Gwendolyn Freeman Lehman

Professional Employment
1968-69 South Hagerstown High School, Hagerstown, MD
1969-Present Stephen Decatur High School, Berlin, MD
1984-1997 Summer Enrichment and Acceleration Program for the Worcester County Board of Education
Summer 2000 Summer Program in Musical Theatre Arts
Summer 2001-2006, Director, Maryland Summer Center for Musical Theatre Arts, A Program of the Maryland State Department of Education, Office of Gifted and Talented

Summer 2007-present Summer Program in Musical Theatre Arts

Williamsport High School, Williamsport, Maryland, 1964
B.A. Hood College, Frederick, Maryland 1968
M.A. Washington College, Chestertown, Maryland 1976

Awards and Honors
1984 Maryland State Drama Teacher of the Year
1991 Worcester County Teacher of the Year
1992 Outstanding Arts Educator for the State of Maryland
          Maryland Alliance for Arts in Education
1997 Milken Award
1997 Governor's Arts Award for Maryland's Outstanding Arts Educator

      Gwen Freeman Lehman began her teaching career in 1968. In the fall of 1969 she moved to the Eastern Shore of Maryland to take a position teaching English and psychology. After two years at Stephen Decatur High School in Worcester County, she began to write a theatre curriculum for the school. After more than 35 years, that curriculum now includes courses in Introduction to Theatre and Theatre Production.
     Theatre is now one of the most popular electives at SDHS. Under her direction, the Theatre Production class produces four productions each year and the Introduction to Theatre class produces two shows each year.
      In 1995, the Theatre Production class began a project to design and build an outdoor courtyard theatre. Dedicated in 1996, the
Gladys C. Burbage Courtyard Theatre is now the home of the Annual Shakespeare Under the Stars. Now in its 9th year, students perform adaptations of Shakespeare's plays each May in the courtyard theatre. Students have been responsible for raising all of the funds to support the theatre and were responsible for securing all of the permits once the project had been proposed and approved. With the volunteer help of a local contractor/architect, students secured donations of lumber and materials and launched into the construction of an outdoor stage. Since its beginnings in the spring of 1995, gardens and landscaping have been added as well as a brick path and a fish pond.
     Each year, Mrs. Lehman selects a Shakespearean play to be adapted. Her adaptations successfully abridge the text without losing either the rhythm or beauty of Shakespeare's poetry. Her goal is to make each text more accessible to both her students and to the audience. Beginning with A Midsummer Night's Dream, Mrs. Lehman has now written adaptations of nine Shakespearean comedies and is currently working on an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.
    Shakespeare Under the Stars is relatively new compared to the Annual Children's Theatre. Now in its 30th year, the children's theatre draws audiences of 9,000 and has a 16-show run. Often based on classic fairy tales, the annual children's theatre is presented free of charge to all children grades Pre-K through 6 in a region encompassing three counties and two states. Known for elaborate sets, special effects, and outstanding costumes, attendance at the children's theatre just keeps growing. From a single school and one performance, this annual event now draws students from more forty schools, as well as day cares, home schools, and Headstart Centers. Each script is written by Gwen Freeman Lehman. In addition to some original stories, Mrs. Lehman has adapted Little Red-Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, The Fisherman and His Wife, The Emperor's New Clothes, Jack and the Beanstalk and The Pied Piper of Hamelin, among others.
     Mrs. Lehman has won numerous awards for her work in theatre. In 1984, she was named Maryland Drama Teacher of the Year. In 1991, she was selected as Worcester County Teacher of the Year and in 1992 was named Outstanding Arts Educator by the Maryland Alliance for the Arts in Education. In 1997, Mrs. Lehman was one of 150 educators nationwide to receive the Milken Award for Outstanding Achievement. That same year, she received the Governor's Award as Outstanding Arts Educator for the State of Maryland.
     In the summer of 2001, Mrs. Lehman became the director of a Maryland Summer Center for the Gifted and Talented, collaborating with music teacher Mr. Rick Chapman. Together, they wrote a one-act musical comedy for performance by a group of twenty-seven students from the ages of seven to thirteen. Mrs. Lehman and Mr. Chapman continue their collaboration at the same Maryland Summer Center. This year 35 students were accepted from the sixty-three that applied.
     Mrs. Lehman began writing her own adaptations out of her dissatisfaction with scripts she would purchase for production purposes. Children's theatre scripts especially seemed far too formulaic or seemed to talk down to young people. A friend and college professor to whom she confided her frustration said, "Why don't you write your own?" This apparently simple comment gave her the courage to write, something she had wanted to do even as a child. Her very first script had been written as a seventh grader when a teacher gave her class an assignment to adapt a piece of literature from one genre into another genre. Gwen chose to take a short story and turn it into a play. Her work was so successful that the teacher allowed the class to produce the script, under Gwen's direction.
    Today, Mrs. Lehman has written more than forty plays, including an adaptation of The Snow Queen for the Children's Theatre Association of Baltimore and an adaptation of Margret Hiltgunt Zassenhaus' autobiographical novel Walls, adapted by Mrs. Lehman at the request of its author.
      What distinguishes Mrs. Lehman's writing is its ability to never talk down to an audience, its sophisticated use of humor, and its aversion to standard formulas. For example, narration in her children's plays is always accomplished through character and is woven seamlessly into the telling of the story. Her narrators never step outside of the story or the time and the place to address the audience. Her children's theatres are written in a manner that makes them appealing to audiences of multiple ages, with some dialogue that only adults will understand due to the references, and dialogue with action aimed directly at preschool children who have limited experiences. Mrs. Lehman also writes study guides to accompany her children's theatres and her adaptations of Shakespeare. This allows audiences to come prepared to see her plays and to understand both the texts and the subtexts of each production. Her distinctive voice makes her work easily recognizable and has earned her a widespread reputation for excellence throughout her region and the state.