The Great Plains Theatre was opened in 1995 by Richard Esvang and Michelle Meade. Prior to their endeavor of opening a Professional Theatre in Abilene, Kansas, Richard and Michelle were living in New York City working as actors, writers and directors.
The idea of opening a theatre in Abilene came when Richard and Michelle made a trip to Kansas to visit friends who ran a Bed & Breakfast in Abilene. The quaint town seemed to provide a unique location for a Professional Theatre. Richard and Michelle wanted to create a new kind of theatre, something that was exciting and new in a town known for Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Chisholm Trail. The theatre would be a place for actors to grow and stretch their abilities in an open environment. A combination of professional actors from across the country and local talent would make up the casts for each show.
Richard began the process of reaching out to civic organizations in the community about opening a non-profit theatre. The supportive community welcomed the idea.
The next challenge was finding a building to house the theatre. Michelle spotted an ideal location, a historic structure that was formerly a Presbyterian Church. While away fulfilling an acting contract in Florida, Richard and Michelle received great news. Local businessman Terry Teitjens was willing to purchase and renovate the building. The Great Plains Theatre now had a physical home: The Teitjens Center for the Performing Arts. The theatre opened in the summer of 1995 with a production of The 1940′s Radio Hour followed by four other productions. Audiences were intrigued and have since come from all around the state and region to see what the theatre, the Premier Professional Regional Theatre in Central Kansas, has to offer.
In August of 2008, the Great Plains Theatre officially changed its name from The Great Plains Theatre Foundation Company to Great Plains Theatre, Inc. GPT also formed the Great Plains Theatre Foundation to provide more flexibility in its fundraising to secure the future of the theatre forever. Both the Great Plains Theatre, Inc. and Great Plains Theatre Foundation are 501c3 not for profit agencies.
Also in August of 2008, the Great Plains Theatre Foundation purchased the physical building that houses the Great Plains Theatre from owner Terry Tietjens. The diligent work of several GPT Board members and the Tietjens Foundation ensured the longevity of the theatre’s livelihood in Central Kansas, ensuring the continued efforts to bring Professional Theatre to the Heartland. The Great Plains Theatre is proud of its accomplishments and looks forward to a bright future.