Month: November 2014

Women of Hamlet: Never Stop Learning 

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Blog by
Colleen Marker, Hedgerow Theatre Company Member

Here at Hedgerow, the Fellows who make up the majority of the Resident Company, often wear many hats. Throughout our time here we are given the opportunity to experience theatre in all its forms. We work box office, park the cars, teach on-site at the Hedgerow Theatre School, teach for our outreach programs in the city of Chester, as well as act in our Educational touring shows, and when the opportunity presents itself, on the main stage. In our two or so years here, the Fellows gain a plethora of hands-on experience in our field that would otherwise take us many more years to accomplish. I have been a Fellow with Hedgerow for only one year, and already I have numerous experiences under my belt from stage managing a farce, to running the box office, and now I get to add this wonderful show to my resume!

Classical theatre, and especially Shakespeare, has always been something I have been drawn to as an actor. There was always so much depth and so many layers to any given play, so many meanings hidden in the poetry, that It always felt that no matter how many times I read one of Shakespeare’s plays, or discussed them in a class or with fellow actors, or I performed monologues or scenes that I never stopped discovering, there was always something new to discover about a character or a plot, and fresh eyes always seemed to help to discover a new way to look at these stories who have stood the test of time. 

Hamlet, while not my favorite Shakespearean tragedy, has always been of great interest to me. Every time I read it, it seems to ask as many questions as it answers: does Gertrude know and was she involved in the plot to kill her husband? Is Hamlet truly insane? Does he ever tell Ophelia anything about his father’s ghost? Is the Ghost truly old King Hamlet or is he a devil? Questions that are still fresh in my mind as a newly graduated actor, and I was so interested to see what our theater’s production would choose to play, especially with the bit of gender-bending director Dan Hodge did with casting Jennifer Summerfield as Horatio.

I came into the process of rehearsing Hamlet with eyes wide open, and ready to learn. I am the youngest person in the cast currently, and given that my part was small, I felt that any opportunity I could take to observe and learn from the immense talent that surrounded me, I should take. Young actors are often told that “You never stop learning.” Every role, production, director, and company of actors you work with are an chance to learn something. Something about the play, about the characters, and especially about yourself as an actor. 

More than anything else, Hamlet has been the greatest learning experience I have ever had. While I was at college, I studied acting from books and scene work, and all those different technique exercises that your teachers encourage you to learn and use but only in rehearsal. As my acting teacher Trent would often say, “You NEVER take your technique onstage with you.” I understood at the time what he was saying, but I do not think it was until very recently in this experience that I really got what he was trying to tell us. 

As a young actor, I was so blessed in this opportunity, working with Dan, and such a wonderfully supportive and talented group of actors. Dan in particular came in with such a clear vision that all of those questions that always arise during my readings did not even seem like options anymore. The entire cast, as well as the wonderful assistant director Maura Krause only added to our sure footing by adding even more to the table and building up such a strong story for us to tell every night. 

Here at Hedgerow, the Fellows are given the chance to use the skills we learned in college in a practical setting. In playing alongside Philadelphia actors, we get to finally put into motion all the textual and technique taught us and then throw it away.  I have been very fortunate in the last 9 or so weeks, from rehearsing to performing, I learned in leaps and bounds both from watching and doing. 

As we enter our last weekend of performances, I still think Hamlet is a play with a lot of questions, but I also think Hedgerow Theatre and Dan Hodge’s adaptation of Hamlet has a lot of answers that you do not want to miss! 

