Pacific Bible Institute — the 1940s and 50s

The story of Fresno Pacific Theater begins shortly after the school was established as Pacific Bible Institute in 1944. Dramatic sketches played an early part in campus worship. In 1955, PBI started offering a regular dramatics course, followed later by a course in dramatic production. Students could learn stagecraft, “poise and self-confidence” alongside their Bible, church history and ministry courses. PBI students produced full-length plays, one-acts and sketches for the regular chapel meetings.  Students’ dramatic gifts also surfaced in the regular talent nights that took place on the PBI campus, located in the former YMCA building in downtown Fresno.

Pacific College — the 1960s

The 1960s was a period of growth and change for the institution. Pacific Bible Institute became Pacific College in 1960, first as a junior college, and, by 1965, as a fully accredited four-year college. The first theater production of the college years was Rejected, written by Tabor College faculty Malinda Penner and Paul Ratzlaff. This contemporary musical was performed at the Armenian Hall in downtown Fresno, the Immanuel Academy chapel in Reedley, and Greeley Elementary School near Rosedale. Cast members received one unit of Applied Drama credit for their participation.

When Pacific College moved onto its new campus in southeast Fresno, plays were performed in the Witmarsum Quad courtyard and on Hiebert Library’s north patio. Productions included Cry, the Beloved Country, The Diary of Anne Frank and Everyman. The Pacific Amphitheater, built in 1964, formalized the outdoor trend. Its grassy audience area, spacious stage and stylish landscaping made it a favorite space for the college community. In addition to plays and musicals, the amphitheater was used for talent shows and the spring graduation ceremony. Productions included Brigadoon, H.M.S. Pinafore, An Enemy of the People, Fiddler on the Roof, My Fair Lady, Our Town, Crazy Quilt, The Tempest, Medea, and Electra. In 2000, Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods was the final production in the beloved amphitheater.

Alumni Hall became the main indoor venue in 1966. Readers Theater productions were popular at many colleges in the 1960s and ‘70s, and Pacific was in on the trend. Reading productions included A Thurber Carnival, In White America, and Jean Anouilh’s Antigone. English and communication faculty were featured in John Brown’s Body, Tall Tales and Short Songs, The World of Carl Sandburg, with music supplied by the music faculty and students.

Pacific College — the 1970s

A drama faculty position was created in 1973, signaling a new level of commitment to theater. The Narrow Gate Company ministered to the campus and local churches, “exploring how God can use drama in the contemporary world.” The drama troupe continued under various names until the late 1990s.

Church history was the focus of several productions in the 1970s. In Newness of Life dramatized the origins of the Mennonite church during the Reformation. It was presented in 1972 as part of the Mennonite Brethren General Conference, in Reedley. Urie Bender’s The Past is Yet to Come depicted the establishment of the Mennonite Brethren church in the late 1800s. That production was co-sponsored by the Anabaptist Historical Society and the Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary.

Fresno Pacific College —the 1980s and 1990s

The interest in Mennonite themes continued in the 1980s and ‘90s with the musical Crazy Quilt (by FPC music faculty Larry Warkentin), and reading productions Preacher/Poet (a staging of poems by Mennonite writers) and Ultimate Faith (stories from the Martyr’s Mirror, alternating with hymns). Plays were presented in Alumni Hall, the Amphitheater, or the renovated basement space that became known as the Witmarsum Theater Lab. By the early ‘90s, Ashley Auditorium, in the newly-built McDonald Hall, could also be used for plays like The Curious Savage, The Real Inspector Hound, and The Boys Next Door.

Children's plays and summer melodramas were occasional productions during the 1980s, with productions like Aurand Harris' A Toby Show going on tour to local elementary schools and Dora, the Beautiful Dishwasher, performed at the Reedley Opera House. The '80s was also the period of the Fine Arts Dinners—where student and faculty actors joined forces to create "living art works," alongside the music department's offerings, as part of the fundraising efforts for Pacific's arts programs.

A theater minor was created in the late 1980s, which made it possible for students to make drama a more formal part of their academic programs. Students interested in theater as a major could create a personalized major, combining classes at Fresno Pacific with those from Fresno State University or a semester’s study with the Los Angeles Film Studies Center (LAFSC) program. Liberal studies students could choose theater as a concentration, building on the Creative Drama course that all liberal studies majors took in order to have a well-rounded arts background. 

