Hope College isn’t just a place; it’s a community. A regular feature within “Stories of Hope,” People of Hope explores what that means by highlighting some of the students, faculty and staff who help make the campus family what it is.
Professor of Theatre
For Michelle Bombe, the connection with Hope College was immediate. “I first came to Hope in 1984 as an acting intern for Hope Summer Repertory Theatre,” she said. “I was in love.”
She initially participated in the college’s professional summer theatre program (now called Hope Rep) because she was interested in a career in theatre, but felt drawn to Hope College’s campus and continued to return to Hope Rep after completing her MFA. The next year, a position at Hope became available. That was 32 years ago. Not only does she continue her art through theatrical design, she also teaches and works with students as chair of the Department of Theatre.
At Hope, learning about theatre includes creating theatre, with opportunities to perform on stage and serve behind the scenes in multiple productions throughout the year. Bombe is committed to training students to become what she calls citizen artists. “I think many of our students come to us wanting to find out how they can use their passion for art to create good in the world,” she said. “I love having the opportunity to expose our students to amazing theatre programs across the world that are using art to serve people in different ways.” A proud moment was seeing one of her students, Danai Mendebvu, present at the Aspire Program through the National Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) about her dream of bringing theatre back to her country of Zimbabwe. “I often sit in the theatre and get a bit weepy during our productions as I think of all of the growth and development of our student actors, designers and technicians, and to see them showcase their abilities for our audiences through our production program is quite gratifying,” Bombe said.
“I think many of our students come to us wanting to find out how they can use their passion for art to create good in the world.”Michelle Bombe
Her career-long dedication to teaching and producing theatre earned her national recognition, as she just won the National Kennedy Center Gold Medallion, which is the most prestigious national award presented by KCACTF. She concluded her term this summer as the National Chair of the organization.
“It has been my pleasure to guide the organization through the difficult years of the pandemic and I am so proud of the changes we have made to the organization during my tenure,” she said. “We implemented the RED initiative that stands for Representation, Equity, and Diversity. This program has been a game changer for our organization. We made significant structural changes to KCACTF and we now have BIPOC participation and representation in all areas of our organization and have increased access to all of our programs. When I look at the rich diversity of students who come to the Kennedy Center for the National Festival, I know that our work is making a difference.”
Of the upcoming academic year, Bombe used the words “energize”, “growth” and “transition” to describe what she hopes the theatre department will experience. She has two new faculty members coming on full-time this fall. Rhett Leudtke will direct and teach theatre history and acting, and Bianca Washington Ciungan will teach acting and theatre history, and also direct in the production program.
With this transition also comes the retirement of Daina Robins. “We came to Hope in the same year, and I can’t think of a better collaborator,” Bombe said. “She is an incredible teacher, mentor, and director. Her work is brilliant, and I have been so fortunate, as our students are, to work with her all of these years.”