Tag: Theatre

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 www.HedgerowTheatre.org.

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).

The Father of Hedgerow: Jasper Deeter

Jasper Deeter, Founding Artistic Director of Hedgerow Theatre, came to Rose Valley in 1923 with ten dollars and a dream and founded an independent company that has flourished for over 94 years. His legacy is one that hangs in the air of Rose Valley just as strongly as William Lightfoot Price. If William Lightfoot Price built Rose Valley, then Jasper Deeter has to be honored as the one who set it alight in the way that only theatre can.

From humble beginnings, Deeter was raised by an auto parts magnate hailing from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. He was not an obvious success. Before setting his mind to theatre, he failed out of Dickinson College and seemed to be directionless. Inspired by James O’Neill in The Count of Monte Cristo, Deeter set his mind on theatre. From there, he grew to great success in the Broadway scene where he befriended Eugene O’Neill after starring in his play, The Exorcism. Their collaboration grew as Deeter took over the Provincetown Players in Greenwich Village and convinced O’Neill to cast a black actor in the titular role of The Emperor Jones. This rocketed O’Neill’s fame as well as Deeter but a squabble over the tour of the play led Deeter out of New York.

A visit to his sister who lived in the Rose Valley Arts and Crafts community inspired Deeter to change history. After directing in the space now known as Hedgerow Theatre–formerly Guild Hall–Deeter was set on this place in history. The spirit of independent craftsmanship struck Deeter as what he needed from theater. This spirit is one that the Rose Valley Arts and Crafts Community was founded on and Deeter felt he could not start this theater anywhere else.

Deeter played a prominent role in the first forty years of Hedgerow Theatre. He played major roles and maintained the importance of an American repertory theatre where up to 12 plays could be done by the company at any time. A constellation of great American playwrights dotted this early history through their connection with Deeter. The friendship with Eugene O’Neill allowed Hedgerow to perform many of his major works, Deeter drew George Bernard Shaw to develop a majority of his works at Hedgerow. And legend tells, that Deeter taught Langston Hughes playwriting with his debut play, Mulatto .

During this early period, Deeter is interacting and working closely with Delaware Valley greats from Wharton Esherick, who built sets and consulted closely with Deeter on play choices, to Ann Harding, future 1930’s movie star, to, even, Will Price Jr. who played on our stages. Other early company members include New Woman and acclaimed illustrator Elenore Plaisted Abbott who served as a scenic painter. Hedgerow was abuzz with great minds in the suburbs of Philadelphia–a pocket fertile for new ideas.

Hedgerow only had the opportunity to grow. In 1934, Hedgerow is given the Farmhouse Studio where Deeter comes to reside.  In 1958, Jasper Deeter helps found the Hedgerow Theatre School of Expression with Rose Schulman completing the pillars on which Hedgerow stands today, those of theater and arts education.

Deeter continues to play a major role in the development of Hedgerow and in 1958, appears in The Blob and later makes his mark in 4D Man. The company begins to take on its own ownership and Deeter’s presence is felt less and less as the years go by, ultimately passing away in 1972.

Having changed history through a little theatre in a pocket of explosive ideas, Hedgerow Theatre remains true to its commitment to independent thinking, original works and the intimacy that can only be found in what will forever be known as a grist mill theatre. Deeter’s legacy lives on in every show and every day at Hedgerow Theatre.

School Blog: Yes, And: Why Improv Acting is Important for Teen Actors

2015BullshotCrummond_BryanBlackBrockVickersAt some point in their acting experience, every actor has run into the same problem – forgetting their lines. Whether they’ve been in the business for their entire life, or they’re performing in their very first play, every actor reaches the point where they just can’t remember what they were supposed to say. Sometimes it comes back to them right away, and sometimes it doesn’t; however, actors are trained on what to do in the unexpected latter situation. In the event where an actor would forget their lines or something unplanned would occur, a trained actor knows just what to do – improvise.

Improv, or improvisation, is a crucial part of becoming a skilled, well-trained actor. Every actor has to know what to do in the case that they forget what they have to say, or if someone else does. No one wants to just stand on stage, looking like a deer in the headlights, making it very clear to the audience that they have absolutely no clue what to do next. In order to prevent embarrassment, actors are taught to learn how to improvise.

Often, improvised lines or situations can even end up being a great addition to the show. In some cases, improv is even what certain actors prefer. Special troupes and clubs off acting classes and other opportunities that are rarely scripted, leaving the actors to create entire performances focused mainly on improv. These groups can lead to careers based in improv, such as roles in popular sketch comedy shows like Saturday Night Live.

It was actually during a situation of accidental improv that famous comedian Amy Poehler first realized she wanted to be an actress. During an elementary school production of The Wizard of Oz, in which Amy Poehler was playing Dorothy, she forgot her line and had to improvise. The laughs and reactions she got were what first inspired her to start acting.

I, Gabby, have a similar experience, although I am highly uncomparable to Emmy-winning actress Amy Poehler. I was in my very first performance in the 5th grade, a play called Knights of the Rad Table that was a parody of the time of King Arthur and the Renaissance. I played, if I can remember correctly, a ghost and Damsel #2. During a rehearsal, in which I was playing the damsel role, I messed up and accidentally pointed the wrong direction as I yelled, “Let’s go this way!” The group I had been directing this instruction to promptly went the other way, as they had been instructed to, while I wandered off in the opposite direction. Our director thought it was so funny that she kept it that way, and my wrong, albeit funny, mistake was included in the actual performance.

Here at Hedgerow Theatre School, we believe that improv plays an essential part in building up the skills of a young actor. Not only should an actor be trained to know what to do in the event of forgetting their lines, but having proper improv knowledge can improve both an actor’s skills and the production itself. Improv games such as ‘Freeze’ and ‘Taxi’ can help to demonstrate that a story can go any way, and an actor just has to roll with it – because that is their reality, no matter how crazy it may seem to those looking in. Improv teaches actors how to work on their feet, encouraging creativity and lessening the nerves that are often described as “stage fright”.

Improv encourages actors to insert themselves into scenes and to get involved. I know that, from personal experience, improv has really helped me to come out of my shell and ease some of my stress about performing in front of others. This can be especially helpful in the cases of our younger students, who are more likely to get nervous up on stage. Which is understandable, of course. Getting up in front of people and doing silly things, especially if it’s your first time doing so, can be a pretty nerve-wracking experience. Improv is a tool used by actors to make this experience just a little bit less scary.

Improv is a widely popular acting technique in the Philadelphia region; clubs such as ComedySportz and PHIT Comedy offer classes and other improv opportunities. Hedgerow Theatre’s own teacher and acting fellow, Brock Vickers, is a trained improv actor who participates in these improv groups in the city as well as improv opportunities with Hedgerow.

This coming April, he will be teaching a improv class for teens. Improv Your Own Play will be held on Saturday mornings from April 9th to June 4th. More information can be found on Hedgerow’s website, under the ‘Youth Classes’ section of the Education tab. We as the Hedgerow Theatre School teens are very excited to participate, and we hope to get lots of other students along with us as we explore the wonderful world of improv!

~ Gabby

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.

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.