Today, American theater artists are faced with a choice. In our work we must prioritize either breadth of impact or depth of impact. Given the current state of affairs, I argue that we must pursue depth of impact. Our art may no longer be the spark that ignites a revolution, but it can still be the necessary spark in the dark to heal a broken community if we just take the time to connect.
This is a topic that really resonates with me. Hedgerow, under Penelope Reed, has become deeply rooted in our community. When we were first established, Jasper had to fight for building and land. Visiting artists were just that, visitors. And their New York bias did not make for a good fit in the Arts and Crafts community. Now, of course, there were good relationships. Some community members fought alongside Jasper to establish the theatre. Wharton Escherick and others supported the theatre. Penn has spent over 20 years making Hedgerow a vital, giving part of our community.
Last fall was my first production with Hedgerow, An American Tragedy. It was an historic work for us, as AmTrag had its world premiere on our stage in 1935. We were able to collaborate with the Wharton Escherick Museum and the University of Pennsylvania for this presentation.
Our latest venture- New Play Festivals. This is something we’ve done in the past, but it is being pursued with more vigor now. August boasted 5 performances, with 3 of the 5 being new works by playwrights in Media/Rose Valley. One of those was set in our area. We know that being local, being communal is our strength and we are always looking for ways to deepen our ties to our community.
It’s not at all unusual to see Penn and Z chatting with their favorite barista at Starbucks and company members caroling in the Plum Street Plaza in the winter or storming the Bastille with the Media Arts Council in the summer. We are proud supporters of 2 new arts ventures in the area- the Community Arts Center and Stage One. An audience enriched by arts education and opportunities is every organization’s dream. And we can have that. Even if it means lending our support to “competing” organizations.
We do not believe that more arts organizations will mean more competition and therefore less “goods” for us. We believe that the opportunities for collaboration and co-presenting will strengthen our organization. We believe that the opportunities for arts education and exposure will strengthen our community .
I’m proud to be a part of a company that loves its community, and strives to be a part of it. I’m looking forward to finding more, and deeper, ways of creating communal and relevant art.