Tag: blog

Former Company Member Mark Swift Makes the Leap from Stage to Ears

Former Hedgerow fellow Mark Swift is making his transition from the stage to the airwaves with his independent company “Oh, The Fool.” The first project of Oh, The Fool is Life In Sonderville, which found its original audience at Hedgerow Theatre Company.

Life In Sonderville is a daunting story to write because of its choose your own adventure nature and will boast a whopping ninety seven episodes. If that already makes your head spin as an audience member, don’t fret: the story is broken down into chapters and each path only takes seven to ten sections to complete. Therefore,  a one time listener can fully engage in this dark comedic mystery in just over an hour.

During his time as a fellow, Swift came up with the idea of a choose your own adventure story, bringing an interactive element to both stage and podcasts, and combining the two mediums into performance.

After being given the go-ahead by Producing Artistic Director, Jared Reed, to pen a rough pilot for Life In Sonderville, Swift made the first steps on his new journey.

Thanks to his training at Hedgerow, Swift feels prepared for any eventuality. Having adapted stories for the stage, Swift learned about the importance of being a concise and compelling storyteller.

A particularly useful skill that Swift gained from his Hedgerow experience came from his time as an actor, where he learned the mastery of the verb. As an actor and storyteller, it is more important to show rather than to tell. However, if you are going to say, then emphasize the verbs.

Swift uses these skills in his writing of Life In Sonderville. As the show is written for radio, the visual medium is gone, and since it is a play, there is nothing but dialogue. The result is a dialogue that is active, informative, and most importantly, entertaining.

Currently, Oh, The Fool is running a Kickstarter for the production of Life In Sonderville. With the success of its Kickstarter, Swift hopes to honor his Hedgerow home with the fully first few episodes of Life In Sonderville, later this month to be enjoyed online!


What Do Boxing and Theatre Have in Common?

1. You Get Out What You Put In

Boxing is about doing the work. Sure, big guys can punch harder, but a big boxer can be beat by a fast one. A smart fighter can outlast a brawler. The game of boxing is about doing the work, there are no shortcuts. Showing up, putting in your time, and learning your craft are all part of it. There is no shortcut to memorizing a speech. There is no way to do Shakespeare without doing it. We must all keep a beginners mind. Every story starts with a blank page. As Bruce Lee put it:

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

2. It’s never too late to switch stances and go southpaw.

User’s error. We all over estimate our talent and underestimate the amount of time it will take to succeed at something. Sometimes in the ring, your game plan doesn’t work. When this happens, you have to switch it up and go southpaw. Change your plan, improvise, adapt. Surprise your opponent by coming from a different angle to throw off their game plan.

“Everyone’s got a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.”

3.You will most certainly be knocked down, but you ALWAYS have the opportunity to get back up.

Being knocked down is a part of life as much as it is about boxing. We all fail. In fact, ask any actor and they will tell you this business is all about failure, and how you use it. Didn’t get that callback? There’s another audition tomorrow. Didn’t land that role? Back to the grind. Rest assured, the only thing that can keep you down is you. The best can get knocked down, but the greats know how to get back up.

“Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.” -Alfred from Batman Begins

4. It’s Okay to Suck

Give yourself the gift of sucking. In today’s culture we are surrounded by experts, experts who don’t show their scars, experts who pretend they are savants and child prodigies. Yet, the start reality is that at some point everyone sucked, even Mozart. Sucking is freedom. It is an all-access pass to trying and enjoying things without this adult notion of being “good enough” Think you can’t do something because you’re no good at it? Imagine what you could accomplish if you let yourself suck. What would you do if you were not afraid to fail? All arts are about failure. The sooner we embrace failure and the willingness to learn the sooner we can evolve.

““Winners are not afraid of losing. But losers are. Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.” – Robert T. Kiyosaki

5. Your Opponent

Imagine staring down your opponent, the person you’ve been training to fight for months, the crowd is roaring, and in a moment your rival is going to punch you in the face. The heart pounds. The blood boils. How do you conquer that enemy? Not the one in front of you, but the one inside you? There are tomes written about breath and body work, and anyone who has taken a body shot knows that the your breath goes you’re in trouble. Likewise, if an actor let’s the moment get to him, the crowd, the adrenaline, then his work falters. Therefore, boxing and training, just like acting, is not about conquering your opponent, but conquering yourself. The only real enemy you face is yourself. Each punch is an attempt to discipline yourself for success. Each rehearsal is showing up to put in the work to better yourself at your craft. Learn to breath. Learn to move. Learn to fight. Learn to conquer the only enemy that matters.

