Hedgerow Theatre

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Hedgerow Theatre on Rose Valley Road

Hedgerow Theatre is a theatre company based in Rose Valley, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, founded in 1923. It was "for many years the only true U. S. professional repertory theater."[1] The building is a contributing structure in the Rose Valley Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[2]


Hedgerow was founded in 1923 by New York-based director and actor Jasper Deeter in Rose Valley, less than 3 miles from Media and Swarthmore. The theatre itself, originally a grist-mill built in 1840, seats 144 spectators, after a reconstruction designed by architect Will Price. Other sources note, however, that the Theatre building was "erected in 1807 as a snuff mill and later rebuilt as a handweaving mill."[3] It is a contributing structure in the Rose Valley Historic District. Hedgerow's green room showcases a staircase and table designed by Wharton Esherick, acclaimed American craftsman, as well as one time set designer for Hedgerow. Located a half mile from the theatre is Hedgerow House, used as housing for the residential company members as well as a rehearsal space, school, and office, accompanied by the costume and prop shops.

The Pennsylvania Guide, compiled by the Writers' Program of the Works Progress Administration in 1940, described the founding of the Theatre by Deeter and its early operations:

When at Swarthmore with a company of actors from the Provincetown Playhouse in the spring of 1923, Jasper Deeter, former Harrisburg newspaperman, took a stroll along Possum Hollow Road and came upon an old mill ... Brushing past the cobwebs, Deeter walked inside to rest; some years earlier the mill had been used for amateur theatricals, and Deeter saw its possibilities. He severed relations with the Provincetown company, and with a troupe of six actors launched Hedgerow as a permanent repertory theater, its first production being George Bernard Shaw's Candida. Local people constituted most of the cast and provided scenery, props, and lights. Today Hedgerow presents a well-rounded repertoire of significant plays, both tragedy and comedy. For one week in the latter part of July each year the theater stages a George Bernard Shaw Festival. In aiding Deeter with his advice and granting him special royalty arrangements, Shaw once said: 'I am interested in repertory theatres. That's where the whole thing is kept alive; in theaters such as the Malvern Theatre [in England] and in the Hedgerow Theater in the United States.'[4]

— Federal Writers'Project, "Part III: Tours", Pennsylvania: A Guide to the Keystone State (1940)

During its long history, Hedgerow has helped to spawn other popular theatre companies, such as People's Light and Theatre Company. Hedgerow has been the site of many play debuts, and has received recognition by producing the plays of George Bernard Shaw, Eugene O'Neill, and Seán O'Casey. Its actors have included Richard Basehart, Ann Harding, Keanu Reeves, Stephen Lang[5] and Austin Pendleton.

Garden next to the theater.

From 1990 to 2013, Hedgerow was under the artistic direction of Penelope Reed, who has encouraged the educational growth of the company as well as an atmosphere of collaboration. Currently, the company is led by Mrs. Reed's son, Jared Reed.

The company stages upwards of two dozen productions a year and relies on the dedication of its full-time company members, volunteers, and surrounding community. A Mainstage season includes, but is not limited to, new plays, farces, Shakespeare, mysteries, and the seasonal favorite, A Christmas Carol. The Horizons series runs in repertory with the Mainstage season and frequently showcases new plays, often featuring the younger company members. The Mainstage season has been divided into two different series. The theatre has started to be operated under a Small Professional Theatre contract, featuring more equity artists in what will be known as the Signature series, while the entire company and emerging artists appear in the Heritage series.

Hedgerow prides itself on educational productions and focuses much dedication to school tours as well as outreach programs to underserved audiences. The Children's Theatre productions also serve as an educational outlet, featuring actors from ages three and up, many of whom have taken classes through the Hedgerow Theatre School, originally formed by Rose Schulman. It also offers fellowships to recent college graduates pursuing professional and practical experience. Fellows typically stay with the company for a year in residence at Hedgerow House and gain experience in acting, stage management, design, administration, and development.

Hedgerow was awarded the Best New Play 2005 Barrymore Award for The Lives of Bosie by John Wolfson.


  1. ^ Wilmeth, Don B. (2007). The Cambridge guide to American theatre. Cambridge University Press. p. 321. ISBN 9780521835381.
  2. ^ "National Historic Landmarks & National Register of Historic Places in Pennsylvania" (Searchable database). CRGIS: Cultural Resources Geographic Information System. Note: This includes George E. Thomas (2010). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form: Rose Valley Historic District" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-01-06.
  3. ^ Federal Writers' Project (1940). Pennsylvania: A Guide to the Keystone State (1st ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. p. 416.
  4. ^ Federal Writers' Project (1940). Pennsylvania: A Guide to the Keystone State (1st ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. p. 416.
  5. ^ IMDB Stephen Lang

Further reading[edit]

  • Jasper Deeter. [1] The Eugene O'Neill Review. Retrieved 2007-10-2.
  • Wharton Esherick. [2] Wharton Esherick Master Home Page. Retrieved 2007-10-2.
  • Theatre Alliance of Greater Philadelphia. Retrieved 2007-10-2.
  • Henry Miller, "Jasper Deeter and the Hedgerow Theater," Remember To Remember (New Directions, 1947) p. 109-125.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°53′51″N 75°23′12″W / 39.8975°N 75.3867°W / 39.8975; -75.3867