Fresno Pacific University — 2000 to Present

The year 2010 marked fifty years of theater at Fresno Pacific as a college/university. Today’s students experience Fresno Pacific theater as part of a company that meets together weekly to further the work of the season’s productions. Students may opt for making theater a formal part of their academic program, but many participate simply for a chance to be onstage, or to practice their skills as lighting or sound technicians, as set decorators and costume designers, as dramaturgs and stage managers. Theater is a way to come together around many different skills and gifts, to make art in community.

Students who study theater formally gain skills in stage technology, stage-makeup, acting, auditioning, directing, and using drama in the classroom. Courses in theater literature, history and culture survey performance on both global and local stages, with hands-on experiences of medieval mystery plays, through the semi-annual pageant wagon performance out on the green, or agit-prop theater, through the 'actos' that supported the cause of local farmworkers during the civil rights era. We seek to understand the role that theater has played in our world, 'to teach and to please,' to support and to challenge, to comfort and sometimes to dis-comfort, to ask and to answer. 

The Theater Lab and Ashley Auditorium continue to be the main Fresno Pacific Theater venues. Plays like Spirit of Hispania, Calderon’s The Phantom Lady, and Eduardo Machado’s Once Removed pay tribute to the changing demographics of the campus community. Social issue plays like Necessary Targets and Nickel and Dimed recognize the economic and global contexts we live in. Comedies like The Servant of Two Masters, Hay Fever, and Charley’s Aunt make us laugh. And productions like Parable, The Book of Acts, and Godspell remind us of the source of our being and the journey that we are on together.

Production List 

2014 - 2015

Truth and ReconciliationKate McKnight, DirectorSeverance Hall, California Arts Academy
Doubt, a ParableBethany Rader, DirectorNew Sanctuary, College Community Church, MB

2013 - 2014

Shakespeare's CymbelineJulia Reimer, DirectorAshley Auditorium
The Sound of Music

Bethany Rader, Stage Director; Zachary Durlam, Choral Director; Deborah Sauer-Ferrand, Vocal Coach; Milton Friesen, Orchestra Director

Veteran's Memorial Auditorium

2012 - 2013

Antigone (Anouilh/Galantiere)Bethany Rader, DirectorAshley Auditorium
Charley's AuntBethany Rader, DirectorAshley Auditorium

2011 - 2012

Barefoot in the Park   Bethany Rader, DirectorAshley Auditorium
GodspellBethany Rader, Stage Director 
Zachary Durlam, Deborah
Sauer-Ferrand, Milton
Friesen, Musical Direction
Ashley Auditorium

2010 - 2011

Once Removed              Julia Reimer, DirectorAshley Auditorium
The ImmigrantJulia Reimer, DirectorAshley Auditorium

2009 - 2010

Spirit of Hispania     Julia Reimer, DirectorAshley Auditorium
The Phantom LadyJulia Reimer, DirectorAshley Auditorium

2008 - 2009

Hay Fever                        Jennifer Sampson, DirectorAshley Auditorium
Uncle VanyaJulia Reimer, DirectorAshley Auditorium

2007 - 2008

Nickel and Dimed              Julia Reimer, DirectorAshley Auditorium
ParableJulia Reimer, DirectorAshley Auditorium, churches,
CITA conference

2006 - 2007

Trojan WomenJulia Reimer, Director
Walter Saul, Musical Score
Ashley Auditorium
Fiddler on the RoofJulia Reimer, Stage Director
Deborah Sauer-Ferrand,
Roy Klassen, Wayne Huber,
Musical Direction
Special Events Center

2005 - 2006

The Last Night of BallyhooChristien Sweeney, Director  Theater Lab
Servant of Two MastersJulia Reimer, DirectorAshley Auditorium

2004 - 2005

84, Charing Cross RoadJulia Reimer, DirectorTheater Lab
The Importance of Being EarnestJulia Reimer, Director        Theater Lab     

2003 - 2004

Necessary TargetsJulia Reimer, Director  Alumni Hall

The Complete Works of
William Shakespeare

Christien Sweeney, Director  Alumni Hall

2002 - 2003

Aristophanes' Women
in Congress
Julia Reimer, Director  Ashley Auditorium
The Book of Acts
(Chamber Theater)
Julia Reimer, Director  Mennonite Community Church

2001 - 2002

Rant 'n Rave
Melissa Valgeirsson, Director  Theater Lab
Androcles and the LionJulia Reimer, Director  Ashley Auditorium
Make It the Great Northern
(Readers Theater)
Melissa Valgeirsson, Director  Fresno Art Museum

2000 - 2001

Beau JestMichelle Pauls, Director  Ashley Auditorium
Much Ado about NothingCalvin Hoff, Director  E. Terronez Middle School

