Junior Theatre's Jungle Book pushes the envelope

Posted Online: April 23, 2013, 2:17 pm
Comment on this story | Print this story | Email this story
Press release submitted by City of Davenport Parks and Recreation

Local artists bring design elements to new levels

Davenport Junior Theatre (DJT) may be theatre "For Kids, By Kids," but do not let the children's theatre tagline lower your theatrical expectations. Striving for excellence, DJT continues to push the envelope in theatrical design for the area.

"This is the first time in 61 years we are doing a full mask production of this caliber," shared Kristin Meyer, DJT President. "Not only have we expanded in the last few years to hire professionals in costume, lighting, sound, props and scenic designs, our production of Jungle Book features half-masks created by local artists."

The show begins in a late 19th century boarding school where the young author of The Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling, is seeking inspiration for a writing assignment. Soon we are swept up into Kipling's imagination, as the adventure comes to life with characters like Mowlgi the Man Cub, Shere Kahn the Tiger, and Baloo the Bear.

Founded in 1951, Davenport Junior Theatre is the second-oldest children's theatre in America. Classes and camps are offered year round in theatre and dance for students ages three to eighteen.

The local artists recruited to build the 18 masks for this production were husband and wife duo Daniel and Jessica Sheridan. Daniel is also the Artistic Director of DJT and Performing Arts Supervisor for Davenport Parks and Recreation. Jessica is a DJT instructor, director of Jungle Book, owner of Shared Light Photography and the general manager of Midcoast Fine Arts.

"I studied mask in graduate school at UConn," stated Daniel. "I have wanted to do a mask production with the kids for years now. It is such a magical experience for the actors and the audiences. We're finally pulling it off."

"It takes a tremendous amount of time," added Jessica. "Each mask takes between 20 - 25 hours to complete. We converted our basement at home into a design studio. Needless to say, it gets messy."

The process involves sculpting a mask out of clay, making a plaster cast of the sculpture to create a negative, pouring in neoprene latex, letting it sit many hours, pouring out the neoprene, removing the mask, trimming it down to size, fitting it to the actors face, adding straps and then painting.

"I think Daniel initially thought he could handle it all on his own," smirked Jessica. "It's safe to say he couldn't have done it without me."

"I concede that's true," replied Daniel. "Jessica is a far better painter and visual artist than I am. My strength is in structure and performance skills. Plus, she is the director. So it has been nice to work side by side with her to get exactly what she was looking for."

Not only have students been rehearsing the play itself, they have also undergone 20 hours of intensive mask training on the weekends.

"Performing in mask is a skill the needs to be developed," said Daniel. "The mask teaches us about poise, energy, precision and using the whole body to communicate."

"To do a show like this well is a tremendous challenge," added Jessica. "But one thing I have learned about the kids at DJT, they are always up for a challenge."


General Information:
The Jungle Book
Written by Rudyard Kipling
Adapted by Joseph Robinette

Saturday, April 27 : 1:00pm & 4:00pm
Sunday, April 28 : 2:00pm
Saturday, May 4 : 1:00pm & 4:00pm
Sunday, May 5 : 2:00pm
$5.00 for anyone 3 years and up, tickets sold at the door
(Show runs approximately 60 minutes)

Davenport Junior Theatre
Annie Wittenmyer Campus
2822 Eastern Avenue
Davenport, IA 52803


Local events heading

  Today is Thursday, July 31, the 212th day of 2014. There are 153 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: A corps of surgeons now occupies the new hospital quarters at the Garrison Hospital on the Rock Island Arsenal. A fence has been installed to enclose the prison hospital.
1889 -- 125 years ago: B. Winter has let a contract to Christ Schreiner for a two story brick building with a double store front on the south side of 3rd Avenue just west of 17th Street. The estimated cost was $4,500.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Germany sent simultaneous ultimatums to Russia and France, demanding that Russia suspend mobilization within 12 hours and demanding that France inform Germany within 18 hours. In the case of war between Germany and Russia, France would remain neutral.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Civil service offices at the post office and the Rock Island Arsenal were swamped as more than 700 youths sought 15 machinist apprenticeships at the Arsenal.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Last night, American Legion Post 246 in Moline figuratively handed over the trousers to a female ex-Marine and petticoat rule began. Olga Swanson, of Moline, was installed as the first woman commander of the post .
1989 -- 25 years ago: The Illinois Quad City Civic Center captured the excitement and interest of a convention of auditorium managers this weekend in Reno, Nev. Bill Adams, civic center authority chairman, said the 10,000-seat arena planned for downtown Moline has caught the eye of construction firms, suppliers, management teams and concession groups.

(More History)