Ivan Davidson might not have been born under an azalea bush or even been in Mobile for the major portion of his life, but his impact here wouldn’t show it. The stage director and former theatrical professor who retired to the Azalea City in 2004 passed away July 8 at his home in Mobile.
Davidson’s death was no shock to the theatre crowd as he didn’t hide his cancer diagnosis. Rather, he outlived his diagnosis by roughly a month, all while working on productions until he went to the hospital for the last time.
He made himself a learned man on the stage he loved so much. He earned a bachelor’s degree in speech and drama, then a master’s in theatre production and finally a doctorate in dramatic theory and criticism then put them all to work by teaching at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., from 1969 through 2004.
Davidson’s resilience showed in his status a single father following a 1987 divorce. Both his son Keirvan Davidson of Galseburg, Ill., and daughter Tanya Davidson Coughlin of Cleveland, Ohio praised his juggling of career and fatherhood.
When he finally stepped away from the lectern in 2004, Davidson learned of Mobile on the Internet. It met his criteria of balmy climes, old homes and locally produced theatre. His time in his new hometown wasn’t wiled away as he did voiceover work and acted in commercials in addition to guiding thespians.
In 2006, Davidson was made Joe Jefferson Playhouse’s managing director and stayed there until 2010.
“I wouldn’t have ever written a play without him,” Danielle Juzan said. “He was the best editor I ever worked with. His encouragement and guidance was invaluable. He knew what worked and didn’t work. He made it so tight and so good.” Davidson directed Juzan in her recent one-woman show portraying writer Emily Dickinson.
“Ivan was extremely talented and knowledgeable, very demanding but in a gentle way,” former JJP president Danetter Richards said. “He had a way of making you better in everything you did, the way you moved, the way you delivered lines. He’ll be missed.”
Richards went on to tell a story about wanting to appear in a musical despite her lack of singing skills. Davidson found a role in the work “Gypsy” that required no singing and cast Richards.
“He wanted me to have this very particular, nasally, kind of Yankee accent,” Richards said. “And he was so specific about it, it made me put the same kind of focus into it.”
True to form, Davidson planned out his own memorial service, scheduled for Aug. 3, 5 p.m. at Joe Jefferson Playhouse. Per his orders, the gathering is to be “uplifting and joyous.”