1999 - 2000

Fuente OvejunaAndrew Ryder, Director  Ashley Auditorium
Into the WoodsAndrew Ryder, Stage Director  Fresno Pacific Amphitheater

1998 - 1999

Euripides' ElectraAndrew Ryder, Director  Fresno Pacific Amphitheater
The Dining RoomAndrew Ryder, Director  

1997 - 1998

Three Irish Comedies by Lady GregoryAndrew Ryder, Director  
Lettice and LovageAndrew Ryder, Director   

1996 - 1997

The Imaginary InvalidJulia Reimer, Director  Theater Lab
The Boys Next DoorDoug Liechty-Caskey, Director  Ashley Auditorium
Instruments of Peace
(Chamber Theater)
Julia Reimer, Director  Butler MB Church

1995 - 1996

Steel MagnoliasDoug Liechty-Caskey, Director  Alumni Hall
Ultimate Faith
(Readers Theater)
Doug Liechty-Caskey, Director  Butler MB Church
Oklahoma!Doug Liechty-Caskey, Stage Director
Musical Director, Roy Klassen  
Special Events Center

1994 - 1995

Lost in YonkersMary Freeman, Director  Alumni Hall
(Readers Theater)
Billie Jean Wiebe, Director  Alumni Hall
As You Like ItDoug Liechty-Caskey, Director  Fresno Pacific Amphitheater

1993 - 1994

The Great Central Valley:
A Sense of Place  

(Readers Theater)

Billie Jean Wiebe, Director  Alumni Hall
Who's Life Is It Anyway?Doug Liechty-Caskey, Director  Ashley Auditorium
The Real Inspector HoundDoug Liechty-Caskey, DirectorAshley Auditorium

1992 - 1993

Curious SavageDoug Liechty-Caskey, Director  Ashley Auditorium
The Barbarians
Are Coming/
The Prophets
Doug Liechty-Caskey, Director  Fresno Pacific Amphitheater

1991 - 1992

Easter (Strindberg)Julia Reimer, Director  Theater Lab

1990 - 1991

A Man for All SeasonsTeresa Choate, Director  Theater Lab
110 in the ShadeTeresa Choate, Stage Director  Fresno Pacific Amphitheater

1989 - 1990

Shooting StarsTeresa Choate, Director  Theater Lab
MedeaTeresa Choate, Director  Fresno Pacific Amphitheater

1988 - 1989

SarcophagusTeresa Choate, Director  Theater Lab

The TempestTeresa Choate, Director  Fresno Pacific Amphitheater

1987 - 1988

School for ScandalAdrienne Cooper, Director  Alumni Hall
FoxfireTeresa Choate, Director  Fresno Pacific Amphitheater

1986 - 1987

A Midsummer Night's DreamRich Robinson, Director  Alumni Hall
The Children's HourAdrienne Cooper, Director  Theater Lab
Crazy QuiltRich Robinson, Stage Director  
Larry Warkentin, Musical Director
Alumni Hall

1985 - 1986

Our TownRich Robinson, DirectorFresno Pacific Amphitheater
A Toby Show (Children's Show)Rich Robinson, Director  Tour

The Music ManRich Robinson, Stage Director
Roy Klassen, Vocal Director
Larry Warkentin, Orchestra  
Special Events Center

1984 - 1985

The Good DoctorRich Robinson, Director  Witmarsum Basement
David and LisaRich Robinson, Director  Special Events Center

1983 - 1984

Fiddler on the RoofCheryl Nash, Stage Director 
Curtis Funk, Musical Director  
Special Events Center

1982 - 1983 

Thurber: Mainly Men
and Women,

(Chamber Theater)
Jim Becker, DirectorAlumni Hall
The CrucibleJim Becker, DirectorAlumni Hall

1981 - 1982 

The Potting ShedJim Becker, DirectorAlumni Hall
MikadoJim Becker, Stage Director 
Curtis Funk, Musical Director
Fresno Pacific Amphitheater

1980 - 1981

The Diary of Anne FrankJim Becker, DirectorAlumni Hall
One Foot in AmericaCheryl Nash, DirectorWitmarsum Basement

1979 - 1980

My Fair LadyJim Becker, Stage Director 
Curtis Funk, Musical Director
Fresno Pacific Amphitheater
The Lost Princess & The Light Princess
(Readers Theater)
Kathleen Harris, Lei Bills, DirectorsAlumni Hall

1978 - 1979

Antigone (Anouihl)Joan Becker, DirectorAlumni Hall
The Flounder
(Readers Theater)
Billie Jean Wiebe, DirectorAlumni Hall
The Balloonman
(Readers Theater)
Brenda Wiebe, DirectorAlumni Hall

