Faculty & Staff

Theatre at Grand Valley Faculty and Staff

Eight full-time faculty and staff direct & design productions, instruct classes, and advise students in GVSU's theatre communications program. All have significant theatre experience and remain professionally active both regionally and nationally.

Our Mission

The School of Communications and its major programs, in agreement with the university’s mission, educates students to shape their lives, their professions, and their societies.  The School of Communications curricula strive to accomplish this within a framework that integrates liberal and professional education.

The Theatre major provides quality undergraduate education and training in theatre within a traditional humanistic liberal arts environment.

Our Vision

A broad education that is rooted in the arts and sciences, as well as education in professional theater, provides students with an understanding of the global history and practice of dramatic art, and trains them in the fundamentals of production and performance.

Our Values

The theatre major values an education in the liberal arts and sciences, and maintains that a liberal education is necessary for both a satisfying personal life and a successful career in theatre. Basic values of an education in theatre arts are self-expression, critical and creative thinking, and an historical and theoretical understanding of dramatic art.

Dr. James A. Bell

Dr. James A. Bell

James A. Bell is a theatre scholar, playwright, and dramaturg. He holds a B.A. in theatre arts from Brigham Young University and a Ph.D. in theatre history, theory, and criticism from Florida State University. Before coming to Grand Valley in 2004, he taught and provided production dramaturgy for numerous productions at Jacksonville University, Florida Community College at Jacksonville, and at Florida State University where he was also involved in university theatre administration. He was the 1994 Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival Student Playwriting Award winner for his play Prisoner, which was subsequently performed at the Kennedy Center and has been published by Samuel French. His other plays have been featured at the Mount Sequoyah New Play Retreat and at the Utah Shakespearean Festival in the Plays in Progress Series, as well as the Egyptian Theatre in Park City, Utah. His play, Autumn in the Valley, which was developed at the Utah Shakespearean Festival had its world premiere production at Grand Valley State University in fall 2006.

Contact Professor Bell at bellja@gvsu.edu

Dr. Roger Ellis

Dr. Roger Ellis is a Professor of Theatre working in professional, community, and university theatres in the United States and abroad. He earned a master’s degree in dramatic literature from the University of Santa Clara, and a doctorate in theatre from the University of California at Berkeley. Dr. Ellis was also active in California as a professional actor and stage director, working for six seasons with the California Shakespeare Festival and the Dell’Arte International Conservatory in northern California. He was also guest director at several west coast institutions including the College of the Redwoods, the College of Marin and the University of Santa Clara. Between 1975 and 1980 he established the acting training program at Grand Valley, and began a long publishing career that now includes fifteen books on the modern theatre. In addition he has published numerous scholarly articles on the modern theatre including play reviews, criticism and feature articles for newspapers. He has also delivered a number of conference presentations at regional and national events over the past three decades, and has led performance workshops for actors and directors in the United States, Western Europe and the Caribbean. Dr. Ellis founded the cultural diversity program in theatre at GVSU in 1992, dedicating one of Grand Valley’s stage productions each year that would deal with issues of cultural conflict, and bringing writers-of-color to campus for workshops and play readings. In 1993 he founded the Grand Valley Shakespeare Festival, where he is still active as actor or director, and where he serves on the Shakespeare Festival Committee. His international work since 1998 includes leading Grand Valley students on four study abroad experiences to Canada and South America where they have participated in international theatre festivals as actors, managers and technicians. In 2000, he served as director of the School of Communications’ International Conference on Augusto Boal, and over the years he has arranged for several international groups to perform at Grand Valley from Venezuela, Japan and Germany. In 2002 he presented a series of performance workshops in movement and acting in Germany, France, Switzerland and Canada; and he has served as the U.S. representative of amateur theatre to international conferences in Morocco, Japan, Korea, Monaco, Cuba, and Venezuela. He is currently a member of the International Committee for the American Association of Community Theatre, and Chair of the Artistic Development Committee for the International Amateur Theatre Association, where he advises that organization on artistic selection of plays and workshop leaders for international festivals. Dr. Ellis has also been active locally with community theatres and arts organizations in the west Michigan Area. He has directed and acted with the Grand Rapids Civic and Community Circle Theatres, as well as for Opera Grand Rapids where he received an award in 1989 for his loyalty, support, leadership and service. His production of THE WHALE’S TALE for the Public Museum in the 1980s helped to launch the opening of the Van Andel Public Museum Center; and he served as managing director for the Ladies Literary Club Classical Theatre between 1989 - 1993. Dr. Ellis teaches courses in acting, global arts, and speech communications, and directs or acts in plays each year. He also edits the international journal IDEACTION, serving the North American Regional Alliance of the International Amateur Theatre Association. He conducts drama classes and directs plays at Grand Rapids high schools, and serves as President of the Theatre Alliance of Michigan representing educational, community and professional stages around the state.

