Something for Everyone at DreamWrights’ Sale

Susan hat

If you happened by DreamWrights over the past week, you couldn’t help but notice the conglomeration of stuff: dresses, suits, uniforms, sewing machines, fabric, shoes, hats-a-plenty and sundries galore. Prior to the sale, the Facebook postings attracted a lot of attention. The sale did not disappoint, bringing in a record amount of income for DreamWrights.

But what was most remarkable about the sale, was the shoppers and browsers. Shoppers came from far and wide and from many different walks of life. And, with very different (and unique) buying criteria. As expected, a good number of shoppers came from regional theatres seeking costumes. People shopping for theatres in Scranton, Delaware, Hershey, and New Holland were among those rummaging.

A few were film makers looking for costumes for upcoming projects. There were people getting a jump on Halloween, brides looking for a deal, and a bunch of Cosplayers looking to fashion their favorite character. Reenactors found delight in our large selection of military uniforms for sale. Religious groups snatched up goodies for their productions. We even had people looking for dresses and accessories for retirement home glamour shots. But the award for most unique shopper must go to the people who were looking and bought a wedding dress for their pet llama on her special day.

llama wedding

I know right?! Why didn’tI think to buy my llama’s wedding dress at the DreamWrights sale, you ask?! Well, you’re in luck; we are having another costume and dress sale September 8 – 10. Please mark your calendar and keep your eyes peeled for more details as we get closer.

Volunteering at DreamWrights: It’s Contagious

Volunteering at DreamWrights is contagiously fun. Take Tony Fogle, for example. One night, he was bored so he agreed to lend a hand striking a show in which his aunt had been involved. Three and a half years and 26 shows later, Tony is a pillar of the DreamWrights family, as the “go-to” Lighting Designer. “I came to help with strike one night because I had nothing else to do. A bunch of people asked if I was trying out for next show but theatre really isn’t my thing. But sure, I’ll come help with something backstage,” Tony explained.

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Tony did return, thinking that he would be able to participate behind the scenes, where he would be more comfortable. “They threw me onstage as Little John in Robin Hood,” Tony winces. “That was a little overwhelming for me.” He describes it as tough but fun. Admittedly, he did enjoy it but he did not look forward to getting back on stage.

“The people here were awesome.” They kept him coming back. The next show was Gentleman from Indiana and Tony did props for that show. At that time, a talented college student was doing lights. Tony was impressed with him. It probably was due to Tony’s height (he’s 6 feet 6 inches tall) that he was asked to lend a hand. “I helped him out. As he was adjusting the lights, he started explaining to me what he was doing. Before he left, he gave me a quick run through of how the lighting system worked. Two shows later I was doing lights and I’ve done just about every one since.”

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Not originally educated for his technical career at a micro electronics company or in lighting, technical is where Tony’s interests lie. He says the best part of being the Lighting Designer is that it keeps him off stage. “If it weren’t lights, it would be props or set. I’m not a big social person.” He likes that everyone greets him on his way in but he quickly finds his place in the shadows, where he’s comfortable behind the control panel. He says he likes how all the jobs are connected. “I’m here doing my own thing but I’m part of the bigger picture. I like having my own little piece of the larger puzzle.”

When asked what his secret to making the actors on stage look so good, Tony responds, “Make sure you can see them all. If somebody is in the dark, it is glaringly obvious to me. If there is part of the set that the lighting isn’t nice on, I notice. When I’m doing it I try to hit everything and make it look nice.”  His best advice is to simply make sure everyone is lit.

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Tony considers Seussical to be his toughest show to light. “I stressed a lot about it but Seussical was my favorite because it was more of a challenge. It pushed me to learn things [about programming lights] that I didn’t know previously.” He anticipates The Wizard of Oz to be equally challenging. He says an option could be to go with “plain Jane” lights.  Tony explains, “Just like Suessical and some of the other shows I’ve been involved with, I feel lights can make a big difference in how the audience connects with the show. I have to make sure I compliment, and hopefully add to, the mood of the show.”

When Tony counted up the number of shows in which he’s been involved, he surprised himself. “This is show number 26 I’ve been involved with… which is ridiculous! But it is fun so I keep coming back. And they keep asking me to.”

 

Directors’ Advice: Proudest Moment

DreamWrighters recently turned to our resident and several recent guest directors to hear about what makes them most proud. As we get ready to launch a capital campaign, we notice that like the campaign, these wonderful directors are proud about Putting Growth Center Stage!

