Month: August 2017

Penelope Reed Wins the Theatre Philadelphia Lifetime Achievement Award

In Philadelphia, no one has started more careers than Penelope Reed, and now 25 years later she will be honored by Theatre Philadelphia’s Barrymore Award for A Lifetime of Achievement for her service to Hedgerow Theatre Company, “The Mother of All Philadelphia theatre companies,” as well as the Philly theatre community at large.

Her roots with Hedgerow stretch back into her youth. Along with her mother Janet Kelsey, Ms. Reed studied under Jasper Deeter, the founder of Hedgerow Theatre, in 1962, at the age of 17. Little did she know that many years later she would return to the “intrepid Hedgerow Theatre” as its Producing Artistic Director, reviving the theatre to National prominence and, like Jasper himself, creating new theatre artists along the way.     

A leading actress for 12 years at the Milwaukee Repertory Company, Ms. Reed was also a director and a playwright. As a leading member of the McCarter Theatre for 9 years, her duties included that of Master Acting teacher and director. She has directed over 100 productions at a variety of theatres across the United States.

In 1992, Ms. Reed took the helm of Hedgerow, bringing her years of experience to Hedgerow to return it to its National standing as a theatre of excellence. She represented the next generation of a long line of actors and educators at Hedgerow, as, from its roots, the theatre has focused on the training and creating of future actors. From Jasper and Rose Schulman, Ms. Reed reignited the educational programs and strengthened the company mindset of Hedgerow by reinvigorating the apprenticeship program.

Ms. Reed transformed Hedgerow from a burned down shell of a building back into a professional theatre with an identity both for theatre production and education.  

The Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre are a nationally recognized symbol of excellence for professional theatre in the Greater Philadelphia region, honoring local artists and theatre companies while increasing public awareness of the richness and diversity of our city’s thriving theatre community.

Named in honor of the famed Philadelphia-based first family of theatre, the Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theatre have served as Philadelphia’s professional theatre awards program since 1994. The Barrymore Awards are a nationally recognized symbol of excellence for professional theatre in our region, raising the bar for the work produced by local theatres and individual artists while increasing public awareness of the richness and diversity of our city’s thriving theatre community. Each fall, theatregoers and artists come together to celebrate the theatre season and honor that year’s Barrymore nominees and award recipients at the annual Barrymore Awards Ceremony.

Ms. Reed will join recent winners Sara Garonzik, Johnnie Hobbs, Jr.,Johnnie Hobbs, Jr. as well as friends and collaborators Louis Lippa, Tom McCarthy, and James J. Christy.

Today, Ms. Reed is a Director Emeritus at Hedgerow Theatre, serving as both an actor and a consultant. She has handed the company off to her son, Jared Reed, who is following his mother’s example and strengthening the core company of the theatre.

Ms. Reed will be appearing in the fall thriller, Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit, in the role of Madame Arcati.

Hedgerow Theatre is located at 64 Rose Valley Road in Rose Valley (near Media). For more info, call 610-565-4211 or visit

Robert Smythe Playwriting Intensive

Hello to you all!

Some people have asked about what they should bring, how to prepare, etc. Here are the simple answers:

This class is for writing and about writing. It is not about acting or directing or anything else. We’ll be writing. Focusing on telling stories. Trying to understand how to tell a certain kind of story in a certain way. In the 30 hours or so that we have together, we will only be able to scratch the surface.

As far as what stories you want to tell: if you already have an idea you want to explore, or something in progress, great. You could work with those ideas. If you have no idea of what you’re going to do, great! You’re all taken care of. There would be no point in taking this class if you did all the work ahead of time.

I suggest you focus on your own creature comforts (like coffee and decent pens)–the things you feel you’ll need to be able to concentrate on having a great experience. I can say that this won’t be what you’re expecting, so relax and let it happen. You’ll be fine.

1) You will be writing. A lot. I prefer that you do this without a computer, for several reasons, not least of which is that thinking with pen in hand is so much more… thoughtful. It is also more conducive to looking around and seeing the world, including your fellow writers. An upraised screen puts a barrier between you and everyone else, so let’s not use them. You may, however, want to use a computer at home for assignments (yes, there are those) to make them a bit easier.

