A theatrical event can’t happen without an important component: the audience. And Paul DeWilde has spent years in the audience cheering on local shows and local talent. A regular at nearly every theater in town, he’s become a friend to many and supporter to far more.

For Mr. DeWilde, his journey began at the now defunct Harrison Hilltop Theatre in Davenport when he went see a production of Oedipus that had been adapted by Hilltop company member Steve Quartell. DeWilde said, “What I came away with was the intimacy of the room and the feeling that I was really missing something important and it really all exploded from there.” From that point on, DeWilde started looking for more to see and hitting up the many theaters this area has to offer. This gracious man sees between forty to fifty shows a year, roughly one each week. “Seems like more in the summer, but usually two or three crazily in a week,” DeWilde said.

While DeWilde supports each and every group in town, there are two places that are close to his heart: The Quad City Theatre Workshop and the former District Theatre. “As a rule I would never miss anything you all did at Harrison Hilltop and District Theatre. You guys even saved a special seat for me, “ said DeWilde. He added, “I love what Tyson Danner (and the QCTW) does as well and can’t wait for the Black Box Theatre (in Moline) to open.” In addition, he visits Quad City Music Guild, Richmond Hill, Clinton Showboat, Timberlake Playhouse, Augustana College and St. Ambrose, among others.  He’s even ventured to the Old Creamery Theatre in Amana, Iowa to see Quad City favorites perform.  There is nothing off limits; if there is theater happening, DeWilde is there.

“The quality obviously varies but show are rarely bad and most are good and some are astonishing.” DeWilde said. He quickly added, “That is what keeps me at it: what if I miss something that is astonishing?” “I saw Rent in Chicago in an upper balcony and that was great until I saw it from three feet away at the Harrison Hilltop with my granddaughter, and I do believe nothing in my life will every match that experience,” DeWilde remembers.  He recalls productions of “anything with Paul Workman,” Green River at the Quad City Theatre Workshop, Les Miserables at Countryside and Spamalot at St. Ambrose as other highlights of his theater-going adventures.

“I love live theater because these people live right next to me and I can get to know them,” DeWilde says proudly. He added, “This is weird but I see them sometimes in a store or something and can not stop myself from telling them that I am a fan.” DeWilde admits, “I do miss all the people I discover that go off to Chicago or the West Coast, but amazingly there is someone coming in behind them.”  These “show people” are important to him and this community and he wants to see it preserved. “We need more people going to these shows so that it can be kept alive,” he says.

Paul DeWilde is part of the reason the area has such a vibrant theater community. The artists are important, yes, but these establishments would be nothing without support of such generous and loving patrons. Next time you see Mr. DeWilde give him a hug and say,

Tristan Layne Tapscott has been dubbed the “Quad Cities’ P.T. Barnum” and although the person who initially said it meant it as an insult, he happily accepts the title.