Diana Millner: A Powerful Force Behind the Success of Theatre Horizon in Norristown, PA

In loving memory, we at Theatre Horizon are dedicating our production of Black Nativity to Diana Millner.

DIANA AUBOURG MILLNER was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on February 26, 1975 to Joseph Amerlin Aubourg and Marie Immaculee Aubourg. Diana departed this life surrounded by her husband, parents, siblings and brother-in-law on August 12, 2015, after a four-year struggle with breast cancer.

Stoneleigh Foundation Senior Program Officer Diana Millner shares her thoughts on the possible involvement of funders in youth safety initiatives. Photo courtesy of the City of Philadelphia, Kait Privatera

Stoneleigh Foundation Senior Program Officer Diana Millner shares her thoughts on the possible involvement of funders in youth safety initiatives. Photo courtesy of the City of Philadelphia, Kait Privatera

Diana was the third of four children, and the first girl born to Joseph and Marie, Haitian immigrants to America. When Diana was two-and-a-half, her parents feared that she would never talk. She remained silent, quietly observing other people’s conversations, but never saying a word. One Labor Day weekend in 1977 the family went on a road trip to Montreal. While driving on a busy road in Montreal, Diana suddenly stood up from her seat and started singing and never stopped until they got to their destination. This was only the beginning Diana’s amazing journey in becoming a phenomenal woman.

Raised in East Cambridge, Diana attended St. John’s the Evangelist School, graduated from Cambridge Rindge & Latin High School in 1993. Diana attended Syracuse with a bachelor’s degree in policy studies, earned a master’s degree in international development planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Working with a variety of service organizations throughout her career, Diana spent almost 15 years working to improve systems and inform public policy, in service of vulnerable children.

Her career highlights can be read in detail on Norristown’s Patch.

Marlon Millner and Diana married on Sept. 16, 2006 at Memorial Church at Harvard University. They made their home in Norristown, PA, where Diana gave birth to a son, Edouard Josef, in 2007 and a daughter, Immaculee Jeanette, in 2009. Diana was always a devoted and supportive wife and mother.

Diana loved the arts. A gifted dancer, Diana moved into philanthropy but used her understanding of fundraising to help worthy causes in the arts. One such cause was Theatre Horizon, which was founded by Erin Reilly and Matthew Decker in Norristown around the same time Diana and Marlon also moved to the town. Diana, Erin and Matthew came to Norristown for the same reasons – they saw that the needs in Norristown were great, and wanted to make a difference.
With educations from the finest universities, Diana and Marlon could have gone anywhere, but they chose Norristown. They quickly became leaders in the town, Marlon on Municipal council, and Diana behind the scenes and definitely at Theatre Horizon.

The set of A Pretty Fire, during opening night in November 2012.

The set of A Pretty Fire, during opening night in November 2012.

When Theatre Horizon constructed and opened our new theater on DeKalb Street in 2012, Diana and Marlon both worked tirelessly to make sure our first show there — PRETTY FIRE, a play about a charismatic young black woman and her family — was a success, bringing out dozens of people to our first play.

When Theatre Horizon needed funding in 2013, Diana helped us craft a winning pitch to a large Philadelphia foundation that has sustained their funding ever since. When we launched a Diverse Voices Reading Series to present stories by and for black actors, playwrights and directors, Diana became an honorary producer of the year-long event. When we produced a play called OUT OF HARM’S WAY through Weed and Seed (another worthy Norristown program Diana helped get funding for) to give parents tools to keep their kids safe from guns and drugs, Diana was there, participating and moving the conversation forward. She shared statistics with the theatre about the appalling risk factors our town’s children, especially young black men, were facing.

One gorgeous fall afternoon a few years back, Diana and Erin took their kids to Diana’s favorite playground in Chestnut Hill for a playdate. That afternoon, as they dug in the sandbox with their kids, they talked of their hopes and dreams for Norristown. They discussed ways of combating the entrenched problems of poverty and racism. They talked about who might help subsidize arts education for Norristown children, and how could they make it possible for Norristown kids to get free access to arts education.