2) As you will be writing on paper, you will want to bring some. If your writing tends to run downhill, you might want lined paper: no one will think the less of you for it. I find I cannot write on anything other than 14″ yellow legal pads. But that is me.

3) You will want to bring something to hold your paper(s) together: a folder, a notebook. I strongly suggest you invest in one of the larger Moleskin notebooks, which are around 5 x 8″. Not only do they announce that you are a Writer, they are good reminders to yourself that you indeed, are a writer. They are handy for toting down to the beach, or pulling out of your pocket when you get an idea. An idea not written down is lost: you will not remember it later, I promise you. And the Moleskin is so much handier to have on one’s person at all times than the large loose-leaf binder. So you might want to have two sources of paper.

4) Bring pens. Pens that you like, that you LOVE to write with. Nothing is worse than trying to work with the pen you scrounged from a motel somewhere. Please don’t ask me to lend you a pen. I mean, really?

5) You’ll need something to lean on. We’ll be inside but you might want to move around, even outside, and you’ll need a writing surface. A clipboard, a slab of oak felled by lightning: anything on which you can lean and write neatly. The cardboard backing on pads of paper tends to give out after a while. At times, others will be reading what you’ve written. Out loud. (yes, they will. Get over it.) Writing neatly is important so they don’t stumble over your words and give new, unintended meaning to what you’ve written.

6) Coffee. You might want coffee. Even a thermos of coffee.

That’s about it.

Oh. I asked previous participants to write to you with their advice for getting the most out of our time together. This is what they sent:

“Allow yourself to write freely and openly. Put as much as you can out on the table, to make the most of the opportunity for feedback from the teacher and your peers.”

“I had a project I was working on which helped a lot… and it appeared that most others did too. I think that having a project in motion was very helpful… I would encourage people with a project in motion (especially a long one) take the class. It might be useful for others without a project to… come up with something.”

“Be prepared to kill many, many darlings.”

“Find a pen that you really enjoy using.”

“Do your homework before you arrive. Remind yourself of what you think story means, start thinking about narrative, and take stock of your writing practices before you arrive. Be prepared and primed to move.”

“Worry less about agreeing/disagreeing with Robert’s ideas and more about working with them. The time frame is so short and the concepts (to me) radical, that it is easy to get mired in whether you “agree” with what he is saying, rather than using the time to experiment with the concepts.”

“Invest in your own work and in the work of those in the class. I found the most rewarding moments were when I bonded with classmates.”

“Remember Robert’s model for critique: it is not easy to adopt, but it is valuable both in the class and for life.”

“Don’t just do the assignments: take good notes. You will need them as you think back on the class.”

“Be immediately bold. Breaking the ice artistically is difficult, but it enlivens the room and frees you to take the risks you are there to take.”

“Be prepared to work. Be prepared to do homework. Be prepared to be challenged. Be prepared to challenge yourself. Be prepared to laugh. Be prepared to see yourself grow. Be prepared to indulge every moment.”

“Don’t let anxiety prevent you from taking a risk in this non-threatening environment.”

If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to email me, and if you’re brave, copy the whole group of people so your excellent question and my excellent answer get seen by everyone.

Or, if you’re shy, just email me.

Or call me: 267-240-3679.

I’m very much looking forward to meeting and working with you all.

ROBERT SMYTHE is the founder of the Playwriting Program of the International Puppetry Conference at the Tony-winning O’Neill Theater Center. Named “Best Professor” by Philadelphia Magazine in 2010, he was a University Fellow at Temple University where he received his MFA in Playwrighting. His ground-breaking application of narrative theory to puppetry, “Reading a Puppet Show: Understanding the Three-Dimensional Narrative,” was published in The Routledge Companion to Puppetry and Material Performance (2015); his work on motor contagion was published in Acta Psychologica.
An acclaimed theater artist, Smythe is the recipient of Guggenheim, Pew, NEA, and six Pennsylvania Council on the Arts fellowships. He has won six Barrymore Awards for Excellence in Theater in areas ranging from education to choreography. The founder of Mum Puppettheatre, his work, according to Philadelphia City Paper, “sparked the theater renaissance that continues to this day.” As Mum’s Artistic Director for 23 years, he wrote, directed and performed over 20 original productions using puppets, masks, and human actors in Philadelphia and on tour on four continents. His 2010 collaboration with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, “l’Histoire du Soldat,” for the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts won the 2011 Barrymore Award for Outstanding Collaboration.
Click here to register. 

