Among the more special places in my life is Davenport Junior Theatre. It was my first professional theatre job right after I graduated from college. It's where a dashing, driven and inspiring young artistic director totally stole my heart and changed my life forever. It's where I learned how to share my love for theatre and story telling with children. It's where I have made friends, fallen in love with dozens of families, cleaned up more bodily fluids than I care to remember and created some of the best memories of my adult life. I've taught more than 400 students between the ages of 3-18, directed 6 professional productions and worked at almost two dozen camps. So, yeah, this place is special to me.
But it is also important to thousands of other children and their families. This year alone DJT has been instrumental in changing the lives of more than 1,750 students. Teaching them that it's okay to think outside the box, march to the beat of their own drum and go against the grain. It's more than just putting on plays, It's teaching them to speak and go through life with confidence and creativity. Teaching them to value their bodies, voices and imaginations- to treat them with respect and love and acceptance of their individuality. It's a place where kids having a rough time at school can come and be themselves without fear of being bullied. It's a place where competition is non-existent and equality is genuine. So yeah, this place is pretty special to a lot of people.
Since 1951 kids have been learning, playing and exploring at Davenport Junior Theatre and since 1978 it's permanent home has been on the Annie Whittenmeyer complex in Davenport. The complex is actually one of the highest points in Davenport. It started as a Civil War camp (because of it's strategically high location), then became the first federally funded orphanage in America and now is home to DJT which is the second oldest children's theatre in the US. Our theatre on the campus began as a church built in 1901 and was converted to the current theatre back in 1981. Aaaaaand that's the last time DJT was renovated.
Well, it's time for a full renovation. New seats (sans the 1970's orange and yellow palate), new paint, new carpet and sub flooring, additional flooring reinforcement, new railings and a plethora of other odds and ends. Yeah, it's a big project. The biggest Daniel has over seen. Luckily, he has an amazing boss (Scott, the director of Parks and Recreation) and support staff within the city that has already pledged $70,000 in CIP money to the renovation. That leaves DJT with the task to raise an additional $40,000 to make sure this renovation happens this summer.
I want to do a little side note here just to say how proud I am of Daniel for all he has made happen in his time as artistic director. His passion for sharing theatre and making an impact in the lives of children is truly contagious. Everything he has made happen at DJT is for a better future for kids. When we were first married, he was working 80 hour weeks to improve DJT and boy has it paid off. There is now a support staff of coordinators, teaching artists and Junior Staff that swells to more than 40 during the summer months. He has overseen projects to replace the electrical and lighting systems, replace and reinforce the stage floor, renovate the theatre lobby and bathrooms, bring more accessibility to the 156 year old buildings, renovate the basement to create an additional dance studio- and that list doesn't include everything else he's overseen in the other 5 buildings he supervises on campus. None of this would have happened were it not for his motivating spirit- inspiring other to give, work and fight for a better DJT.
It's a big task to raise $40,000, but it'll be worth it in the end. When current and future students will be ensured a quality place to perform for the next 30 years. They will have a theatre that rivals any other in the Quad Cities. This place is a second home to a lot of kids and they deserve so much. Will you help us give them a better future? If you can, please consider donating today. Any amount helps to get our students that much closer to the future they deserve!
The kids and families below are just some of the past, current and future students, teachers and supporters that I had the pleasure of photographing for this campaign!