The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Wilson family leaves legacy on Riverside’s main stage

The Riverside Theatre has officially named its main stage the Wilson Family Stage in honor of Herb and Janice Wilson, local patrons of the arts and donors to Riverside Theatre.
Madison Frette
The new Wilson Family Stage plaque is seen in Riverside Theatre in Iowa City on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2023.

Herb and Janice Wilson always loved attending productions together at the Riverside Theatre’s former location on North Gilbert Street in downtown Iowa City. Their appreciation for the arts and local organizations was evident through their attendance and their generous donations.

Before they passed away, the couple was hugely financially supportive of Riverside, donating sums that helped preserve the theater, the predecessor for which they laid the bricks in 1990.

After Riverside moved to its current location in the Pedestrian Mall in 2022, Adam Knight, the producing artistic director for Riverside, wanted to name the new theater’s stage after the Wilsons because of their consistent support and their literal labors of love for the theater’s first residential building.

“I think they had hammers in their hands putting together seating platforms,” Knight said.

The Wilsons are survived by their daughter, Amy Nicholson, who was instrumental in the process of naming the Riverside stage after her family.

According to the press release about the ceremony honoring the Wilsons and the stage’s new name, Nicholson believed her parents would agree that the Wilson Family Stage is an important investment in the future of arts and arts education.

“My parents loved the diversity of arts here in Iowa City and felt that educational opportunities were vitally important,” Nicholson said in the press release. “They often said that whether investing in the community or financially, the return must be the best ‘bang for the buck.’”

The couple’s most recent donation was the capstone of the Next Stage Capital Campaign, Riverside’s fund for the construction of its location in the Pedestrian Mall and for the renovations of Riverside’s Festival Stage.

Knight shared he was lucky enough to recently meet Herb and Janice Wilson in person for dinner before their passing in 2022 and 2023, respectively, noting how rewarding it was to speak with the individuals whose contributions had been so instrumental in building both of Riverside’s homes.

“They were such a part of our history in this other building, and yet they never were able to come to the new space,” Knight said. “So having them now not only a part of this building but that key part, the stage where the art happens [and] where the community gathers, felt appropriate.”

On Oct. 20, the plaque recognizing the Wilson Family Stage was unveiled during the opening night of the theater’s production of “Trip to Bountiful,” marking the start of Riverside’s 2023-24 season by paying tribute to those it was named after.

“[Herb and Janice Wilson] really left a huge mark on this community,” Knight said. “In particular, focusing on the intersection of culture and education and realizing that for a lot of people, those early cultural experiences can lead to a much more enriching and successful adulthood.”

More to Discover
About the Contributors
Stella Shipman, Arts Editor
Stella Shipman is a junior undergraduate at the University of Iowa majoring in English and Creative Writing and minoring in Cinema. A former Arts Reporter, she loves reviewing shows and covering musical performances. She hopes to encourage more students to engage in the vibrant arts community of Iowa City. This is her second year working at The Daily Iowan.
Madison Frette, Photojournalist
Madison Frette is a second-year student at The University of Iowa double majoring in Business Analytics and Information Systems and Cinematic Arts. This is her first year working as a photojournalist for The Daily Iowan.