CAFE presents ‘The Secret Garden’

By on March 11, 2015

There are stories so beloved, so powerful, and memorable the tale lives on in the hearts and minds of generations. This is how many feel about “The Secret Garden.”

First appearing as a serial in 1910, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic tale of childhood adventure was published in its entirety in 1911. Almost immediately artists began adapting live theater and film versions of the story. The most successful of the many adaptations is the 1991 Broadway musical with book and lyrics are by Marsha Norman and music by Lucy Simon. The show won Tony Awards for Best Book of a Musical, Best Featured Actress in a Musical, and Best Scenic Design.

Performances of “The Secret Garden” have seen stages great and small, from local high schools to a rumored Vegas show; now the show will be part of history in Ephrata on March 13 when it becomes the first performance of the Community Arts Foundation of Ephrata (CAFE) at the Ephrata Main Theatre. Plans for the show have been in the works since last year; CAFE Managing Director Terry Kreider said the new theatre troupe (which has stepped in after Ephrata ACT ceased functioning) wanted a powerful, entertaining, and family-friendly show to inaugurate their new endeavor.

“We had a lot of people ask us to do this show,” said Kreider. “Many actors we knew had [roles in] this [show] as a goal on their bucket list. We’ve have a great cast who have a lot of chemistry.”

CAFE will present “The Secret Garden” at The Ephrata Main Theatre March 13-15. The production stars (left to right) Austin Nedrow, Shawn Gable, Lauren Elledge, and Preston Cuer. (Photo by Laura Knowles )

CAFE will present “The Secret Garden” at The Ephrata Main Theatre
March 13-15. The production stars (left to right) Austin Nedrow,
Shawn Gable, Lauren Elledge, and Preston Cuer. (Photo by Laura Knowles

Lauren Elledge stars as 10-year old Mary Lennox an orphaned English expat who returns from India to a native land and family members she has never known. Although we learn much about the lives of many characters in “The Secret Garden,” it is essentially Mary’s story. Elledge will bring it to life on stage.

“She is well known throughout Lancaster County. This is one role she wanted to do; that’s sounds funny having a 14-year old saying she wants to play a role before she is too old, but it’s true,” said Kreider.

Back in England Mary lives with her strange and distant uncle, Archibald Craven (Shawn Gable), and his son, Colin (Austin Nedrow). The home is tended to by a menacing — albeit overprotective — head housekeeper named Mrs. Medlock (Tara Bietzel).

The lone equity actor (an active member of the Actors’ Equity Association) in the CAFE performance is Meagan Mapson who plays Martha, a young chambermaid who befriends Mary and encourages her to roam the grounds of the palatial estate. Mapson can often be seen at the Fulton Theatre where she performs regularly.

“She has been such a blessing and such a help. She helped everybody with their accents,” explained Kreider.

Lily — Mary’s deceased aunt who first cared for the garden — is played by Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre and American Music Theatre regular Angela Walker. Brian Soutner joined the production to play Dickon, Martha’s brother who immediately befriends Mary and helps her find her way in the new and strange world. Excitement about the show, in the “new” venue, has reached a pitch, but pulling together the first show of the CAFE era was not without hiccups.

“We’ve had all the normal problems of putting on a show,” said Kreider. “So, I think that’s a good thing.”

Kreider said theatergoers should expect a high quality, beautiful production in an intimate space.

“We’d love to see our Ephrata community come out and enjoy the show,” said Kreider.

“The Secret Garden” is co-directed by David Dierwechter. Dierwechter, a longtime member of the local acting community, is a retired educator and can usually be found working with local theater in some manner.

“He’s our Moses,” Kreider said. “He took us to the promised land … He helped set up the show-with the [technical elements] &tstr; but couldn’t be here for the show. Mike Truitt, who has always been here working the music, finished putting the show together.”

Truitt is also an educator and has also been a long-standing member of the local theater scene. His most recent work was with music for EPAC’s “The Little Mermaid Jr.” last month.

“People are going to see a wonderful show. I’m very excited by it,” added Kreider in summary.

Ephrata Main Theatre is located at 124 E. Main St., Ephrata. CAFE’s presentation of “The Secret Garden” runs one weekend only, with show times at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, March 13, and Saturday, March 14, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 15. All seats are $25 and can be purchased online through Brown Paper Tickets at

Michael C. Upton is a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure. He welcomes comments at and

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