The mission of Circle Theatre is to enrich, entertain and educate our community through exceptional theatrical arts in an intimate setting.
The shared vision of Circle Theatre is:
Enriching the quality of life throughout West Michigan, by
- Presenting innovative and entertaining theatre experiences recognized and appreciated for their artistic merit and popularity.
- Engaging and welcoming audiences, production staff and volunteers from all the diverse segments of our community with multi-faceted programming.
- Inspiring and helping children and adults make theatre an active part of their lives through educational opportunities.
- Fostering an enthusiastic, respected and hard working team of artists, staff and volunteers.
- Collaborating with a diverse group of community organizations to foster innovative and effective programming.
- Supporting its programming through fiscally sound initiatives.
History of Circle Theatre
Grand Rapids Community Summer Theatre (also known as Circle at the Rowe) was conceived in 1952 and held its first season in 1953. It was housed in the Rowe Hotel, at the corner of Bridge Street and Monroe, for eight years, during which time the theater grew and flourished. Because of the shape of the rented room, it was decided that the play performance area should be arena-style or, in the round with the audience seated around the actors.
Though two of its founders left after several years, those who remained created a Board of Directors in 1956. The Board decided to use local directors for productions with one guest director each year. Arena theatre was so new that a representative from the Michigan State University Theatre Department was asked to present workshops for prospective directors, incorporating the technical aspects of directing in the round.
In 1962, a change in the Rowe Hotel ownership forced Circle to find a new home.
The Pantlind Hotel (now the Amway Grand Plaza) offered its Continental Room, which offered similar elegant ambience and dining options as the Rowe. However, after two years of competing with the noise emanating from the Back Room Saloon, the theatre sought another venue.
Sitting in the middle of John Ball Park was a boarded up pavilion, long in disuse, save for the basement which housed the Zoo's caged monkey families during the cold months. It was a far cry from crystal chandeliers and brocades. But when Park's Superintendent Fred See suggested the facility as a new home for Circle, the Board approved. With the help of park personnel, Circle volunteers freshened the building with a new roof, paint and canvas drops for the open sides, just in time for the start of the Theatre's twelfth season.
Circle's new home came complete with animal smells and sounds, buzzing and biting insects and Mother Nature's other surprises, all which seemed perfect for the Theatre's informal, intimate arena.
The high quality of productions continued through the sixties during which time Circle tapped those actors who showed interest in directing. It also saw many changes, including the addition of Magic Circle, which presents plays for children; the hiring of professional directors; and, new permanent seats replacing the canvas chairs.
The Pavilion in John Ball Park remained Circle's home for 40 years, but with growing audiences and a need for more technically adequate facilities to produce the high quality entertainment patrons have grown to love, Circle Theatre sought a new home and ended its search in a partnership formed with Catholic Secondary Schools and Aquinas College with the opening of a new Performing Arts Center at the College in 2003.
Circle Theatre Staff
Lynne Brown Tepper, Executive and Artistic Director
[email protected] | (616) 632-1982
Noddea Skidmore, Director of Creative and Audience Development
[email protected] | (616) 632-1987
Ashlee Lambart, Marketing and Outreach Specialist
[email protected] | (616) 632-1983
Lisa Mathias, Financial Accounts Coordinator
[email protected] | (616) 632-1984
Don Wilson, Resident Scenic Designer and Technical Director
[email protected] | (616) 632-2988
Michelle Matson, Box Office Manager
[email protected] | (616) 632-2997
Bill Dunckel, Costume Shop Manager
[email protected] | (616) 632-5887
Board of Directors
President: Derek Call
Director of Operations and Production/Special Events, ArtPrize
Vice President: Lynn Atkins-Rykert
Coordinator, Aquinas College
Second Vice President: Mark Schmidbauer
Conferencing and Event Services, Aquinas College
Secretary: Jeff Kemperman
Assistant Prosecutor, Kent County Prosecutors' Office
Treasurer: Bob Lowry
Director – Global Audit Services, Steelcase Inc.
Past President: Brian Bakkila
Owner, Afendoulis Cleaners and Tuxedos
Founder and Executive Director, Lainie's Angels
Host and Producer, WGVU NPR/PBS
R. Scott Keller
Partner, Warner Norcross + Judd
Director of Sales and Marketing, Grand Rapids Drive
Staff Writer, Serendipity Publishing