Deborah Hedwall

Actress. Teacher. Private Coaching.

To be an actor requires courage and curiosity to examine ones own life experience, creative potential and ones relationship to humanity.   

It requires the ability to say yes and most importantly to be passionate about inquiry and discovery.

It requires talent.

I cannot teach talent.

I serve as a guide and inspire courage by helping actors understand the benefit of deep self knowledge and the value of a rich and vibrant imagination -the essential means to living truthfully in any circumstance.

Gratefully, my teachers were Sanford Meisner and Uta Hagen. These two giants in the American theater launched me into a life in the theater as a teacher, director and actress in New York City and Regional Theaters across the country.

As master teachers they passed on to me a clear process designed to ignite those actors who are willing to meet face to face, heart to heart the demands of their artistry and explore their greatest potential.

id="internal-source-marker_0.8408502279780805" style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: Times; font-size: medium; line-height: normal; ">I have been fortunate enough to work with Deborah over the past few years, and it has truly been the most inspiring and enriching experience I've had as an actor. She creates an open and welcoming space for all the actors to work out and work on their craft. Deborah also guides and pushes one to look deeper and go further while simultaneously offering complete support and respect. She has totally changed the way I approach all my work. And above all, she has taught me to never be complacent or satisfied but to” allow my curiosity to be endless."

Aaron Tveit, September 2012

Upcoming TV/Film: Les Miserables (2012), GRACELAND (USA network, 2013)  Premium Rush, Howl, Ghost Town, Gossip Girl, Body of Proof, The Good Wife, Law & Order SVU, Ugly Betty Broadway: Catch Me If You Can, Next to Normal, Wicked, Hairspray

August, 2012

"I can say without hesitation or reservation that working with Deborah Hedwall took me to another level as an actor. I received an excellent education as a BFA at Rutgers and was ready to take on the world. After graduating I worked on a soap opera for two years and so many questions arose not only from that experience but from auditions and workshops over that time. I enrolled in Deborah's studio in new York city after having worked with her on "The Subject Was Roses" at Penguin Rep. Seeing Deborah, in rehearsals and on stage every night, opened my eyes to the way a real actor prepares and performs: she implemented and executed all of the techniques we learned at school with such ease and mastery. I was very nervous and excited to study with her as her student. I had every reason to be excited and no reason at all to be nervous. Deborah creates such a positive, creative, and supportive atmosphere. She encourages all of her students to deeply explore ourselves and to be brave in expanding our boundaries. Deborah reinforced in me such an organic way of working from the inside out, and this process was explained thoroughly and enforced through repetition so as to become intuitive. She communicated in a clear way with a vocabulary that was simple and direct. I still have my notebook from class and I always will. I have had her voice in my head on every job I've done since. Deborah's class is my first recommendation to anyone in New York looking to deeply explore their craft and expand their boundaries. In Deborah's words, paraphrased, "You have a universe inside of you and you're all capable of anything. Know that and stop limiting yourself with judgments." In that piece of wisdom may lie a large part of what makes Deborah such a gifted teacher... she inspires and encourages us as human beings. Deborah wants us to be more aware, intelligent, and empathetic. She pushes us to be Bigger. In this way we work what else do we have? 

-Tom Pelphrey

Recent Credits: Broadway/End of the Rainbow, Regional: Guthrie Theatre/End of the Rainbow, Dorset Theatre Festival:Mauritius TV/Film: Blue Bloods, The Good Wife, Law and Order: SVU, Junction, Excuse me for Living, Anchors, Guiding Light (2006, 2008 Daytime Emmy Winner)

… As I knew you would, you gave a huge performance and

folks out here are still stopping me and telling me how amazing they
thought you were. To have you, who means so much to me, gracing this
stage, was an extraordinary experience. Your passion and love for
acting is one of the main reasons I am still in the biz. What you
translated to me years ago, gave me a foundation that I still rely on.
You are one powerful woman and I am so thankful to you for bringing your
gifts, and sharing them with all of us. I hope we will do it again.
Much love to you Deborah.