DreamWrighters: Thanks for taking a few moments to share your thoughts with our audience. As a director, as you reflect  on your directing experiences, what makes you most proud?

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Diane Crews in 1997 with Youth Theatre Director of the Year Award

DIANE: This one is easy … I love to watch people grow!  And growth is not exclusive in any way.  The magic of the theatre is love, according to William Saroyan, and I agree.  All the world is a stage and we are all players, but only in live theatre do we have the opportunity to work and create together, not to win anything or beat the other team, but to share that creation with others the audience. You come together as strangers and depart as family.  Everyone has the opportunity to grow his/her responsibility, self-confidence, interpersonal communication, knowledge, and emotional levels/skills. The results are huggable!!  And often make me cry – good tears – of pride and happiness at being allowed the chance to see the multiple metamorphoses!!

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Paige Hoke directing rain forrest critters

PAIGE: What makes me most proud is watching people grow and discover things about their characters and themselves. I love seeing the world of the show come to life fully! And I love seeing people from all walks of life come together and create a show!

RODD: I’ve worked solely with kids and teens. I am most proud of my casts and crews.  It have been a joy and privilege to watch them blossom during rehearsals and shows.  When I get a thank you note at the end of a show and the kids thank me for casting them in a role that they didn’t think they’d ever get, or they thank me for helping to grow their self-confidence.  Man! That is beyond any hassle that may come with putting together any production. That’s goes way beyond being proud, that touches me and encourages me. It builds me up and pushes me to want to be better for the next cast I direct.

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Michelle Denise Norton with cast and crew of The Tempest

MICHELLE: I am proud of the relationships people continue to have even when they’re no longer involved in Theatre Under The Trees or DreamWrights.  Last year, my brother Beau’s best friend (who he met during Comedy of Errors) was in town for his father’s funeral and when we were talking afterwards, he mentioned that he’d left his car in Los Angeles for another friend (he met during Much Ado About Nothing) to use.  Earlier this year, two people who had played villains in one production were swapping stories about both Much Ado and their respective children on Twitter.  It really brought home to me that one of the most important things about DreamWrights is the connections you make and the conversations you have.

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Kirk Whisler inspiring his cast and crew with a purple hair challenge

KIRK: I find pride in the end of rehearsals each day, seeing the work that was accomplished, and knowing that the cast and crew are making me look good.

About the Directors

Diane Crews: Artistic Director and Playwright-in-Residence at DreamWrights. Diane is currently directing Young King Arthur. Having directed well over one hundred shows at DreamWrights, Young King Arthur will be her last production as she is set to retire in the Fall of 2016.

Paige Hoke: Paige Hoke is 2010 graduate of Arcadia University’s BFA in Acting Program. She has experience directing, teaching, and acting in the York and Philadelphia areas. She most recently directed Seussical at DreamWrights.

Michelle Denise Norton: Founder and Director of DreamWrights’ Theatre Under The Trees program.  Along with all of her theatrical endeavors, Michelle is also a writer, artist and cartoonist.  In Summer 2016, Theatre Under The Trees will be bringing As You Like It to local parks

Rodd Robertson: Director and actor, Rodd most recently appeared in the Flippin’ Broadway musical revue at DreamWrights.  He has directed a handful of productions including To See the Stars and Nancy Drew: Girl Detective at DreamWrights and elsewhere.

Kirk Wisler: Kirk made his directorial debut at DreamWrights this past summer, directing The Mouse that Roared. He has taken part in over thirty plays from 2001 until the present day. He hopes to continue directing and acting at DreamWrights for many more years to come.

Twitter Talk

At DreamWrights, you know me as Michelle Denise Norton, Founder and Director of Theatre Under The Trees, apprentice costumer and yawner through 8 am meetings. On Twitter, I am @mdnightmaverick, insomniac, enthusiast, conversationalist, In the Bleak December author, artist, animator, camera ace, director of Shakespeare (+ shorts), @blinkkittylove, etc.. Twitter has enabled me to collaborate with people across the country, make friends internationally and have a community of support I might otherwise be lacking as a freelance writer, artist and theatre professional.  I have heard people express puzzlement and dismay over social media, but it can be a valuable tool to have available.