Contact Professor Ellis at ellisr@gvsu.edu

Jill Hamilton

Jill Hamilton is a costume designer who also serves as the University's theatre facilities manager and coordinator for drama and music activities. She earned her M.A. degree in design from the University of Cincinnati, and worked for a number of years with the Minnesota Dance Theatre designing costumes for regional and national touring companies. In the Great Lakes region she has worked for the Guthrie and Cricket Theatres in Minneapolis, and for Cincinnati's Playhouse in the Park. In West Michigan, she has designed for such groups as Hope College, Grand Rapids’ Circle Theatre, and for corporate/industrial promotional shows. Some of her recent production designs at Grand Valley have included costumes for Guys and Dolls, King Henry the Fourth, part one, Idiot’s Delight, Street Scene, Big Love, Hamlet, Ragtime, Secret Garden, The Servant of Two Masters The Rocky Horror Show, Autumn in the Valley, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Cymbeline, A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Candide.

Contact Professor Hamilton at hamiltoj@gvsu.edu

Jack T. Lane

Jack T. Lane is the Box Office and House Manager for the Louis Armstrong Theatre. He has worked in box office management for over 25 years. He has negotiated, booked and managed a national touring Broadway series for over 20 years in Grand Rapids and was a member of the Broadway League. He earned his BA from Western Michigan University and is continuing his Master’s degree in Public Administration at GVSU. He has served twelve years as a school board member for the Lowell Area Schools and currently is serving on the Lowell Arts! for the past nine years.

Contact Jack at lanejack@gvsu.edu

Sally Langa

Sally Langa is the Costume Shop Manager working for both the Theatre department productions and the Music/Opera productions. She has worked for Grand Valley State University since 2001. Sally has a degree in drafting from NCTI. Besides constructing costumes for the theatre department Sally has built costumes for GVSU Dance Program, Grand Rapids Ballet, Hope College Dance, Mason Street Warehouse Theatre, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, West Ottawa High School and Middle School Theatre. She has also designed costumes for Heritage Theatre in Grand Rapids. Some memorable GVSU shows Sally has worked on are Guys and Dolls, Ragtime, Hamlet, Servant of Two Masters, Cymbeline, Secret Garden, Lady from the Sea, Rocky Horror.

