Theatre 7 has been entertaining audiences for over 50 years, taking it’s name (a suggestion from member Ralph Donovan) from the trend of the day — “the whole name and a number thing.” It was spun off from Decatur theatrical group Town and Gown, whose director, Millikin University theater director Gerald Michel, preferred producing and performing the classics. Members wanting to focus on more contemporary material decided one night after rehearsal to form their own group, and did just that in December of 1963. Approximately 30 people came together to form what would become the organization that continues producing quality stage work to this day.
A full list of past performances can be found here.
Bob & Dorothy Cargill
Sue & Ralph Donovan
Orv & Donna Graham
Charoline & Jack Robb
Ken & Jean Robertson
Eileen & Bob Ruski
Marjorie & Jack Sangster
Anne & Paul Swearingen
Jean & Jerry Waldera
Jack & Rowena Woodard
Original T7 Officers
President: Gerald Waldera
Vice President: Ralph Donovan
Secretary: Coleen Harman
Treasurer: Robert C. Ruski
First full production
Light Up the Sky in May 1964
First show mounted on Kirkland’s stage
My Fair Lady, 1971
First show in the Decatur Civic Center
Hello Dolly, 1980
Where We’ve Been
Theatre 7 has called its current downtown location, 131 N. Water St., home since 1991. Prior to the purchase of our building, T7 Headquarters had been located all over Decatur, including:
St. John’s Episcopal Church
Swain & Myers Building, 300 W. Cerro Gordo St.
above Greenburg’s Shoe Outlet, 600 N. Water St.
Old St. Nick Hotel, 101 South Main St.
Currently all Theatre 7 shows are performed at the Decatur Civic Center. Past performance locations have included Richland Community College’s Shilling Auditorium, Masonic Temple, Millikin University’s Albert Taylor Hall and Kirkland Fine Arts Center, along with a number of churches, high school auditoriums, taverns and bars and even an automobile sales showroom!
A parrot named JayJay appeared in Theatre 7’s very first production, Light Up the Sky, prophetically squawking, “SRO, Darling, SRO,” which meant Standing Room Only. One year later a production of Guys and Dolls indeed had a standing room only crowd! As a result JayJay has become the official mascot for T7, and at the end of each season we celebrate The JayJay Awards where small “golden” parrot statuettes are awarded!
In 2015, T7 member Jayson Albright debuted the updated JayJay you see pictured here!