You Cannot Eclipse Ann Harding

On Monday, August 21st, the day of the total solar eclipse, The Turner Classics TV Network will dedicate an entire day and night to showing 15 of Ann Harding’s 40 movies, starting at 6 a.m. The eclipse, on that day, is “one star allowing another star to shine”.

Ann first appeared on the stage at the East Orange High School, in New Jersey, where she surprised the audience with her interpretation of the seductive spy, Theda Bara. She also spent a year attending Bryn Mawr College. Inspired by her time there and wanting to continue, she moved to New York where she met Jasper Deeter.

After attending a play by Provincetown Players (where Deeter was a leading actor/director), Ann discovered that the acting company was holding auditions for a part, and she decided to give it a try. Asked to come back the next evening and read for a larger part,  to her surprise, she won it. She subsequently received critical acclaim for her role in “Inheritors” (1921) and decided she would continue her budding career, that included a total of 72 plays on and off Broadway.

Deeter returned from New York to Rose Valley, bringing with him seven actors including Harding, blue cheesecloth, 16 light bulbs, some wood paneling, nine dollars, and the idea of an independent repertory theatre. Hedgerow Theatre was born.  

Harding perfected her craft at Hedgerow and attained national recognition; in addition to stage performances, she acted in 40 movies, 28 radio programs, and 44 TV programs, and has two stars on the Hollywood walk of fame, for film and TV. She was the 16th star to leave her footprints at Grauman’s Chinese Theater, that now has more than 200 stars so honored. Ann was one of only a few stars to address their fans directly. In the cement she wrote, “Whatever Success I Have, You Make Possible”.

She was signed by Pathe Studios in 1929 and made her debut with Fredric March in “Paris Bound” (1929).  As she was trained before microphones were invented, she could project her voice beyond the 10th row. This ability was an asset in the introduction of the early “talkies”. Some silent stars could not make the transition because of their voice quality. She became a Hollywood leading lady and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in “Holiday” (1930). In “The Animal Kingdom” (1932) she was the gentle refined heroine, when she played Daisy, the rejected fiancée of Leslie Howard which came to be her “type”. She also starred with leading men Basil Rathbone, Ronald Coleman, William Powell, Herbert Marshall, Robert Young, Richard Dix, and Gary Cooper in a wide variety of movies.

She quit films in 1937 when she married conductor Werner Janssen, but she could not stay away, and came back five years later in “Eyes in the Night” (1942) with Gale Storm and Edward Arnold. For the next five years she played mature character roles. Another break, another 3 films and then in 1956, she appeared once again with Fredric March, the man with whom she started her career in “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” (1956). She continued to appear sporadically on TV in the 1960s and died at age 80 in 1981.

Throughout her career she would make return appearances to Hedgerow, where she even provided the funds for the actor residence now known as Hedgerow theatre school and house.

More information: Ann Harding Bio


Patrick Derrickson

Patrick Derrickson ( Development & Audience Development Fellow) Patrick is an award-winning director and critically acclaimed lighting designer who has worked internationally with renowned artists from Germany, South Africa, and New Zealand. He joins Hedgerow as a Development Fellow after running around his home in D.C. directing, stage managing, lighting, and administering. He graduated cum laude from Washington College with a Bachelor of Arts in Drama and Philosophy and studied physical theater at Rhodes University in South Africa while pursuing independent research into non-European performance practices in theater. He is excited to make Rose Valley his home for the next two years after successfully circumnavigating the globe.

