A proud graduate of the St. Ambrose University theatre program and holder of a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Connecticut, Daniel DP Sheridan '05 is equally proud of the program that gave him his first taste of the spotlight.
He also is fiercely protective of that Davenport Junior Theater program, which is why he returned to his hometown after obtaining his MFA in 2008.
"The program had been deteriorating and was on the verge of being canceled," said Sheridan, who stepped in as the program's coordinator and brought it back to life. "A world without Davenport Junior Theater did not compute. It was too important to let go."
That's not a concern any longer.
Under Sheridan's direction, the 61-year-old Davenport program, the second-oldest junior theater program in the United States, has grown from 350 enrolled students when he arrived to 1,500 and counting.
"I hired more staff and we took everything back to the basics," Sheridan said. "We eliminated some programming. We wanted to grow."
His staff includes close to 10 St. Ambrose graduates or current students, and a few of his junior actors have gone on to pursue degrees at SAU. Sheridan likes to call that "a circular progression," and he credits theater professor and department chair Cory Johnson, PhD, for teaching him true Ambrosian lessons he works to pay forward.
"We are always asking ‘what are we doing for the kids now and what aren't we doing that we could be?'" Sheridan said. "We want it to keep growing and changing with the needs of the kids."
A recent addition to the program, Spectrum Theater, will aim to help children with autism through their participation in theater. "I have learned to never count a student out," Sheridan said. "Seeing students make discoveries in themselves or in the play ... seeing that light go on. That's the most rewarding part."