Executive Director & Founder
Marty Hesse is a classically trained pianist, organist, and music director who brings a love for music and deep appreciation for teamwork to The GhostLight Theatre. “For every one person on stage there are five people behind the scenes making it all happen!” Her impressive resume includes a 30-year background directing music for performances throughout the Midwest including Les Misérables, The Producers, Cabaret, Spamalot, and City of Angels.
Originally from the Chicago area, Marty moved to Southwest Michigan in 2017 and quickly joined forces with Paul Mow. Marty also happens to be a retired community college IT (Information Technology) professor, and is a current board member for the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra and the Benton Harbor Education Foundation. Her proud status as Director Emeritus at the Prairie State College Foundation is a reflection of her belief that an education not only opens doors, it also changes lives.
Marty holds a Master of Arts in Education from the National Lewis University and earned her Bachelor of Arts from Saint Mary’s College at Notre Dame University.
"Neither Paul nor I had ever started a theatre from scratch. In late 2017, we spent many hours sitting at my kitchen table forming our ideas, writing the bylaws, and talking about each of our visions. The GhostLight Board of Directors was formed and it quickly became clear that we needed a LOT of money to make this dream happen. A $50,000 matching grant from the MEDC required that we raise $50,000 on our own. We organized a KickOff party for a Sunday afternoon at my house in August 2018. About an hour before guests arrived, Paul asked me how much I thought we would raise at the party, and I said, "I would be thrilled to make $20,000 this afternoon. We'd be 40% of our way to the goal."
"About 150 people came and paid $50 each, and we were thrilled. We had two projectors showing progress toward our goal of $50,000, and watching the status bar move was very exciting. Paul had organized a marvelous concert, and as the various singers were performing, people started handing me checks and I would sneak into my bedroom and update the total on my laptop so it could display on the walls."
"Just before the last song, Paul announced a $10,000 donation, then someone stood up and donated $2,500, and then someone else stood up and donated $5,000. There was tremendous cheering each time. One more song, and the concert was over...we had raised $47,300 and everyone was very excited - we were so close to our goal. The last song was "I Know Where I've Been" from Hairspray. As we were wrapping up, and thanking everyone for coming, Suz Schalon from the Schalon Foundation asked to speak to the crowd, so we quieted everyone down, and Suz said, 'Paul and Marty, you know where you've been, but I'm going to tell you where you're going. The Schalon Foundation will donate $50,000 so you can build The GhostLight Theatre!' There were gasps and loud cheering, Paul and I cried, everyone was on their feet, whooping and hollering - it was sheer joyous bedlam!"
"Two days later, we had raised an additional $5,700 from many smaller donations, so our total was $103,000 raised, plus the $50,000 match from MEDC for a total of $153,000 - we were able to purchase the building and begin renovations."
"I was so overwhelmed by how quickly we raised this much money, and spent weeks trying to analyze how it happened. In hindsight, it's clear that this community truly believed in our dream, they wanted a theatre in the Benton Harbor Arts District, and they were willing to support it. There is no greater joy than to be a part of bringing performing arts to people who greatly appreciate it. Many times since that event, someone has said 'I am SO glad GhostLight is here' or 'You have no idea how much this means to me" or 'I can't afford much, but here's $10 because I believe in what you're doing'. I think the challenge for us is to remember these words, and to keep our inspiration alive because we know that we are touching people's hearts and minds. It's pretty easy to get bogged down in the details of running a business, or the exhaustion of a Tech Week, or the tedium of mountains of paperwork. But whenever I feel like there's just too much to do, I think of all the lives we've changed, all the beautiful music and theatre we've made, all the smiles and hugs and applause, and I know this was the perfect theater to have made in this time and place."