It all started with an empty auditorium and a group of concerned citizens. The hall was fastened to the public high school in suburban Lakewood. The citizens were members of the Lakewood Board of Education who wanted to fill the auditorium during the summer months with cultural offerings.
The year was 1961 when Lakewood Board of Education president Dorothy Teare persuaded a peripatetic Shakespeare troupe to make Lakewood Civic Auditorium its home. The troupe had been founded a decade earlier at Antioch College by a then-English professor named Arthur Lithgow, and had been wandering the state of Ohio.
Dubbed "the Johnny Appleseed of Shakespeare" by his son, actor John Lithgow, the senior Lithgow specialized in the Bard. His focus suited the educational mission of Teare, who became the new theater's first board president, and her army of stalwart volunteers. The theater that opened its doors on July 11, 1962 as Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival presented six Shakespeare plays in rotating repertory.
The mission of Great Lakes Theater, through its main stage productions and its education programs, is to bring the pleasure, power and relevance of classic theater to the widest possible audience.