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MCCONNELL, FREDERIC

MCCONNELL, FREDERIC (18 Sept. 1890-10 Aug. 1968) transformed the CLEVELAND PLAY HOUSE from an amateur company into the nation's oldest resident professional theater during his 37 years as its managing director. A native of Omaha, Neb., McConnell earned a law degree from the Univ. of Nebraska before enrolling in the Carnegie Institute of Technology Drama School in Pittsburgh, Pa., where he received his bachelor's and master's degrees. Called to service during WORLD WAR I, he spent 5 mos. as a German prisoner of war. He was assistant director of the Greek Theater of the Univ. of California and co-director of the Pittsburgh Guild Players before coming to the Play House as its first professional employee in 1921. As the nucleus of a resident professional company, he brought K. ELMO LOWE and Max Eisenstat with him from Pittsburgh. During his Cleveland tenure, the diminutive McConnell produced and directed 800 plays, acting in 75 of them himself. He helped design the theaters in the Play House's first permanent plant on E. 86th St. as well as the innovative open stage in the old E. 77th St. theater in 1949, which was later named the Frederic McConnell Space Stage in his honor. In 1936 he took a leave of absence to direct Robt. Turney's Daughters of Atreus on Broadway. His first wife, Katherine Wick Kelly, having died in 1926, McConnell married Play House actress Harriet Brazier in 1943. Both marriages were childless. Retiring as managing director in 1958, McConnell served the Play House as a consultant and stage director for 4 years before moving to South Laguna, Calif. He was consulting architect for the Laguna Playhouse before his death in Santa Ana.