Wayne State University

About Us

Mission Statement

We engage, educate, and empower diverse student/artists through the rigorous study, practice and production of theatre and dance to enrich Detroit and global communities.


Until the mid 1940s, when Leonard Leone arrived at Wayne State, theatre was casually listed in university bulletins as an extra-curricular activity.

Under Leone's leadership in the Department of Speech, theatre courses became prominent enough that by 1970 the Department of Speech had to expand to include Theatre in its title.

Finally, in 1986, we became our own department as all the arts disciplines branched out from the College of Liberal Arts to form our own College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts.

In 2000, Maggie Allesee named the Department of Dance with a generous gift. Later, when the Department of Dance merged with Theatre, the department became the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance.

In the time that theatre and dance has been offered at Wayne State University, we have grown from an activity within the Speech Department to a vital part of the Wayne State community.

The Future

Learn more about our future home, the Gateway Performance Complex, here

Since 1963, the Hilberry Theatre has been a vital part of the Wayne State University landscape. The theatre provides a training ground for actors, designers, stage managers and theatre managers—a place where they can hone their craft and grow from talented artists to skilled professionals. Now, there is a project that will further solidify Wayne State's reputation as an artistic leader. Wayne State University will enhance the growing and vibrant area just south of campus by creating the Gateway Performance Complex, a $65 million performance complex for theatre, music, dance and arts-related events. 

As part of the complex, the current Hilberry Theatre will be renovated to become the Gretchen Valade Jazz Center (GVJC), a high-caliber venue for music and dance performances. The 200-seat GVJC will offer ample seating for parents, patrons, donors and community members for dance events.  The renovated space also will enable the dance program to feature master classes and lectures.

The Gateway Performance Complex will herald a new approach to theatre at Wayne State. Faculty members have unanimously approved a move away from repertory theatre toward a model that allows for greater variety, better serves students, and reflects regional theatres across the nation. A new curriculum in musical theatre, for example, will create a series of performances that blend dance, music and theatre. And for the first time, students in the Hilberry program will live together in a dedicated learning community. The Thompson Home, a Victorian building across from the new complex, will be transformed into a unique living and learning environment, augmenting students' social and educational experiences while fostering a sense of community in the university's performing arts programs