Effect of Gamma Rays…, While We Were Bowling (Pulsar Award, Best Director and Best Play) and Ebenezer (World Premier). John is also an adjunct professor at Michigan State University, where he has served as guest host for the MSU Federal Credit Union Guest Artist Series, and interviewed Brian Bedford and Tony Kushner at the Wharton Center. He lives in Williamston with his wife, son and daughter.
Tony Caselli, Artistic DirectorTony has been honored to direct over 70 professional productions at wonderful places such as the Williamston Theatre, City Theatre, Tipping Point Theatre, Performance Network Theatre, Meadow Brook Theatre, Gem Theatre, Purple Rose Theatre Company, Jewish Ensemble Theatre, Urban Stages (Manhattan) and Studio Arena Theatre (Buffalo, New York). Other notable credits include serving as Associate Artistic Director for The Purple Rose Theatre Company, and directing the world premiere of Mitch Albom’s play Ernie, at the City Theatre in Detroit. He’s been named Best Director for various productions by several publications including the Lansing State Journal, the Detroit Free Press and the Ann Arbor News, and has won Wilde Awards for directing 1984, boom, Oedipus, It Came From Mars, Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol and Take Me Out. A Michigan native, Tony received his degree in Theatre from Eastern Michigan University, and is a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, the union for professional stage directors. He lives in Chelsea, Michigan, with his wife Jeanne, children Max and Maggie, and dogs Sneakers and FlipFlop. www.tonycaselli.com
Christine Purchis, Managing DirectorChristine has been involved with theatre since she was in elementary school and has experience as an actor, stage manager, backstage crew, box office manager, house manager and company manager. She received her BS in Arts Management from Eastern Michigan University and has worked for over 13 years as a theatre administrator in such varied places as the EMU Theatre Department, Cherry County Playhouse, Chelsea Area Players, Big Pickle Productions, Greenhouse Theatre Company and the Purple Rose Theatre Company. Chris has lived all over the country but found her home in Michigan in 1979 and has been here ever since. She now lives in Dexter with her husband and stepson.
Emily Sutton-Smith, Development DirectorEmily is an actress and arts administrator. Appearances on the WT stage include Out of Orbit, Doublewide, Summer Retreat, Too Much, Too Much, Too Many, Miracle on South Division Street (2015 Wilde Award, Best Actress in a Comedy), End Days, The Usual: A Musical Love Story (with music by her brother Mark Sutton-Smith), The Smell of the Kill, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds (2009 Best Actress Thespie Award, Lansing State Journal), Maidens, Mothers and Crones and Additional Particulars. A New York City native, she has worked onstage at almost all the Equity Theatres in Michigan, including the Purple Rose Theatre, Performance Network Theatre, Tipping Point Theatre, the Detroit Rep, Boarshead Theatre, the Jewish Ensemble Theatre, and MeadowBrook Theatre. Emily is a proud member of the Actors’ Equity Association and SAG/AFTRA. Film and TV credits include: The Funeral Guest, Gifted Hands, Butterfly Effect: Revelation, The Prince of Motor City and Nevermore. Emily is the narrator of over 150 audio books (available on Audible.com), studied acting at the Atlantic Theatre Company in New York City, and holds a Grande Diploma in Pastry Arts from the French Culinary Institute. She received her Master of Fine Arts degree from Michigan State University. emilysuttonsmith.com
Aaron Delnay, Technical DirectorAaron has worked in both academic and professional theatre since 2013. He graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a Bachelors in Entertainment, Design, & Technology in 2017. He has been a member of the Michigan Shakespeare Festival (2014-2018), working as a Master Carpenter and Production Technical Director. In 2018, he joined the Williamston Theatre as an apprentice, and in 2019, became its first in house Technical Director. He resides in Lansing, and is an avid painter and poet.
Holly Iler, Box Office AssistantHolly is a costume designer, textile artist and photographer. She has been a professional costume designer for over 20 years. Her work has appeared on the stages of Williamston Theatre, Stormfield Theatre, BoarsHead Theatre, Riverwalk Theatre, OHS, Peppermint Creek Theatre Company and MSU to name a few. Some favorite shows include, an all tie-dyed production of The Comedy of Errors (BHT 2005) for which she received a Thespie Award for best costume design from The Lansing State Journal, The Taming (WT 2017) which won a Wilde Award for best costume design and Doublewide (WT 2018) which mark her 100th professional show as a costume designer. Holly is a graduate of Sienna Heights University where she studied fashion merchandising, textile art and philosophy. She has also studied historic costume and textiles at MSU and website design and computer programming at LCC.
Ariel Sheets, 2019-2020 ApprenticeAriel graduated from Siena Heights University in May 2019 and double majored getting a BA in Theatre/Speech Communications and a BA in Art. She focused on stage management, but also explored set design and lighting design. Some of Ariel’s favorite shows that she worked on while at Siena Heights were Thoroughly Modern Millie, It Came from Mars, She Loves Me and Addams Family. Before joining Williamston Theatre, she worked at The Croswell Opera for two summers mainly working in properties, but was also heavily involved in the construction and painting of the sets. She is very excited and honored to be one of the apprentices at Williamston Theatre this year and looks forward to furthering her career in professional theatre.