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Faculty & Staff

Theatre at Grand Valley Faculty and Staff

Seven full-time faculty, one adjunct, and three staff produce, direct, and 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

Jim 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

Roger 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

Jill 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


Dennis Henry

Dennis Henry

Dennis is an actor and director originally from San Diego. His undergraduate work was at San Diego University where he was named “Distinguished in the Major.” Since then, he has worked professionally as an actor and director for nearly two decades and has performed in more than 40 U.S. states while touring with American Shakespeare Center and National Theater for Arts and Education. Additional acting and directing credits include Cleveland Play House (where he was the Artistic Fellow for the CPH Centennial Season), Virginia Shakespeare Festival, Nebraska Repertory Theatre, Pigeon Creek Shakespeare (MI), North Coast Repertory Theatre (CA), and Random Acts Chicago. Favorite roles in include Polonius in Hamlet, Sancho Panza in Las Aventuras de Don Quijote and Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest. His one-act play, Maude and Ellie Play Chess is an amusing look at Eleanor of Aquitaine and Empress Matilda which was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2015 in the collection Scholars and Poets Talk about Queens. He has presented research at the Grand Valley Shakespeare Conference and British Graduate Shakespeare Conference in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Dennis did his graduate work at the Johnny Carson School for Theatre and Film at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he earned his M.F.A. in Directing for Stage and Screen. He has taught classes at University of Nebraska and Concordia University Chicago and taught workshops in acting, directing and Shakespeare at more than two dozen colleges across the country. His lovely wife, Katie Robbins, works in the technological instructional design field in Chicago.


Jack T. Lane

Jack T. Lane

Jack is the Box Office and House Manager for the Louis Armstrong Theatre. He has worked in box office management for over 25 plus 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 received 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 eleven years.

Contact Jack at lanejack@gvsu.edu


Sally Langa

Sally Langa

Sally 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

Karen is a stage director, theatre professor, writer and storyteller. She directs frequently for the Grand Valley Shakespeare Festival ( Richard III, A Midsummer Night’s Dream; Love’s Labour’s Lost; Macbeth; A Comedy of Errors, and The Merchant of Venice), as well as for mainstage university productions at Grand Valley State University, including Kindertransport, Oedipus; Big Love; Mother Courage and Children; and Angels in America, Part 1.  Libman helped to conceive the GV Shakespeare Festival’s Bard to Go (BTG) touring program, which has served over 8000 students in Michigan, and she pioneered the International BTG Program, taking Shakespearean scenes to students in such countries as Jamaica, The Bahamas, and China. In 2012, she traveled with students to El Paso, Texas, where they performed (under her direction) the world premiere of the English version of Antona Garcia at the Siglo de Oro Spanish Golden Age Festival. She has been active in many national organizations including the American Alliance for Theatre in Education (AATE) and the National Storytelling Network, and she was the executive secretary of the International Drama/Theatre Education Association (IDEA) from 2010-13. 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.  Libman collaborates with renowned translator Dr. Diane Rayor on her Women in Greek Drama series, directing premiere translations of Rayor’s Medea and Antigone, both of which were subsequently published by Cambridge University Press in 2013 and 2011 respectively.  A professional storyteller, she can be seen telling tales at festivals, museums, and schools across the Midwest. Professor Libman enjoys administrative work as well, and has served GVSU in interim capacities as the Assistant Director of the Pew Faculty Teaching and Learning Center, Chair of the Department of Classics, Director of the GVSU Honors College, and Chair of the Department of Art and Design.   Libman's recent artistic work focuses upon themes such as theatre for social justice, feminism in youth theatre, Shakespeare, classical drama, and storytelling. She is proud to have been selected as a Fulbright Scholar in 2016, and will be traveling to Bangladesh to direct a Shakespeare play at the University of Dhaka.  The mother of two grown children, Libman lives in Kalamazoo with her husband, historian Mitch Kachun.

Contact Ms. Libman at libmank@gvsu.edu


Chris Mahlmann

Chris Mahlmann

Chris 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. Alli Metz

Alli 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


Alfred Sheffield

Al Sheffield

Al 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 2015 - 2016 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.


Phyliss Rankin

Phyliss Rankin

2016 GV Shakespeare Festival Guest Scholar

Guest Scholar-in-Residence and Conference Keynote Speaker, Phyllis Rankin, will present a public lecture entitled "Measure for Measure" Then and Now, October 7 at 4pm on the Allendale Campus. She is a Ph. D., influential and oft-quoted feminist Shakespeare scholar, professor of English Emerita at University of Pennsylvania and a former president of the Shakespeare Association of America. She has published five books and numerous scholarly articles about Shakespeare and related subjects. Her awards include an ACLS fellowship and a Lindback award for distinguished teaching.


Kyle W

Kyle Westmaas

Kyle is an adjunct professor for Theatre and a 2007 GVSU Alum. Kyle received his MFA in acting from the California Institute of the Arts and worked in Los Angeles for three years producing and performing original work in film and theatre with a non-profit production company. Classically trained in voice and speech, he has performed in many Shakespeare plays and teaches as well at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids.

Gary Mitchell

Gary Mitchell - Guest Actor in Measure for Measure

Gary Mitchell

Gary’s last appearance on stage in the Shakespeare Festival was the 2013 production of Much Ado About Nothing, where he played the role of Leonato. In 2005, Gary appeared in GVSU’s production of Hamlet, playing both  Polonius and the Grave Digger.  He has appeared in more than 30 productions on many Grand Rapids, MI stages, including:  The Tempest (Prospero), As You Like It (Jacques), The Merry Wives of Windsor (Mr. Page), Macbeth (Banquo) and The Merchant of Venice (Gratiano). (Heritage Theatre Group); The Rainmaker (Starbuck), Love Letters (Andy), Much Ado About Nothing (Leonato), and 1776 (Hopkins) (Grand Rapids Civic Theatre); Conversations With My Father (Eddie) (Grand Award Winner) (Jewish Theatre GR); and Boy Gets Girl (Les) (Grand Award nominee) (Actors’ Theatre).

A freelance actor, he has appeared in numerous corporate training films and also in independent short films. Gary has taught acting for both teens and adults and is available to coach students with monologue preparation.  Along with his wife, Mary Beth Quillin, he founded GEM Theatrics, an independent company performing live theatre at schools, libraries, museums and corporate events.  Productions for GEM Theatrics include:  My Dearest Friend, about the lives and love of John and Abigail Adams, Love Letters, and Old Love.  www.gemtheatrics.com.

Christopher Weaver

Information and photo coming!