“One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself.”
Leonardo da Vinci

6. Finish Strong

Hear that bell? That’s 30 seconds left in the round, and as any fighter can tell you it’s not how you start but how you finish. Many fights are won and lost in the judges eyes in those final thirty seconds. A weak round can be won by executing in those final moments. Just like in distance running, you want negative splits, where your first mile is your slowest and you gradually increase speed. Your first round should be solid, but you need to consistently increase the intensity as the fight progresses so that your last round is the strongest. The saying goes, “Leave it all in the ring,” and that’s exactly what you need to do. Even if you loose, there is pride in knowing you did everything thing you could at the highest level possible. If you give your best, there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of.

“To be nobody but yourself in a world that’s doing its best to make you somebody else, is to fight the hardest battle you are ever going to fight. Never stop fighting. ” –E. E. Cummings

7 Tips for Writin’ Real Good

Since The Prisoner of Zenda is being considered for best new play in Philadelphia, we figured we would cook up some tips for writing; however, upon further investigation we found that other authors had beat us to the punch. Most of these are from authors, we’ll cover playwrights and writers of dialogue at a later date. In the meantime, here are 7 tips for writing your story from “Real Good” authors:

1) Don’t Explain

From John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday

“I like a lot of talk in a book and I don’t liek to have nobody tell me what the guy that’s talking looks like. I want to figure ouw what he looks like from the way he talks…figure out what the guy’s thinking from what he says.”

2) Don’t Waste the Reader’s (or Viewer’s) Time

Also from John Steinbeck’s Sweet Thursday 

“Sometimes I want a book to break loose with a bunch of hooptedoodle…Spin up some pretty words maybe or sing a little song with language. That’s nice. But I wish it was set aside so I don’t have to read it. I don’t want hooptedoodle to get mixed up with the story.”

3) Never Use a Verb other than “Said” to Carry Dialogue

From Leonard Elmore

“The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in.”

3b) Never Use an Adverb to Modify the Word Said

Also from Leonard Elmore

“…he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange.

4) Don’t Wait for Inspiration

from jack london

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”

5) Is It Your First Draft? It’s bad.

from ernest hemmingway

“The first draft of everything is shit.”

6) Keep Descriptions to a Minimum

From Ernest Hemmingway’s “Hills Like WHite Elephants”

“She had taken off her hat and put it on the table.”

That’s it. That’s all you get as a description of the characters, and yet, you learn everything about them through their dialogue.

7) If it Sounds Like Writing, re-Write it.

From Leonard Elmore’s 10 Rules of Writing

“…[we] can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”


Coming this Fall: The Odyssey Project

WideEyedStudiosHedgerowLittleMermaid2015FinalHigh-72Hedgerow Theatre School is preparing to take its students on the adventure of a lifetime as it embarks on “The Odyssey Project,” a yearlong developmental workshop. During the three-part course, students 12 and up will learn about Homer’s Odyssey, work together to create a performance piece based on the epic, and then present it on the historic Hedgerow stage.

At the core of this project is Hedgerow’s drive to train the creators of tomorrow. Since its foundation by Rose Schulman, Hedgerow Theatre School has sought to do more than train actors, but to also give its students skills that will help them in all areas of life as they learn to be independent thinkers, problem solvers and how to collaborate with others. Producing Artistic Director Jared Reed believes in teaching students how to “create for themselves” and “tell stories that have meaning to them.”

Under the guidance of teaching artist Penelope Reed and the Hedgerow Theatre Company, the students will take the tale of Odysseus’ 10-year journey home after the Trojan War and make it their own. Their creative voices will drive the process of developing a multi-generational performance work that will incorporate all aspects of theatre.

The Fall semester is the first of the series and is focused on learning Homer’s story and the theatre techniques needed to adapt it into a play. The next step in the Winter semester is taking that knowledge and writing a script. During the Spring semester, the students will rehearse, work on sets and costumes, and perform the play they’ve written.

Students can participate in all three sessions, or choose any that best fits their interests.

For more information or to enroll, visit www.HedgerowTheatre.org or call 610-565-4211. The classes will be held at the Hedgerow Farmhouse Studio at 146 West Rose Valley Road in Rose Valley (near Media).

