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Millbrook Playhouse hosts memorial for Martena Rogers

MILL HALL — “Because I knew you, I’ve been changed for good.”

Paraphrasing these words from a song in “Frozen,” many expressed their condolences for Martena B. Rogers, but her recent memorial service clearly was more a celebration of her life.

Rogers, 62, died on Aug. 7 at Divine Providence Hospital’s Gatehouse, following her valiant bouts against reoccurring cancer.

Last weekend’s memorial service was held at the Millbrook Playhouse as Rogers had requested from her close friends.

The informal and upbeat service began with Clearfield’s St. John Studio Theatre Chorus singing “Day By Day,” followed by Darren Litz joining Shawn Inlow to sing an original (and believed to be lost) composition “A Letter To The Gang.”

One of her closest friends, Patty Lacy, relayed Rogers’ unparalleled energy in directing, musically directing, choreographing and designing sets for 33 of Bucktail High School Musicals.

Rogers was affectionally described as an dedicated teacher whose career at Renovo Elementary School extended from 1978 through 2012.

“No Greater Joy” was her favorite song for the Renovo Area Community Choir, and Rogers was able to accompany the Choir in its May concert.

Martha Sykes shared her memories of “Remembering Tena,” who was an active member on the Board of Directors for both the Millbrook Playhouse and the Community Theater League.

CTL President Andree Phillips remembers that “Martena was a force of nature: soft on the outside, structural steel on the inside. Despite being on a leave of absence from CTL’s Board of Directors, Martena continued to steer the Readers Theatre and the Mystery Dinner troupe. Her strength and love of theatre will remain as an example of how to live, and how to die.”

Millbrook’s Producing Artistic Director remembers meeting Rogers, and their strong working relationship during his six years at the helm of the summer stock theatre.

“Her talents were endless. She directed, arranged music; she taught workshops; she acted. When I directed Martena in ‘Smoke On the Mountain,’ I discovered how great an actress she really was. She knew how to command the stage but in a gentle manner. She never stole focus, she supported her fellow actors, but when it time for her time to shine — she shined. She never wanted to steal the spotlight from others, she just wanted to make sure we had one that worked.”

Rogers’ last stage role was in Millbrook’s production of “To Kill A Mockingbird” in 2018.

Those who shared their memories generally spoke from a prepared text, but Jacquie Engel, who played the keyboard for the service, drew hearty laughter making impromptu remarks of her backstage experiences with Martena at CTL’s theatre on Williamsport’s Washington Blvd.

She also acted out Martena’s monologue from “Smoke On the Mountain,” describing her confrontation with a pesky “June Bug.” Engel then accompanied the large gathering on the tune “Church In the Wildwood,” which concluded the service.

Engel fondly remembers Rogers as a talented director and musician “who made everyone want to do well for her and each experience was fun and effortless.”

“I will always cherish the shows and times we had together in the last 20 years,” she added.

The common thread of those who spoke and sang at Rogers’ memorial service was simply “it is hard to forget someone who has given us so much to remember.”

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