Local fondly remembered by Lagunans

Last Friday, Laguna Beach High School dedicated its latest show, "Rumors," to a man who had a leading role behind the curtains.

Andy Hedden, a former adjunct teacher, died May 5 of a heart attack. He was 55.

Hedden was known at the high school for his work with the Playwrights Festival, which has since ended. Drama teacher Mark Dressler credited Hedden for much of the festival's success.

Hedden would go into English classes and teach the kids how to write and structure plays, and develop a character in conflict, Dressler recalled.

"He gave kids really great advice about how to carry a script through completion," he said. "He had a following of kids that just loved him and looked forward to the Playwrights Festival every year."

Hedden was known for his patience, affability and willingness to work with every kind of child — both those with experience in the arts and others who may be timid about trying something new.

"He was so good with the kids," said Susan Elliott, a parent who worked alongside Hedden. "I think he changed my kid's life, actually."

Will Richardson, Elliott's 19-year-old son, now a computer science major at Bucknell University, said Hedden's class was his favorite part of the week.

He recently signed up for an acting class, he said, because he missed Hedden's.

A Laguna Beach local since the age of 3, Hedden wasn't just known at the high school. He was a familiar face to many around town since his youth, working at downtown shops such as Chicken Little and appearing in Laguna Playhouse productions.

Doug Rowe, 74, who retired as artistic director of the Playhouse in 1994, first met Hedden when he cast him in the '70s. He later hired him as box office manager. Hedden left the Playhouse in April.

"The hiring of Andy was one of the best things I ever did," Rowe said. "His personality just shone through every single day. People who came to the box office ... they came away happy."

Since Rowe left Laguna Beach, he always made a point to visit Hedden when he was in town.

"We would often walk around the theater and tell old stories of the plays we did together," he said.

Since his passing, Rob Hedden, 58, Hedden's brother, said he's been astonished by the outpouring of cards and emails the family has received.

"It's too bad you have to wait for something like this to happen to see how much someone is appreciated," he said. "He touched so many different aspects of the town — that's why he had so many people that knew him."

The brothers were close and worked on movies together, including 2007's "Boxboarders!," which was featured at the Newport Beach Film Festival. They also collaborated — either on story or screenplay — for the films "The Condemned" and "Clockstoppers," the latter starring actor Jesse Bradford.

Hedden's birthday was May 4. His brother recalled getting lunch with him and their mother that day.

Hedden told them about his excitement for a novel he was about to start and about his girlfriend, with whom he was in love. He then asked them if they wanted to go sit on the bench dedicated in 1985 to their father, Bob Hedden, in Heisler Park.

"He was as serene and happy as I'd seen in a long time," Rob Hedden said. "That helped all of us tremendously that we got that last beautiful day together."

Hours later his brother received the call that Hedden had been taken to the hospital.

During the past few weeks, Rob Hedden has heard stories from different people about how Hedden touched their lives.

"He always gave more than he got," his brother said.

The brothers worked together at Tivoli Terrace when they were teens. Rob Hedden thought it'd be the perfect place to celebrate his brother's life.

A tribute to Hedden will be at Tivoli Terrace, 650 Laguna Canyon Road, at 7:30 p.m. June 9. Rob Hedden requests that attendees dress in "aloha" attire, the way Hedden would have liked it.


Twitter: @joannaclay

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