COLLEEN MARKER 
(Player Queen) is a recent graduate of Rider University’s Westminster College of the Arts, and is a Resident Company member and Hedgerow Acting Fellow. She is very excited to be back onstage in Hamlet. Colleen was last seen on the Hedgerow mainstage in Sense and Sensibility, as well as having performed in Theatre for Kids shows,  Storytime! Pinocchio, Storytime! Peter Pan and the upcomingStorytime! Cinderella. Other favorite credits include A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Delaware Shakespeare Festival), The Crucible (Rider University). Colleen would like to thank Dan, Jared and Penn for this wonderful opportunity, the cast and crew for a great experience, and as always special thanks and love to Mom, Dad and family for their constant support and to Joel for being so wonderful

  


Captain Louie and High School Musical: An Opportunity to Shine

Friends Coming Together

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Blog by
Lily Dwoskin, Director of Captain Louie

I am floored to have the opportunity to work with such an amazing cast of talented kids on a piece that has been with me for many years.  It is an honor to direct Captain Louie at the Hedgerow Theatre School this fall.  

The process began quite a while ago when I brought the project to the table.  The story is one that has touched my heart. Captain Louie is the story of a young boy who is having trouble making friends in his new neighborhood, so he takes an imaginary plane ride back to his old neighborhood on Halloween, where he goes on adventures and learns the true meaning of friendship. 

I thought the timing was perfect; our performance would be not long after Halloween, so some of the spookier songs like “Shadows” and “Trick or Treat” would be fun to explore. Not only that, but the lesson the piece teaches about friendship is something we, as adults, can still learn.

When it came time for auditions, I was so impressed with the talent of the kids that came out for the show, that casting was a challenge simply because I had so many kids who were right for each role.

In the end, however, this play is about coming together as friends.  How right, then, that the whole of the ensemble is present for almost the entirety of the play. Every kid has an equally important role in the play, and each kid has the opportunity to shine in Captain Louie!



Learning from One Another

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Blog by
Dianna Jones, Education Coordinator

This was a very challenging project for the students, and the director, Joel Guerrero.   Disney’s High School Musical Jr. is a dance heavy show with lots of upbeat music, and, all in all, it’s a physically demanding show that asks a lot of the performers each day. Its been a pleasure watching these kids grow into their parts, and learn how to rise to the occasion.

Joel selected the piece knowing that while it would require a lot of work, it was something that his students and their families would enjoy, as well as raise the bar of the Hedgerow Theatre School. 

The rehearsal process involved a great deal of ensemble work: blocking and reviewing the large musical numbers and dance sequences were part of each and every rehearsal.  Teaching the students the discipline of practice and the fundamentals of performance, High School Musical has delivered a show that has been both challenging and fulfilling. 

This piece also gave students the opportunity to step into some really fun and expressive roles as the students and teachers that make up the cast of East High are quick witted, dynamic, quirky and diverse. Our students have risen to the occasion and embodied all the roles we have asked of them. To see these young performers grow from day one to performance has been an experience of its own.

 Overall, our High School Musical experience was about raising the bar through kindness and encouragement- challenging the students to try something new, to grow as performers and learn from one another.  


Hamlet, Our Artistic Director

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As a member of the fifth generation of a professional acting family, there was little doubt that Jared Reed, Hedgerow’s Artistic Director, had inherited the theatre gene.  He grew up watching his mother, Penelope Reed, perform at Milwaukee Repertory, Princeton’s McCarter Theatre, and the Hedgerow.

Jared’s heredity showed itself when, at age five, his first appearance on stage was a hit.  Cast as a donkey in a nativity play, he recalls, “I was to bray once, and when my one line drew laughs, I went off script and hee-hawed some more.”

In his teens, Jared’s theatre experience included two small roles in Carol Churchill’s Cloud 9.  “I was an African-American servant in Act 1, and a girl in Act 2.” He also played a prime minister in drag in The Emperor’s New Clothes, and served as stage manager of A Delicate Balance at the Hedgerow, back when this position required huddling in a small space under the stairs.

Sure of his calling, Jared set his sights on the prestigious Julliard School in New York.  “I remember working monologues with Penn to prepare to audition.  During this process, it all started to click.  I felt for the first time an awareness of what I was doing that I hadn’t felt before.”