Contact Ms. Langa at langas@gvsu.edu

Karen Libman

Karen Libman, Professor of Theatre, holds a B.F.A. from Virginia Commonwealth University and an M.F.A. from Arizona State University. She taught for several years at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, SUNY-Cortland, and Illinois State University before joining the faculty of Grand Valley State University in 1999. National directing credits include Crackerbarrel! (Nebraska Theatre Caravan tour production); The Princess and the Pea, Aladdin (Nebraska Repertory Theatre); A Christmas Carol (Ithaca, New York); The Snow Queen (Mesa, Arizona); and the world premiere of the award-winning play, Rachel's Night (Bloomington, Illinois). Her work has been seen locally at Heritage Theatre, Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, and Grand Rapids Jewish Theatre. GVSU stage productions include the 1999, 2000, 2002, 2006, and 2008 GVSU Shakespeare Festival mainstage shows, the internationally touring 2005 and 2007 Bard to Go, as well as Big Love , Mother Courage and Children and the award-winning Angels in America, Part 1. A professional storyteller, Professor Libman performs at festival, museums, and schools such as the Grand Rapids (MI) Art Museum, the Michigan Storytelling Festival, the Kansas City Storytelling Festival, and The Nebraska Storytelling Festival. She has been active in many national and international organizations including the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, the International Drama Education Association, and the National Storytelling Association. Her published work can be seen in such journals as Arts Education Policy Review, Teaching Theatre, Youth Theatre Journal, and Research in Drama Education; and she was the Editor of the quarterly journal STAGE of the Art (published by the American Alliance for Theatre and Education) from 1999-2001. During her 2002 sabbatical, she was a Guest Instructor at the Kaplan Center for Educational Drama at New York University. She also premiered the one-woman show, Virginia Woolf: the Last Day, which was written for her by Florida Playwright Richard Janaro. The Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Association honored Libman for her Meritorious Achievement in Directing in 1999, and she was named the Woman Artist of the Year by the Lincoln-Lancaster Women's Commission in 1998. In 2006, she was honored by the university with the Women and Gender Studies Program Barbara Jordan Award, and in 2008 she received the AATE 2008 Lin Wright Special Recognition Award, giving her national recognition for her work with the Grand Valley Bard to Go Program. Her interest in excellence in teaching dates to her work with standards in arts education (she was a member of the Goals 2000 team that co-wrote the assessment portion of the Nebraska State Arts Frameworks, and she helped to review the Nationals Standards in Arts Education), and her numerous workshop presentations on drama, teacher education, arts advocacy, outreach theatre, literacy, storytelling, and social justice. Professor Libman enjoys administrative work as well, and has served as the Interim Assistant Director of the Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center in 2004; as Interim Chair of the Department of Classics during the 2005-06 academic year; as Interim Director of the GVSU Honors College in 2007; and as Interim Chair of the Department of Art and Design during Winter and Spring 2008. She was recently elected to the position of secretary of the Executive Committee of the International Drama Education Association (IDEA) for the three year period of 2010- 2013.

Contact Professor Libman at libmank@gvsu.edu

Chris Mahlmann

Christopher Mahlmann is the Technical Director for the Louis Armstrong Theatre. Chris earned his BA in Theatre from Hope College and has worked as a designed and technician in New York City for several years before returning to West Michigan. He has designed extensively for local theatres creating lighting for Heritage Theatre, Jewish Theatre of Grand Rapids and Aquinas College. His other credits include set design in 2006 and projection design in 2009 for the Miss Michigan Pageant. Chris was also honored in 2009 to direct the Jewish Theatre of Grand Rapids' production of "The Value of Names".

Contact Mr. Mahlmann at mahlmanc@gvsu.edu

Dr. Alli Metz

Dr. Allison Manville Metz is Assistant Professor of Theatre Education and Theatre Research. “Dr. Alli” holds a Ph.D. in Theatre Research, and a B.A. in Theatre and English, from the University of Wisconsin – Madison, as well as an M.F.A. in Drama and Theatre for Youth from the University of Texas – Austin. She has worked as an artist-educator and arts administrator for a variety of organizations, including after school programs, an avant-garde theatre company, a bilingual theatre company, and children’s museums across the United States. Dr. Metz has led teacher training workshops in multiple states, as well as St. Petersburg, Russia, where she shares her passion for using theatre and drama as an educational tool in classroom settings. She has most recently co-authored a textbook, “Integrating Music, Art, and Theatre in Elementary Education,” published by Kendall Hunt Publishing (2011). In addition to teaching classes at GVSU, Professor Metz works in the GVSU Women's Center as the Director of "ReACT!," a peer theatre education troupe which produces interactive theatre programming to help prevent incidents of violence against women on campus. Dr. Metz is also currently serving as the Membership Director of Outreach for the American Alliance for Theatre in Education (AATE), a national organization that named Metz the Winifred Ward Scholar in 2004.

