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Robert Smythe’s Playwriting Class Returns

Robert Smythe’s playwriting Technique Intensive

Class dates:
Mondays January 15 through March 19th
Class Time: 7pm to 10pm
The times align to the Media/Elwyn trains, but we may move the class time earlier if the students wish to, decided at the first class.
Cost: $300
In the spirit of Hedgerow, if you feel you cannot afford the cost please call us and we may be able to help.
 
Where:
Hedgerow House
146 W Rose Valley Rd
Rose Valley, PA, 19086
Class size limit: 12
Class Description:
Robert Smythe’s Playwrighting Intensive will focus you on knowing what exactly you are trying to say to an audience, instead of how you are saying it. We’ll take the general themes and concepts that first led you to conceive of writing a play — or acting in one — and make them specific.
We’ll work on getting the story out of your head and into a form that can be understood and interpreted by the other artists you will eventually direct, perform beside or inspire. By the time you finish the first five-minute exercise, you’ll be surprised at what you have inside you. You’ll learn how to use tension and rhythm, and how to reveal states of mind through personal moments. You’ll write scenes and monologues. And love it.
You’ll discover that, in addition or even instead of all the other things you thought you were, you are a writer of plays. Not because someone told you that you are, but because you know you are.
In each class, you’ll spend time writing and then you’ll share what you’ve written with the rest of us. After you get feedback, you’ll continue writing outside of class for an assignment, or you might just want to continue writing because you’re so excited about getting stuff down on paper.
As we move through the course, we’ll explore how to write for the stage: not just how to write words for actors to speak, but how to make things happen: how to create excitement and surprises, and interest and emotion, so that when people act out your play, or see it in a performance, they’ll understand exactly what you mean.
Some Words from Robert Smythe about the Class:
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.
I’m very much looking forward to meeting and working with you all.

Musical Adventure Boogie Woogie Radio Hour Opens January 11

“The show must go on” is a motto all people familiar with theatre are a custom to, however, this January 11 to the 28 the cast and creators of Boogie Woogie Radio Hour will put that slogan to the test.

Boogie Woogie Radio Hour  is an original musical adventure by Hedgerow alum Sarah Gafgen, Shaun Yates, and Carl Smith. It’s 1948 and Radio WBGW is the biggest little radio station the biggest small town in Texas.

“The premise of the piece is that a small, scrappy radio station recruits a big New York troupe to join them for their first broadcast for a live audience and when things don’t work out exactly as planned everyone has to work together,” said co-creator Gafgen.

The 10th Anniversary LIVE Radio Production is the hottest ticket in town, the high school gym is bound to be full to the brim and everyone it town is buzzing with excitement! There’s even a troupe from New York City scheduled to perform! But what happens when that troupe gets re-routed at the last minute? Will the anniversary celebration come to a screeching halt disappointing everyone? Who could possibly save the day?

“This show will have lots of fun, our goal is to bring lots of memories of these great classic songs and give the audience lots of opportunity for belly laughs,” said Gafgen, “this is a fusion of a classic radio play and a musical review, hopefully with some fun surprises.”

Featuring classic standards like “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” “Sentimental Journey,” “What’ll I do,” “Chattanooga Choo Choo,” “Count Your Blessings,” and of course “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”

“This show is a chance to turn back the clock to radio’s heyday with a few unexpected twists along the way,” said Gafgen.

The first performance of Boogie Woogie Radio Hour is Thursday, January 11, at 7:30 p.m. There will be a Wednesday matinee on January 17, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. and the show signs off Sunday January 28, at 2 p.m.

Adult ticket prices are $20. Prices include all fees and are subject to change. For reservations or more info, call 610-565-4211 or visit www.HedgerowTheatre.org. Hedgerow Theatre is located at 64 Rose Valley Road in Rose Valley (near Media).

The Story of Ebenezer Scrooge begins Nov. 24

A miserly old man named Ebenezer Scrooge sits in his counting-house on Christmas Eve. His clerk, Bob Cratchit, shivers in the anteroom because Scrooge refuses to spend money on heating coals for a fire. Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, pays his uncle a visit and invites him to his annual Christmas party. Scrooge spits the now infamous, “Bah!Humbug!” in response to his nephew’s “Merry Christmas!”

Later that evening, after returning to his dark, cold apartment, Scrooge receives a chilling visit from the ghost of his dead partner, Jacob Marley. Marley, looking haggard and pallid, relates his unfortunate story. As punishment for his greedy and self-serving life, his spirit has been condemned to wander the Earth, weighted down with heavy chains. Marley informs Scrooge that three spirits will visit him during each of the next three nights. After the wraith disappears, Scrooge collapses into a deep sleep.

