Actors’ Theatre Concentrates on ‘Impacting Works'

Actors’ Theatre 35th Season
143 Bostwick Ave. NE, Grand Rapids, (616) 234-3817

Upcoming shows:
Heathers: The Musical, Oct. 8-10, 15-17 & 22-24

Dogfight, Dec. 3-5, 10-12, 17-19
Grace, Jan. 28-30 & Feb. 4-6
Rapture, Blister, Burn, March 17-19 & 24-26
Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, May 12-14 & 19-21


Since its genesis in 1980, the Actors’ Theatre in Grand Rapids has not only spotlighted local talent, it’s also used its productions to highlight timely, crucial topics.

Past Actors’ Theatre productions include: The Stories of Gay Christians, Angels in America, Corpus Christi and Intimate Apparel — each show is selected in hopes of raising dialogues in the community.

“They perform so many premieres and it’s such cutting-edge theater, as well,” said Jolene Frankey, one of Actors’ Theatre’s directors. “They are willing to push the boundaries and really truthfully examine real life, which theater doesn’t always give you the opportunity to do.”

The Actors’ Theatre, located at 160 Fountain St. NE in Grand Rapids, has another busy roster. The 2015-16 productions include Grace, Rapture, Buster, Burn and Vanya, Dogfight and Sonia and Masha and Spike. The season officially launches Oct. 8 with Heathers: The Musical. Actors’ Theatre also performs original pieces such as Seven Passages: The Stories of Gay Christians, which is now rights-released to other community and professional theaters.

The theatre has never shied away from sensitive topics. When the theatre opened in 1980 it was one of the first local theatres to address the outbreak of AIDS in a production. That passion remains to this day and is prudently planned by the theatre’s organizers.

Selecting a production starts with a few questions: Is the piece challenging to the directors, actors and actresses? Is it thought-provoking? Is it important and relatable to the Grand Rapids community? Does it have innovative writing or design?

“I am really excited about our mission,” said managing director Kyle Los. “We are really refocusing, so part of our mission is that we are doing thought-provoking works, which means we are doing impacting works.”
Actors’ Theatre is a non-profit organization. However, they do provide stipends for their performers.

“We are working towards the future where we as an organization can sustain artists,” Los said. “We are sustaining culture in West Michigan.”

The company receives about 60 percent of its funds from donors, sponsorships, underwriting and grants. The rest of its revenue comes from ticket sales and special events.

The group has many actors, actresses, directors, crewmembers and volunteers participating but there are only two full-time employees. Los, who began working as managing director last November, said in the future the company will optimistically look to add more full-time staff members and beef up its marketing procedures.

“I’m really moving this organization to be a little bit more proactive towards earned income-based revenues so we can become more sustained by the people who are going to the shows,” Los said. “There is a big audience in Grand Rapids that doesn’t come to our shows or any shows in town so we are really trying to change the way we are doing marketing.”

Actors’ Theatre is also looking to enhance their connections with local students by expanding their internship program to every aspect of the theater, not just production. The company currently provides internships and opportunities for volunteers to work on production or behind the scenes.

The ebb and flow of actors, actresses, directors, staff members and crewmembers has circulated through Actors’ Theatre. But since its inception the company hasn’t wandered from its mission of “bringing West Michigan the best in entertaining, innovative, challenging and thought-provoking theatre.”

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