Contact Professor Metz @ metza@gvsu.edu

Kiara Pipino

Kiara Pipino has recently joined the School of Communication team at Grand Valley State University. She earned her degree in Architecture and a Master in Architecture for Performance from the University of Genoa (Italy), where she taught for the Department of Classics as well. She also holds an M.F.A. in Theatre Directing from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville.

Her areas of interest include Greek Theatre, Musical Theatre, Environmental Theatre.... All-Sorts-Of-Theatre.

She is the founder and Artistic Director of the Festival Internazionale Valle Christi, an Italian summer theatre festival, and has professional experience in directing, scenic design, photography and pr.

She directed over twenty plays and musicals, including "You're a Good Man Charlie Brown", "The XII Night", "The Tempest", " Anon(ymous)", "The Unseen", "A Number", "Dead Man's Cell Phone".

Her "Non Academic" interests are cooking (not only Italian food), traveling, pets and enjoy life.

Contact Professor Pipino at pipinok@gvsu.edu

Al Sheffield

Alfred Sheffield is a theatre designer supervising GVSU students' work in design and theatre technology. A graduate of Northwestern University's M.F.A. program, Alfred has worked on technical assignments at Chicago's Marriot Theatre, CBS News Chicago, and the Northwestern University Dance Festival. He has worked for fourteen years in professional summer stock and regional arts festivals, serving as scenographer and technical director at the Tibbets Summer Theatre in Coldwater, Michigan and the Carolina Civic Center in Lumberton, North Carolina. He taught and designed for such institutions as the University of Michigan's Flint campus, The University of North Carolina, and Kansas State University before joining GVSU's theatre faculty in 1997. He continues to explore the latest advances in computer-assisted stage & lighting design technology, and to coach GVSU students interested in pursuing careers in the field.

Contact Professor Sheffield at sheffiea@gvsu.edu

Professor Emerita, Dr. Laura Gardner Salazar

Laura Gardner Salazar

Laura Gardner Salazar, Ph.D.,

Theatre-Acting and Directing, University of Michigan

Professor Emeritus and Founder of Grand Valley State University Theatre Program

Past President, American Alliance for Theatre and Education

Member, National Arts Education Standards Committee, 1990–2002

Adjunct Faculty 2014 - 2015 and Guest Artists

Katherine Mayberry

Katherine Mayberry

Katherine Mayberry (Introduction to Theatre and Bard to Go) is an alumna of Grand Valley State University and she is directing the Shakespeare Festival's 20th Anniversary, Much Ado About Nothing. She appeared in several Shakespeare Festival productions, including playing Lady Macbeth in Macbeth. She received her Master of Letters and Master of Fine Arts (Acting Emphasis) in Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature in Performance from Mary Baldwin College in Partnership with the American Shakespeare Center. While in the MLitt/MFA program, she performed such roles as Gertrude in Hamlet, Isabella in Measure for Measure, and Rosaline in Love’s Labour’s Lost at the ASC’s Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia. Katherine has also studied Shakespearean acting with the London Theatre Exchange and at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. She has received further actor training at the Michael Chekhov Institute and recently completed an intensive colloquium in Commedia Del ’Arte with master teacher Antonio Fava. During her time as a GVSU undergraduate, Katherine was a founding cast member of the Grand Haven-based Pigeon Creek Shakespeare Company, for which she now serves as Executive Director. She performs regularly as a part of Pigeon Creek’s acting company, and in this summer’s season played Celia in As You Like It and Elizabeth in Richard III, productions which toured to several Michigan venues as well as out of state. She currently teaches as an adjunct professor in both the Theatre and English programs at GVSU.

