The University normally stages a classical Shakespearean masterwork as its opening Fall semester production, followed by a major contemporary social issues play. In fact, GVSU continues to be the only university in Michigan dedicating one of its stage productions each season to this theme of cultural diversity. The Fall semester normally concludes with a weekend of student-directed productions.
During the Winter semester, GVSU produces another weekend of student-directed shows, and then a major musical work as part of its Musical/Opera Theatre program. Combining stage productions with class and studio work in musical theatre acting, movement, singing and other skills, GVSU's program is one of the most outstanding training experiences of its kind in the state. GVSU concludes its season with a fourth production in the spring that sometimes takes the form of classical comedy (Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest), or a contemporary experimental piece (Angels in America), or even a play for special populations and youth theatre (Max Bush's The Crystal).
Guest artists from the professional entertainment industry work with students on many of our plays. In recent years we've hosted residencies by such artists as the actor Paul Riopelle of the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, playwrights Douglas Turner Ward and Elizabeth Wong, or Broadway artists David Shelley and Hurvey Morris. Additionally, the University's annual program of 2-4 student-directed plays has included major musicals, comedies, one-acts, melodramas and other entertainments over the past ten years.
Students also have opportunities for providing technical support for a wide range of dance, music, and other events that tour campus. Typical assignments for these activities can involve light and sound board operation, stage crew, house management, hospitality, costume assistant, and stage technician. Assignments to these events can be used to receive academic credit, or can be paid as part of work-study financial aid grants. Some of the groups appearing at Grand Valley in recent years have included the Tonda Puppet Theatre of Japan, the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, the Thag Theatre of Germany, and others.
All theatre events are normally staged in the 500-seat Louis Armstrong Theatre, a proscenium house that easily converts to a 100-seat arena or thrust arrangement. The theatre has state-of-the-art lighting, sound, stage machinery, and dressing room and shop areas.
Due to the integration of theatre studies at GVSU with communications fields like film, broadcasting, public relations, and others, drama students frequently work alongside students majoring in these other disciplines on arts projects of all kinds. Thus it is not uncommon to find a public relations student managing the house, a broadcasting student operating the theatre sound board, or theatre students acting in films and TV studio productions done by the University.
Unlike most of the state's larger universities, the casts and crews of GVSU shows are comprised of students from all areas of the school, and are not restricted only to theatre majors. This cross-fertilization of student effort and skills produces a stimulating mix of talent on most of our shows, and enhances drama students' appreciation for the many disciplines that feed into the entertainment industry today.