Month: February 2016

Blog: Godspell, Jr.

Hedgerow Theatre School Presents Godspell, JR

IMG_0430A cast of 19 talented young Hedgerow Theatre School students will present two performances of the Broadway musical Godspell JR. on Saturday, March 5, at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at the Pennsylvania Institute of Technology, 800 Manchester Avenue in Media.

The 1971 hit was the first musical written by Grammy and Academy Award-winning composer Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pippin) and John-Michael Tebelak.  The timeless tale of friendship, loyalty, and love, based on the Gospel of Matthew, features an eclectic blend of songs ranging in style from pop to vaudeville including “Day by Day,” “All for the Best,” “All Good Gifts” and “We Beseech Thee.” The students will bring to life a number of Jesus’ parables, teaching messages of kindness and tolerance.

The production is the culmination of a performance class taught by Executive Director Penelope Reed and Music Director Shaun Yates. The students, who range in age from 9 to 16 were taught acting and musical-theatre techniques while preparing to appear on stage. Reed is quite familiar with the show, having attended the Drama Program with Schwartz and Tebelak at Carnegie Mellon University while they were creating Godspell, which, Reed recalls, began as a project for Tebelak’s master’s degree. “We thought it was a good fit for the Lenten season,” she explained, “since the show celebrates community and the power of belief in God in building community.”

The “junior” version is designed for younger performers and audiences, and is appropriate for all ages. It has only one act and runs about one hour.

In the cast are Alexia Alvarez-Burock, Julie Gilligan, Amelie Lebourgeois and Paige Reece of Media; Ellie Barrickman and Elizabeth  Caulfield of West Chester; Jayla Eddins of Philadelphia; Alexi Kostorus of Broomall; Amahd Lopes of Chester; Pierce Marra and Meagan Walker of Wallingford; Will McIntosh of Ardmore; Julia McLean, Jeremy Peyton-Jones, Anna and Michael Tang of Swarthmore; and Lesley Psaris and Daniela Randazzo of Glen Mills.

Tickets are $10. For more information or to reserve a seat, call 610-565-4211 or visit

Blog: A Stylish Murder

Zoran Kovcic will play Poirot

Agatha Christie’s first published novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, comes to the stage for the first time at Hedgerow Theatre from March 17 to May 8in a world-premiere adaptation by Artistic Director Jared Reed. The work, written in 1916 and published in 1920, introduced the world to Hercule Poirot, who’s been called “one of the most famous fictional characters of all time.”

    The story takes place at an estate outside London, Styles Court, owned by Emily Inglethorp, a wealthy heiress recently remarried to her much younger husband, Alfred, believed by some to be a fortune hunter. Also in residence are her two stepsons, John and Lawrence Cavendish; John’s wife, Mary; Cynthia Murdoch, the orphaned daughter of a family friend; Evelyn Howard, Emily’s assistant; Dorcas, the maid; and Capt. Arthur Hastings, recuperating from injuries received in World War I, who’s just arrived to visit his friend John. On the morning after Emily has been overheard arguing with an unidentified person, she is found dying from strychnine poisoning. Because there are so many possible suspects, Hastings enlists the help of his friend Poirot, the ace Belgian detective recently relocated to England because of the war, to help solve the case.
    Agatha Christie plays have long been a mainstay and quite popular at Hedgerow, but this one is unique for several reasons.“It’s the very first Hercule Poirot mystery, and it has never been performed onstage,” said Reed, a Juilliard graduate who is also directing the production. “He [Poirot] is insufferable! He’s cute and brilliant and pompous. We’ve been waiting to adapt this story for years.” Reed has adapted several plays over the years such as The Odyssey, The Iliad, and most recently Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Christie has presented somewhat of a challenge for him, as her attention to detail makes it difficult to modify.“You approach the work carefully,” he explained. “The hard part was in trying to get the length down without cutting plot points. It’s really amazing with Christie: everything is needed, whether it’s a clue or a red herring.”
    Zoran Kovcic is Poirot, a role he first played in 1993. The Rose Valley resident has acted and designed and built sets at WideEyedStudiosHedgerowMurderRunFinalHigh-36Hedgerow for more than 20 years. Stacy Skinner of Media, whose previous roles include Gertrude in Hamlet, portrays Emily. Ned Pryce, a University of the Arts graduate who played Jonathan Harker in Dracula, makes his second Hedgerow appearance as John Cavendish.  Company member Shaun Yates, a Texas native who now lives in Bryn Mawr, is Hastings. Hedgerow Fellow Allison Bloechl and company member Brock D. Vickers, currently earning rave reviews for their multiple roles in Or, are Evelyn and Lawrence. Fellow Mark Swift, who was Renfield in Dracula, plays Alfred, and Fellow Josh Portera (Otto inBullshot Crummond) portrays several characters, including toxicologist Dr. Bauerstein. Longtime company member Susan Wefel is Dorcas.
    There are also two local actors making their Hedgerow debuts. Emily Parker, originally from Somerville, N.J., was invited to audition by fellow Muhlenberg College alums Bloechl and and Portera, and was cast as Cynthia. Bonnie Baldini, a graduate of Upper Darby High School and Temple University, is Mary. They both currently reside in the Brewerytown section of Philadelphia.
. Hedgerow Theatre is America’s first repertory theatre, founded in 1923. It is located at 64 Rose Valley Road in Rose Valley (near Media).

