Actors Theatre

The Off-Broadway of Grandrapids

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All performances run Thursday - Saturday and begin at 8PM


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Production Underwriting by


DECEMBER 4-6, 11-13 & 18-20, 2014

All shows begin at 8PM

book by Richard Nelson
, lyrics by Tim Rice, music by ABBA’s Bjorn Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson

Two of the world’s greatest chess masters battle it out at the world chess championships but their greatest contest is for the love of one woman.  Amidst political intrigue and international conspiracies, the American and the Russian compete in a romantic triangle that mirrors the heightened passions of the Cold War, all set to the pulse of a monumental rock score.

Directed by Scott Mellema
Music Direction by Scott Patrick Bell

Meet The Cast

Jess Luiz Barton (Florence) is excited to be making her Actor's Theatre debut in Chess. She recently appeared in Into The Woods with SouthSide Theatre Company and Jesus Christ Superstar with Circle Theatre. Some of her favorite past roles have been Lilli Vanessi in Kiss Me Kate with The Vista Theatre and Elizabeth Williams in Keepers of the Light with Lake Superior Theatre. Jess is thrilled to be part of this stellar cast and production team. When she's not on stage Jess can be found at the Grand Rapids Children's Museum, encouraging play for kids of all ages.

Liz Brand (Ensemble) is excited to be on stage for the first time at Actors’ Theatre, and considers it an honor to be a part of the vibrant theatre community here in Grand Rapids. Recent stage credits include Boeing Boeing at Circle Theatre (2013) and Les Misérables at Grand Rapids Civic Theatre (2014). By day, Liz works for the Reformed Church in America in a job that would take five pages to explain, and just might make your eyes glaze over in the process.

Brianna June Clark (Ensemble) is new to the Grand Rapids community and is absolutely thrilled and thankful to be a part of the GR theatre scene!  Her most recent acting credits are with the Historic Howmet Playhouse’s productions of LEADING LADIES (Meg) and MOTHERHOOD OUTLOUD! (Multiple character gal), and Muskegon Civic Theatre’s The Music Man (Marian Paroo). However, the larger amount of her theatrical and musical credits go to her music direction with the Nuveen Community Center for the Performing Arts, Reeths Puffer Fine Arts  and Whitehall Public Schools where she music directed, Godspell Jr., You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown, Once Upon A Mattress & Joseph & The Amazing Technicolored Dreamcoat. Brianna has also directed and lead performance workshops for the Howmet Playhouse’s White Lake Youth Theatre program, including The Phantom Tollbooth, Just Before Sleep & Alice in Wonderland. When not working or performing with community theatre, Brianna enjoys teaching choir for Grand Rapids Public schools, giving private voice instruction and running road races with her brother.

Jason DeJager (Ensemble) studied theatre at both Cornerstone University and Aquinas College and is looking to continue pursuing his craft. He has been ejoying this year for theater immensely. He was last seen on Actors’ stage during Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson as Henry Clay. Soon after, he began a busy summer at Circle Theatre, being involved with Jesus Christ Superstar, One Man Two Guvnors, and Carrie the Musical.

John Girdlestone (The Arbiter) is excited to be making his Actors’ Theatre debut in Chess! He is new to the Grand Rapids community theatre scene, appearing first as Thenardier in Les Misérables in February of 2014. He has been performing since age 10, playing many roles in England. These productions include Oliver Twist (Fagin’s Gang), Annie Get Your Gun (Little Jake), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (Hero), and 42nd Street (Andy Lee). From 1998-2008 he performed with Carnival Cruise Lines and Orient Cruise Lines as a dancer and singer. He met his wife, Kristen, while they were both performing as dancers. They have been living in Grand Rapids for the past 6 years and have a daughter, Melody, who is 2 years old.

Amy Groen (Svetlana) was last seen on the Actors' stage as Kate & Katharine in the 2012 production of Ampersand and is excited to be back! Other community credits include Into the Woods (Cinderella/Granny) with SouthSide Theatre Company; Jesus Christ Superstar, Honk!, Rumors, and Annie at Circle Theatre; Medea at Heritage Theatre; and The Diary of Anne Frank at Civic Theatre. Regional theater credits include Beauty and the Beast (Belle), Boeing Boeing, Grey Gardens, and Lucky Stiff at Thunder Bay Theatre.