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The first thing to remember is that Twitter, where I spend most of my internet time so my focus will be there, is talk.  #justtalk if you want a hashtag. It is you interacting with other people, in shorter snippets perhaps than if you were interacting over tea in the same room, but it is still conversation. The rules of common courtesy still apply. Trusting your instincts is still essential.  But so is having some fun and finding like minded spirits who may inspire you.

People may try to sell you industry jargon and there are those using social media who are more corporate bot than individual, but the people you want to connect to are the ones who will talk to you.  Because whether you meet someone in person or on line, it’s talking and shared experience that create a connection and those connections can be a strong part of your network as an artist.

I have gotten paid jobs via Twitter.  I follow theatres, actors and directors in places other than America.  I read reviews of shows being done in places like China and add that to my general theatre knowledge and inspiration pool. I am currently researching the all female Takarazuka Revue in Japan to add some texture to how I approach Rosalind in As You Like It this summer. I share the things that I find interesting and enjoy when others do as well.  When I have a free Thursday afternoon, I participate in the HowlRound* weekly moderated Twitter discussion.

So, here are my guidelines:

  1. Stay Safe. If someone makes you uncomfortable, block them. Immediately.
  1. #hashtag. They’re fun.  Every show I direct, I create a specific hashtag so people can follow the progress on Twitter or my blog.  It started with Merchant of Venice aka #merven.  For As You Like It, I’ll probably stick with the short and simple #ayli.  My favorite so far was #EPHvSYR, which represented our soccer mad take on Comedy of Errors.  It’s a good way to organize thoughts.  It’s also a good way to find people to follow.  I sometimes read through #theatre or #Shakespeare posts to see if anything interests me.
  1. Don’t just promote your projects. Interact. Retweet someone else’s project every once in awhile.  Share things about what you’re doing, watching, reading…yes, even eating.  Behave like yourself while remembering that Twitter especially is a public forum.Don’t be afraid to talk to people — or ask for help.  I read somewhere that Twitter is like a party where you could walk up and talk to anyone. I think that’s a good analogy.
  2. Tempest Storm

    And if you’ve built a connection with someone, asking for help is the same as asking any other friend or colleague.  Part of why the dance in The Tempest worked so well was that I asked @KristynBurtt, a Los Angeles based entertainment reporter and dance aficionado for advice about choreographers who might work with a jazzy score.  She suggested Bill T. Jones and my research into his career and life gave me the vocabulary to have the conversations I needed with Kim Greenawalt, my choreographer — I’d kept in touch with her on Facebook after she performed as Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night’s Dream…double social media score.

2012 Mid Summers Night Dream
  1. Pictures boost interest.  Take a shot of rehearsal or the script you’re working on or a half built set.

Have fun. Be yourself.  Find organizations and people who interest you and follow them.  Talk.  Learn. Laugh.

*HowlRound is ‘a knowledge commons by and for the theatre community’ based at Emerson College in Boston.

Michelle Denise Norton, Creative Engine

Young King Arthur’s Ten Year Quest

DreamWrights strives to give as many participants as possible the opportunity to experience our interactive art. Young King Arthur is comprised of two casts of 40 each and two crews of 20 each plus staff, making an approximately 120 people involved. These 120 people set out on their quest to bring the story of a young King Arthur to stage, opening on April 8.

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On right, Artistic Director, Diane Crews in 2006

This quest has been paved by an earlier community of cast, crew, and staff. Young King Arthur was written by Diane Crews and performed at DreamWrights in 2006, the premiere show in its then new black box theatre space. “Ten years is a long time,” Diane Crews, DreamWrights Artistic Director muses. “Most of the [former]cast will have finished their schooling and now are busy raising their own children.”

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Jerry Young, front left, in 2006

There is only one actor who is actually reprising his role as Merlin. He is Diane’s son-in-law and the father of her grandchildren, Jerry Young. Diane has a soft spot for this character, “Merlin, was my kind of teacher. He is patient enough to let his students learn, and he knows that experience is indeed the best teacher. Plus he cares enough to let go when, ‘It is time.’”

In addition to Jerry, the staff has five returning members. Rebecca Eastman is designing costumes again. In 2006, Jan Ruman was a Props Mistress and Corinne Brown was a food coordinator and now they are now both on the costume crew. And, in 2006 Karen Watson was a Producer, but now is DreamWrights’ front –of-house decorator. Ann Davis was PSM in 2006 and now she is the Executive Director of DreamWrights!

