SIU alumnus’ original play to be produced in Chicago

By Bethany Rentfro, Staff Reporter

Originally from Dixon, IL, Jason Hedrick knew from a very young age that the stage was his home.  

Hedrick graduated with his masters in theatre from SIU Carbondale in 2000 and returned to the Dixon area, where he taught theatre at Sauk Valley Community College for about 10 years.  Hedrick was hired at John A. Logan College last year as the new full-time theatre instructor.  

“I have had a love of theatre since I was very young.  It was one of those experiences where I saw a play as a kid in third grade and decided acting was something I really wanted to do,” Hedrick said. “I am primarily a director and an educator, but over the last few years, I have been working on writing several plays and getting them produced.  I have always had an interest in writing in some capacity.” 

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Some of Hedrick’s students said they have really enjoyed learning the craft of acting from taking Hedrick’s classes. 

“What I really like about him is that he tells it like it is.  He really tells you what he thinks is acting. I think he has a lot of respect for amateur theatre,” Joshua Ruiz, one of Hedrick’s students, said. 

Hedrick said the opportunity to have one of his original plays produced by a Chicago theatre is an honor for him.  His play, “Vanya on the Plains,” took him a couple of years to write, with the help of the performance studies department, as well as the communication studies department at SIU. 

Hedrick said he wrote and produced many of his plays at SIUC while working on his PhD.  He said he has not yet completed his doctorate, but feels very rewarded that he was able to have plays produced from his doctoral work.  Hedrick said one day he might return to SIUC to finish his PhD. 

“Vanya on the Plains” is a comedy/drama that is set in a dystopian society where people have the internet in their heads and nobody knows what a play is. An elderly gentleman who remembers the theatre tries to direct his family in a production of Checkov’s “Uncle Vanya.”  

“Everyone sort of lives in their own virtual world in this dystopian future and they [the family] just aren’t in touch with each other,” Hedrick said. “It is about a man who desperately wants to connect with his family who barely looks at him.  He feels that a play is the best way to do that, even though no one knows what a play is in this futuristic society.”

Hedrick said he was inspired to write this play because he has always been fascinated with censorship.  Many of his ideas for this play came from the book “1984.” 

The Artistic Home, a theatre company in Chicago, decided they liked this show and wanted to make it the opening show for their 2019-2020 season.  It will premiere on September 11 and run until the 15th. 

Hedrick has another project coming up around the same time.  He is also directing a play at John A. Logan College in Carterville, IL called “Herrin Made.”  

“Herrin Made” is a docu-drama written by local playwright Lynne Damme about the shutdown of the Maytag plant.  She was inspired to write this play because of her friend, Dr. David Cochran, who is a history professor at John A. Logan College. 

Cochran conducted interviews with several of the employees who were affected by the Maytag shut down while he was on sabbatical. 

“When I read the script for this play, I knew before I got through reading it that I was going to direct it and produce it because it is just that good.” Hedrick said. 

Hedrick said both of these plays are unique in their own way and people should come see them.  

Staff reporter Bethany Rentfro can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @BethanyRentfro.

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