Jared majored in Drama at Julliard and worked at the Hedgerow during summers and holidays, graduating in 1995.  “Although I had a career in New York after graduating,” he says, “that didn’t fulfill me as much as being part of a company. I moved back to this area and started Curio Theatre Company in West Philadelphia with Paul Kuhn and his wife Gay Carducci, both former Hedgerovians.”

He continued, “I still keep a hand in Curio, directing one show per year, but I am now very happy to be artistic director here at the Hedgerow, where I have been an actor, company member, director, playwright, and light-and-sound technician.”

He added, “My experience at Hedgerow isn’t unusual. You learn every aspect of theatre here and how important every single one of them is.  If you’ve ever been a member of the Hedgerow company, for the rest of your life this is what theatre is. Everything else is measured against it.”

As Artistic Director, Jared role involves selecting productions and directors, casting, hiring production professionals, and strategizing the Hedgerow’s artistic direction in programming as well as producing.

In addition to coordinating an intricate web of marketing efforts ranging from group sales to summer camps, newspaper ads to community outreach, he is deeply involved in the nuts and bolts of running a theatre. Administration.  Programming.  Ticket pricing.  Signage in front of the theatre.   Repairs to the physical plant.  Brainstorming new approaches to audience building, while retaining faithtful ticket buyers of the past.  “I have to be both a big-picture guy as well as a detail-oriented leader,” Reed says.  

“It helps enormously to have some very seasoned staff members, as well as energetic young company members – the latter of whom all have to pitch in,” he says.  “You will see residents of the Hedgerow House not only on stage, but also manning phones, painting sets, putting up posters, entertaining children at community fairs, coordinating social media, and assisting with all special events.  Being part of a residential repertory theatre involves far more, everyone quickly learns, than delivering lines and hitting marks.”

All the while, amidst this buzzing hive of activity is Reed.  Not only does he continue to act and direct, but he and his wife Keren, a native of England, are also raising two energetic small sons, Sebastian and Quentin.  

Already, it is very clear to the entire Reed family that one of the little boys is a born actor.  And so the family theatrical line continues, in Shakespearean fashion, to the sixth generation.


Women of Hamlet: Laughter in the Soul

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Although clearly well-versed in all things Shakespeare, (pun intended), the brilliant Dan Hodge does not consider the text to be sacrosanct. Consequently, he makes choices and empowers his actors to make choices that communicate a compelling story about real people with real needs that run the gamut from the spiritual to the carnal. How they impact one another and how they relate to the world around them becomes paramount.

In order to get there, however, we need to know who they are and Gertrude, historically, has had many different interpretations. What did she know, if anything, about Claudius’ actions before the fact and when did their relationship actually begin? What was her relationship like with Hamlet’s father? Does she think her son really mad or “mad in craft”? And what in the world is in that goblet? These many questions make for delicious opportunities and Dan’s vision for play in general and Gertrude, in particular, brought me to truly fall in love with this woman.

Part of my task as an actress was to understand the choices Gertrude had made, and the choices made for her, that bring her to be who we see when we first meet her. Married very young to a man she most likely did not choose, having only one son and loving him deeply, needing to be constantly on her guard and on top of court politics, all this shapes Gertrude into an intelligent and competent queen. A queen but yet a woman and, “…aye, there’s the rub.”

Further adding texture to Gertrude were some of the changes with which Dan enriched the text, such as Gertrude hearing in one scene and then overhearing in another Claudius’ plans for her son. Whatever control she had is now slipping and her beloved new husband looks very different. Ultimately, she has only one choice, and it is not made lightly.

It has been a joy to participate in the process of not only Dan and Maura’s direction, but also in the process of this wonderfully talented cast. I am inspired and moved during each performance as I sit in the wings and listen over and over again to rich language given life and substance by my colleagues.

Although Hamlet is a tragedy, it gives us the opportunity to get a glimpse of our shared human nature through each character we meet. And anytime we can understand our own hearts and motives better, there is not only great value but, if we look carefully, maybe even a bit of comedy as well. May we all find the laughter in the trial.


