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COVID & the Arts: Junior Theatre Moves Online

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Davenport Junior Theatre
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The pandemic has not stopped the Davenport Junior Theatre from posting lessons and shows online. Now it's going to add 50 classes on Zoom.

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the 69-year-old program of the Davenport Parks and Recreation Department has moved its programs online. Since April, it has over 50 free videos on the “DJT Learning YouTube Channel” that include lessons in theater and dance, tours, full original productions, and much more.

Starting June 1st, Junior Theatre will offer 50 fee-based theater and dance classes using the Zoom platform. The classes - which will meet once a week for a month - are designed for kids ages 3-18, says Daniel Sheridan, performing arts supervisor who oversees Davenport Junior Theatre.

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Credit Davenport Junior Theatre
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Daniel Sheridan

“It was just really important for us to start getting content to kids who love theater and dance, who’ve been part of the program, and regardless of their situation, they can access that right away. So that was priority one. And priority two was a more interactive class.”

 
Since programs and the junior theater facility, at 2822 Eastern Avenue, are supported by Davenport taxpayers, all Davenport residents receive 20% off the class registration fee with most capped at about $20 per class.

Eight new classes, between theater and dance, include voice-over, creative movement, acting with accents, dance team skills, fitness, and character creation, among others. The fee-based classes include traditional DJT lineups such as acting, ballet, improv, hip-hop, musical theater, poms, puppetry, and more.

Junior Theatre Incorporated, the program’s non-profit partner, is paying the costs associated with the digital Zoom platform. And Sheridan says this avoids that expense being passed along in the registration fees.

“Covid-19 will not keep us from finding ways to serve kids. Junior Theatre has been around for nearly 70 years. We are a scrappy, innovative, resourceful and proud program that is manned by some of the most compassionate and talented professionals."

“We have to be creative in these times and find flexible programming that allows us to serve. Our digital session offers classes in the morning, late afternoon, and evening hours to serve various family needs, at affordable costs.”

Those who register for class will get a packet with Zoom setup instructions and how to prepare a space for your child to learn and have fun. Each class will have between 8-12 students, like the traditional in-person classes.

Last summer, Davenport Junior Theatre registered about 500 students for summer classes, and over 300 in summer camps, which meet one week at a time in daylong sessions.  Sheridan says, they canceled their first one, which was supposed to start in mid-June, and now plan to hold the rest over the summer, with in-person programs returning in July.

Online classes also allow junior theater alums, or students who live outside the area, to try them out, and they’ve already received some out-of-state registrations. For more information or to register, visit davenportjuniortheatre.org.
 

Formerly the arts and entertainment reporter for The Dispatch/Rock Island Argus and Quad-City Times, Jonathan Turner now writes freelance for WVIK and QuadCities.com. He has experience writing for daily newspapers for 32 years and has expertise across a wide range of subject areas, including government, politics, education, the arts, economic development, historic preservation, business, and tourism. He loves writing about music and the arts, as well as a multitude of other topics including features on interesting people, places, and organizations. He has a passion for accompanying musicals, singers, choirs, and instrumentalists. He even wrote his own musical based on The Book of Job, which premiered at Playcrafters in 2010. He wrote a 175-page history book about downtown Davenport, which was published by The History Press in 2016. Turner was honored in 2009 to be among 24 arts journalists nationwide to take part in a 10-day fellowship offered by the National Endowment for the Arts in New York City on classical music and opera, based at Columbia University’s journalism school.
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