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University community mourns death of pioneer in the field of theater for young audiences

Monday, June 01, 2015

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas community is grieving over the death of a notable figure in the Department of Theatre. 

Jed Davis, professor emeritus and former director of KU Theatre for Young People, died Monday, May 25, at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. He was 93.

“I join the KU community in expressing my condolences to Jed Davis’ family, friends, colleagues and former students as we remember him for helping establish KU as a national center for artistic and scholarly excellence in the field of theatre for young audiences,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. 

From 1960 to 1986, Davis directed KU Theatre for Young People. As a scholar, he published works that challenged theorized practices in the field of theatre for young audiences and affirmed the integral inclusion of young adults in theater as a necessary component of all university theatres. He argued for cross-disciplinary research in psychology by crafting developmental age profiles and encouraging empirical research with child audiences.

Jeanne Klein, a former doctoral student under Davis, remembers him as an extraordinary national and international leader and scholar of theatre for young audiences. When she began her graduate studies with him, he counseled her with these words: “Providing an art experience for children is like wishing on a star. It sends a dream into the cosmos, and you can’t tell when or what form that dream will drop back to earth and make a difference.”

“His stellar dreams made a remarkable difference on thousands of starry-eyed children, students, directors and scholars like me,” said Klein, who earned her doctorate in from KU in 1987. “His cosmic legacies will continue to drop back to earth for many future decades to come.”

Among Davis’ accomplishments, he co-founded the endowed Children’s Theatre Foundation of America in 1956 and was the first president of the American Theatre Association. He also was a co-founder of ASSITEJ, the International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People.

He was inducted into the College of Fellows of the American Theatre in 1972, serving as its dean and treasurer from 1990 to 1996. Davis’ awards included the Campton Bell Award in 1987 for his lifetime of extraordinary achievements and the Chancellor’s Club Teaching Award from KU in 1985.

Locally, Davis was one of the founders of the Lawrence Arts Center in 1975.

Services will be July 31 at Warren-McElwain Mortuary. Private family inurnrment services will take place after the service at Memorial Park Cemetery.


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