Diana would be so glad to know that after three years of planning, that plot she and Erin hatched for a class for Norristown children finally became reality this year, as Theatre Horizon begins teaching a weekly drama class for children on public assistance. The class is a partnership with our upstairs neighbor at 401 Dekalb Street, The Willow School. Thanks to Diana, the lives of kids living at the poverty line will be deeply impacted this year.

It only took that one afternoon for Diana to make a deep impact on Erin’s life, too.

That afternoon at the playground, Diana and Erin watched their kids play together, their lucky children from 2-parent families with resources, and they talked about the Norristown kids who aren’t so lucky.

At Diana’s funeral on August 22nd, Erin addressed the mourners and said, “When one mother passes from this earth, it is the duty of other mothers to pick up her work for her, and carry it on. And that is what I plan to do at Theatre Horizon and beyond, with love and in partnership with Diana’s Norristown friends and neighbors.”

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2014 Summer Drama Camp!

Summer is here!  Although our mainstage season is over, we are celebrating our three Barrymore-recommended productions! It also means the start of Theatre Horizon Summer Camp!

Each summer we run summer drama camps at townships throughout Montgomery County, serving hundreds of students per year.  We have week-long camps for students age 5-14, and they are perfect for all skill levels, from first time actors to budding superstars.

Let me tell you, these camps are tons… of… fun.  Students play drama games, learn the basics of acting, and by the end of the week, create and star in their very own play.  

Do you think your child would enjoy performing a show called “The Rockin’ Californian Magical Mystical Adventure”, “Mischief in the Land of PB and J”, or “The Legend of the Island of Legends”?  Then sign them up today!

A complete list of offerings can be found here.

Summer Camp!

Summer is almost here, and though our mainstage season may be over, there is still plenty going on with Theatre Horizon.  Yes, as you may have heard, we are building a new theatre.  But that’s not all!  It also means the start of Theatre Horizon Summer Camp!

Each summer we run summer drama camps at townships throughout Montgomery County, serving about 400 students per year.  We have week-long camps for students age 5-14, and they are perfect for all skill levels, from first time actors to budding superstars.

Let me tell you, these camps are tons… of… fun.  Students play drama games, learn the basics of acting, and by the end of the week, create and star in their very own play.  

Do you think your child would enjoy performing a show called “The Rockin’ Californian Magical Mystical Adventure”, “Mischief in the Land of PB and J”, or “The Legend of the Island of Legends”?  Then sign them up today!

2012 Summer Camp Information
All camps M-F, 9am – 3pm unless otherwise noted.

Lower Merion Township

LOCATION: Gladwyne Elementary School
230 Righters Mill Rd. Gladwyne, PA 19035

DATES: Jul 9 – 13 | Ages 7-10
Jul 23 – 27 | Ages 7-10
Aug 6 – 10 | Ages 7-10
Aug 13 – 17 | Ages 11-13

TO REGISTER: Call Donna Heller at 610-645-6187 at Lower Merion Township Parks & Recreation.
www.lowermerion.org | Dheller@lowermerion.org

Radnor Township

LOCATION: The Willows Mansion
490 Darby-Paoli Road, Villanova PA 19085
– or –
Ithan Elementary
695 Clyde Rd. Bryn Mawr, PA 19010

DATES: Jun 25 – 29: 9am-3pm | Ages 7-10, LOCATION: Willows Mansion
Jul 9 – 13: 9am-12pm | Ages 5 and 6, LOCATION: Willows Mansion
Jul 23 – 27: 9am-3pm | Ages 7-10, LOCATION: Willows Mansion
Jul 30 – Aug 3: 9am-3pm | Ages 11-14, LOCATION: Willows Mansion
Aug 6 – 10: 9am-12pm | Ages 5 and 6, LOCATION: Ithan Elementary School

