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History

  • 2005 Ribbon Cutting

    2005

    The Williamston Theatre began as the Williamston Theatre Project in the spring of 2004 when four Michigan-based theatre professionals - actor John Lepard, director Tony Caselli, arts administrator Christine Purchis and actress and producer Emily Sutton-Smith - chose Williamston as a location to found a not-for-profit, small, professional live theatre company. Throughout 2005, the four founders worked to develop their business plan, secure support for the project and raise awareness in the community.

  • Group

    2006

    In late 2005, local business leader Steve Zynda pledged to support the Theatre by underwriting its facility expenses. After a thorough evaluation, the property at 122 South Putnam Street in downtown Williamston was deemed suitable as a theatre space. Community volunteers rallied around the effort to open the Theatre and spent literally hundreds of man-hours building, painting and remodeling the former retail space to be a workable black box theatre with eighty-eight seats. Additional Particulars, a comedy by Ed Simpson, was the Theatre’s first full production and opened in June 2006.

  • Rounding Third 2006

    2006

    During the first full season, the Detroit Free Press named the WT production of Rounding Third as one of the Top Ten Shows of 2006.

  • While We Were Bowling photo

    2007

    Williamston Theatre launched a partnership with Michigan State University’s Department of Theatre to continue the development of the next generation of theatre professionals through collaborative working experiences. Since then, the Williamston Theatre has provided dozens of job opportunities to young, early-career Michigan theatre professionals, both on stage and off. Many MSU Department of Theatre students have started their journey to Actors’ Equity Association union membership at the Williamston Theatre through their work both onstage and offstage.

  • Maidens Photo

    2008

    The Williamston Theatre developed a groundbreaking trilogy of new plays called Voices From The Midwest. Taking place over the course of three seasons, these new works were developed through an interactive process with Midwesterners throughout the region. Spearheaded by playwright/creators Tony Caselli, Annie Martin, Suzi Regan, Joseph Zettelmaier and Dennis E. North, the works garnered both critical and audience praise and won numerous awards. Maidens, Mothers and Crones: Voices From Women of the Midwest debuted in 2008. Flyover, USA: Voices From Men of the Midwest debuted in 2009. Home: Voices From Families of the Midwest debuted in 2010. All three are available for production through the Williamston Theatre.

  • Founders 2008

    2008

    In 2008, the Lansing State Journal Awarded the Theatre and its four founders the prestigious Robert Busby Award for extraordinary contribution to theatre in the Greater Lansing Area. That same year, the Williamston Area Chamber of Commerce named the Theatre as the Chamber Member of the Year for their contribution to the vitality and economic health of the downtown area.

  • Panache Photo

    2009

    Panache, Directed by Suzi Regan, wins Wilde Awards for Best Comedy and Best Actor in a Comedy for Alex Leydenfrost. Bartley H. Bauer wins a Thespie Award for Best Scenic Design. The cast features Matt Hollerbach, Keith Kalinowski, Sarab Kamoo, Alex Leydenfrost, and Maggie Meyer.

  • toilet photo

    2009

    September finds the building abuzz with activity. HVAC duct work is getting improved, old wallpaper from the 1980s is being peeled off the walls in the front lobby, and in the back lobby new bathrooms are being installed. This allows the team to remove the single bathroom facility that had been inside the Theatre space and in use as the women’s restroom for three seasons. Capacity increased from 88 to almost 100.

  • It Came From Mars photo

    2010

    It Came From Mars, directed by Tony Caselli, wins a slew of awards include Thespie Awards for Best Director, Best Ensemble, and Best Original Script, Wilde Awards for Best Production of a New Script, Best Actor in a Comedy (Jacob Hodgson), Best Prop Design (Charles Sutherland), an American Theatre Critics Association/Steinberg New Play Award Nomination, and is named a Top Show of 2010 by the Detroit Free Press. The cast features Joseph Albright, Sandra Birch, Morgan Chard, Jacob Hodgson, Alysia Kolascz, and Wayne David Parker.

  • Oedipus photo

    2011

    Oedipus, adapted by Tony Caselli and Annie Martin and directed by Tony Caselli, wins Wilde Awards for Best Drama and Best Actor in a Drama for John M. Manfredi. The cast features Sandra Birch, Barton Bund, John M. Manfredi, Brandon Piper, and Jamie Weeder.