STACY SKINNER 
(Gertrude) is thrilled to return to the Hedgerow stage following her performances as Ruella in Communicating Doors and Mrs. Henry Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility. Originally having lived and acted in NY, Stacy has been seen in a variety of Philadelphia venues.  Favorite roles include: Lady Bracknell (The Importance of Being Earnest), Edith Frank (The Diary of Anne Frank), and Mrs. Gibbs (Our Town). She holds degrees in Theatre and Speech-Language Pathology. Big thanks to Dan, Jared, and Penny for this opportunity and to her family for their constant love and patience.




Women of Hamlet: Not a Wilting Flower

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Blog by Annette Kaplafka

When Dan Hodge first called me to audition for Ophelia, my initial and unfairly stereotypical reaction was, “I’m not necessarily the ‘wilting flower’ type.” However, once Dan started to explain his vision of the character, it became apparent he had every intention of allowing the actress he cast to show her strength and power in the performance.  This is a daunting task, considering Ophelia pretty much begins the play in a losing position.  From the start, both her brother and father are telling her the relationship with Hamlet isn’t real or lasting.  And, the first time the audience sees both her and Hamlet together (at least in our cutting) is in the nunnery scene, which well, doesn’t really solidify your hopes in a happily ever after.  So, I started to question how do I show Ophelia as a grounded woman, in a real loving relationship, when it is all just my character’s backstory? Not to mention, she does go mad, which pretty much belies any strength or stability one would try to portray early on in the play.  

Without a doubt, the mad scenes were what seemed to be the largest challenge as I began my work for the role.  What circumstances does a person need to experience to have such a mental break?  Is there a propensity for certain personality types to be more susceptible to such an actuality than others?  Do only the “weak” fall?  And really, how do we define this “madness?”  

One thing I came to realize as I was doing my research about mental instability and the institutionalized is that sanity is really just the most widely accepted opinion or thought.  Every person who we deem “crazy” usually has their own thought process to get from point A to point B.  But, if we don’t comprehend their reasoning as a society, we often (unduly) label it unbalanced or insane.  Science and history have proved this to us again and again.

Looking at the words and songs Shakespeare gave Ophelia, there is definitely a through line to what she is sharing. It became easy to find justification and clear purpose to the scenes and her action, and allowed us to question if it is truly madness, or if like Hamlet, (to pull a thought from our director) she is merely feigning and speaking in code to tell what she knows.   If the latter is true, then we get to see a woman who has lost all agency, standing in front of those who took it from her, saying “I know!” and telling the others, “Be careful!”  It’s definitely a much more interesting choice, and also, allows one to begin to find her strength again.  Her actions come out of a need to hold on, if only by a thread.  Sadly, even self harm and/or suicide are often the acts of a person trying to maintain control over whatever they can.  

Working from this perspective has hopefully allowed me the opportunity to bring our audiences an Ophelia of courage, empathy and spirit.  Sometimes, the truth is just too overwhelming in itself to put out there in plain terms. There is great truth and reasoning to all of what Ophelia says in the second act.  Just because you might not follow the thought process, don’t call me crazy. 🙂

ANNETTE KAPLAFKA 
(Ophelia) is so pleased to be working with everyone at Hedgerow.  She has performed coast to coast on stage, film, television and voice-over projects. Stage credits include Stewardess, (Camino Real) The Shakespeare Theatre; Dorothy (The Wizard of Oz); Senator (Timon of Athens) Philadelphia Artists Collective; Moyra/Sister Irene (At The Hand of My Mother) Ward Studio Company; and The Other Woman (Dead Man’s Cell Phone) Simpatico Theatre Project.   Film and TV credits include Mayor Cupcake (opposite Leah Thompson), Café, Sam and Rose, Homicide, and Arrest and Trial, as well as over 100 industrial films, and numerous Regional and national commercial and VO spots.   This and all things for ‘Lil Darts and Big Steve.