TO REGISTER: Call Tiffany Hileman at 610-688-5600 at Radnor Townshiop Parks and Recreation to register.
http://www.radnor.com | kdymond@radnor.org

West Norriton Township

LOCATION: Jefferson Firehouse
85 School Lane, Eagleville, PA 19403

DATES: Aug 6 – 10 | Ages 7-12
Aug 13 – 17 | Ages 7-12
Aug 20 – 24 | Ages 11-14

TO REGISTER: Call Lauren Mashett at 610-631-0450 at West Norriton Township Parks and Recreation.
www.westnorritontwp.org | lmashett@wntwp.com

Haverford Township

LOCATION: Community Center at Haverford Reserve
9000 Park View Drive, Haverford, PA

DATES: Jul 9 – 13 | Ages 7-10
Jul 16 – 20 | Ages 10-14

TO REGISTER: Call Andrew Brady at (610)446-9397 at Haverford Township Parks and Recreation.
www.haverfordtownship.com | abrady@havtwp.org

Upper Merion Township

LOCATION: Upper Merion Middle School
450 Keebler Rd, King of Prussia, PA 19406

DATES: Jul 16 – 20 | Ages 7-10
Jul 23 – 27 | Ages 7-10
Jul 30 – Aug 3 | Ages10-13

TO REGISTER: Call Heather Melck at 610-265-1071 at Upper Merion Township Parks & Recreation.
www.uppermerionparkandrec.org | Programs@umtownship.org

Cheltenham Township

LOCATION: Rowland Community Center
400 Myrtle Ave, Cheltenham, PA 19012

DATES: Aug 13 – 17 | Ages 7-11

TO REGISTER: Call Susan Fries at 215-887-6200 at Cheltenham Township Parks and Recreation.
www.cheltenhamtownship.org | sfries@cheltenham-township.org

Plymouth Township

LOCATION: Colonial Middle School
716 Belvior Rd, Plymouth Meeting PA

DATES: Jul 23 – 27 | Ages 7-10
Jul 30 – Aug 3 | Ages 7-10
Aug 6 – 10 | Ages 11-14

TO REGISTER: Call Lindsey Waters at 610-277-6127 at Plymouth Township Parks and Recreation.
www.plymouthtownship.org | lwaters@plymouthtownship.org

Upper Dublin Township

LOCATION: Upper Dublin Township Building
801 Loch Alsh Ave, Fort Washington, PA 19034

DATES: Aug 13 – 17 | Ages 7-10
Aug 20 – 24 | Ages 7-10

TO REGISTER: Call Derek Dureka at 215-643-1600 ext 3241 at Upper Dublin Township Parks and Recreation.
www.upperdublin.net | ddureka@upperdublin.net

If you do not see your township here and are interested in bringing a camp to your community, please contact Michael McElroy, Education Director, at Michael@theatrehorizion.org.

Theater program helps kids with Autism reach new horizons

Check out this snip-it from an article in this month’s Parent Express Magazine about our Autism Drama outreach program!

Every Saturday, a group of students with autism and autism spectrum disorders gathers at Hope Community Church in King of Prussia, Pa., for a very special type of play therapy. The students, ranging in age from 5 through 16, are participants in Theatre Horizon’s Autism Drama Outreach Program, which strives to inspire imaginary play, help children with autism find their own voice and teach social skills in a fun and positive way.

The Norristown, Pa. theater began offering the program five years ago, with just one autistic child, his parents and a small group of actors eager to learn how to utilize their experiences in theater to reach children on the autism spectrum. Theatre Horizon now has a rotating staff of 14 experienced teaching theater artists comprising area actors, educators and artists.

“This program is something we’re very passionate about,” says Michael McElroy, education director at Theatre Horizon. “Acting is all about controlling how you’re perceived. But for many of these kids, not knowing how others perceive you is a big challenge. The program teaches communication skills and provides a social forum in which the participants can make connections with the teachers, actors and other students.”

Read the full article here.