Come this fall, Davenport Junior Theatre will have a new artistic director, who left an acting career in New York City to lead the nation’s second-oldest children’s theater.
Ben Gougeon – who’s been theater programs coordinator since last fall and a DJT instructor last summer – will take the helm of the Mainstage Company this fall for season 69. Out of eight applicants, the Western Illinois University grad was chosen by the independent nonprofit Junior Theatre Inc. hiring committee, following consultation with and presentations to current students, families, and professionals.
“We ended up with an amazing group of candidates,” Daniel Sheridan, DJT’s 11-year artistic director, said this week. “It’s exciting to have to make the hard decision. The job doesn’t pay a lot, so it’s a labor of love.”
The artistic director is a part-time job that pays $10,000 a year and Gougeon will combine that continuing as programs coordinator for the Mary Fluhrer Nighswander Theater at 2822 Eastern Ave., Davenport.
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Gougeon is shadowing Sheridan during the end of the 68th season, and Sheridan will stay on with DJT (which serves area students age 3-18) as city-funded performing arts supervisor through Davenport Parks and Recreation, overseeing all class programs, camps, facility development, logistics, etc.
“Gougeon will be able to offer more direct focus, guidance and development for the Mainstage Company,” Sheridan said. This is the first time in the history of the organization that the performing arts supervisor and artistic director will be separate people.
A native of northern Michigan, Gougeon began acting at the age of 9 in the many theaters in his small town, and continued his training at Western Michigan University (where he earned his B.A.), and Western Illinois University (MFA).
After graduating, he moved to New York City, and worked steadily on stages, and for TV and film, on tours, and regionally. In New York, he was a member of Nylon Fusion Theatre and Witness Immersive, and worked regularly at the Obie Award-winning Metropolitan Playhouse.
Gougeon has been seen and heard around the world in film, television, commercials and voice-overs, including the Emmy-winning “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" (in Episode 203), “The Deuce,” “Law & Order: SVU,” and “The Blacklist.”
He was assistant artistic director at the Whole Art Theatre in Kalamazoo, Mich., and founded eXit Productions, focused on producing new plays in Michigan and New York City, including the New York International Fringe Festival. For more information, visit bengougeon.com.