From the Page to the Stage

This story is featured in the Fall 2019 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below how an HPU professor offers students multiple avenues to explore and learn class topics. 

Dr. Nathan Hedman bridges the gap between theater and literature while helping students connect with ideas about the world.

Reading the works of Shakespeare is an educational rite of passage for most students. There’s much to be learned from simply reading the plays, but as Dr. Nathan Hedman knows, even more depth can be gleaned when the stories have legs, voices and emotions.

As an assistant professor in both the English and theatre departments at HPU, Hedman gives life to the written word. This dual world is a unique place uncommon on college campuses, where the disciplines are mostly studied separately. But Hedman serves as a bridge between the two departments at HPU, connecting the traditional boundaries between text and performance.

As a college graduate in his hometown of Seattle, Washington, Hedman started as an actor and playwright. Wanting the content of his work to be richer, he became interested in the history of ideas. He studied the Great Books for a master’s in liberal studies and then earned a master’s in religion at Yale Divinity School. From there, he completed both a master’s and doctorate in theater and drama at Northwestern University.

“The more I learned about ideas and theater, the more it became an embodied way of seeing the world and projecting a way of thinking to an audience,” says Hedman.

This is the work he does as head dramaturg at HPU. For each theater production, Hedman supports both the director and audience by providing context and interpretation.

“The work of a dramaturg maximizes the power of the play,” says Hedman. “You become an expert in that world. You help the director and designers with historical concepts, and then you create materials that provide background to help the play resonate with the audience.”

Since Hedman joined HPU in 2014, he has mentored students specializing in dramaturgy within the theater major. Senior Christine Watt completed an internship this summer at Writers Theatre in Chicago, a position she landed in part due to Hedman’s mentorship.

Hunter Morgan, a 2016 graduate, also trained with Hedman and now works with Peppercorn Children’s Theatre in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

“I learned tangible skills about gathering the most useful information and presenting it in an attractive, engaging way,” says Morgan, who assisted with HPU’s productions of “On the Verge,” “Mary Stuart” and “Grapes of Wrath.”

“I also learned to remain curious about everything and not to make assumptions but to ask questions and value other’s perspectives and input. The more open I am in my research and discussions, the better I can support the production process.”

Hedman works to develop curiosity in all students. His classes in theater history, composition and literature help them become more inquisitive, creative thinkers. He won a Cutting-Edge Curriculum Award from the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Higher Education and Ministry for his class called Grit: Explaining Survival. He was also tapped for an Excellence in Teaching Award from HPU’s Class of 2021.

“Education is about widening the scope and amount of passion students have for knowledge,” says Hedman. “Caring more deeply and having intellectual curiosity is a great life skill. Employers want people with fire in their eyes ready to do anything. We need to encourage students to love ideas in a way that motivates them to get going.”

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