Murph

Murphy Davis
Artistic Director

Bay Street TheaterP.O. Box 810
Sag Harbor, N.Y. 11963
(631) 725-0818 x108
From: Bill Irwin
Date: January 21, 2012
Deborah: I remembered these exchanges of ours when I was hoping hoping to see you in V WOOLF, long ago. Double damn! I wish I had seen that Martha -- after seeing you do the THE FALL TO EARTH role...... Double damn.
Deborah, you were so good in the play -- so fine in each moment on the stage. I can only thank you.  My management is Viking Entertainment -- they are grand, and together we have been putting together a few different master class and workshop visits. I enjoy doing this (and learn from it) and would LOVE to be in harness with you and with some students somewhere, sometime.

Give my best to old Esbjornsen. I will email him, too.
DH, Thank you so much for your time on that stage. – BI

From: Lenard Petit
Date: January 2012
Hi Deborah
It was with great awe that I beheld your performance today. Perhaps you will find my jaw on the floor of that little theater, Wow! You are really magnificent. Meg and I have been discussing your work all evening. Splendid transformation. Thank you for making the art of acting something worth spending time watching . You are a great inspiration and I am honored to know you. Great work, Deborah.  Thank You.  Lenard
September, 2012
I am honored to be writing this letter.  As anyone who has ever spoken to me about acting knows, I credit Deborah Hedwall alone and entirely for shaping me into the kind of artist I am, which is to say, I have her to thank for the best, most true part of myself.  But I don’t consider myself a writer, so I fear that my words will not do justice to my sentiments.  And I have doubts as to whether anyone who hasn’t struggled with an actor’s work (a very specific and treacherous mountain) could really comprehend how vastly fortunate it is to be able to look to Deborah Hedwall as your guide.   If I have learned anything from her, though, it is that in moments like this I must trust my skill and my audience, surrender to my instincts, be informed by my fear and then jump anyways.  
I studied with William Esper and Deborah Hedwall for three years (Rutgers MFA 2003) and then continued to take Deborah’s private advanced master class in the city for the next six years.  Some things I learned from her:  how to decipher the emotional, non-literal essence of a scene/relationship/circumstance and then make it personal for myself in a way that will consistently bring me to active physical life, how to craft a history for my character that  will ignite my need for my partner in a spontaneous way, how to transform my behavior from the day-to-day personal readiness of me into that of a character, how to question and dig until my choices push into the realm of universal human experience.  She taught me how to make something from nothing – what she recalls employing “the artistry of creativity” – to use every second that I am onstage as an opportunity to tell the richest story possible.  
In all that time her lessons never got static.  Often, she would be working on a play herself and making discoveries and so her teaching evolved – we would shift our focus to include other elements – a concentration on wonder and making positive choices,  on curiosity and listening, on using language and research,  on physical characterization and inventive storytelling.   In this way she taught me how to keep myself inspired and how to use my experiences in one project to inform how I approach the next.  
Sometimes acting teachers can coach you during class in a way that feels great and works through the problems.  But then, without the teacher there directing, you find yourself lost again and unable to apply their words in rehearsal or on other material.  Or they rely on repeating what works, never pushing in a new direction.  Not so with Deborah.  I kept notes during her class – a stack about a foot high now! – when I’m stuck and need a little inspiration or a reminder, I flip through them and I find that her way of questioning and approaching material are always applicable because they are about making yourself a more interesting artist, not about making a particular scene “work.”  I use the steps she taught me when I am in a reading for a new play, when I am preparing an audition, when I am in rehearsal for a show, when I am cast in a film and must mostly direct myself.  
There also seems to be a missing link in acting training – where actors will know what they must become but not how to get themselves there.  Or maybe they are able to do it one time or some of the time, so it ends up seeming like a magical, ephemeral fluke.  This is a worry that I hear actors express over and over and one that I shared before studying with Deborah.   She taught us exercises that enable us to transition, to shift our bodies/attention/emotional life from the version of ourselves that rides the subway and encounters our city life into our heart territory, into a more supple creative terrain from which we can start our acting work.  It is a way of warming up the emotions and the instincts.  I do these exercises to get ready for rehearsal and also when I am home, before I begin doing creative homework.  Other actors say, “I know I need to do some daydreaming, or some imaginative thinking on this moment in the script or that I need to live onstage at a certain emotional pitch.  But how do I make myself if I’m not feeling it?  How do I get through creative blocks?  ”  I know what to tell them,  because I was exquisitely trained – by Deborah.  