Blog: Raised by Hedgerow Theatre

At Hedgerow Theatre School, we’re always very excited to welcome new students into our theatre family. We love knowing that we are going to be able to see children develop and grow their craft. It is so wonderful seeing other kids enjoying something we all love so much, and it’s so great that we get to have diverse casts of all ages. For all we know, we could be seeing these little 6-year-olds on movie screens, television screens, and big stages someday! However, in addition to our newest actors, we also have Theatre School students who have been with us for years. Some young actors have even been with us for decades, and are, in fact, not very young anymore. Elder Theatre School members and alumni continue to stick around and teach the younger actors, helping them to grow in their talents and watching as they discover their love for theatre, just as they once did. I, Gabby, have interviewed some of my peers who have been with Hedgerow since they were tiny, and are now teenagers, essentially having the opportunity to grow up at Hedgerow Theatre.
How long have you been with Hedgerow?
Anna: about 9-10 years
Michael: 11 years
Emma: 10 years
Talen: 13 years
What was your very first show?
Anna: When I was in kindergarten and first grade, I just did camps. My first camp was Ping and the Pea. My first onstage show was Godspell in 2nd grade.
Michael: Oliver was my first proper show.
Emma: Charlotte’s Web
Talen: My first show was Jungle Book.
What was your favorite thing about being able to grow up at Hedgerow?
Anna: Making friends. I am an introvert and talking to people is hard for me. When I went to Hedgerow, they were very welcoming and kind. I got to meet many kids/campers and grown ups/fellows.
Michael: Probably the fact that it allowed for a strong sense of community and friendship between people I would have never met otherwise.
Emma: That I got to make forever friends and grow up in a theatrical, diverse environment.
Talen: Making friends and knowing that they will be my friends for a lifetime.
How has Hedgerow changed since you first started? How has it improved? 
Emma: There are now different spaces for the kids to perform.
Talen: When I came to Hedgerow I was 4, I stuttered a lot, and I was very shy. It helped me not to stutter and now I’m the most outgoing person ever.
How do you expect Hedgerow to change in the future? 
Anna: Hopefully Hedgerow will have more space and more fellows. Like Pen said, hopefully there will be heaters for the house in the winter.
Michael: Who can really say? 
Talen: If anything, it’s just going to be a great place where everyone knows everyone. If it’s your first time at Hedgerow there are so many people that will make you feel like you’ve been there forever.
How has Hedgerow impacted your life? How would things be different today if you had not grown up with Hedgerow? 
Anna: I met one of my best friends at Hedgerow in 3rd grade during Through the Looking Glass. If I hadn’t met him, I would be completely different and just lost in life.
Michael: I’ve made some pretty good friends from Hedgerow, but it was also a big part of developing myself as an interesting person as well as basic moral stuff, since I was very young when I started.
Emma: I have learned a lot of technique for my future in theatrics. I probably would not have had such a fun time as a child and wouldn’t have found my hobby.
What lessons have you learned from growing up around Hedgerow?
Anna: I was very separate from everyone else and Hedgerow taught me to work as a team.
Michael: Too many to remember.
Emma: I have learned to be patient and to not make everything a competition.
Talen: When I was at Hedgerow as a younger kid, I would always get excited to see my parents in the audience of the showcase we would present at the end of the camp. There were times when my parents couldn’t be there or only one could be there, but it hurt the most when neither of them could be there because of work. So when I see kids upset, I understand how they feel and I can comfort them because I’ve felt their pain before. But the best times are when the parents are there and the kids have a big smile on their face.
What do you enjoy about being able to help the younger kids around Hedgerow the way you were helped when you were young?
Anna: I love helping the kids because I specifically remember during Godspell, I wouldn’t hold Carl Smith’s hand. So, he was like, “What’s in your hand?” And I said, “Nothing.” and opened my hand. Then he quickly grabbed my hand. Then during that moment I was like ‘Oh my god these people are really cool and smart!’
Michael: It’s nice to see the younger kids learning not just acting but also all of the little things I learned through Hedgerow when I was younger.
Emma: I really love being a counselor with the really little kids in the summer so I can teach them how to act on stage and in life. When I was younger, there weren’t teen counselors yet.
Talen: I’ve learned that it’s okay to make mistakes, it’s okay to ask questions, and it’s okay to say I don’t know.
What are some reasons why you would suggest participating in Hedgerow as a child, and why would you recommend it to children and their parents?
Anna: You will make very close friends and I’ve never gotten into a fight there because “We save the drama for the stage.”
Michael: I’d say it’s one of the best ways to be part of a tight knit and positive community for both children and adults.
Emma: Hedgerow is a great experience for younger kids who want to make friends and get experience in theater.
Talen: I would suggest Hedgerow because it just has a family feel. Everyone is just so friendly and welcoming, and with the variety of different ages, you’re bound to learn something new everyday. When I think of Hedgerow, I think of family, friends, and endless amounts of fun.
We love every child who studies with us at Hedgerow Theatre School, and we all love to help them learn and grow in their craft! It is a great opportunity to be able to raise little performers, and we love knowing that some of them will stay with us for very long, just as my friends above have.

Gabby Harrison, Anna Tang, Michael Tang, Emma Nederostek, and Talen Draper