Hot Summer Hedgepigs by Andrew Hutcheson
August 1, 2017
It’s hot in the city right now! All of the piggies are melting under their hedge-feathers. Or their hedge-scales? Hedge-fur. Probably that. The point is, despite my lack of knowledge in hedgepig anatomy, NYC is dead in the middle of another long HAWT summer. But that doesn’t keep us from hedgepigging about and creating exciting ensemble theatre. The heat may be intense, but our communal spirit remains fierce.
What am I up to right now? Why, I’m writing this blog, of course. What a silly thing to ask. Last week I had the pleasure of seeing Assassins at City Center as a part of their “Encore” series. It was a highly entertaining performance, with the two female assassins (played by Erin Markey and Victoria Clark) completely stealing the show. I even had the pleasure of meeting Stephen Sondheim, who was in attendance. No, I’m not kidding. And no, I can’t tell you any more about it because I only have so much space in this Hedge-blog. You’ll just have to sit there and be jealous.
Hedgepig had a “very special edition” of our Monthly Ensemble Training Session in July, led by co-founder Gwendolyn Anne Kelso. Why was it so special? Well, for one, Gwen led an awesome session—longer and more intense than usual, and it included secret handshakes, breakneck-speed story-building activities, and soul-bearing soliloquies. And it was very clear by the end how well we coalesce as a group.
But even more significantly, it was Gwen’s last session with Hedgepig for a while. Gwen has gone home to Austin for several months to spend time with her family and star in Austin Shakespeare’s production of Much Ado About Nothing. (Yup, she’s Beatrice.)
But before she left, and after our training session ended, we all joined Gwen as she put on her T-Rex costume and terrorized Times Square. No, again, I’m not kidding. Here is a GIF of Gwen dancing around Times Square in her T-Rex costume right after our ensemble training:
It was glorious.
I am so excited about this month’s A Taste of Shakespeare! Not one, not two, but THREE Shakespeare plays presented in convenient 20-minute bite-sized portions AND each one is paired with a specific food or beverage that complements the play itself. That’s bonkers. This is also the first time Hedgepig has spread out one of these events over three different venues and seven shows. So that’s seven different opportunities to see five tireless and talented piggies playing approximately 800 different parts in three different plays over the course of an hour or so. That’s a lot of numbers I just threw out there. But I couldn’t help getting excited—I can’t wait to see this show!
Like, literally. Turn on the AC.
TUNES FOR TENNESSEE by Greg Phelps
July 5, 2017
For the past month, I’ve been away from my fellow ‘Pigs, working in Charlottesville, VA at the Heritage Theatre Festival’s production of “Woody Guthrie’s American Song.” In the show I sing, act, and play live music with other actors and a band.
As an Actor/Musician, it’s often difficult to split focus and put time and energy toward both avenues at the same time. It’s rare, therefore, when both come together in one single opportunity. What an extraordinary pleasure, then, to have been a part of Hedgepig’s “Dreams, Fictions & Fantasies: An Evening with Tennessee Williams,” where I and several other Ensemble Members collaborated to perform Williams’ lesser known one-act plays, short stories, poems, and music.
Because each of the plays was rehearsed separately, it was exciting when we all got together the day before the performance to work out staging logistics and show each other what we’d been building. We found that in order to help set the world of each unique story, several of the pieces called for extra sound effects and musical underscoring, which was all imagined, created, and performed by the Ensemble Members previously not involved in the piece.
There were also several poems by Williams, which were turned into songs by adding either choral or instrumental underscoring. One piece in particular called “Of Roses” was a complete Ensemble collaboration, where all of us wrote and performed an original song using Williams’ words as lyrics and inspiration.
Overall, the evening was a great success, filling the space upstairs at 61 Local, where we had to make extra room for all the friends and family who came out to support us!
Here at the Heritage Theatre Festival, I am having the pleasure of working on a traditionally rehearsed musical. The production team is coming together to work from a musical score and script that have already been written. It’s a bit of a gearshift after working with Hedgepig on the Williams pieces!
As I continue to grow and learn new things as both an Actor and Musician, I plan to bring all of the energy and musicianship I’ve picked up during this time in Virginia, and bring it back full-force to all upcoming Hedgepig Ensemble Theatre projects.
See you at the next one!
RETREAT YO SELF by Olivia Williamson
June 1, 2017
Recently, eleven Hedgepigs packed up three cars and headed northbound with Taconic State Park as the final destination. We needed some space, we needed some silence, we needed some time to focus on creating. With a full itinerary, we quickly got settled in three, dare I say "cushy" cabins, and immediately started training.