I have the kind of confidence and range and capability that I know only comes from having a set of tools that I can rely on, that I’ve learned how to sharpen and how to upkeep.  I am grateful that I have her voice in my head, pushing me past my comfort zone, past certainty and casual, natural choices.  
I doubt Deborah has any idea how highly I value her – and if I were to call and tell her, she would vigorously deflect my praise.  She’s simply not interested in my reverence – she is interested in hearing what I’m working on, what I’m struggling with, what discoveries I’ve made.  She’s excited to share with me what she’s been focusing on – which is always how to push further into the unknown, how to expand our understanding.  I would hang up the phone feeling emboldened and invigorated and reminded to keep my mind on what matters - which is our work.
My wish is that all acting teachers could be Deborah Hedwall.  But a close second would be that as many actors as possible have the opportunity to train with her.  In one of my notebooks from class, I came across these words of hers: “all that I can teach you is that who you are is boundless, and that the reaches of your soul are limitless.”  She can and she does and I have no higher recommendation than that.
Thank you,
Katya Campbell –
Most Recent Off Broadway: Recall, Fisheye (Colt Coeur Theatre Company- Founding Member),
Mauritius - Manhattan Theatre Club; Film/TV: Crazy Glue (Telluride Film Festival Winner),
Law and Order:"Political Animals"
August 2012
My name is Jonathan Fielding and I was a student inspired under Deborah Hedwall's training from 2000 until 2003 at Mason Gross School of the Art @ Rutgers University. I am a stage actor, director and theatre company founder and since graduating with my MFA in Acting,  I have made a life in the theater ranging from small regional theater jobs in St. Petersburg, FL at American Stage (The Drawer Boy) to larger flashier jobs like the Broadway production of Pygmalion of "Roundabout Theater Company". I have worked on brand new plays such as The Heaven's are Hung in Black at Ford's Theater in Washington, DC, and classical plays like Cyrano at Wellfleet Harbor . Most recently I founded a  new theater company in Wellfleet, MA run completely by actors. We put integrity, passionate work, and creativity foremost in all of our decision making and I am glad to say that my work with Deborah Hedwall is a guiding force in what has shaped me as a performer and as a theatre artist & collaborator.
She is boldly inspiring. What else does a teacher do really, other than inform and inspire? As a young undergrad I visited Rutgers and was lucky enough to sit in on one of her graduate classes. I remember watching her interaction with the actors and thinking she seemed a hypnotist the way they respond to her and the way they perform with passion, inspiration, and ease. They were vastly deep as performers and I desperately wanted to be just like them. When admitted the following year, I was delighted and terrified that just like the other students  I watched, Deborah challenged me as well.
Like many young actors, I had hang-ups with my body, my voice, my politeness and Deborah was able to see very clearly where my strengths and weakness lie. It seemed inherent in her and she taught me how to "give in" as an actor, how to probe my emotional depths, and being that acting is essentially thinking about how one lives their lives, how to be a brave person no matter where I'm headed. Her inspiration has led me to think of her often when I lead a class or if I get an especially challenging role. This past summer I  ventured into my first directing foray and all through auditions I had  noticed  her work creeping in.
An additional attribute to her teaching work that most teachers do not have is that she is capable of life altering performances herself. Most recently I took my actor girlfriend (who is a trained actress and co-founder of my theatre company)  to see Deborah perform in the off-Broadway performance of "The Fall to Earth" at 59 E59 theater space. As actors, you must know that we're highly critical of everyone who performs in New York but when I glanced over at my date halfway through the first act she was wiping tears from her eye. "She's really good" she whispered. After the show we left and my girlfriend said, "perhaps we could get Deborah to come perform for our company this summer?"
"Of course" I thought, "Deborah's inspiring someone else now."
Respectfully,
Jonathan Fielding
Jonathan Fielding is co-founder of the  Harbor Stage Company (Cape Cod, MA), Artistic Associate w/Amphibian Stage Company, a director  & actor.  Broadway: Cyrano de Bergerac, Pygmalion. NYC/Regional: The Ohio, Dixon Place, Penguin Rep, Ford’s Theatre in DC, Amphibian Stage Productions (Texas/NYC),  Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, The Public Theatre of Maine.

