Founders

The Williamston Theatre was founded in 2004 by four theatre professionals who desired to create theatre for, by and about people in this part of the world. In 2008, Tony Caselli, John Lepard, Christine Purchis and Emily Sutton-Smith received the prestigious Robert Busby Award from the Lansing State Journal for extraordinary overall contributions to theatre in the Greater Lansing area.

John Lepard, Executive Director

John has been acting professionally for 19 years. His credits range from film and television in Los Angeles, to live theatre off-Broadway. He is a member of the Actors’ Equity Association and the Screen Actors’ Guild. John received his BA in Theatre from Michigan State University and his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Nebraska Lincoln. Recent appearances on stage include Flyover, USA, Art and Rounding Third at the Williamston Theatre, Sea of Fools, Same Time Next Year, Bus Stop, The Mystery of Irma Vep, The Underpants and Leaving Iowa (Detroit Free Press Best Actor Award) at the Purple Rose Theatre. In the 2008-2009 Season, John directed The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds and reprised his role as Don in the Williamston Theatre’s production of Leaving Iowa for which he won the Lansing State Journal 2009 Best Actor Thespie Award. John is an adjuct professor at Lansing Community College and was a guest professor at Michigan State University, where he also directs. He lives in Williamston with his wife, son and daughter.

Tony Caselli, Artistic Director

Tony has been honored to direct nearly 40 professional productions at wonderful places such as the Williamston Theatre, Meadow Brook Theatre, Tipping Point Theatre, Performance Network Theatre, Gem Theatre, City Theatre, Purple Rose Theatre Company, Urban Stages (Manhattan) and Studio Arena Theatre (Buffalo, New York).  Prior to co-founding the Williamston Theatre in 2005, he worked for the Purple Rose Theatre Company for 12 years, serving as Associate Artistic Director for his last several years there.  In 2011 he directed the world premiere of Mitch Albom’s new play, Ernie, at the City Theatre in Detroit.  Tony has won Wilde Awards for directing Oedipus, It Came From Mars and Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol.   He’s also been named Best Director for other productions by the Lansing State Journal, the Detroit Free Press and the Ann Arbor News.  A native of New Boston, Michigan, Tony received his degree in Theatre from Eastern Michigan University and is a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society, the union for professional stage directors.  Tony lives in Chelsea with his wife and kids, who continue to be his inspiration.

Christine Purchis, Managing Director

Christine has been involved with theatre since she was in elementary school and has experience as an actor, stage manager, backstage crew, box office manager, house manager and company manager. She received her BS in Arts Management from Eastern Michigan University and has worked for over 13 years as a theatre administrator in such varied places as the EMU Theatre Department, Cherry County Playhouse, Chelsea Area Players, Big Pickle Productions, Greenhouse Theatre Company and the Purple Rose Theatre Company. Chris has lived all over the country but found her home in Michigan in 1979 and has been here ever since. She now lives in Dexter with her husband and stepson.

Emily Sutton-Smith, Development Director

Emily is an actress, singer, producer and arts administrator. She was on the staff of the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor where she co-produced the 75th Anniversary production of Follies and was instrumental in reuniting the original Broadway cast for the production. She has appeared on the Williamston Theatre stage in End Days, The Usual: A Musical Love Story, The Smell of the Kill, The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds (2009 Lansing State Journal Best Actress Thespie Award), Maidens, Mothers and Crones and Additional Particulars.  Other Michigan credits include A Picasso, The Baker’s Wife and The Home Team at the Performance Network, Forbidden Broadway and King O’ The Moon at the BoarsHead Theatre, Moonlight and Magnolias and Frankenstein at Meadow Brook Theatre, Intimate Apparel at the Detroit Rep and The Underpants at the Purple Rose Theatre.  A New York City native, she is a proud member of the Actors’ Equity Association and SAG/AFTRA.  Film and TV credits: High School, Gifted Hands, Butterfly Effect Revelation and Prince of Motor City.  Emily is the narrator of several audio books (available through Brilliance Audio), studied acting at the Atlantic Theatre Company in New York City, and holds a Grande Diploma in Pastry Arts from the French Culinary Institute and a Master of Fine Arts degree from MSU.  She lives here in Williamston with her husband, son, step-daughter and dog.