"Where tha' tend a rose, a thistle canna' grow."

The Secret Garden

Deslie McClellan

Artistic Director

When I was just three years old, I gave my first public performance. That debut earned me a silver medal and the applause of an audience charmed by a precocious little girl who spoke every line of her poem with perfect, if somewhat exaggerated diction.

I remember that day and the many that followed as I continued my studies in "elocution" and drama, graduating with a Teaching Degree from The Trinity College of Music, London. Highlights of those years? My greatest thrill was being selected from students in the British Isles, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and South Africa to receive the coveted Exhibition Letters from the Trinity College for performer excellence in drama. I’ve played a vast repertoire of roles including Bernard Shaw’s Joan of Arc (Saint Joan), Shakespeare’s Puck (A Midsummer Night's Dream), the Irish heroine Pegeen (Playboy of the Western World), Catherine (Wuthering Heights), Christopher Fry's Jennet (The Lady's Not for Burning), Viola (Twelfth Night), and the ever tragic Juliet (Romeo and Juliet).

As a graduate teacher, I attended Sydney University (Australia), majoring in Psychology and pursued a professional career as a nightclub performer with appearances on four national variety and Tonight shows. With the dreams of all young artists, I traveled to America and started a theater school in Las Vegas. Two years later, Nevada’s first professional repertory company was born. Our summer season of plays won rave reviews from Variety and Hollywood Reporter. With a reputation for excellence, our troupe was chosen among West Coast repertory companies to conduct the annual Nevada State Park Shakespeare Festival, performing Moliere’s Tartuffe. As the school evolved into a modeling and casting agency, I became one of Las Vegas’ leading agents for hundreds of photographic, promotional, film and convention jobs in the city. At the same time, I freelanced as a public relations writer, doing celebrity spreads on headline entertainers for national magazines.

Despite professional success, I longed to make more of a "spiritual" difference in my work and in my students' lives. After it's fourth season, I sold the theater and took a position at a private high school in California, teaching senior English, drama and communications for the next four years. During this time, I became convinced that drama should be used to foster and develop in children a genuine love of what is truly noble and good for only that which is virtuous is permanent in the heart. Nothing is more influential in a child’s life than the power of example. Drama, with its rich core of classics, fables, histories and valiant heroes, provides a bountiful well of right example. Young children learn to recognize virtue through drama, they can see it in action, see its rewards and even learn to love it. Tending the garden of childhood through drama is my worthiest goal.

While teaching and enjoying a brief tenure in the Air National Guard, I met and married a military man, followed him from base to base, had two beautiful children, and finally settled in Montana where I once again started a drama school. My husband, now working for Continental Airlines, was transferred to Guam where I, yet again, founded a children's theater. As a recipient of grants from the National Endowment of the Arts and local corporations, we staged highly successful turn-of-the century productions.

With our permanent home now established in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, we began anew three years ago with our Family Playhouse and during this time have continued to stage children's classics including The Secret Garden, Little Women, and Anne of Green Gables. Parents today are fed up with the literal trash saturating our youth from MTV, movies, video games and rock music. They are looking back to when America had sterner morals and a culture that was spiritually vibrant. The responsibility of the Arts is to promote the highest and best of the human spirit - the beautiful and true, the revered and holy - and in so doing, glorify God.

One of the many dilemma's facing aspiring actors and actresses is the state of professional theater today. It is difficult for a talented artist with a pure heart and high morals to fit into a vast media industry that aggressively exploits all that traditional America holds dear including the purity of our children. We are therefore making our drama materials available for sale so that theater organizations, amateur and professional, can access a rich resource of acting scenes and fully scripted plays that uphold a moral literacy and essential adherence to the ideals of the human heart.

Children are open to goodness and innocence and instinctively want to model themselves on the role of the hero and all that is positive, joyous and uplifting. We have to nourish this for aren't our children our most important hope? If Family Playhouse can inspire even one child to look upwards then we have succeeded in fulfilling the words of St. Paul: "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things."

With our star, Chrissy O'Neil
As Lily in last year's performance of The Secret Garden. Pictured in a scene with Joe Golden as Dickon.
Backstage with our Stage Manager,

Jeanne Vollbracht

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