October, 2012
I first studied acting under Deborah Hedwall during my graduate education at Rutgers from 2000 to 2003. Deborah's impeccable eye, training, and experience helped give me the tools to successfully work in our field after graduation. However it is Deborah's heart, integrity, intuition, and passion that make her an irreplaceable teacher and respected member of the artistic community.

It is for these reasons that I returned to her as my teacher 8 years after leaving Rutgers. I find her teaching to be razor sharp and on the pulse of what working directors and casting associates want in their actors. In fact, in auditions when directors see her name on my resume they often comment on her skill and talent.

Beyond learning from her in a classroom, I've learned from watching her acting talents on both the stage and screen. She is one of the finest actresses I know. I cannot  recommend her more highly as both a teacher and artist.

Elizabeth Mason

Elizabeth Mason’s recent work includes Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, Rosie in the US premiere of A Buyers Market, Liz in La Llorona, and Celia in As You Like It. The film 'Mr. Whiskers' in which she had a leading role, just won best drama in the Atlanta Underground Film Festival and currently she has a Red Lobster and US Cellular commercial running.January, 2012
Deborah,
I have to say in all honestly it is a privilege to have seen you on stage. You are just pure, raw honesty like few, if any, I've ever seen. And beyond that,  how many teachers are not only masters of communicating skills to their students but ALSO go above in beyond in their OWN ability to inhabit and bring life to their teachings as well?? Truly incredibly, heartbreaking.. just honest, gorgeous work. After seeing it, all I could think about is you going head to head with Mark Rylance in Macbeth or some sort of powerhouse showdown like that. I am so proud and you are such a constant inspiration.

In class you have pushed me beyond myself and  you have ignited my love of poetry - I came across this quote the other day from Robert Frost, absolutely loved it, and thought of you and of course wanted to share:
"Poetry is a way of remembering what it would impoverish us to forget."
And another one...
"If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry." - Emily Dickenson
You're fantastic Deborah. Thank you for everything you have taught me, for inspiring me and congratulations again.
Jonny Orsini, Off Broadway: An Early History of Fire, The Good Little Widow, Banished Children of Eve, Film/TV: Beneath (2013), Imogene, Generation Um…, Law and Order, Futureestates.
Thank you Deborah for this exceptional performance.  You were inspiring and breath taking in The Fall To Earth. Thank you for all the lessons you've taught me thus far-in the classroom and out.

The very best,
Kristen Adele, Rutgers MFA Acting 2012

Deborah,

It was so exciting to watch you perform last night. You absolutely took my breath away. It's one thing to watch someone you admire work, but it's another thing to know that the wonderful artist you are witnessing is teaching you. I was already a fan, but now even more so. Congratulations!

All the best,

Aaliyah

Aaliyah Habeeb
Mason Gross School of Arts
Master of Fine Arts in Acting 2013

Dear Deborah,

I had the extreme pleasure of seeing you perform in The Fall To Earth at 59 E 59 last night. As a struggling young actress in NYC, it is so inspiring to witness performances like yours. There are so many times when I feel confused by, and even hopeless about, my choice to be an actor and then I go see someone play so full-heartedly and fearlessly as you and it reminds me not only why I'm in theater, but also why theater matters! Thank you so, so much!

Sincerely,
Annie Worden

Ps. I noticed in your bio that you teach at Rutgers, if you ever happen to teach any acting workshops in New York, I would absolutely love to participate. Thanks again!