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 CroppedJohn has been acting professionally since he joined the Screen Actors Guild in 1991. Over the years, he has worked at such venues as The Signature Theatre in New York, St. Louis Rep, Hartford Stage, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, The Gem in Detroit, and Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC. He has also been featured in over 20 films and Television series. John received his BA in Theatre from Michigan State University and his MFA in Acting from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Recent appearances on Michigan stages include Frankie and Johnny in the Clair De Lune (Thespie Award, Best Actor), This Wonderful Life (Pulsar Award, Best Actor, Wilde Award, Best Actor), Leaving Iowa (World Premiere, Thespie Award, Best Actor, Detroit Free Press Award, Best Actor), Bus Stop (Wilde Award, Best Supporting Actor, Detroit Free Press Award, Best Supporting Actor). Since opening the Williamston Theatre, John has directed over 15 plays including The Lion In Winter, Talley’s Folly, The Effect of Gamma Rays…, While We Were Bowling (Pulsar Award, Best Director and Best Play) and Ebenezer (World Premier).John is also an adjunct professor at Michigan State University, where he has served as guest host for the MSU Federal Credit Union Guest Artist Series, and interviewed Brian Bedford and Tony Kushner at the Wharton Center. 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. Other appearances on the WT stage are 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 Best Actress Thespie Award, Lansing State Journal), Maidens, Mothers and Crones and Additional Particulars. A New York City native, she has worked onstage at almost all the Equity Theatres in Michigan, including the Purple Rose Theatre, Performance Network Theatre, Tipping Point Theatre, the Detroit Rep, the Jewish Ensemble Theatre, and MeadowBrook Theatre. Emily is a proud member of the Actors’ Equity Association and SAG/AFTRA. Film and TV credits include: The Funeral Guest, Gifted Hands, Butterfly Effect: Revelation, The Prince of Motor City and Nevermore. 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. She received her Master of Fine Arts degree from MSU, where she is also an Adjunct Professor in Acting and serves on the CAL Alumni Board.