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Davidson Community Players’ Executive Director Matt Merrell Exits the Stage

by | Jun 28, 2023

Davidson Community Players Executive Director Matt Merrell (Jane Campbell photo)

Davidson, NC — June 27, 2023 — After twelve years of inspiring leadership and profound commitment, Matt Merrell, Davidson Community Players’ (DCP) Executive Director, will be retiring from DCP at the end of the month. Since taking the helm in 2011, Matt has significantly influenced the growth and vibrancy of the Davidson Community Players, transforming the community theatre into a creative hub where art, culture, and community coalesce.

Under Matt’s dynamic leadership, the theatre has seen exponential growth in terms of audience reach, production quality, and educational programming. His tireless dedication has placed Davidson Community Players on the map as a staple institution for locals and theatre aficionados in the surrounding areas. Furthermore, Matt’s unwavering commitment to nurturing local talent and fostering a love for the performing arts in the community has resulted in countless awards and recognitions.

Board Chairman, Stuart Jonap, commented, “Matt’s passion, vision, and commitment have been a guiding force for the Davidson Community Players. His leadership and dedication have left an indelible mark on our organization and community. While we will greatly miss his presence, we are excited for him as he embarks on this new chapter of life.”

While Matt started full-time at DCP in 2011, his relationship began 15 years earlier when he played Bill Sykes in DCP’s summer production of Oliver! That production marked his return to theatre, which grew into a rekindled passion that eventually led to his hire.

It wasn’t always smooth sailing, though. He began his tenure with DCP by inheriting an organization in need of financial guidance and artistic inspiration.

“We had the desire to expand programming but neither the facilities nor the staff to do so,” Merrell commented.

He soon fully took the reins, though, and catapulted DCP into an award-winning theatre, recently recognized as both the NC Community Theatre of the Year and Youth Theatre of the Year by the North Carolina Theater Conference. DCP was also recognized as the Lake Norman Small Business of the Year this past April.

His financial leadership brought the theatre well-stocked reserves that helped DCP survive the pandemic by more than quadrupling the limited assets he inherited.

Merrell observed, “We’re among the most financially sound theatre companies in NC due to careful budgeting, wise decisions, robust fundraising, and strong patron support.”

Programming improvements under his leadership include adding a full-length show to the season, a ten-minute play festival, teen summer stock opportunities, and a summer camp program that’s tripled in size. He’s also produced a wide range of shows—and he’s flexed his acting muscles as well.

“There are so many shows that I’ve really loved. Some acting favorites are Leading Ladies, Don’t Dress for Dinner, and A Comedy of Tenors. I also really enjoyed producing Mamma Mia, Chicago, 42nd Street, and Ragtime.”

While Matt’s leadership will be sorely missed, his legacy will continue to inspire DCP to create, explore, and imagine.

Theatre Prof. Steve Kaliski ’07 will become the new Executive Director of Davidson Community Players when Matt Merrell ’84 steps down. (screenshot from the

“I’m not sure what the future holds for me next, but I’ll miss DCP deeply. For now, I’m looking forward to spending more time with my wife, Holt, and some much-needed down time. I’ve had a great run and have loved working for DCP, getting to know its passionate supporters, and working with talented artists.”

Incoming Executive Director Steve Kaliski will join DCP on July 10, 2023.

About Davidson Community Players:

Davidson Community Players is a non-profit organization established in 1965 that strengthens the community by providing theatre experiences and education opportunities that inspire, challenge, and entertain. With a commitment to artistic excellence and community engagement, the organization has been at the forefront of local theatre in North Carolina.


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