He wakes moments before the arrival of the Ghost of Christmas Past, a strange childlike phantom with a brightly glowing head. The spirit escorts Scrooge on a journey into the past to previous Christmases from the curmudgeon’s earlier years. Invisible to those he watches, Scrooge revisits his childhood school days, his apprenticeship with a jolly merchant named Fezziwig, and his engagement to Belle, a woman who leaves Scrooge because his lust for money eclipses his ability to love another. Scrooge, deeply moved, sheds tears of regret before the phantom returns him to his bed.

The Ghost of Christmas Present, a majestic giant clad in a green fur robe, takes Scrooge through London to unveil Christmas as it will happen that year. Scrooge watches the large, bustling Cratchit family prepare a miniature feast in their meager home. He discovers Bob Cratchit’s crippled son, Tiny Tim, a courageous boy whose kindness and humility warms Scrooge’s heart. The specter then zips Scrooge to his nephew’s to witness the Christmas party. Toward the end of the day, he shows Scrooge two starved children, Ignorance and Want, living under his coat. He vanishes instantly as Scrooge notices a dark, hooded figure coming toward him.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come leads Scrooge through a sequence of mysterious scenes relating to an unnamed man’s recent death. Scrooge sees businessmen discussing the dead man’s riches, some vagabonds trading his personal effects for cash, and a poor couple expressing relief at the death of their unforgiving creditor. Scrooge, anxious to learn the lesson of his latest visitor, begs to know the name of the dead man. After pleading with the ghost, Scrooge finds himself in a churchyard, the spirit pointing to a grave. Scrooge looks at the headstone and is shocked to read his own name. He desperately implores the spirit to alter his fate, promising to renounce his insensitive, avaricious ways and to honor Christmas with all his heart when he suddenly finds himself safely tucked in his bed.

Overwhelmed with joy by the chance to redeem himself and grateful that he has been returned to Christmas Day, Scrooge rushes out onto the street hoping to share his newfound Christmas spirit. He sends a giant Christmas turkey to the Cratchit house and attends Fred’s party. As the years go by, he holds true to his promise and honors Christmas with all his heart.

An Original Experience Fueled with Tastes of Christmas Past

Hedgerow Theatre continues its holiday tradition with its 25th annual production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, which runs from November 24 to December 24, with Artistic Director Jared Reed at the helm.

A miserly old man named Ebenezer Scrooge sits in his counting-house on Christmas Eve. His clerk, Bob Cratchit, shivers in the anteroom because Scrooge refuses to spend money on heating coals for a fire. Later that evening, after returning to his dark, cold apartment, Scrooge receives a chilling visit from the ghost of his dead partner, Jacob Marley. Marley, looking haggard and pallid, relates his unfortunate story. As punishment for his greedy and self-serving life, his spirit has been condemned to wander the Earth weighted down with heavy chains. Marley informs Scrooge that three spirits will visit him during each of the next three nights. After the wraith disappears, Scrooge collapses into a deep sleep.

Reed has directed the production for the previous two seasons, as well as serving as adaptor and designer. His adaptation remains faithful to Dickens’ tale of the redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserable, selfish miser whose heart is transformed after he is visited by a series of spirits on Christmas Eve.

“I began to revisit it after I did my one-man show based on Dickens’ reading version, so I decided to to go back to the source material. The dialogue is all true to the original, and the cast will still sing Christmas carols throughout the show.”

Scrooge wakes moments before the arrival of the Ghost of Christmas Past, a strange childlike phantom with a brightly glowing head. The spirit escorts Scrooge on a journey into the past to previous Christmases from the curmudgeon’s earlier years. The Ghost of Christmas Present, a majestic giant clad in a green fur robe, takes Scrooge through London to unveil Christmas as it will happen that year.The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come leads Scrooge through a sequence of mysterious scenes relating to an unnamed man’s recent death.

“The set and basic story will all be familiar,” he confirmed “because it’s a classic just as it is. It isn’t a rewrite, per se, just a script that better suits our company.”

After pleading with the ghost, Scrooge finds himself in a churchyard, the spirit pointing to a grave. Scrooge looks at the headstone and is shocked to read his own name. He desperately implores the spirit to alter his fate, promising to renounce his insensitive, avaricious ways and to honor Christmas with all his heart when he suddenly finds himself safely tucked in his bed. Overwhelmed with joy by the chance to redeem himself and grateful that he has been returned to Christmas Day, Scrooge rushes out onto the street hoping to share his newfound Christmas spirit.

