Tag: Hedgerow

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

 

Rose Schulman: On Acting

Vintage photo from Hedgerow Theatre Company of Rose Schulman.
Vintage photo from Hedgerow Theatre Company of Rose Schulman.

Rose Schulman‘s Thoughts on Acting

The art of acting is, at first, a “know thyself” process and it is well to add a know thyself process at the lowest levels of the self; what could be called our true and beautiful self and our chicane and ugly self; our capacity to care and love; our capacity to hate and be jealous and so on. It is finding out how TO BE or another way of saying it, to find A QUALITY OF PRESENCE. Then acting begins. The student is now ready to BECOME or BEHAVE like Ellie Dunn, or Nina Zaretchny, or Hamlet. A skill is on its way when you know why you are doing what you are doing; when and where you are doing what you are doing. And now you are ready to BECOME and BEHAVE and include the last of the processes of the skill: the way, the how, the manner of.

Our enemies in learning these are speed; proceeding to the how first before the groundwork is laid; the imposition of behaviors upon the exterior self. Our friends are good common sense, an affectionate consideration for material sweat and tears were used at the source of their creation; a respect for time in its most realistic sense (that is, a call at 7:25 P. M.) A great director (I forget who) once said that it was well for an actor to be 10 minutes early for any appointment. A respect for space; also in its most realistic sense: “Am I leaving an area just a little bit  better than I found it”?, and above all, an affectionate consideration for mankind. The craftsman actor begins to work with scenes; begins to study relatedness (that is, contact and timing). He perfects his skill up to a point where it is like the precision of the watchmaker

The artist actor. In a sense, at this point the teacher takes a back seat. He can appeal, stimulate and encourage, but it is now up to the actor to say to himself -“I now have the precision of the watchmaker. Dare I include the freedom of the bird?” And he so dares and then we have the artist actor.

It seems like a logical process to learn to act. There is an order, as there is in nature, but actually any one of us can at times be beginners, craftsmen and, upon occasion, artists. In my experience in teaching, I have found that it takes about 12 years to know your business, so cheer up. Meanwhile, be simple, generous and use it if you have it or develop if you don’t, a super-abundance of caring, and you’ll find out that the cares that infest the day will not line your face or bow your shoulders, for the art of make—believe is kind to us, if we give our interest, attention and energy towards learning and daring to pretend to be somebody else.

 

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

Blog: Pleasure, Pomp, and Play Writing

Koneill14“Pleasure,” is the one word actor Kittson O’Neill uses to describe the “heart” of Liz Duffy Adams’  farce Or, in which O’Neill plays the pioneering female playwright Aphra Behn (1640-89) a wise-cracking poet with men and women under her thumb.

The play is set in Restoration England in the 1660s, after the Puritans were pushed out of England, the theaters reopened and women were finally allowed to pursue careers as actors. The wit and high comedy of aristocratic manners created during this reconstruction of English theatre came to be known as Restoration comedy, and out of this sensation came the first female playwright, Aphra Behn.

The madcap rush of antics, gender bending, and passion takes place during one night in the life of Aphra: poet, spy, and libertine. Behn is sprung from debtors’ prison after a disastrous overseas mission, and is attempting to write a play for one of only two London companies, despite interruptions from celebrated actress Nell Gwynne (Bloechl); her complicated royal love, King Charles II (Vickers); and her very dodgy ex-love, double-agent William Scott (also Vickers)—who may be in on a plot to murder the king in the morning.

It’s very rare as an actress to play a character who is driven by her sexual desires and ultimately triumphs because of them,” O’Neill mused. “She’s basically the anti-Blanche [from A Streetcar Named Desire]. Liz’s take on Aphra dives deeply into the dilemma of being a woman who loves her life, her lovers, and her freedom, but lives in a world that is constantly boxing her into a role she just doesn’t fit. That’s a recipe for tragedy, but in this play it’s a farce.”

