Jasper Deeter - Actor, Director

Jasper Deeter (from a portrait by
Margot Comstock) - Rose Valley
Jasper Deeter was an anomaly in the course of American success stories. He was born in Mechanicsburg, PA in 1893, the grandson of an auto parts magnate and of a family of high achievers. He seemed the least likely to succeed. Deeter was expelled from Dickinson College and went through several failed attempts at a career.

After seeing the actor James O'Neill on stage, he turned to acting and became great friends with James' son Eugene. After Eugene O'Neill became a playwright, Deeter played the part of Smithers in the original production of Emperor Jones. He later convinced O'Neill to cast a real "black" actor in the leading part rather than a "white" actor in black makeup...a breakthrough in the theatre at its time.

Deeter left New York and moved to Philadelphia with $10 in his pocket and decided to pursue the "theater" on his terms. While traveling through the Philadelphia countryside, Deeter saw a barn in a rural part of the Philadelphia suburbs and decided to base a theatre company there. Thus was formed the Hedgerow Theatre in Rose Valley, the first repertory theatre in the country.

Over the years, performances grew to more than 200 plays. Actors, directors, lighting experts, and set designers came from far and wide to be part of the company and learn from Deeter. Future luminaries such as Richard Basehart, Ann Harding and Everett Sloan got their start at the Hedgerow and students from far and wide gravitated to the small theatre with its "honest" mission.

Deeter is remembered by many for the small roles he played in the locally produced 1958 horror films The Blob and 4-D Men. Deeter's legacy still lives on more than 90 years after starting his theatre company as a healthy, growing and productive Hedgerow Theatre.