DCCA News: Something to celebrate


Because she strongly believed that the arts count in the lives of children and families of all backgrounds, Jean Louise Thieme (JLT) wanted to add a children’s theatre series to Darke County Center for the Arts’ presenting schedule. Jean Louise was a driving force in the creation of the arts organization and served as its first Executive Director; the energetic activist also led the fundraising effort that resulted in the restoration of Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall completed in 1998. Needless to say, JLT was benevolent, wise, and a force to be reckoned with. So in 1997, DCCA’s Family Theatre Series (FTS) was inaugurated; this season, FTS is celebrating its 20th anniversary!

Jean Louise knew that theatre provides a powerful tool to reach children, cultivating curiosity, expanding imaginations, and helping inspire a lifelong appreciation for the performing arts. Her goal was not only to enrich lives through the presentation of plays, but also to help develop a future audience for DCCA presentations by enticing families to discover the relevance of the arts to a well-lived life. And according to current DCCA Executive Director Andrea Jordan, Jean Louise’s dream has become a triumphant reality, with generations of children and their families as well as the arts organization enjoying the benefits.

The Family Theatre Series has experienced some struggles through the years, with ups and downs in attendance figures. Even though most of the shows appeal to audiences of all ages, as kids grow up they sometimes feel that they’ve outgrown children’s theatre; so after four years or so of thoroughly enjoying their outings to St. Clair Memorial Hall to see a DCCA Family Theatre presentation, youngsters often decide that they have become too mature or too cool to attend the shows, and don’t return until they’ve become parents themselves. Therefore, each season DCCA must strive to attract a new audience while at the same time fulfilling its commitment to loyal supporters.

DCCA’s Family Theatre Series’ 20th anniversary season will end this Sunday, April 8, with Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia’s Guess How Much I Love You and My Little Storybook; showtime is 2 p.m. Ms. Jordan says that it looks as though the upcoming show will be a sellout, following the example of the first presentation of the season, Lightwire Theatre’s innovative A Very Electric Christmas, as well as it’s followup, Theatreworks USA’s delightful adaptation of the beloved classic, Charlotte’s Web. Attendees report that cultural enrichment simply feels like a good time shared among family, friends, and neighbors, with the benefits extending long after the curtain falls on each production.

DCCA seeks to present Family Theatre performances that reinforce wholesome values while also entertaining and enlightening audiences of all ages. Most of the productions are based on children’s literature such as the two classics included this season. Additionally, DCCA officials work to keep ticket prices as low as possible; community support for that policy has been strong since the very beginning, as evidenced by the fact that, thanks in large part to local business, corporate, and individual sponsorships, Family Theatre admission currently costs just $5.

A play has the ability to jump a story off the page and bring it to life, making for an unforgettable experience. Additionally, what is happening on stage is very similar to the play acting and role playing all children do, so despite sometimes nervous expectations, attending a play is a quite comfortable experience. The hidden fact that good plays are just a little bit incomplete, needing an audience to complete them, also contributes to creating positive theatrical exposure and a memorable event. These qualities are instrumental to the success achieved by DCCA’s Family Theatre Series during the past twenty years. As the magic of theatre captivates new generations, Jean Louise Thieme’s dream continues to generate joy, stimulate creativity, and inspire souls.


By Marilyn Delk


Marilyn Delk is a director of the Darke County Center for the Arts and can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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