Tony Simotes

Tony Simotes - Scholar-In-Residence

The Grand Valley Shakespeare Festival welcomes accomplished actor, director, fight choreographer, and educator Tony Simotes.Founding member and current Artistic Director Tony Simotes has either performed in or directed over two dozen productions for Shakespeare & Company during the past three decades.  Simotes also a Master Teacher of Fight and Movement and has been one of the Company¹s Artistic Associates since 1995. For Shakespeare & Company he has Directed:  Othello, The Merry Wives of Windsor, A Midsummer Nights Dream, As You Like It, and Two Gentlemen of Verona to name a few. He has also been an Associate Director and Fight Director on countless of Shakespeare & Company productions over the years. His work as a fight choreographer and director has been featured from coast to coast from the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles to the New York Shakespeare Festival’s Public Theater. Recent directing credits include The Nerd for Madison Repertory Theatre and Fight Direction for Macbeth at Orlando Shakespeare Theatre. Internationally his work has been featured in The Stage X Festival in Brisbane Australia, The Canadian Stage Company in Toronto and in Vancouver at Theater 48 New Play Festival, just to name a few. He’s played to critical acclaim Off-Broadway in Lisa Loomer’s The Waiting Room, Moliere’s In Spite of Himself for The Colonnades Theatre, Henry V and Measure for Measure for the New York Shakespeare Festival.  The Mark Taper Forum: Green Card and The Waiting Room; Pasadena Playhouse: Room Service and Born Yesterday, Mac Welman’s Albanian Soft Shoe for San Diego Rep., and Two Gentlemen of Verona for The Old Globe.  Films include: Pacific Heights, Terminator II, Hot Shots, The Waterdance, Father of the Bride II, Alien Nation, Maid to Order, Whose Life is it Anyway?, A Class Act, and a starring role in the Academy Award nominated short film Bronx Cheers.  For television: “Buddy Rich” for The Sinatra Mini-series on CBS, Oliver Stone’s Indictment for HBO films, plus many other weekly series. Simotes also works as an actor and is a proud member of AEA, SAG and AFTRA. He has also been a featured & guest lecturer at dozens of Performing Arts Institutes, Cultural organizations, private business and University’s across the country and abroad.  Simotes was a Tenured Full Professor and Director of University Theatre for the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He currently lives in the Berkshires with his lovely wife Lucy

Paul Riopelle

Paul Riopelle - Guest Equity Actor

The Comedy of Errors gives a loud Howdy! to one of our Pardners from the past, Equity actor Paul Riopelle. Riopelle, who was last here playing Feste in the 2011 production of Twelfth Night. Riopelle is the law in these parts, playing the role of Sherriff Solinus. Riopelle has also appeared previously as Jaques in As You Like It, Hamlet in Hamlet, and The Provost in Measure for Measure

Kate Thomsen

Adjunct Professor - School of Communications

Professor Thomsen is also performing in a new film based on actual events called Pilot Error. Please click here to read more!

Deborah Brevoort

Deborah Brevoort

Ms. Brevoort, author of the November Mainstage show, The Women of Lockerbie, will speak at Grand Valley State University on November 7, 2014, on opening night! Her talk-back will be featured immediately after the opening night performance in the Louis Armstrong Theatre! For more information, feel free to call the box office at 616-331-2300.

Deborah Brevoort is a playwright and librettist from Alaska who now lives in the New York City area.  She is an alumna of New Dramatists, one of the original company members of Perseverance Theatre in Juneau, Alaska and a co-founder of Theatre Without Borders, a group of individual artists dedicated to international theatre exchange. She is best known for her play The Women of Lockerbie, which won the Kennedy Center’s Fund for New American Plays Award and the silver medal in the Onassis International Playwriting Competition.

Read more about her by clicking here!

