Founded in 1951, Davenport Junior Theatre is the second oldest children's theatre in America maintaining the mission of "Theatre for Kids, by Kids." Co-founders Leone Bredbeck and Mary Fluhrer Nighswander developed the idea of theatre instruction and performance for Quad-City Area youth. From these ideas, Davenport Junior Theatre was born. Because of the work of its founders, Davenport Junior Theatre has been able to spend the past six decades giving area youth the opportunity to learn to speak clearly, confidently and creatively in any social setting.
Originally known as the "Gypsy camp," Davenport Junior Theatre rehearsed and performed in various parks, theatres, and churches. The dream of a permanent home came true in 1976 when the City of Davenport bought the Annie Wittenmyer Complex and designated three cottages and the chapel for the program. Over the next four years, Junior Theatre, Inc. invested approximately $750,000 and countless volunteer hours toward its renovation.
The cottages have become offices, technical and rehearsal spaces, while the chapel has become Davenport Junior Theatre's very own Nighswander Theatre, named for our founder (Mary Fluhrer Nighswander). In this space, Junior Theatre is flourishing, and now includes many acting, musical theatre and technical theatre classes, as well as Junior Theatre's Mainstage Acting Company. In the summer, we offer Performing Arts Camps at the complex.
Davenport Junior Theatre also recently relaunched its School of Dance. This new branch of programming will allow students the opportunity to immerse themselves futher in the Performing Arts.
Despite all of its recent changes, Davenport Junior Theatre is proud to recognize its strong historical roots. Its mascot, ShowTime Pal, which was developed in 1955 with the help of Leone Bredbeck, continues to teach children about theatre, as well as entertain. Junior Theatre also has an active and ongoing commitment to engage our alumni, who are always more than willing to return and contribute their skills or swing by and say hello.
In the last few years, our facility has seen many new changes. Our most recent addition is our new 40 car parking lot right in front of the theatre! We have also recently remodeled our lobby, received a new roof, additional lighting and sound equipment, a new dance floor, started our online newsletter, and continue to strive towards excellence in all we do.
These improvements would not be possible if it were not for the healthy collaboration between Davenport Parks and Recreation and Junior Theatre Inc. All involved at Junior Theatre are grateful for the hard work of both organizations.
With a powerful history and strong community-wide support, Davenport Junior Theatre is looking ahead to its bright future of successful theatre and arts programming for all youth in the greater Quad Cities area.
The history of the Annie Wittenmyer Campus