Month: September 2017

Noël Coward’s Ghostly Farce

In the spring of 1941, as Londoners endured the Blitz, playwright Noël Coward slipped away to Wales to draft a new script centered on death and the great beyond. “Title [is] Blithe Spirit,” he wrote in his diary. “Very gay, superficial comedy about a ghost. Feel it may be good.” Then, six days later, the play was finished.

Dubbed “An Improbable Play in Three Acts,” Blithe Spirit features novelist Charles Condomine and his second wife, the stiff and rigid Ruth, as they prepare to host a seance to conducted by clairvoyant Madame Arcati. For him, it’s a lark, research for his novel The Unseen; however, the scheme backfires, and Charles’ first wife, the temperamental Elvira, is summoned. Now, Charles finds himself torn between two loves: a passionate dead wife and an unfeeling living one.

With its plot full of ghosts, seances, and mystics, Blithe Spirit is a witty take on an old theme, like Mel Brooks lovingly parodying Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with Young Frankenstein, only Coward’s target is high culture and the Gothic literature.   

Coward had been plotting a comedy about ghosts for some time, but could never quite work it out in his mind. The title of the play is taken from Percy Shelley‘s poem “To a Skylark” (“Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! / Bird thou never wert”), and is the descendent of a long line of British traditions, namely farce and Gothic literature.

The 18th century nourished two opposing trends: the Enlightenment and Romanticism. Proponents of the Enlightenment valued objectivity and reason, whereas the Romantics preferred passion and a desire to feel things.

In 1764, Horace Walpole wrote The Castle of Otranto and planted the seeds of Gothic literature. This short novel combined elements of terror and medievalism with Romantic ideals and set a precedent for a thrilling new genre.

Focused on the individual, Romantics asked,  “Why get lost in a crowd when you could shine alone?” Like a nightmarish demon brother, the kid sibling of Romanticism, taking all the good things about the genre and dipping them in shadow and sin, the Gothics combined life and death in one theatrical rendering.

The plot of Gothic novels typically involves people who become mixed up in a complex, paranormal scheme, often involving a desperate heroine, such as Anne Radcliffe’s classic Gothic novel, The Mysteries of Udolpho (1794).

Originating from the ornate architecture created by the Goths, medieval castles shrouded in mystery, these Gothics proved the past to be the ideal backdrop for a literary style concerning itself with superstition, horror, and the absurd.

Taking elements such as atmosphere, clergy, paranormal, melodrama, omens, and epic settings, Gothic literature twists them into a compelling, dark story.

Gothic novels established a new movement. Whereas today we are no longer surprised by a lurking butler, a shadowy figure in the night, or a coven of witches, Gothic authors paved the way for the macabre and mysterious.

Every plot held a new surprise; every novel, a new ending. These stories enthralled readers by enticing them to look behind the veil and wonder where those mournful wails hailed from, turning the atmosphere of the story into character.

Yet, the real beauty of the genre lies in the reflection it represents. Like a grimy, cracked mirror sitting on the wall of the House of Usher, this genre of fiction gives us a twisted look at reality.

Traditional romantic heroes morph into hellhounds, sometimes literally, but more often than not as trusted metaphors for order, decay, and rot. In essence, the Gothic is the birth of the antihero.

Why are these books so appealing? Why do these plays touch our soul? It’s because all the demons, all the crooked monks and monsters, are really extensions of ourselves.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde offers a literal protagonist-antagonist trapped in one body. In essence, a man is his own worst enemy. What happens when the monster that lurks inside of all of us is set free?

This idea would later be expounded by Oscar Wilde in The Picture of Dorian Gray, turning an innocent protagonist into a decidedly repulsive antagonist. To the outside world, Dorian is a handsome example of high culture. Yet Wilde’s dramatic imagery of a decaying portrait reflecting the inner workings of its hero exposes the weight of choice, guilt, and malevolence.

Much like Coward’s earlier successes Hay Fever and Private Lives, or Wilde‘s classic comedy The Importance of Being Earnest, Blithe Spirit is both a condemnation and a celebration of all things uniquely British.

Cantankerous novelist Charles Condomine is married, but haunted (literally) by the ghost of his late first wife, the clever and insistent Elvira, who is called up by the visiting medium Madame Arcati.

Director Carly Bodnar leads an all-star cast of Hedgerow favorites in Nöel Coward’s stylish supernatural comedy, Blithe Spirit, playing October 5 through 29. The cast includes Producing Artistic Director Jared Reed, board member Michael Fuchs, veteran Susan Wefel, and fan favorite Stacy Skinner.

The show also reunites the three cast members of the Barrymore Recommended production of On the Verge: Jennifer Summerfield,  Maryruth Stine, and playing the coveted role of Madame Arcati will be this year’s recipient of the Barrymore Lifetime Achievement Award, Penelope Reed.