Top Seven: Books on Storytelling

WideEyedStudiosHedgerowOrFarceFirstHigh-31Crafting a story is a beautiful thing. It takes hours, if not years, of unseen sweat and ink. When it comes to theatre, those stories get seen as many angles as possible before they every reach the stage. Artistic Director Jared Reed sees a lot of angles at Hedgerow. He functions as an actor, director, lighting designer, playwright, father, son, leader, and as many job titles as the theatre can throw at him. At his core, Reed is a storyteller, and one working doubly on his craft at the moment as he spearheads the adaptation of Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles. Therefore, we wanted to know what are Reed’s cornerstones of creation.

1.) Constantin Stanislavsky, “An Actor Prepares”

2.) Edward Gordon Craig, “The Art of the Theatre”
3.) Peter Brook, “The Empty Space”
4.) Aristotle, “Poetics”
5.) John Gardner, “The Art of Fiction” 

Podcast: Connecting with Your Audience

200-harveyRalph Weeks started his career working with Marshall Mason and Rod Marriott at Circle Repertory Company in New York City. He was then hired to become the Director of Marketing at Playwrights Horizons with Andre Bishop as Artistic Director. He moved down to Wall Street and worked for the infamous Ivan F. Boesky before moving on to the world of subscriptions and National Thrift News, helping to re-brand the institution and build the company’s product line. Returning to theatre in 1998, he became Marketing Director for The Pasadena Playhouse and has been Director of Marketing at the Walnut Street Theatre since 2003. When it comes to marketing, Ralph is one of the best minds in Philadelphia. We discuss how to promote a show, the future of theatre in Philadelphia, and the importance of home grown art.

Blog: Growing Up at Hedgerow

WideEyedStudiosHedgerowCaptandHSMFinalHigh-175Growing up can be a scary thing. One of the most revered ages is eighteen. Turning eighteen marks a whole new chapter in someone’s life; suddenly, you’re thrust into the world of college, living on your own, and adulthood. It can be a very nerve-wracking process. At Hedgerow Theatre School, turning 18 is a feat within itself. You’re the oldest age you can be to take children’s theatre classes, but adult classes are also available to you as well. You’re even more of a mentor to the little ones, who, now that you’re a legal adult, are relying on you even more. You’ve delved into the world of being a young adult, a strong, powerful group around Hedgerow. It’s exciting, but it can be very daunting as well. This week, I (Gabby) have interviewed the first three Hedgerow Theatre School teens to turn eighteen: long-time Hedgerow veteran Talen Draper and twins Moira and Caitlyn McKniff. In my interview, I asked them what it’s like to be eighteen, and what it means to them to be eighteen around Hedgerow.

How does it feel to finally be 18? I feel like 18 is such a defining age in one’s life (you’re finally an adult), does it feel like you’re starting a whole new chapter?


Caitlyn: I’ve only been 18 for about a month now and it’s great that I can finally tell people that I’m no longer a child. But it’s weird to think that I can sign my own permission slips or vote in the next election.

Moira: 18 feels great!! I feel like I’m definitely turning a new page in my life and I’m so excited to see what it has in store.

Talen: I do feel like I’m starting a new chapter in my life, when I turned 18 I felt like I had a clean slate waiting for me to write a new book.

Favorite part of being 18?

Caitlyn: I don’t really have one, I’ve only been 18 for like a month.

Talen: Hmm this is hard.. I would have to say being able to vote.