Over the next four days we hiked, we laughed, we created, we ate, and we trained. We went on silent walks so as not to drown out the sound of nature. We studied trees and listened to waterfalls. We did the entirety of one of Shakespeare's plays for a captivated audience of flora and fauna. We had ensemble-lead trainings by day and read Shakespeare and Williams by night.
We bonded over many things... campfires, fire building, and checking each other for ticks...to name a few. However, our most epic bonding moments occurred during a seemingly harmless morning adventure advertised as a treasure hunt. What started as a jovial jaunt through the woods quickly became an arduous journey to locate a trailhead. The Hedgepigs clung to the sides of river valleys, navigated steep cliff edges, and eventually crossed a rushing river. With fierce focus, ingenuity, and great care for one another, we finally made it back to our cabins.
In many ways, I think the Hedgepig Ensemble creates work in the same manner that we faced the challenges of the "treasure hunt." With fierce focus, ingenuity, and great care for one another the Hedgepigs have returned from our time in the woods ready and energized for the season ahead.
MY DREAM ROLL by Gwendolyn Kelso
May 1, 2017
I was a goat.
My first professional theatre gig was spent in a fur suit dodging scaffolding. Interesting fact: goat horns get stuck on lots of things. (It was actually a really wonderful experience with a great theatre company). I might have been a goat, but I was making art. This was the beginning of something great! Oh, the places I would go!
Fast forward #@% years, and now I’m a New Yorker…. And I** am rolling an industrial-sized laundry basket nine blocksthrough midtown. If you have never rolled an industrial-sized laundry basket in Manhattan, you’re missing out. Bowling for tourists, I like to call it. The production was Hedgepig’s first full-length show, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and the industrial-sized laundry basket had a starring role. A brisk basket roll down Eighth Avenue really makes one think. It makes one think about how not even two years earlier, two people sat down (while a hurricane “blow-wind-blow”-ed outside) to discuss what type of theatre company they would run if they were of the mind to run one. As the hurricane roared on, a theatre company was born. It would be called Hedgepig. It would be a home for artists to play, grow and create.
It’s been almost five years (two since the great basket-roll through Midtown) from the time Mary and I dreamed up Hedgepig– and what years they have been! From two people, we have grown to nine ensemble members and four “fledgepigs” (our awesome group of newbies who are playing with us), we've held many an audition, produced an award-winning play at the NY Fringe Festival (Interior: Panic), produced an award-winning one-act (The Women of Williams County) at the Midtown International Theatre Festival, worked with incredible guest artists for our ongoing ensemble trainings, performed on Governors Island, worked on a series of fifteen minute Shakespeare plays, hosted trivia nights, organized fun benefit events…. and so much more! Whew. If you think that’s a lot, wait for 2017-18!
I never would have thought that from a goat I would become a ‘Pig. There are no words for how magical the Hedgepig journey has been thus far. We have an incredible group of theatre artists hungry to create powerful work. And I have to tell you, I would roll a million baskets through Manhattan to do this kind of theatre with these Hedgepigs. Look out world, the Hedgepigs are on a roll (see what I did there?)!
**full disclosure: Mary was rolling the basket, too.
GIVING THE ABSURD SOME PERSPECTIVE by Sara Hymes
April 2, 2017
I am an Akron, Ohio-born, Detroit-educated, Moscow-trained, Brooklyn-based actor currently writing this blog to you from a porch in the Shenandoah Valley, VA. But hey, who isn’t these days? A bit absurd, I’d say…
Last weekend, however, I was in an old beautiful warehouse space watching the dust get kicked up and caught in the late afternoon sunlight streaming from overhead skylights as fellow Pigs busied themselves in prep for our evening of “Living With the Absurd.” How magical to see this lovely group coming together to find the positivity and forward movement in the chaos of the recent political climate. I had a relatively small part in the fun of the day -- mostly helping with set-up and participating in one play -- but it was nice to see the machine working from more of an outside perspective. I always adore the way a group of strangers will chose to give up a few hours of their afternoon and join in solidarity to mourn or celebrate or escape -- or ideally, all of the above. Smiling strangers started streaming in to take up space on the pillows and couches and around the bar and coloring book stations. They were no longer strangers, but neighbors. They settled in to tackle how, in the face of absurdity and uncertainty, we could possibly keep evolving, moving forward, and swimming toward the surface as a collective.