Because of a large number of performances, there are teams of actors to accommodate their schedules and to allow them to play different parts to enhance their experience. Scrooge will be portrayed in all shows by Hedgerow veteran and perennial favorite Zoran Kovcic.

There are still a few dates available to book special performances for schools or other groups. To arrange a time, contact Group Sales Director Art Hunter at 610-565-4211.

Adult ticket prices are $35, with a $3 discount for seniors. Tickets for those ages 30 and under, as well as for students, are $20. For groups of 10 or more, tickets are $18. Prices include all fees and are subject to change. For reservations or more info, call 610-565-4211 or visit www.HedgerowTheatre.org. Hedgerow Theatre is located at 64 Rose Valley Road in Rose Valley (near Media).

25th Annual Christmas Carol Begins November 24

Carve up the turkey, plan those online shopping deals, and get ready for the most magical time of the year at Hedgerow Theatre. On November 24, Hedgerow Theatre kicks off its 25th annual Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

“A Christmas Carol is a timeless story of the redemption of a man to his better self – we choose to shut ourselves off from our humanity, and we can choose to embrace it,” said adaptor and director Jared Reed.

Professional Actors are joined by over 32 members of our community to make Hedgerow Theatre’s Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol a part of the Holidays you cannot miss. Decked with all your favorite Christmas carols, in our 1800s grist mill theatre, the Hedgerow experience is one that you will never forget.

“Hedgerow has a long history of performing Dickens – 25 years of A Christmas Carol, and numerous productions of his other stories such as Oliver – and the theatre itself, an 1840’s grist mill, is perfect for Dickens and creating a Victorian London.”

Dickens’ story was first published in London on December 19,1843 and the first edition sold out by Christmas Eve. A Christmas Carol tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an old miser, who is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come.

Dickens captured the zeitgeist of the mid-Victorian revival of the Christmas holiday. He  influenced the modern Western observance of Christmas and inspired several aspects of Christmas, such as family gatherings, seasonal food and drink, dancing, games and a festive generosity of spirit.

“Hedgerow prides itself on telling great stories. We have been bringing people together to share in the power of an ensemble troupe of actors performing for an engaged audience since 1923.  A Christmas Carol is who we strive to be all year round.”

Relive the transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge, laugh with all the Cratchits, and journey through space and time with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come as merriment and mirth fill your heart with joy.

The first performance of A Christmas Carol is Friday, November 24, at 7:30 p.m. There will be Wednesday matinees on December 13 and 20, at 2 p.m., as well as special performances Monday 18, Tuesday 19, and Wednesday 20 at 7:30 p.m.

Adult ticket prices are $35, with a $3 discount for seniors. Tickets for those ages 30 and under, as well as for students, are $20. For groups of 10 or more, tickets are $18. Prices include all fees and are subject to change. For reservations or more info, call 610-565-4211 or visit www.HedgerowTheatre.org. Hedgerow Theatre is located at 64 Rose Valley Road in Rose Valley (near Media).

 

The Story of A Christmas Carol

Twenty-five years ago Hedgerow Theatre began telling one of the most timeless stories ever written: Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. 

A miserly old man named Ebenezer Scrooge sits in his counting-house on Christmas Eve. His clerk, Bob Cratchit, shivers in the anteroom because Scrooge refuses to spend money on heating coals for a fire. Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, pays his uncle a visit and invites him to his annual Christmas party. Scrooge spits the now infamous, “Bah!Humbug!” in response to his nephew’s “Merry Christmas!”

Later that evening, after returning to his dark, cold apartment, Scrooge receives a chilling visit from the ghost of his dead partner, Jacob Marley. Marley, looking haggard and pallid, relates his unfortunate story. As punishment for his greedy and self-serving life, his spirit has been condemned to wander the Earth, weighted down with heavy chains. Marley informs Scrooge that three spirits will visit him during each of the next three nights. After the wraith disappears, Scrooge collapses into a deep sleep.

He wakes moments before the arrival of the Ghost of Christmas Past, a strange childlike phantom with a brightly glowing head. The spirit escorts Scrooge on a journey into the past to previous Christmases from the curmudgeon’s earlier years. Invisible to those he watches, Scrooge revisits his childhood school days, his apprenticeship with a jolly merchant named Fezziwig, and his engagement to Belle, a woman who leaves Scrooge because his lust for money eclipses his ability to love another. Scrooge, deeply moved, sheds tears of regret before the phantom returns him to his bed.

