Theatre at Grand Rapids Community College began somewhat unofficially. In 1967, a student in Language Arts instructor Walt Lockwood's Creative Writing class, Joe Dionne, wrote an absurdist one-act play called, A Breakfast of Oranges and Blue Shade. A group of students approached Fred Sebulske, then in his first year of teaching at the College, to help stage the play. It was performed for one night only at the Saint Cecilia Music Society. Students involved in this first production and others convinced Sebulske and associate instructor, Karin Orr, to continue producing plays as an extra-curricular activity. They persuaded the Language Arts Division to introduce a course called Introduction to Acting to the Speech curriculum. For several years, this acting course and a single play each semester comprised the Theatre Program.
More courses were developed and added to the program in the early 1980s. As it grew, the Theatre Program was moved from Language Arts to the Fine and Performing Arts Division. Upon the years, the Theatre Program has benefited from the instructional talents of Janet Simpson, Jean Reed Bahle, Tom Kaechele, Rich Rahn, Ed Riffel, Rob Reider, Duane Davis, Judith Kienitz, Patrick Johnson, Don Rice, Marcia VanKuiken, Jim Chervenka and David Murray. Currently, the program is directed by Tom Kaechele, with Michelle Urbane as theater manager, Catherine F. Dreher as theater systems technician, and Christian Poquette as technical director.
Among the plays produced during its thirty-year history are: JB, Our Town, Playboy of the Western World, The Glass Menagerie, Spoon River Anthology, The Birthday Party, A Doll's House, The Rimers of Eldritch and, more recently, God's Country, Fires in the Mirror, Brighton Beach Memoirs, The Seagull, The Foreigner, The Elephant Man, The Lion in Winter, Crimes of the Heart, and Noises Off. Plays written by GRCC's Creative Writing classes such as: The Dog Ate My Homework and Futile Attraction have been produced. Children's productions, Dream Trees and The Monster That Ate Itself commissioned from local playwright, Jean Reed Bahle, have also been offered.
A growing number of GRCC theatre alumni can be found working in every aspect of the theatre industry across the country.