But my favorite part of this event was in soaking up the dedicated work of some fresh faces in the room. The new artists that have been joining us to play remind me that ensembles should constantly be evolving and growing and finding more colors and more energy and more challenges. It creates work that is exciting and speaks to a broader audience. And it’s not just applicable to a bunch of hippie dippy artists in a Brooklyn warehouse space on a Sunday afternoon sipping cocktails with clever names and reading blatantly politically bent absurdist works. I’m down in Virginia for the week as a teaching artist (separate from my work with the Hedgepigs), using my years of Shakespeare and rhetoric work in a series ofleadership trainings. I am here to help a group of people from a drastically different career path also continue to evolve and grow and find more color and more energy and more challenges.
Because evolution is important for artists. But also for educators. And for politicians. And for people who work for international paper companies. And for human beings overall.
Ten years ago, I could have never predicted my journey from Akron, Ohio to this porch in Staunton, Virginia. But I wouldn’t have changed the evolution of my path for the world. Because the most beautiful parts of life are born from growing pains (some more painful than others), embracing the absurdity in life and if you’re lucky, getting to do it with a few good friends, family, and neighbors at your side.
FULL-CIRCLE FEBRUARY by Alex Tissiere
February 25, 2017
This time last year, in a small, dark studio rental space, I was hopping around pretending to be a grasshopper to try and prove to two very talented ladies my adeptness with Shakespeare (it was Queen Mab, so not a completely random grasshopper. . . 'cause that's better). Two weeks later, I was back in front of those same two talented ladies plus a bunch of other really talented folks shouting “SPIT FIRE SPOUT RAIN!” about 50 times while undulating and rolling around on the floor. So if you had asked me back then if a year later that same group of talented artists would be asking me to write a blog post about this year’s ensemble auditions, I would have said “OH YEAH SURE, AND I CAN SPIT FIRE FROM MY GRASSHOPPER LEGS.”
But here we are, I’m writing it, and if you’re reading it, that means they even decided to publish it! I feel so lucky to be a part of the Hedgepig Ensemble, and I feel even luckier to be able to welcome in a new talented prickle of Hedgepigs (yes I totally googled what a group of baby hedgehogs was called and there was no way I wasn’t going to include it when “prickle” is what came up. Amiright??)
And even though I’m worried that they were SO good that they put my grasshopper, floor-roller performance last year to shame, it was such an honor to get to see some smart, hilarious, and open-hearted work from every artist I saw at the Hedgepig Ensemble callbacks. From a Snow White-inspired Huntsman who announced his presence by quietly screaming and grabbing his crotch, to a powerfully electric devised text work by a huddle of Lear-mad actors, to the beautifully simple waves goodbye to a passing ship, I was inspired by and grateful for everyone in the room.
It’s always a treat to see artists willing to share their work at an audition, but when auditioning for an ensemble, it takes an extra level of bravery and openness to share yourself as a person at the same time, and it was amazing to see so many people step up to that challenge.
That all being said, it can be hard to really get to know someone in an audition setting, which is why it was such a pleasure to see a lot of those brave actors show up for our February ensemble training, which was hands down the hardest I’ve laughed in 2017. Everyone brought their A-game, from creating specific and interesting objects out of thin air, to transforming some very random props into incredible stories, to some very talented eye contact. And with all that excellence happening in the room, I opted for a getting-hit-in-the-balls bit.
And now, as February comes to a close, all I can say is, this particular grasshopper/fire-spitter/ball-hitting-jokester can’t wait for the second Monday in March when he gets to see the whole talented prickle of Pigs again.
WELCOME TO THE BLOG by Danielle Cohn
February 6, 2017
Hedgepig has an exciting year lined up, and we want to make it possible for you to be with us every step of the way. So, we’re starting a monthly blog, where each month, a different Pig will get a chance to talk a bit about their experience in this marvelous ensemble, and what’s been shaking for us!
I (Danielle) am the Digital Pig (meaning I am in charge of things like the website and blogs), so it seemed only appropriate that I kick off this digital venture! I’ve been with Hedgepig for about a year, and am stoked for the eclectic season we have lined up.
What's been going on of late? Good question! Our most recent monthly training was a blast. We brought in (for the second time) a master teacher, Richard Crawford; previously, he had worked with us on neutral mask, but this week was all about character work, which is definitely close to my heart. It was fun to see how just changing a few physical attributes can spark your imagination into seeing an entirely new person, and a lot of the exercises were based in a very freeing level of creativity. (I myself chose at one point to be a killer android with a jet pack, so you know my inner 12-year-old was having a b last!).
Because of the big season we are planning, we're taking in a few new Pigs this year, and I was fortunate enough to sit behind the table for some of the auditions. A lot of strong talent came out, which was inspiring, and we will be holding callbacks next week. I'm excited to add some new members to our ensemble!
Stay tuned for an amazing season and a glimpse into the "secret lives" of the other Pigs!