Our Story (briefly): 90+ Years in the Making

“Long live the Abbey Theatre of Dublin! Long live the Art Theatre of Moscow! And long live the Hedgerow Theatre of Moylan, in the State of Pennsylvania!” – Sean O’Casey

AMERICA’S REPERTORY THEATRE

Hedgerow is inextricably entwined with the legacy of the Rose Valley Arts and Craft Movement. A movement that defines itself by independent thinkers resisting the wave of industrialization rushing over society. Founding Artistic Director, Jasper Deeter, recognized in this movement a kindred spirit after visiting his sister and watching her perform at what was Guild Hall. He saw here was the place to create an independent theater and transformed Guild Hall into Hedgerow Theatre.

In this act, he foreshadowed the regional not-for-profit theatre movement, and pushed for a racially integrated company of artists both near and far crafting an identity for Hedgerow as a beacon for artists throughout the country.

Beginning in 1923, Hedgerow launched the first resident repertory theatre that, over its 94 years, has become a magnet for many national theatre personalities, from Richard Basehart to Edward Albee; from Ann Harding to Susan Glaspell; to—more recently—Keanu Reeves and Austin Pendleton.

Visionary actor/director Jasper founded Hedgerow in 1923 as a haven for cutting edge artists of the early 20th century, and the theatre quickly gained a national and international reputation as a proving ground for era defining artists such as Eugene O’Neill, Henrik Ibsen, George Bernard Shaw, Theodore Dreiser, and Wharton Esherick.

SHAPING TODAY

Throughout the years, Hedgerow has only had the option to grow. Expanding from its grist mill beginnings, cosmetically transformed by Will Price and spiritually by Jasper Deeter, Hedgerow obtained the Farmhouse Studio through the kindness of former Hedgerow company member Ann Harding. Then, tragically in 1985, our poor theater was burned down only to rise from the ashes through the kindness of its former members in 1990. This theatre’s vibrancy has only increased in recent years thanks to the generosity of the Wyncote Foundation. With their help, the lobby experience is transformed to welcome those who believe in the magic of Hedgerow.

In that swath of time, Hedgerow expanded its initiatives as well. In 1958, Rose Schulman with Jasper Deeter founded the Hedgerow Theater School of Expression training generations of theatre artists. As Penelope Reed joined the legacy of Hedgerow, she opens a children’s theater and expands the educational programming to include children.

Penelope Reed’s contact with the theater pulled Hedgerow back into its rightful place as a defining feature of the Greater Philadelphia artistic landscape and cemented its role in training the next generation of theatre artists by installing a Fellowship program that continues to produce talented arts leaders that have grown the Philadelphia arts scene. At the 2001 National Theatre Communications Group conference held in Philadelphia, Hedgerow was lauded as the “Mother of all Philadelphia theatres”. Note was made of several theaters that were spawned by Hedgerow; examples include People’s Light and Theatre Company, Freedom Theatre and Curio Theatre Company.

In 2016, Hedgerow theatre changes hand with Penelope Reed stepping down and Jared Reed taking up the reins. Through his leadership, the theater is due to be a great success. Jared majored in Drama at Julliard, and worked consistently in New York and in the Regional Theatres, but he continued to return to Hedgerow again and again. “Although I had a career in New York after graduating,” he says, “that didn’t fulfill me as much as being part of a company. I moved back to this area and started Curio Theatre Company in West Philadelphia with Paul Kuhn and his wife Gay Carducci, both former Hedgerovians. And now I am back home at Hedgerow again.”

As he says about the company, “It helps enormously to have some very seasoned staff members, as well as energetic young company members – the latter of whom all have to pitch in,” Reed says.  “You will see residents of the Hedgerow House not only on stage, but also manning phones, painting sets, putting up posters, entertaining children at community fairs, coordinating social media, and assisting with all special events.  Being part of a residential repertory theatre involves far more of yourself — your whole life is wrapped up artistically and practically making theatre work on every level.”

The independent craftsmanship birthed from Jasper Deeter’s decision to start a theater in a place of makers has truly found its apogee in Hedgerow Theater. This legacy is one we continue to nurture, at the core of which is you.