Lisa VillaMil

Lisa VillaMil ( Acting Fellow) Lisa is an acting fellow with Hedgerow Theatre Company.  Her first production with Hedgerow is Storytime: Peter Pan. Training includes: The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Masters in Classical and Contemporary Text (Acting); Shakespeare’s Globe Higher Education Acting Residency (director Nick Hutchison); Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey’s Summer Professional Training Program 2015 acting apprentice. Theatre credits include: The Other Place (Tampa Repertory); Let the Bitch Burn (RCS); 20 Plays in 40 Minutes (RCS On the Verge Festival); Hamlet (RCS); Titus Andronicus (Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey SPTP); Julius Caesar (Ithaca Shakespeare Company); The Lord of the Underworld’s Home for Unwed Mothers (Kitchen Theatre, Kitchen Sink Prod.).Lisa is a certified actor combatant with the BASSC, and is certified in additional weapons through the SAFD.  She choreographs violence for stage and screen.  Lisa is an internationally produced playwright, and is co-founder of Now What Theatre.

Shaun Yates

Shaun Yates (Actor, Teacher) has been a proud member of the Hedgerow Theatre extended company for five years. In that time he has performed numerous roles from John Brown in John Brown’s Body and Tournell in A Flea in Her Ear, to Mr. Willy in Two Into One and Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. Shaun also serves as the music director for Hedgerow’s children’s musicals and other shows when necessary. To find out more and see what else Shaun is up to visit his website:

Susan Wefel

Susan Wefel (Actor, Marketing, Member since ‘78) is a graduate of Boston University’s Theatre School and is a 37-year veteran actress and Company Member of Hedgerow Theatre. She has studied under Dolores Tanner, Rose Schulman, Janet Kelsey, Louis Lippa, and Penelope Reed. Susan teaches our Children and Teens in camps, Saturday classes, and our performance classes, and with Chester Charter.

Brock Vickers

Brock D. Vickers (Actor, Writer, Playwright, Marketing Manageris a second-year Resident Fellow at the Hedgerow Theatre. Originally from Georgia, Vickers is a professional actor and writer who has appeared in multiple productions in the Tri-State area. He has been seen at Hedgerow in A Christmas Carol, Sense and Sensibility, Communicating Doors, Hamlet, Tales from Edgar Allan Poe, and On the Verge. Past performances include The Boss in Kerrigan and Lowdermilk’s Flash of Time for the 2013 PIFA Festival, The Raven in Fractured Mirror’s Shades of Poe, and the Bartender in Bye Bye Liver: Philadelphia. He has also taught classical theatre for the Philadelphia Shakespeare Company, performed improvised and devised works with PRF Productions, and entertained children with Family Stages and the Garden State Discovery Museum. Vickers studied acting at Darton College and later attained a B.A. in Theatre and a BS in Journalism from Georgia Southern University where he appeared in over twenty productions. Favorite performances at GSU include The Commandor in Fuenteovejuna, Nikos in Big Love, and Stephano in The Tempest. 

Darlene McClellan

Darlene McClellan (Business Manager) Darlene graduated from Shippensburg University, where she majored and earned her B.S. in English and Library Science. She worked as a substitute teacher in the Ridley, Interboro, and Wallingford-Swarthmore school districts. She began her career at Hedgerow Theatre in 1998 when she volunteered as a backstage helper during children theatre productions. Still volunteering, she worked as a stage manager in both mainstage and children’s shows and an assistant director of Tiny Tim’s Christmas. She has coordinated the rehearsal and production schedules of many productions and has directed many children both at the theatre and at Strath Haven Middle School where for the past 2 years she has been assistant to the director in the production of the spring musical. Darlene serves at Hedgerow’s Board Liaison to facilitate and maintain a strong and active communication between the board of directors and company departments.

Art Hunter

Art Hunter (Group Sales and Outreach Director) resides in Media, Pa. He  graduated from St. Francis University with a B.S. in Education and Villanova University with a M.A. in Educational Administration. He was involved in all aspects of Medical Sales working for Johnson & Johnson, Siemens Medical and General Electric. He enjoys all sports and broadcasted Drexel University Men’s Basketball for 16 years.