Community Theatre has been a part of Grand Rapids since its earliest days. Madison Square Theatrical Company performed in 1882 and the Majestic Theatre, now housing Civic Theatre, opened in 1903. It reached new heights in the mid-fifties with the arrival on the scene of matriarchs Norma Brink and Marti Childs. By the early 60’s, Paul Dreher was at the helm of Civic. These local legends, all of whom have sadly passed away, helped create one of the most unique and successful volunteer-driven theatre communities in the country. What did they do to make it a success? How is Grand Rapids unique in the national framework? These are questions not easily answered without these great leaders. With the added loss of Dave Nicolette, theatre reviewer and Cedric Ward, founder of the African-American theatre troupe, Robeson Players we are left with a great void in our understanding. However, their voices and works live on in those with us today and its time to capture those stories.
The Emmy award winning production company, Fubble Entertainment, in collaboration with Actors’ Theatre and many West Michigan community theatres, have started a campaign to raise the needed dollars to research our past, interview those with us today and document what we have learned in an effort to celebrate our successes and understand what makes Grand Rapids a leader in this experience. “A greater understanding of our past informs our future,” offers producer Patrick Ziegler. “And it ensures we not only remain a leader on the national stage serving all of Grand Rapids, but continue to grow our thriving, impact-full theatre community,” says producer Teresa Thome. Kyle Los, Executive Director for Actors' Theatre is thrilled to announce that "the project has received its first grant award from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation." He adds, "This will only be made possible through the generosity of our community. We are grateful that GRCF has helped us to get this underway."
The documentary will be made possible only through tax-deductible contributions made to Actors’ Theatre. Any proceeds will benefit participating theatres including, but not limited to: Actors’ Theatre, Jewish Theatre, Civic Theatre, Circle Theatre, Heritage Theatre, Ebony Road Players and Mixed Roots Collective.
Members of the community with stories and photos or video to share are encouraged to visit the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/GRTdocu
The documentary will be made available for purchase via the website: GRTheatreDocumentary.com It will also be delivered to libraries locally and nationally. Additional plans for other ways to deliver the content are in development.