An anonymous $20,000 gift from an Eastern Kentucky University graduate is allowing the EKU Center for the Arts to host a play based on the life of baseball legend and cultural icon Jackie Robinson for approximately 4,000 area schoolchildren.
Mad River Theater Works will present “Everybody’s Hero: The Jackie Robinson Story” on Tuesday, Feb. 7, with one performance at 9:15 a.m. and another at 11 a.m. More than 25 schools from a dozen counties will send students, ranging from elementary to high school, to one of the two hour-long performances, at no cost. Additional donations from Baptist Health and Friends of the Center are helping to defray transportation costs for some schools.
The donor, a 1977 EKU graduate, “has been a generous supporter of EKU for many years and decided after endowing a scholarship at the University that it was of great importance for students in Kentucky to experience the arts,” said Andrew Polter, associate director of development at Eastern. “As a student, the donor worked under Skip Daugherty’s guidance to present several professional concerts and touring acts on campus. That experience solidified (the donor’s) interest in and lifelong passion for the arts.”
After a long administrative career with the University, Daugherty serves today as interim director of programming and events at the Center for the Arts.
“This gift is going to make a significant difference to 4,000 students who will experience a live performance that is true to history,” Daugherty said. “We have been striving to provide this as part of our program for students, but many times the cost of a school show prevents some students from having the opportunity. Students were invited from all 22 counties of the University’s service region, and we hope this is only the beginning of several similar programs we can support.”
C. Todd Jones, president of Baptist Health Richmond, said: “We want to work with our community partners, like EKU, to support the arts in our community. We know it is important to expose children to the arts and a variety of cultural opportunities. By funding the transportation for this show, it allows all of the kids in our region to have access to these shows who may not otherwise be able to attend. The legacy of Jackie Robinson is an outstanding opportunity for us to support the arts community, celebrate Black History Month and help children in our region be exposed to arts and history.”
A study guide was provided to all attending teachers to facilitate classroom discussions of the content before and after the show.
The play’s writer/director, Jeff Hooper, said Mad River Theater Works “tried to be sensitive in scenes that depict the name-calling and physical attacks received by Robinson,” who broke the color barrier in major league baseball in 1947. “We have avoided many of the well-documented taunts and insults while still trying to give some sense of the hatred that Robinson faced every day. In one particular case, however, we felt it was important to use a word that Robinson heard repeatedly and that hurt him deeply.”
Mad River Theater Works, based in West Liberty, Ohio, is an acclaimed professional touring ensemble that creates evocative plays with music for families and young audiences based on American history and folklore.