Matt Hartman (Ensemble) is performing for the first time with Actors’ Theatre! He was last seen as Cinderella's Prince/The Wolf in Into the Woods at Dog Story Theater, and earlier this year as an Apostle in Jesus Christ Superstar with Circle Theatre.

David Hatter (Molokov) is very excited for his Actors’ Theatre debut in Chess! He's worked onstage and off in a wide variety of productions, including Hello Dolly!, Fiddler on the Roof, and Les Misérables at Civic Theatre. Highlight roles include Cliff in Cabaret at Circle Theatre, and Professor Callahan in Legally Blonde at Civic. Theatre provides a real change of pace from his day job as an accountant for a local medical manufacturing company.

Brian Lauer (Walter) is excited to be making his Actors' Theatre debut in Chess. He's been a fan of the show since seeing the Circle Theatre production in the early 90s and many of the songs remain favorites. Brian was on stage earlier in 2014 in Civic Theatre's Les Misérables as the delightfully charming lady's man Bamatabois and in Circle Theatre's Jesus Christ Superstar as Jesus' #1 fan, Peter. Some of his favorite roles in recent years have been Norbert in The Great American Trailer Park Musical, Warbucks in Annie, and Mitch Mahoney in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

Michelle Matson (Ensemble) is excited to be making her Actors’ Theatre debut. She was most recently seen on the GR Civic Theatre stage as a Citizen of France in Les Misérables. Other roles she has had the pleasure of performing are: Hedy LaRue in How to Succeed in Business at the Holland Civic Theatre, and Cinderella in the Zeeland High Players Production of Cinderella. Michelle also enjoys performing off stage and has sung at a variety of venues in the West Michigan area. Although singing is her first love, Michelle also loves to display her artistic talents in her career as a makeup artist.

Kallie Piette (Ensemble) is very excited to be in her second production for Actors' Theatre! She was previously seen in Reefer Madness with Actors'. She has been in several productions with Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, including Les Misérables and The Producers, as well as five productions with Circle Theatre (most recently Monty Python's Spamalot).

Jeremiah Postma (Anatoly) is elated to return to the Actors’ Theatre stage where he was last seen as Monty in Violet. His most recent theatre credits are King Arthur in Monty Python’s Spamalot at Circle Theatre and his Grand Award winning role, Jean Valjean in Les Misérables at GR Civic Theatre. Additionally Jeremiah’s theatre credits include: Full Circle, Smokey Joe’s Café, Jesus Christ Superstar, Merrily We Roll Along and Sweet Charity at Circle Theatre, A Fine and Private Place (Michael Morgan) at Jewish Theatre, Dress Your Wives In Floor Length Denim at Dog Story Theatre, and La Boheme and A Masked Ball with Opera Grand Rapids.

Rob Reminga (Nikolai) has performed with Opera Grand Rapids since 2002. You may know him from such memorable roles as drunken peasant musician, filthy drunk town folk, the drinking and feasting cards player, tired soldier, man on bench stage left, man scared of clown, gypsy, chubby Asian man with beard, and principal anvil player. In 2010, Rob was the winner of the first Grand Rapids Got Talent as the Singing Lumberjack and this summer he had his Circle Theatre debut in Spamalot as Sir Bedever and Mrs. Galahad. "Deeeeeee!" This is Rob’s first show with Actors’ Theatre.

Caroline Smith (Ensemble) most gratefully joins the Actors’ Theatre family in her second performance for the Grand Rapids community, having most recently participated as part of the ensemble for the Civic Theatre’s 2014 production of Les Misérables. She is a graduate of Michigan State University, where she received her B.A. in Theatre and had the distinct pleasure of performing alongside a brilliant company of musicians and actors. Caroline is a stay-at-home-mother who also sings in the Grace Episcopal Church choir and has performed for numerous weddings.

