Unique theater in Delaware County helps local artists shine

Tucked away in Rose Valley, Delaware County, the Hedgerow Theatre is celebrating 95 years of performance.

"It started with a bunch of crazy artists from New York who wanted to make theater their way out of the constraints of New York," said Jared Reed, Producing Artistic Director of Hedgerow Theatre.

Jasper Deeter founded the Hedgerow Theatre in 1923.

"It was a different kind of thing that was not being done anywhere in the country, at the time. Deeter became angry about commercialism in New York and not doing art and things like that. He basically wanted to start an artist commune where we have a real reparatory theater, which is we have twelve different plays being produced at any given time," explained Reed.

FOX 29 was able to preview the theatre's storyboard series "The Hobbit." Matthew Windham directed and wrote the adaptation based on the novel.

"There aren't many like this with a resident company where you live and work on sight all the time, year round," Windham stated.

Windham is also performing in the series.

The actors on stage perform to a storyboard, created by Art Director Phoebe Titus, projected behind them.

"I try and get the background down first and then think about what elements need to move," Titus said.

Susan Wefel is playing Bilbo Baggins.

"This is a little jewel box theater in the Rose Valley. There is not a lot of places like this. 95 years - we just celebrated our anniversary. That is huge in American theatrical history. It is charming and I fell in love with the place and I never wanted to leave," Wefel explained.

The Hedgerow is the home theater for many in the Rose Valley community. Some audience members remember Susan's first show 40 years ago.

The Hedgerow Theatre is unique. Only 120 steeply raked seats allow every audience member a view of the whole stage.

"We're talking about 10 rows, so at most, you are 30 feet away. So you can see every expression on the actor's face," Reed said.

Most of the actors perform nightly. John Harvey performs whenever he can.

"I thought nothing would ever top the dream of being a rock star on tour. The first time I ever performed on stage was here at the Hedgerow. It was like 'Oh my God, this is way cooler than being in a band,'" Harvey explained.

The band of actors are working out the details. When the play opens, the actors will have their moment to shine.