The Ghost of Christmas Present, a majestic giant clad in a green fur robe, takes Scrooge through London to unveil Christmas as it will happen that year. Scrooge watches the large, bustling Cratchit family prepare a miniature feast in their meager home. He discovers Bob Cratchit’s crippled son, Tiny Tim, a courageous boy whose kindness and humility warms Scrooge’s heart. The specter then zips Scrooge to his nephew’s to witness the Christmas party. Toward the end of the day, he shows Scrooge two starved children, Ignorance and Want, living under his coat. He vanishes instantly as Scrooge notices a dark, hooded figure coming toward him.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come leads Scrooge through a sequence of mysterious scenes relating to an unnamed man’s recent death. Scrooge sees businessmen discussing the dead man’s riches, some vagabonds trading his personal effects for cash, and a poor couple expressing relief at the death of their unforgiving creditor. Scrooge, anxious to learn the lesson of his latest visitor, begs to know the name of the dead man. After pleading with the ghost, Scrooge finds himself in a churchyard, the spirit pointing to a grave. Scrooge looks at the headstone and is shocked to read his own name. He desperately implores the spirit to alter his fate, promising to renounce his insensitive, avaricious ways and to honor Christmas with all his heart when he suddenly finds himself safely tucked in his bed.

Overwhelmed with joy by the chance to redeem himself and grateful that he has been returned to Christmas Day, Scrooge rushes out onto the street hoping to share his newfound Christmas spirit. He sends a giant Christmas turkey to the Cratchit house and attends Fred’s party. As the years go by, he holds true to his promise and honors Christmas with all his heart.

This year marks teh 25th Anniversary of Hedgerow’s production with Producing Artistic Director Jared Reed adapting and directing Dickens’ masterful holiday tale. Shows begin November 24 and run through December 24.

Tales from Poe Opens for the Public This Weekend

by Matthew Windham

Tales from Poe has gone through many iterations over the years. For myself and the rest of the new Acting Fellows, it became clear to us almost as soon as we looked at the scripts from previous productions, that it would be the most satisfying for us create our own new adaptation of Poe’s works that was tailored to our particular ensemble. Thankfully, the Hedgerow Acting Fellowship gives us room to nurture many parts of our creative personalities, and Jared Reed was quick to encourage me to take on the project of writing a new script.

I had a great time doing the research for the play, learning about Poe’s life, re-reading some of his stories, and reading others for the first time. I was very familiar with “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Raven,” which must be the very best-known of Poe’s works – and for good reason: they’re both perfect in their construction, and hauntingly memorable in the tales they tell, and the characters they present. “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Black Cat” were familiar to me, at least in a vague way. “The Cask of Amontillado,” “Ligeia” and “William Wilson,” meanwhile, were entirely new to me. And there were numerous other Poe stories which we chose not to dramatize that I explored as part of the writing process, bits and pieces of which I used in the Poe interludes that occur throughout the play.

The stickiest part of writing a play based on any story by Poe is that he generally wrote heaps of narration, with very little dialogue. It is not impossible, of course, to have an actor (or actors) perform a scene while narrating it, and past versions of the play have taken that approach at times. But I challenged myself to find ways of eschewing narration as often as possible. Sometimes it was a matter of adapting it directly into dialogue, adjusting it subtly to make it conversational. In “Tell-Tale Heart” it becomes more of an internal dialogue. In “The Black Cat” I decided that much of what was important could simply be shown rather than told. I was lucky to have a game director in Jared, who helped me work out how to actually make those stylistic choices successful dramatically, and who did a lot to shape the script that we finally used.

As a playwright it’s also been gratifying to watch the other actors who appear in the show – Owen Corey, Lisa VillaMil and Susan Wefel – take it upon themselves to tell these stories with clarity and commitment. Jared’s scenic elements, the sound design by Kate Sparacio, the lighting design by Ari Baker, and the props and production design by Essie Windham all contribute importantly to the textures of the play, and the functionality of the stage on which it takes place.

The best thing of all for a playwright, though, is experiencing the reactions of an audience to one’s creation. Our Jr. High and High School audiences have been very receptive and engaged, and excited to talk with us about the show afterward. We’re looking forward to bringing our work to the general public on November 2nd-4th at 8PM.