Wayne Swezey (Freddie) is glad to be back on stage in Chess, appearing in his third Actors’ Theatre production.  He is returning to the stage after a long recovery, having suffered injuries sustained from a runaway cart in Les Misérables, which was Wayne’s tenth appearance on a Grand Rapids Community Theater stage. He has also appeared previously at Actors’ Theatre in Rust and in Skin Deep (Living On the Edge Series), at GR Civic Theatre in 1776; Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; Peter Pan, Pinkalicious, and A Christmas Carol, and in Circle Theatre productions of Sweeney Todd and How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. Other productions outside the GR Theatre Community include: Gypsy, Oklahoma, Bye Bye Birdie, Godspell, The Sound of Music, The Music Man, Pippin, as well as the comedies M*A*S*H and The Odd Couple.

G.M. (Bud) Thompson (Gregor Vassy / Ensemble) returns after a three year  romp in Denver, CO, and is thrilled to be back in GR as a fully invested, employed, apartment-lease-holding citizen... and also thrilled to be back on the Actors' stage (thanks to The Scotts!)...although he is still not sure about the Hungarian thing. He has appeared in Actors' productions of The Christmas Schooner, Violet, A Man Of No Importance, Assassins, Rocky Horror, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and The Drawer Boy. Bud has also play-acted with GR Civic, Circle, Heritage, GVSU... pretty much any venue that will allow him to be in... or make... a scene. He is a professionally published and internationally produced playwright and has had five 10 minute plays performed in Actors' "Living On The Edge" - 10 minute play series.

Carly Uthoff (Ensemble) is so excited to be making her Actors’ Theatre debut in this jaw dropping performance of Chess! Most recently seen in Civic Theatre's production of 9 to 5, her previous credits include Hairspray (as Penny Pingleton) and Hello Dolly at Civic Theatre, and strutting around the stage in Cabaret and The Marvelous Wonderettes: Caps and Gowns (Cindy Lou) both at Circle Theatre. Carly attended Alma College on a vocal scholarship where she privately studied Vocal Performance and toured through the United States and Europe with the Alma College Choir. Outside the world of Chess, Carly can be seen singing with her band Shimmie Pearl, singing karaoke at every given opportunity, and teaching at the School of Theater Arts at Civic Theatre.

Meet The Directors

Scott Mellema (Director) is a native of Grand Rapids who has been an active member of its Theatre community for over 20 years.  This work began with a performance in Chess, during the early 90's, and has continued up to Les Miserables, which he directed for Civic Theatre last season.  He earns a living as a teacher of Theatre and English at East Kentwood High School.  Scott is married to a beautiful woman named Cinnamon and has been blessed with two amazing children, Reilly and Johnnie. 

Scott Patrick Bell (Music Director) returns to Actors’ Theatre after music directing last year’s production of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. He is excited to be working on his fourth project for Actors’ Theatre and his first project with Scott Mellema at Actors’. He began his performance career at the age of 10, and has studied at the Interlochen Arts Academy, EGRHS, GRCC & GVSU.  Scott has performed before presidents Bush, Reagan & Ford, for PM Margaret Thatcher, Queen Beatrix (NDL), and has opened for Taylor Dayne, Black Box, and Tony Randall.  He has traveled and performed in venues throughout Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, California, New York, and continues to provide public and corporate entertainment.  Scott has produced work for Heritage Theatre Group & GVSU, Circle Theatre, Jewish Theatre Grand Rapids as well as summer concerts for Jazz At The Zoo with the West Michigan Jazz Society.  Scott’s repertoire of work includes: Ain’t Misbehavin’; Smokey Joe’s Café (Grand Award); Love, Perfect, Change (GA nomination); Back to Bacharach & David, Pippin, Altar Boyz, Little Shop of Horrors (Grand Award) and Circle Celebrates: Songs You’ll Remember, Jesus Christ Superstar in Concert, and The Music of Queen Concert for Circle Theatre.  He appeared onstage in the Magic Circle production of Androcles & the Lion and Circle’s production of Company.  He directed Once On This Island, Shout Somebody, and conducted They’re Playin’ Our Song for longtime mentor and friend, Cedric Ward, at Robeson Players. Scott has been a returning guest artist at Fountain Street Church and St. Thomas the Apostle, as well as several other charitable organizations.

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2015 marks the twelfth installment of the Actors’ Theatre annual 10 minute play festival, Living on the Edge.  We cordially extend an invitation to interested Michigan writers to submit a script for consideration.

The deadline for…

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New Managing Director

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