Alaine Alldaffer

Alaine Alldaffer

Alaine Alldaffer

Alaine Alldaffer is also the casting director for Playwrights Horizons, where her credits include Grey Gardens (also for Broadway), Clybourne Park (also for Broadway), and Circle Mirror Transformation (Drama Desk and Obie Awards for Best Ensemble and an Artios Award for casting). Television credits include “The Knights of Prosperity” (aka “Let’s Rob Mick Jagger”) for ABC. Associate credits include “Ed” for NBC and ”Monk” for USA. Ms. Alldaffer has also cast productions for Arena Stage, Williamstown Theatre Festival, and the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre of Louisville, among others. She is the current casting director for Women's Project (NYC). She credits Lisa Donadio as her associate casting director.

Watch her video on The Role of a Casting Director. Please click here.

Paul Collins

Paul Collins

Paul Collins will be conducting a lighting workshop October 10, 2014, beginning at 3:00pm.

Will be leading a workshop: Performance and the Elements of Lighting Design
Friday, October 10, from  3:00—5:00pm, In Room 1506 PAC.

Using a series of 1 page playlets and a small lighting rig, participants will explore the use of lighting to enhance performance. This workshop is of interest to designers, directors, managers and performers. No limit on participants or observers. Participants will be asked to read from prepared scripts and help rearrange the equipment.

Paul Collins teaches Stage Lighting, Stagecraft and other courses within the Theatre and Dance design and production curriculum at the College of Charleston. School of Communications Distinguished Alumnus, Paul has designed lighting and scenery professionally for many theatre and dance companies in Iowa, Michigan and Maine including Iowa Summer Rep (Iowa City, IA), Riverside Theatre (Iowa City, IA), The Public Theatre (Lewiston, Maine), Jazz Dance Theatre (Ann Arbor, MI) as well as several others.  He has also acted as assistant designer to Bryon Winn for The 39 Steps at Portland Stage Company, (Portland, Maine), and as Associate Lighting Designer to Christopher Akerlind on In the Night, a new work by Martha Clarke (Iowa Partnership for the Arts). 

Recent designs include Lost in Yonkers and I Do! I Do! for Iowa Summer Rep and Almost, Maine for the College of Charleston.  Paul is a member of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT).

M.F.A. University of Iowa
M.S. Grand Valley State University
B.F.A. University of Michigan

Check out Mr. Collins' extensive list of performances he has worked on by clicking here!


Chris Hayes

Chris Hayes

Hayes has enjoyed an international career as a theatre director for more than 40 years and has more than 200 productions to his credit. He directed the U.K. premiere of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” in the early 1990s, working with a mixed American and English cast. This led to the establishment of London Theatre Exchange, with a group of colleagues, to promote international productions, new writing, and cross-cultural training. - See more at: http://www.gvsu.edu/gvnow/index.htm?articleId=DDFE0B93-B3B4-436F-783B0210F6B97B10#sthash.WF7Stp1r.dpuf


Israfeel Shaheen

Israfeel Shaheen

University of Dhaka

Professor in Theatre Dept. · Dhaka, Bangladesh

Lavinia Hart

Lavinia Hart

Lavinia Hart, Associate Professor of Theatre and Head of the Acting MFA joined the department after teaching, acting and directing for three years in Minnesota.Ms. Hart was the Artistic Director of the Attic Theatre in Detroit for 19 years where she acted, directed and produced more than 100 plays.Her most recent WSU directing credits include Translations and Antony and Cleopatra for the Hilberry Theatre.She was co-director with Patricia Ansuini for the Hilberry’s production of The Kentucky Cycle which won the Oakland Press Award for Best Direction.Recent Bonstelle Theatre credits include A Christmas Carol and Ten November.Lavinia’s professional credits include direction of Murder on the Nile at The Meadowbrook Theatre and playing the title role in Kim Carney’s world premiere comedy Maggie Rose at the Performance Network.Hart is a winner of the Detroit Free Press Lee Hills Award and has been named Michiganian of the Year by the Detroit News Magazine.Currently, Hart is acting as the associate director for the Great Lakes Michael Chekhov Consortium.

Ms. Hart will be here at GVSU for a workshop in the Winter semester, 2015! Watch for details to come.