Created in 1963, the Hilberry Theatre Company was the brainchild of Leonard Leone who believed that repertory theatre is the best possible training ground for careers in the theatre. Clarence B. Hilberry, then president of Wayne State University, personally took responsibility for raising the funds to convert the First Church of Christ Scientist in Detroit into an open-stage theatre, which now stands as a memorial to his leadership.
Following the Hilberry's opening, he invited a group of community leaders to form a women's committee to ensure the continuity of the growing company. "The Understudies," as the group became known, for almost 50 years has solicited funds, primarily from individual donors, to provide essential support for the artists of the Hilberry Company.
Widely known for the high quality of its productions, the Hilberry has received numerous honors. It has been selected to perform at Ford's Theatre and The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and in the Far East for the USO.
Over the years, the Hilberry has been honored with awards by several Detroit newspapers, including "Best Director" and "Best Play" for the 2003-2004 season's The Kentucky Cycle Parts I and II, co-directed by Patricia Ansuini and Lavinia Hart; "Best Season" (Oakland Press); "Favorite Local Professional Production - Drama" for Glengarry Glen Ross; and "Favorite Local Professional Production - Comedy" for Lovers and Executioners (Between the Lines), as well as many individual awards for members of the company.