From the time he was cast in the role of Jaquot in the musical Carnival at Aurora West High School, Johnny Lee Davenport has recognized and been driven by the power of theatre. Since then, he has appeared in more than 200 professional productions throughout the United States, Canada, and Ireland.
The focus of his stage career became more specific when, in 1988, he was selected to represent The Chicago Associates of the Stratford Festival of Canada and joined the Young Company, performing in King Lear, Oedipus, The Critic, and Twelfth Night. This experience ignited his passion for classical theatre, and as a result, he began “chasing Shakespeare.” In 1989, he trained at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Mass., and became a company member. He continues to perform with the company today.
With a goal to perform in professional productions of Shakespeare’s entire canon, Johnny has embraced his peripatetic nature and traveled extensively. He has been a guest artist for several Shakespeare companies and hopes to work with other professional companies that are or will be producing shows in which he has yet to appear.
As an artist, Johnny is committed to transforming the perpetuated assumption that classical theatre is an elitist art form. He endeavors to make classical theatre relevant and accessible to everyone. Towards this end, he is developing a classical theatre training program designed for the urban American interested in acquiring the technical skills necessary to take ownership of classical material and represent classical themes and characters with a personal truth and confidence.
Beyond classical theatre, Johnny is equally interested in contributing to any powerful theatrical experience that seeks to elevate and educate.
Some of his career highlights have included working with August Wilson for the Chicago premiere of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone at the Goodman Theatre, being cast as Marshal Henry in Andrew Davis’s Oscar-nominated film The Fugitive, working with Joseph Shabalala and Ladysmith Black Mambazo in Steppenwolf Theatre’s production of Nomathemba, traveling to the Athens Festival in Greece with Washington D.C.’s Shakespeare Theatre Company to present The Oedipus Plays, performing with Avery Brooks in an all-African American King Lear, and representing America as a guest artist on three occasions to perform as Othello and Iago for Alan Stanford’s Second Age Theatre Company in Dublin.
Over the years Johnny has been inspired, encouraged, and tolerated by artists such as Avery Brooks, David Chambers, Kevin Coleman, Robert Downey Jr., Harrison Ford, Barbara Gaines, Frank Galati, Jim Helsinger, Tommy Lee Jones, Kristin Linklater, Dan McCleary, Tina Packer, Joe Pantoliano, Robin Phillips, Joseph Shabalala, and Dennis Zacek. This list, however, is in no way complete.
Johnny is grateful to every artist with whom he has worked, in all facets of theatre, TV, and film, for their generosity in sharing their personal light, which has helped to illuminate his chosen path.