Is it our enjoyment of a well-plotted farce, or our obsession with life after death, that charges this intelligent and enduring Gothic play? Coward’s timeless and distinct voice, combined with superb direction and a killer cast,  give us insight into human interactions and relationships that make up all the fun in this one-of-a-kind production.

For more information call the box office, 610-565-4211, visit, or email Hedgerow Theatre is located at 64 Rose Valley Road in Rose Valley (near Media). Adult ticket prices are $35, with a $3 discount for seniors. Tickets for those age 30 and under are $20. For groups of 10 or more, tickets are $18, please contact Art Hunter at Prices include all fees and are subject to change. Shows are Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Adam Altman

Adam Altman (Core Company Member) – Adam first appeared on Hedgerow’s stage as the title role in Uncle Vanya; he is incredibly pleased to be able to continue to work with this talented group of artists in this historic venue.  Adam’s first taste of acting was auditioning for the role of the lead kid (“Dylan” in the original sides) in the feature film Cop and a Half, starring Burt Reynolds.  Though Adam actually got a callback, he ultimately failed the screen test because they wanted him to “arrest” a fully-grown adult for jaywalking; 7-year-old Adam found this far too ridiculous and consequently couldn’t keep a straight face.  Much later, Adam became an Eagle Scout, attended college, and received purification in the fires of theme park entertainment. In addition to holding a BA in Theatre Performance from Seton Hill University, Adam also studied acting at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, and with Olivier, Tony, and Helen Hayes award winner Jane Lapotaire.  Adam is an Iron Age Theatre family member, having appeared in over 20 Iron Age productions.  Some other companies with whom Adam has performed include: the Philadelphia Artists’ Collective, Delaware Shakespeare, Inis Nua, Theatre Horizon, Lantern Theater, Tiny Dynamite, Commonwealth Classic, Shakespeare in Clark Park, Montgomery Theater, Delaware Theatre Co, Arden Theatre Co, and the National Constitution Center.  Adam lives in Glenside with his amazing wife Katie and their two sons Seamus & Lucius.

Audition for Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

Dear Hedgerow friends,

Please join us for our Annual A Christmas Carol Auditions, Sunday, October 8th, 2017 at 5:00 p.m. at Hedgerow Theatre, 64 Rose Valley Road, Rose Valley, PA 19063.

This year we are featuring a special choir of all ages to sing carols during the performance.  We are also auditioning for the named roles of Past, Fan and/or the Cratchit children: Peter, Martha, Belinda, Tiny Tim & the two little Cratchits (male or female).  

All who audition please be prepared to sing a Christmas carol of your choice (a Cappella) and have a funny joke or story to tell. If you auditioning for The Ghost of Christmas Past please see the side below for auditioning.

Because planning for the busy holiday season is challenging, and because conflicts weigh heavily in all casting decisions, the conflict form at the link below must be completely filled out before any audition.




To save time on audition day, please fill the forms out online in advance.   Otherwise, you may have to wait until forms are filled out.

If auditioning with multiple family members with the SAME conflicts, fill out the form and email Ariel Baker,, with the names of your participating family members. If you have family members with different conflicts, you will need to fill out separate forms.

Thank you! We look forward to seeing you and enjoying another wonderful year of Christmas Carol. Thank you for being a part of this special tradition!



The Hedgerow Company


Christmas Carol Audition Sides: Pick One

( Pasts Must Audition With This Side)



Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?


I am!


Who, and what are you?


I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.


Long Past?


No. Your past.


What business brings you here.


Your welfare!


A night of unbroken rest would have been more conducive to that end.


Your reclamation, then. Take heed! Walk with me!


I am a mortal, and liable to fall.


Bear but a touch of my hand there, [touches his heart] and you shall be upheld in more than this!


For all other roles: prepare a funny Joke or Story and a Christmas carol


Susan Wefel

SUSAN WEFEL (Edith) a graduate of The School of Theater at Boston University and is a 38 -year veteran actress and company member of Hedgerow Theatre.  She has studied under Dolores Tanner, Rose Schulman, Janet Kelsey, Louis Lippa, and Penelope Reed.  Recent Hedgerow Roles include her critically acclaimed Shirley Valentine, Gaslight (Elizabeth), No Sex Please, We’re British (Mother), Pride and Prejudice (Mrs Bennett), Servant of Two Masters (Brigella),  and the annual A Christmas Carol, in which she has performed every year! Seen at Media Theater in The Addams Family, Les Miserables, Billy Elliot, To Kill a Mockingbird, Side Show and Romeo and Juliet. Winner of Broadway World Award 2016 for Best Supporting Actress of Philadelphia for portrayal of Grandma in Billy Elliot.