1977 - 1978

The Miracle WorkerRobert Wiebe, DirectorAlumni Hall
Under Milkwood
(Readers Theater)
Billie Jean Wiebe, DirectorAlumni Hall
The SingerCheryl Nash, DirectorCollege Community MB Church

1976 - 1977

A Man for All SeasonsAlumni Hall
The Clown
(Readers Theater)
Billie Jean Wiebe, DirectorAlumni Hall
CamelotJim Becker, Stage Director 
Curtis Funk, Musical Director
Pacific College Amphitheater

1975 - 1976

All My SonsJim Becker, DirectorAlumni Hall
The Glass MenagerieLeah Laraway, DirectorAlumni Hall
EverymanJim Becker, DirectorPacific College Amphitheater

1974 - 1975

The Pirates of PenzanceJim Becker, Stage Director
Curtis Funk, Musical Director
Pacific College Amphitheater

1973 - 1974

The Word: An Evening
of Plays about "Nontalk"
Jim Becker, DirectorAlumni Hall
Talk to the Animals
(Children's Show)
The Past Is Yet to ComeJim Becker, DirectorPacific College Amphitheater

1972 - 1973

"In Newness of Life"Dalton Reimer, DirectorReedley MB Church

1971 - 1972

Fiddler on the RoofDalton Reimer, Stage Director
Larry Warkentin, Musical Director
Pacific College Amphitheater
The Taming of the ShrewPhil Hofer, DirectorAlumni Hall
Antigone (Anouihl)
(Readers Theater)
Dalton Reimer, DirectorAlumni Hall
Prophet and CarpenterDalton Reimer, DirectorChurches, College Hour
The Lion, the Witch
and the Wardrobe

(Children's Show)
Joan Becker, DirectorPacific College Amphitheater

1970 - 1971

Tall Tales and
Short Songs
Faculty Production Alumni Hall
H.M.S. PinaforeDalton Reimer, Stage Director 
Larry Warkentin, Musical Director
Pacific College Amphitheater

1969 - 1970

The World of
Carl Sandberg
Faculty Readers TheaterAlumni Hall
PygmalionRobert Wiebe, DirectorAlumni Hall
A Thurber Carnival
(Readers Theater)
Luetta Reimer, DirectorAlumni Hall
TartuffeDalton Reimer, DirectorAlumni Hall
In White America
(Readers Theater)
Dalton Reimer, DirectorAlumni Hall
The MikadoDalton Reimer, Stage Director
Larry Warkentin, Musical Director
Pacific College Amphitheater

1968 - 1969

John Brown's Body Faculty Readers TheaterAlumni Hall
The Miracle WorkerDalton Reimer, DirectorAlumni Hall
Life, Judgement, Death(3 One-Acts)Judy Karber, Luetta Feil, DirectorsAlumni Hall

1967 - 1968

The World of
Sholom Aleichem
Dalton Reimer, DirectorAlumni Hall
BrandDalton Reimer, DirectorPacific College Amphitheater
The Devil and Daniel Webster
(Folk Opera)
Larry Warkentin, DirectorPacific College Amphitheater

1966 - 1967

The House by the
Stable/Grab and Grace
Dalton Reimer, DirectorAlumni Hall
The Elder StatesmanDalton Reimer, DirectorPacific College Amphitheater

1965 - 1966

The Sign of JonahDalton Reimer, DirectorAlumni Hall
BrigadoonGary Unruh, Stage and
Musical Director 
Pacific College Amphitheater

1964 - 1965

An Enemy of the PeopleDonald Unruh, DirectorPacific College Amphitheater

1963 - 1964

Amahl and the
Night Visitors
Dalton Reimer, Stage Director 
Dietrich Friesen, Musical Director
Various churches, FCC Auditorium
Donald Unruh, DirectorLibrary Patio

1962 - 1963

Amahl and the
Night Visitors
Dalton Reimer, Stage Director 
Dietrich Friesen, Musical Director
The Diary of Anne FrankDonald Unruh, DirectorLibrary Patio, Immanuel
Academy Chapel

1961 - 1962

Christ in the Concrete CityDalton Reimer, DirectorPacific Coast MB Church tour
Cry, the Beloved CountryDalton Reimer, DirectorWitmarsum Courtyard,
Immanuel Academy
Chapel, Bakersfield


Rejectedalton Reimer, Stage DirectorDietrich Friesen, Musical DirectorAACC Hall, Immanuel Academy Chapel, Greeley Elementary (Rosedale)


The Greatest Christmas GiftPacific Bible College