Forest Roberts Theatre

Many of you may be familiar with Forest Roberts Theatre, but do you know about its history? Do you know who Forest Roberts was and why the building was named after him? Do you know about the ghost who haunts the theatre?

Before the building was dedicated, it was known as the Little Theatre. It was part of a three-unit complex that was completed in 1963. The complex includes the Thomas Fine Arts Building and the McClintock Building. The Little Theatre was dedicated and renamed for Forest A. Roberts on May 31st, 1969.


Forest Roberts was the first chairman of the department of speech at Northern Michigan University. He came to Northern in 1928 and soon became the first director of forensics at NMU. Roberts became the department head and was appointed full professor in 1957. He retired in 1966 after serving Northern for 38 years. While at Northern, Roberts was actively involved in theatre groups and served as president of both the Marquette Summer Theatre (1935-39) and the Marquette Community Concert Association (1956-58). He holds a life membership in the National Education Association and an honorary life membership in the Michigan Speech Association. Due to his service to Northern Michigan University, the Department of Speech, and local theater groups, the building was named after him. The Little Theatre quickly became known as the Forest Roberts Theatre.

frt-001The “Little Theatre” prior to being named for Forest Roberts

frt-002The Forest Roberts Theatre after its dedication.

What may not be as widely known is the story of the ghost who haunts the halls of the theatre. For many years, the building had a custodian named Perry. He was a friendly guy who had worked at Northern for nearly 30 years. However, Perry was known for being a heavy drinker and also suffered from heart problems. One day, he had a heart attack and died in the elevator of the theater. A student janitor found him a few hours later. Since his death the elevator has reportedly acted strangely. For example it will go down when you push the up button and makes weird mechanical sounds even though the elevator doesn’t move. Student employees also claim to sometimes feel a draft and a sense of a presence while in the building. Some believe Perry never left the Forest Roberts Theatre and that his ghost will haunt it forever more.

Come and learn more about the Forest Roberts Theatre at the Archives!

Blog post written by Anne Krohn


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