Triumphant Return of Theatre Program

Cast of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),” Photo by Ali Seblini
Cast of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),” Photo by Ali Seblini

Henry Ford College’s theatre program has had a remarkable comeback this academic year, with the successful staging of two productions and two more in the pipeline.

The theatre program has a long and storied history of producing engaging and thought-provoking productions for the community – with a focus on providing students with hands-on learning opportunities and professional-level experience – dating back to the college’s founding in 1938. The program has seen numerous changes over the years, from its early days performing in makeshift venues to the current state-of-the-art Adray Auditorium, which houses a 400-seat proscenium theatre and a black box studio theatre. The program has also undergone changes in leadership and curriculum, with various directors and instructors bringing their unique visions.

Over the years, the program has faced its fair share of challenges, including budget cuts, lack of funding, and a high turnover rate of faculty members. However, in recent years, the program has been on the rise again, thanks to the efforts of dedicated faculty members, committed students, and community support.

After being closed since the start of the pandemic, in the fall of 2021, the program made a triumphant return, thanks in no small part to the arrival of Dr. John Michael Sefel. Dr. Sefel, who joined the college as its new full-time theatre instructor, is a seasoned director and educator with a passion for developing young talent and promoting diversity and inclusion in the arts.

Dr. Sefel brought with him a wealth of experience and expertise in theatre education, having previously taught at several other colleges and universities across the United States. He has an extensive background in theatre education and performance, having worked in the industry for over two decades. He holds a Ph.D. in Theatre History and Performance Theory from the University of Pittsburgh, and his research interests include contemporary American drama, theatre and globalization, and theatre and social change.

Under Dr. Sefel’s leadership, the theatre program has experienced a significant revitalization. The fall semester saw the creation of a new Student Theatre Club, which has provided students with opportunities to engage with the theatre community and participate in extracurricular activities related to theatre. In addition, the program has put on the successful run of “The Passage,” a Moby Dick-inspired play by Robert Lawson featuring the work of over 30 students and collaboration between HFC’s Theatre, Music, Ceramics, and Telecommunication Media departments. Not only did “The Passage” play to appreciative audiences, but it also earned commendations and awards from the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.

Dr. Sefel has also worked to make the program more inclusive and diverse, providing opportunities for students of all backgrounds and experiences. In January, HFC Theatre presented the Michigan debuts of two new works: “5AM Pancakes” by Alexa Juanita Jordan and “Tenderly” by Ida Esmaeilli. These productions not only received rave reviews from audiences but also lived up to Sefel’s promise to bring in more works by playwrights of color, more plays that deal with the Arab American experience, and to offer more opportunities for the college’s dual-enrollee students.

In addition to producing traditional plays and musicals, the theatre program has also experimented with more innovative forms of theatre-making. For example, the program will be hosting “HFC23!,” a two-day event in which four new plays will be written, cast, rehearsed, and performed in just 23 hours. This event is meant to provide students with a unique opportunity to engage in the creative process of theatre-making while having fun. According to Dr. Sefel, “The idea is much more about process than product. It’s a great way for students at all levels of their education and experience to dive in and do the hard work of theatre-making while having fun.” Admission to the event will be by donation to the HFC Theatre Club, which is raising funds for its trip to the American College Theatre Festival.

The second upcoming production is the hilarious “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged),” where three performers attempt to summarize and perform all of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets in just 90 minutes. Dr. Sefel describes the show as “goofy, with generous amounts of slapstick and an appearance by Godzilla.”

While auditions for the 2022-2023 school year are over, students are still encouraged to attend productions and get involved with the HFC Theatre Club meetings. The program is open to any current students of Henry Ford College or the University of Michigan-Dearborn, including online, early college, and dual-enrollees.

With Dr. Sefel at the helm, the program has a renewed focus on promoting diversity and inclusion, developing young talent, and providing opportunities for students of all backgrounds and experience levels to explore the art of theatre. The program also offers courses in acting, stagecraft, directing, and playwriting, providing a well-rounded education for students interested in pursuing a career in theatre.

Dr. Sefel encourages anyone interested in joining the HFC Theatre program to reach out to him at With a new slate of shows and auditions already planned for the next academic year, the program is sure to have an exciting future ahead.