The Great American Melodrama tells captivating stories on stage,
but one of the best stories the Melodrama holds has never been shared on stage. It’s the love story between Founder John Schlenker and his wife Lynne.
The two first met in 1968, when John was a teacher at Ernest Righetti High School in Santa Maria. He
taught English, speech, and theatre arts and Lynne worked as the principal’s secretary. It would not be
for eleven years until they met again at a party where a spark ignited between them.
“We were both single at the time and divorced, we started dating and the rest is history,” said Lynne.
The couple would spend time together as a family with Lynne’s two sons. They would go to the beach
and John would take the boys out fishing, but often times, their dates were spent cleaning out the
Melodrama actors’ house after they left.
“I kinda knew what I was getting into but not really,” Lynne laughed
In 1979, the couple married in front of the Wawona Hotel in Yosemite surrounded by their families
and many, many actors. The next year, they welcomed twin daughters into their life. Now, with four
children and an entire theatre to run, John and Lynne would learn how to make life work. It was taking
the kids to basketball games, Girl Scouts, and paper routes while both worked full time at the theatre.
The two endured trying times as they worked to maintain their marriage and family and manage the
theatre. It was an undeniable amount of work, but sharing the same goals and ideas helped the couple
work through disagreements and hardships.
“There were times when we would ask ourselves, ‘how are we doing this?’,” Lynne said. “You just find
a way to make it work and get up with the level of energy to complete the needs around you.”
All their children helped in the theatre growing up. John and Lynne are grateful to have had their
children exposed to that life early on.
“We brought our kids into this weird, wacky theatre world and it exposed them to dynamic personalities
and brilliant people,” John said. “It enriched our kids. It made them very articulate and gave them a
tremendous appreciation for literature.”
While they are not as involved as they once were, the couple is proud where their hard work has taken
them over the years. They take pride in the theatre and look forward to propelling it further and exposing
more people to live theatre. Their fun, creative yet stressful life together is one they would not trade for
anything. Just last year, they celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary together and are enjoying their
retired lives together.