Asked to describe the play, O’Neill said, “‘Or,’ is smart and entertaining. It gives you a belly laugh and turns on a light bulb. If you bring a sense of fun and curiosity to the show, which is exactly what Hedgerow’s audiences bring, you will love it. It reminds us that new plays are fun, history is fun, ladies are fun. Comedy is the secret weapon of big ideas. If I told you you were going to see a feminist play about a 17th-century woman playwright you would probably fake a stomach ache. If I told you you were going to watch a sex-farce crossed with a political spy thriller you would hop right in the car.”

O’Neill is a Philadelphia based actor, director, and dramaturg. She last appeared behind the scenes here as the director of the 2015 Barrymore Recommended production of On the Verge, and has since worked on The Winter’s Tale for Shakespeare in Clark Park, and Three Christs of Manhattan for InterAct (co-directed with Seth Rozin). Up next she is directing A Knee That Can Bend and is reviving her performance in Being Norwegian for A Play, a Pie and a Pint! O’Neill has worked as a dramaturg for both Playpenn and The Kennedy Center and is the Artistic Associate of Interact Theater Company,  a graduate of The Shakespeare Lab and the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s internship program.

“I actually directed a reading of Aphra’s play The Rover for the Philadelphia Artists Collective.

Aaron+Cromie+as+Lautrec
Photo from The Body of Lautrec

O’Neill recalled. “It was incredibly useful to dive into her theatrical brain and it really gave me some insights into her world and her survival techniques. Some of those insights will definitely show up in the rehearsal room. I’ve been doing some research about her and this tricky point in English history. I like to start rehearsal with all the “what does this mean?” questions answered so I can focus on playing.”

Adams’ history-based fiction occasionally takes liberties with the facts, but rolls through 1666 England with cartoonish, yet deeply fleshed out characters, and an eye towards a love of theatre. Her mastery of language rivals that of Behn herself, her characters are full of spark and life, and her story interweaves biography and wit through each scene.

“I did a reading of a different Liz Duffy Adams play at the Jean Cocteau Repertory in New York,” O’Neill related, “a now defunct victim of gentrification. It was a mad wild play about lady pirates called, We, Or Isabella the Pirate Queen Enters the Horse Latitudes. I loved it and have been a fan of Liz’s work ever since. I try to read everything she writes.”

An intricate play such as Or, (the comma is part of the title) will be in the hands of a capable director, as friend, and fellow artist Aaron Cromie takes the helm of the production. O’Neill pitched the play and the director to Artistic Director Jared Reed after the success of last year’s production of On the Verge.  

“Aaron and I performed The Body Lautrec in the Fringe two years ago and it was a huge hit,” O’Neill said. “I ended up doing a lot of the puppetry, which included a full body doctor puppet who did a live dissection on stage. It’s a strangely intimate act, to animate another person’s artwork and he and I discovered that we were real art partners. He designed the set for On the Verge last year and created a massive bear puppet for my production of The Winter’s Tale this past summer. He has never been my director before and I’m very excited to explore this sexy-mad play with him!”

Adams’ play premiered Off Broadway at Women’s Project Theater and has been produced numerous times since.

 

Extra-Podcast: David Titus and Poetry

HG2G-11x17-IllustratednothumbDavid Titus, narrator and head which wayer of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, willingly sits down at the Esherick table, surrounded by the smiles of actors long gone, to talk about, sort of, the inner workings of Adams’ insanely clever and complex, Universe. So sit back, if you dare, and listen to the ramblings and ravings of David and Brock.

Blog: Part 3 of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

 

In this week’s Dickens’ series, The Ghost of Christmas Past pays Scrooge a visit and takes us back to the miser’s youth.  Brock D. Vickers continues Dickens’ one-man

ACC 2012 (20) Christmas Carol voicing all the parts of Scrooge, Christmas Past, Belle, and many others. . Enjoy this week’s production and come see our 23rd annual A Christmas Carol opening December 4. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Hedgerow Theatre.