Least favorite?

Caitlyn: I’m not 21 yet, so in some people’s eyes I’m not actually an adult, which is very frustrating.

Talen: My least favorite part is having to do certain things on my own that I was used to my mom doing for me.

What does being 18 entail as a Hedgerow Theatre work study student? Is there anything new you’re looking forward to being able to do around the theater? 

 Caitlyn: It’s great that I can finally be left alone or walk somewhere without having to wait for someone to be with me. I think it’ll make summer camps a lot easier.

Moira:  Being 18 now means we have more of a responsibility with looking after the younger students, but I find it’s really rewarding being able to teach kids things like choreography and see them grow from it.

Talen: Well, now that I’ve turned 18, I’m an adult, so if a teacher needs to leave the room, I can watch the students.

Where do you fall in your family? Are you the first to turn 18? The last? 

Caitlyn: Well, I turned 18 two minutes before my twin sister did and we’re the only two in our family besides our parents. But, if you ask my mom, she only turned eighteen a few years ago.

Moira: Out of all of our cousins we are right in the middle! My youngest cousin is about 2 and my oldest is like 30, so we’re not the first but definitely not the last!

Talen: I am not the first to turn 18. I’m sort of in the middle, I have 2 older siblings so I’m the 3rd to turn 18.

Where do you plan on going to college next year? What do you want to major in? 

Caitlyn: Hopefully I’ll be at Temple and I hope to study Marketing and Sales.

Moira: If everything works out, Cait and I both plan on going to Temple University, but if not, we are both going to go to the University of Scranton. I want to study Criminal Psychology!

What is your favorite thing about being one of the older work studies at Hedgerow? How do you feel you contribute to the theater and the school?

Caitlyn: Being a Hedgerow Theatre Work Study has allowed me to meet so many talented people that I’ll hopefully keep in contact with for a long time. Theatre is something that I’m very passionate about and as a work study I’ve been able to grow as an actress while helping a younger generation of actors and actresses grow as well.

Moira: I love being able to give the little ones advice and see them all grow as actors and actresses. I feel like I have gained a lot of valuable skills throughout my years at Hedgerow. I hope my skills help add to the Hedgerow Experience.

Talen: I’m actually the oldest out of all the work studies. I love having fun with the students. When I’m in a bad mood, I try to be super energetic and just make sure the students are happy and having a great time.

Lastly, now that you’re 18, what advice would you give to younger kids? What would you say to the younger work studies? 

Caitlyn: I would say stop wishing you were 18 so that you can do things. There really aren’t a lot of cool things you can do at 18 that you can’t do at 16 or 17. To be honest, I have to keep reminding myself that I’m an adult now. To younger work studies I would say learn everything you can and take every piece of advice that is given to you. You can never grow if you don’t think there’s anything more to learn.

Moira: I think the one word of advice that I have learned is to always work hard. Be the first person at a rehearsal and the last to leave. It might seem stupid, but directors will notice that. So I guess my advice to the younger work studies is to pay now so you can play later.

Talen: Enjoy every moment of every age. You don’t have a lot of worries. You don’t have to worry about college applications, SAT/ACT scores, or even deciding on which college you want to attend. You have plenty of time to worry about that. Enjoy life. Life goes by so fast, so make sure you live it as happily as you can, laugh a lot, have no regrets, and spend it with the ones you love the most.

We hope this is able to give some insights into what it’s like to be one of our oldest work studies at Hedgerow, and ease some qualms about turning the big eighteen!

~ Gabby Harrison, Talen Draper, Moira McKniff, and Caitlyn McKniff

Clues: Facts of the Case

Ned Pryce from Dracula

Allow us to shed some light on the upcoming mystery: strychnine. If you are an avid mystery lover, and if you are reading this you are, then you will love a clue or two to get a leg up on the competition. Well, enjoy these facts on an essential point in Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles. 


The 19th century witnessed the birth of the Industrial Revolution which is responsible for scientific advances, as well as technological. This progress  caused a boom in medical science which led to numerous remedies for ailments. Some of these were quite dangerous including morphine, cocaine, and opium.  The Victorians’ reliance on medicines and tonics carried over into the 20th century.