  • Dead Man's Shoes photo

    2012

    Dead Man’s Shoes, written by Joseph Zettelmaier and directed by David Wolber, wins a Wilde Award, a Pulsar Award, and a Thespie Award for Best New Script or World Premiere Show. The Thespie committee gives a special mention to Aral Gribble for his off-beat comedic excellence. Kirk Domer’s unique set features 18 locations painted on a backdrop spun on a winch by cast members Aral Gribble, Paul Hopper, Maggie Meyer, and Drew Parker.

  • boom photo

    2012

    boom, directed by Tony Caselli, wins a Wilde Award for Best Comedy and a Pulsar Award for Best Play. The cast includes Aral Gribble, Sarab Kamoo, and Alissa Nordmoe.

  • The Lion in Winter photo

    2014

    John M. Manfredi and Sandra Birch win a Wilde Award for Best Duo in The Lion in Winter, the story of the tumultuous relationship between Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. They were directed by John Lepard and shared the stage with MSU students Michael Barbour, Andrew Buck, Andrew Head, Katie Maggart, and Blaine Mizer.

  • ATW award photo

    2014

    The American Theatre Wing recognizes the Williamston Theatre as one of the top twelve up-and-coming young theatres across the country with a National Theatre Company Grant Award. Founders Tony Caselli and Emily Sutton-Smith travel to New York City to accept the award.

  • Ribbon cutting 2015

    2015

    On December 30, 2014, with the support of major donors to the Theatre, the organization took ownership of its building at 122 S. Putnam Street in Williamston, securing its home in Central Michigan for the long term. In August of 2015, the building was renamed the Zynda Building, home of the Williamston Theatre.

  • Pulp photo

    2016

    The Theatre produces its first National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere with Joseph Zettelmaier’s Pulp. The show is directed by Tony Caselli and features Joe Bailey, Mark Colson, Aral Gribble, Alysia Kolascz, and John Lepard in the cast.

  • Anthology cover

    2016

    In celebration of ten years of production, the Theatre publishes a two-volume anthology of plays that had their world premieres on the Williamston Theatre stage.

  • 1984 photo

    2017

    Audiences are riveted by the Theatre’s production of 1984, directed by Tony Caselli. Critics love it too, and it wins Wilde Awards for Best Play and Best Actor (David Wolber). The cast features Tobin Hissong, Curran Jacobs, John Lepard, Robin Lewis-Bedz, Brandy Joe Plambeck, and David Wolber.

  • To Quiet The Quiet photo

    2019

    The world premiere production of To Quiet The Quiet by Christy Hall wins Pulsar Awards for Best Original Script, Best Supporting Actor (John Lepard), Best Props Design (Michelle Raymond), and a Wilde Award for Best Original Production.

  • New Booth photo

    2019

    After years of planning, the first step is taken toward removing the structural poles in the performance space. A new stage management booth is constructed in the back lobby, with an unobstructed view of the entire stage and all audience sections. The old booth is removed from the southwest corner of the space and a new aisle to the back lobby is created.

  • 900 Miles photo

    2020

    The world premiere of Annie Martin’s 900 Miles To International Falls wins a slew of awards including: Wilde Awards for Best Drama, Best New Script, Best Director, Best Actress (Casaundra Freeman), Best Supporting Actor (jøn kent), Best Visual Design using Multimedia (Alison Dobbins), and Best Prop Design (Michelle Raymond); Thespie Awards for Best Original Script, Best Media Design (Alison Dobbins), Best Featured Actress (Heather Mahoney); and Pulsar Awards for Best Play, Best Original Script, Best Director (Tony Caselli), Best Lighting Design (Reid Johnson), Best Specialization (Media-Alison Dobbins), and Best Supporting Actress (Heather Mahoney). The cast features Darah Donaher, Casaundra Freeman, jøn kent, Heather Mahoney, and Karen Sheridan.

  • These Mortal Hosts photo

    2020

    In the wake of the sudden Covid-19 pandemic and shut down, the Theatre’s production of These Mortal Hosts is turned into a film and released online during the lockdown. The play/film hybrid is directed by Paige Conway and features Mark Colson, Anna Ryzenga, and Emily Sutton-Smith.

  • Emily at mic

    2021

    As the Covid-19 health crisis continued and in-person events were still risky, the Theatre team launched the Strolling Stories Series to offer audio storytelling experiences to its audiences.

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