Aaron Oster

AARON OSTER (Sound Designer) has been a sound designer, director and dramaturg in Minneapolis, and in the Philadelphia Area since 2003.  He has designed for many local companies, including Inis Nua, EgoPo, Theatre Ariel, Simpatico, Luna Theater and Flashpoint. This is his second show with Hedgerow, following Around the World in 80 Days. He is an adjunct professor of theatre at Rutgers Camden and West Chester University, and occasionally at Drexel. Thanks to Lindsay, Eliana and Gavi.

Maryruth Stine

MARYRUTH STINE (Elvira) is a performer and educator focused on community-driven projects balancing silly stories and social critique. Hedgerow: Sherlock Holmes and the Crucifer of Blood (Irene), Pride & Prejudice (Lydia/Lady Catherine), On the Verge (Alex). Philly stages & classrooms include The Painted Bride, Cabaret Verité, IRC, Philadelphia Opera Collective, PhillyShakes, EgoPo, Little Fish, Theatre Horizon, WolfPAC, and Philadelphia Young Playwrights. Montreal: Teen Sleuth and the Freed Cyborg Choir, Organizer, Monster. Vancouver: Beaver Dreams, Herban Adventures. Chennai: Aanmaiyo aanmai! (with Marapacchi) Jujubee (with Perch). Bangalore: Turntables (with LesBiT). Thank you Hedgerow, much love!


Penelope Reed

​PENELOPE REED,(Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit), studied with founder Jasper Deeter before Carnegie Tech (BFA in acting) and Marquette University (MA in speech and directing). As leading actress at the Milwaukee Repertory, McCarter and Hedgerow theatres, Penelope for decades has chosen to weave together acting, teaching, directing, civic service (e.g. Rose Valley, Rotary Club, Delaware County Historic Society), and administration (e.g. Alverno College, Lawrenceville School and Hedgerow). She loves her “ladies” (from Blanche Dubois to Eleanor of Acquitaine).  However, her favorite role is watching Hedgerow’s growth as a dynamic regional force.  Penelope will receive the Philadelphia Barrymore Lifetime Achievement Award at the Merriam Theatre on October 30th.  Special thanks to generations of theatre goers, practitioners, supporters and family members who kept Hedgerow going. To Artistic Director Jared and my Zoran who has devoted decades of excellence in all areas of the theatre. Finally to Sebastian and Quentin, who fill us with wonder.

Jennifer Summerfield

Jennifer Summerfield (Ruth in Blithe Spirit) is excited to combine two of her favorite things, theatre and martinis, in her first Noel Coward production. She is a frequent guest artist at Hedgerow and has previously appeared here in Uncle Vanya, Macbeth, Hamlet, and Dracula, among others. Other recent productions: Sense and Sensibility (People’s Light,) Hedda Gabler (Laurel Tree Theater,) Dancing at Lughnasa (Curio Theatre). She is a graduate of Smith College and the Neighborhood Playhouse, where she learned how to repeat things, and is cofounder of Laurel Tree Theater. She will be seen next in two one-woman shows: her touring production of The Yellow Wallpaper at Historic Waynesborough in November and Mary Shelley in January at the Rosenbach Museum and Library.

Sarah Mitchell

Sarah Mitchell (Costume Designer Blithe Spirit) is a freelance costume designer in the Philadelphia area, Second Draper at the Walnut Street Theatre, Wardrobe Supervisor at the National Constitution Center, and is delighted to return to Hedgerow to design The Blithe Spirit. Recent design credits include: The Prisoner of Zenda, Gaslight (Hedgerow), The Comedy of Errors (Delaware Shakespeare Festival), Zombie in Love (WST) and The Producers, Hairspray, The Rocky Horror Show (Livingston Theatre Company). Many thanks to the amazing cast and crew, and to all of the wonderful people at Hedgerow!

Carly L. Bodnar

CARLY L. BODNAR (Director of Blithe Spirit) is a director, teaching artist, producer, and sometimes actor. She is thrilled to be back out at Hedgerow after working as the Associate Director on their Uncle Vanya. Carly is the Co-Artistic Director and founding member of ReVamp Collective, a Philadelphia based feminist theatre company. For the past three years she has directed for ReVamp and most recently directed the world premiere of Jimmy Gorski is Dead.  Carly’s other credits include; directing Sarah Treem’s A Feminine Ending, chorus director for Shakespeare in Clark Park’s Coriolanus, directing multiple staged reading and directing for multiple play festivals. Carly received her BA in Theatre from Temple University with a minor in Art History. Next up Carly is directing Stephen Sondheim’s Company at La Salle University, Kelly McCaughan’s one woman show Catholic Guilt, and Shelli Pentimall Bookler’s All the Dead Biddles.