Emily Ingelthorp’s tonic contains the alkaloid, strychnine. By the first half of the 20th century, people were ingesting strychnine as a tonic or in pill form for gastric health. The plant source of alkaloid strychnine was discovered in 1818. This discovery was made by French chemists Joseph-Bienaime Caventou (1795-1877) and Pierre-Joseph Pelletier. Strychnine comes from the seeds of the nux vomica tree that grows in India. Although strychnine is a poison, it has been used in the past as a medicine. Strychnine was once prescribed as a remedy for heart and respiratory complaints and as a stimulant (or body “upper”). It is no longer used today because the size of an effective dose would be toxic. (Encyclopedia)

Top Ten: Ari Baker’s Top Ten Albums

Ari Baker does a lot around Hedgerow. As Executive Director Penelope Reed’s Assistant and head of Development, she needs time to decompress, and what better way than tuning in to tune out. Here are Ari’s top ten albums:

1.”Riot” – Paramore
2. “Good News for People Who Love Bad News” – Modest Mouse
3. “Plans” – Death Cab for Cutie
4. “Hail to the Thief” – Radiohead
5. “Almost Here” – The Academy Is
6. “Dark Side of the Moon” – Pink Floyd
7. “Dizzy Up the Girl” – Goo Goo Dolls
8. “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out” – Panic! at the Disco
9. “Alopecia” – WHY?
10. “Pretty Hate Machine” – Nine Inch Nails

Podcast: Making a Murder at Hedgerow

WideEyedStudiosHedgerowDraculaFinalHigh-57It takes a lot to make a murderer, especially one that is supposed to entertain, delight, and mystify. Yet, Dame Agatha Christie always seemed to be up to the task.  In 1920 with the release of The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Christie has been tantalizing us with mysteries ever since and allowing the little grey cells of Hercule Poirot to solve them.

In this week’s podcast, Ned Pryce, Mark Swift, and Josh Portera circle up to talk about the creative process of creating a mystery and the work going in to this world premiere adaptation of Christie’s first murder mystery.

Top Ten: Allison Bloechl’s Top Books

WideEyedStudiosHedgerowOrFarceFirstHigh-10Books are our gateway to the world. At Hedgerow, after 92 years of theatre we’ve amassed a lot of books, from original manuscripts from Eugene O’Neill to Executive Director Penelope Reed’s collection on leadership.
As we continue to work on our new adaptation of Agatha Christie’s The Mysterious Affair at Styles and we bring Or, back to the stage tonight, we bring you some of our favorite books. Today, we peer into company member Allison Bloechl’s Top Ten books that shaped her world.
1.  “Slaughterhouse-Five” by Kurt Vonnegut
2.  “Cat’s Cradle” by Kurt Vonnegut
5.  “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien
6.  “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer
7.  “I am the Messenger” by Markus Zusak
8.  “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen
9.  “The Last Dog on Earth” by Daniel Ehrenhaft
10.  “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn

Blog: Chickabiddy–Wait, What?

Chickabiddy at JalopyDirector of Or, Aaron Cromie is a man of many talents. He’s a designer, a puppeteer, actor, and when not confined to the theatre, he’s on the stage as a musician. His band, Chickabiddy, has been gaining accolades lately in Philadelphia. With Emily Schuman on vocals and guitar, and Cromie on vocals and mandolin, this band brings folk music to the Philly stage:
Hello friends,
I am happy to announce that my duo Chickabiddy has been selected to perform in a Singer/Songwriter Showcase at Philly’s famous Trocadero on March 12, 5.30pm for a 5-6 song set, along with several other up and coming bands.
Emily and I are hoping that you’ll come and see us perform in such a beautiful and storied venue. Tickets are $16 and are available from Emily and I directly, as each ticket we sell, we see a return on – we have a personal goal of tickets we’d like to distribute, and we hope you’ll come on out and support us. You’ll get to see a lot of music, and it won’t be too late a night!
For those working in theatre that day – we’d be playing right at 5.30pm (as Aaron is in tech for a show and is playing on his break!) so you could catch Chickabiddy between your shows.
Additionally, we’ve been busy writing a bunch of new material, and will shortly begin to record our first EP, and have plans to do a short tour outside of Philly in the summertime.
Also, for those who haven’t yet seen, Chickabiddy submitted a video (shot by for the NPR Tiny Desk Concert Competition – it is attached for your viewing pleasure – we hope you enjoy it!
If you are interested, we ask you get your tickets sooner than later, please. Email them at
To experience all of Cromie’s talents, check out the remaining shows of Or, listen to his music here, and buy tickets to the upcoming production of The Servant of Two Masters.