The glass windows and ceiling of the Hedgerow theater allow the sunlight to come in the rehearsal room, where Jared Reed and eight other actors do a read-through the script of their next production.
All of them, including the director, are sitting at a long table; where phone chargers, snacks, and bottles of water are squashed between the laptops, from where Reed and most of the actors read out the script.
Reed delivers his lines with one hand in his Wawa coffee and the other one on his dog, who stayed next to him during the entire rehearsal.
Reed is not just a lucky actor who gets to take his dog to work, he is a fifth generation theater artist who graduated from Juilliard School, has worked as an actor and artistic director in several productions, and has been associated with Hedgerow Theatre since 1990.
After the reading, everybody goes on stage. The director places several masks on the floor and explains to the actors their origins in Commedia dell’arte.
Reed, who has the lead role in the classic farce “The Servant of Two Masters,” tries on his mask and asks the director for a small sponge to protect the top of his nose from the mask.
The director asks the actors to wear the masks and tell short jokes. While Reed waits for his turn, he stretches and moves around.
The stone walls, 130 seats, and red curtains of the theater are filled by his voice when he tells his joke, as if he was wearing a microphone.
He watches carefully the other actors and react to their lines. “It was the first on our feet rehearsal,” Reed says.
Reed grew up in Milwaukee, Wis., where his mother worked as professional actress.
He moved to Princeton, N.J., and later on, he went off to Julliard School in N.Y.
“When you go to Julliard or any conservatory, you are not getting a well-rounded education,” Reed says. “You are getting an extremely specific education.”
Reed says he loved his program. “I didn’t hate college even though it is fashionable to say that,” Reed adds.
After graduation, Reed stayed in N.Y. for a couple of years, but then decided to move to Philadelphia.
“I didn’t like in NY that every eight weeks I had a new set of best friends,” Reed says. “You never get to do shows with people you know.”
Once he moved to Philadelphia, he co-founded Curio Theatre Company. Later, he decided to work as an artistic director for Hedgerow theatre.
His history with Hedgerow theater is long. Reed’s grandmother came to Hedgerow in 1959, and she is still there, at 93. His mother started working as an artistic director in 1991, and is currently Hedgerow’s executive director.
“Every other actor I know had to convince their parents about why they should be in theater,” Reed says. “I never had that.”
Reed is very excited to be back at Hedgerow. He acts, directs, writes plays, does lighting, and sounds. “This is still one of those unique places where you can be a master of all trades,” Reed says.
Reed directs most plays and prefers to act only twice a year, so he can dedicate time to his wife and two children. “Acting is harder,” Reed says. “More late nights and no weekends.”
In this production, where Reed works as an actor, he explains how he feels when he acts. “I have so much joy for being present telling the story,” Reed says.
The director divides the actors in two groups. While Reed’s group goes up the stage, the other group sits to watch. They are told to look with “their bodies” and not their eyes to specific numbered places in the audience.
It takes a few tries until the group is able to synchronize the movements. Just like the exercise, Reed explains how hard it is, in a play, to have a group of people in sync.
“To make something great takes so many stars aligning well,” Reed says. “Everybody has to be on top of their game and perfectly there.”
Once asked about his hopes and dreams for the future; Reed says, “Happiness and comfortable shoes.”
Then he adds that his hope is to get people out of their houses and into the theater, which has always been reinventing itself.
“We always joke in theater, ‘Theater is this art form that has been dying for 3,000 years,’” Reed says.