ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT

Davidson Community Players – Theater as Teacher

by | Aug 13, 2017 | Davidson Community Players

Daddy Warbucks introduces Annie to President Roosevelt in DCP’s summer 2017 musical, Annie; (left to right) Chrissa Weir, Gracie Bryant, Scott Curtis, Michael Harris, and Anne Alexander

Longtime Davidson residents still remember the early days of the Davidson Community Players (DCP), when Constance Welsh — known by all as Connie — came to town in 1965 and began to tempt townsfolk onto the stage and into the audience with masterpieces like Our Town, The Bald Soprano, and The Crucible, as well as time-honored chestnuts like Harvey or Arsenic and Old Lace. Now 52 years later, Davidson residents old and new are joined by fans from neighboring towns and counties to fill halls for DCP’s five-play season, produced in its own Armour Street Theater, as well summer productions in the Duke Family Performance Hall on the Davidson College campus.

But that’s not all. With a belief in theater’s power to educate and develop skills in children, Connie Welsh began a “drama workshop” in what is now the Ada Jenkins Center, offering weekend classes for youngsters from first grade through high school. Her lessons in creative drama cultivated confidence, imagination, and teamwork among a generation of young Davidson citizens — and sparked a few professional theater careers. She also wrote a grant and gathered a talented team to take theater into the public schools as a teaching tool. And in 1972, she founded The Taradiddle Players, a small troupe of professional actors who performed each week in Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s many elementary schools. Taradiddle flourished through the years and in 1989 became the resident touring company of The Children’s Theatre of Charlotte.

Under the leadership of the late Rupert T. Barber, himself a theater pioneer who founded the Davidson theater department in 1963 as its first faculty member, DCP established The Connie Company in 1996. Formalizing its namesake’s conviction about the value of theater for young people, this division of DCP each year offers three full children’s productions, two teen summer stock productions, and many youth classes and workshops for theater arts education and performance opportunities.

Throughout the years, children who have honed their onstage skills as Connie Welsh’s students or as members of The Connie Company have graduated to the mainstage as actors in full scale DCP productions. This summer’s musical Annie, unimaginable without its confident cohort of young talent and skill, exemplified Connie’s vision for theater in our community: the wonder of excellent community theater and the joy of seeing young people grow before our very eyes.

Meg Kimmel

A professional communicator with a long career in higher education, Meg now consults and volunteers in areas where words and images work together to tell a story. She's a proud member of Davidson's Class of 1977 and lives nearby with her husband, Don, Davidson professor emeritus of biology, with whom she shares a family grown by kinship and choice.

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