Shakespeare in Pioneer Valley
A family of thespians recreates the Bard

By Dorothy V. Malcolm

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We’ve had the Barrymores, the Redgraves, the Bridges and the Baldwins, but look-out, because now we have the McClellands. This western Massachusetts family with roots in Boston’s South Shore has shown the sleepy towns of the Berkshires what “theatre” is all about.

The recent production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” held in both Northampton (Laurel Park) and Turners Falls (Shea Theatre), had all the hallmarks of Jonathan Edwards Academy’s previous productions of “As You Like It” and “Much Ado About Nothing”; namely, it’s verve, it’s poetry, whimsy and passion. But the astonishing fact is that these full length Shakesperean productions are acted by 11 to 16 year olds.

How, one wonders, do these kids remember all those intricate Shakespearean lines? These kids are barely out of grade school and not yet ready for the lights of Broadway. To begin with, their talents and skills have been coached and honed by a devoted teacher at Jonathan Edwards Academy (JEA). The common denominator in this troupe of thespians is Teresa Roche McClelland who, with her husband Jim, three sons, and other equally-dedicated students and parents from Jonathan Edwards Academy recreates Shakespeare on stage.

“I actually think Shakespeare is easy to do,” Terry McClelland said in a phone conversation from her home on the Mohawk Trail. “Once you get familiar with the language, well, the students and I find Shakespeare so engaging and fun.” She continued, “When it comes to memorizing their lines, it’s a combination of perseverance and flow, and the lines do flow, one into the next. And these kids work at it! I can’t even imagine being on stage for two-and-a-half hours remembering all those lines. But the students are just fantastic and so eager to pull it off—really a daunting task for people their age.”

Born in Boston and raised in Quincy, Terry McClelland graduated from Quincy schools. She moved to the Berkshires and continued her education at Amherst where she met Jim McClelland, a native of Greenfield. They married and together the couple is devoted to raising their four children. The youngest, nine-year-old Johanna is still a little young to tackle Shakespeare, but she’s dying for the opportunity when she turns 11.

“I realize for some people, it’s hard to get past the language of Shakespeare, but his talent is such that the play plays itself,” McClelland said. “The kids actually morph themselves right into their characters and Shakespeare’s words and storyline pretty much directs the play itself.”

While Terry McClelland takes little credit for her directorial efforts, she is capable of pulling out of each of her student’s the key nuances worthy of more-seasoned pros. McClelland expressed amusement at this suggestion and comparison, “No, not at all. I give Shakespeare the credit. I mean, there’s a reason the Bard is still being performed today. He was good at his craft!” McClelland laughed.

In this year’s adaptation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” McClelland had the ambiguous and white-knuckle honor of directing the “rude mechanicals” of the story, her 16 year-old son, Andrew in the comical role of Nick Bottom, the Weaver; her 14 year-old son, Philip as Peter Quince the Carpenter; and her 11 year-old son, Nathanael as Francis Flute the Bellows Mender.

According to 14-year-old Philip, when asked what it was like being directed by his mother responded, “Well, she’s the director and my Mom, so it’s kind of the same for me.” Philip confessed he enjoyed last year’s role of Dogberry the constable in “Much Ado…” better than this year’s character. “I liked playing Dogberry cuz he got to beat people up and everything. Dogberry could be a bully and I’m not like that—except to my brother, Nathanael,” Philip chuckled. “Learning the lines…well, in the beginning, it’s not really easy but when dress rehearsal gets closer, you learn them in a hurry!”

The three McClelland brothers were balanced-out and mirrored by the three Bricker sisters, Rachel, Grace and Molly who played Titania, Puck, and Tom Snout, respectively. Andrew McClelland’s satirical depiction of Bottom and Grace Bricker’s engaging adaptation of Puck were the most noteworthy performances by the troupe. Hannah Reed, who played the impetuous Helena was suitably befuddled and effective on stage as well. Eleven-year old Nathanael McClelland, who played dual roles, Francis Flute as well as Thisbe—in a histrionic interpretation of a Viking maiden, and in drag, all added to the fun and hilarity of the scene’s play within a play. Julia Postema as Hermia and Philip McClelland as Quince further advanced the spirit and harmony of the production.

There has been talk about this troupe of JEA players going “on the road” with full performances or select scenes, in various formats, including Shakespeare-in-the-Park themes, country fairs, schools; even the illustrious Jacob’s Ladder in Lenox has been mentioned as a possible venue for the young performers. “The Reduced Shakespeare: The Entire Works in Two Hours” is another humorous option for them. JEA and Terry McClelland has either “Othello” or “Twelfth Night” and/or Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” on the drawing board for next year.

“There is no way we can carry out these productions without the help of everyone involved. I mean, I’m a housewife, mother and teacher, not a professional theatre person,” said McClelland. “Emma Kuipers just pulls it all together for us; her contributions are crucial to the fluency of the show. And my husband Jim—thank God for Jim!—because he’s the one who keeps us all grounded, not to mention designing and building the great sets.” She added, “If it weren’t for Millie Postema and her group, there’s no way the costumes could have achieved the look of affluence and grandeur. It really is a team effort and all of us connected with Jonathan Edwards Academy enjoy every minute of this,” McClelland said. “These are our children. The classics only enhance everything else we can teach them.”


Jonathan Edwards Academy’s production of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Produced and directed by Teresa McClelland; assistant director, Emma Kuipers; set design and construction by Jim McClelland, Mark Mailloux, Kathleen Reed, Tracy Boucher; costumes by Millie Postema; make-up/hair by Bonne Lemme. Dramatis Personae — Oberon: Robert Parker; Titania, Rachel Bricker; Bottom: Andrew McClelland; Puck: Grace Bricker; Peter Quince, Philip McClelland; Helena, Hannah Reed; Lysander, Peter Davis; Hermia, Julia Postema; Flute/Thisbe: Nathanael McClelland; Duke Theseus: Daniel MacKinnon; Tom Snout, Molly Bricker.

Jonathan Edwards Academy, 19 Bridge St., Millers Falls, Mass. 01349 ( offers a private, classical education for children K-12.

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