As far as Diane and her quest in life? “That’s too simple,” she says. “I have been on mine for the majority of my life, and will remain so until I am no longer.” Diane declares that since the age of ten or so, she has felt the need to make a difference. “Of course, at that time I had no idea what it could be. I was going to join the Peace Corps right out of high school, but decided I needed to know more.” So, she chose college instead. That’s where she discovered theatre.

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Young King Arthur in 2006

Diane sums it up nicely. “It really is quite fascinating how our lives evolve. I won’t bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say that live theatre happened to me. I knew this was it! Ever since, my quest has been to share this most important, universal and ancient art form with as many people as one person is able.”

Bravo, Diane! So far so good!

A Young King Arthur Reunion for the 2006 cast and crew is planned for April 23 at 1pm. Participants are encouraged to stay for the 2:30pm matinee and relive the magic of young Arthur’s quest.

Drum Roll, Please…Our Vision for the Future!

Lydia (1325 x 1985)

Our roots as a youth and family theatre provide us with a strong foundation to grow even taller.  As we approach our 20th year anniversary, we refocus our efforts, ensuring that we remain sustainable and relevant in a fast and ever changing world. This focus includes appealing to a wider and more artistically diverse audience while expanding our vibrant center for community arts to serve as a safe and growing place for all ages, all backgrounds and all types of performing arts.

As with any big milestone, we recognize our upcoming 20th year as an opportunity to refresh our image, like we have done for past milestones. To that end, we are excited to reveal our fresh logo, complete with a new descriptor and tagline!

Drum roll, please…

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We do not make this change lightly. Over the course of the last 18 months, we have solicited input from our DreamWrights family through surveys, meetings, focus groups representing all different niches of our community, and our transition task forces. All of this input was compiled and reviewed, and is being used as a solid foothold in re-focusing our initiatives going forward.

We believe that identifying DreamWrights as a center for community arts elevates the work we do. We are more than just youth and family. We are about community. You are welcome here with or without a family. You are welcome here if you are not a kid. We are more than just theatre arts.  As a center for community arts we can offer much more, including: spoken word, dance, fine art, open mic, and many other types of performance and creative arts.

Our Center for Community Arts allows us to Build Characters for Life, expressing ourselves in new and unique ways, all of which tie us back to our core:  valuing the process, discovering yourself, stretching your limits, growing and learning together, appreciating everyone’s contribution, and providing access to all regardless of financial, physical, or learning challenges.

Please join us on our journey forward. We welcome and encourage everyone’s involvement.

Tech Stuff is for Girls!

Catie D.
Catie

DreamWrights’ Technical Director, Bob (T. Builder) McCleary can often be overheard singing the praises of his tech teams. Recently, he has been particularly impressed by two girls – the Dinnneen sisters. Catie and Hannah Dineen have three brothers (Tom, 13; Scot, 15; Sean, 18) but it is the girls in this family that have made the largest impression on Bob.

Catie and Hannah got involved in theater when they were 8 and 4 respectively. Not long after, they started doing tech work with Bob. They enjoyed being at the theater, so whenever they were not cast in a show, they got involved working on the crew.

Catie reveals, “It’s cool to be behind the scenes because not everyone gets that opportunity.” Hannah chimes in, “It’s been fun learning all the different jobs at the theater.”

Bob believes it is the girls’ attitudes that make them so good. Bob explains that these girls “try hard and do a good job.  They will take a shot at anything I ask.”

Hannah D.
Hannah

Catie is an 11th grade homeschooler.  She has been involved in the homeschool shows, the summer shows, worked on planning and organizing the Teen Ball, and most currently you might’ve seen her in  Flippin’ Broadway. This 16 year old has participated in casts, stage crew, lights, spot light, costumes, set building, and a variety of other odd jobs.

Hannah is 11 years old and in the 6th grade. She is involved with the homeschool shows, stage crew, lights, sound, projector, props, set building and anything Bob tells her to do.

If you happen to see these girls with a drill in their hand or climbing up a ladder, pay attention! You might just learn a thing or two!

Flippin’ Fun

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Rodd Robertson and Bea Gilbert with John Masa

On March 5, DreamWrights Youth and Family Theatre is flipping things around in the name of fun and fundraising. We are hosting a special event called Flippin’ Broadway which is a cabaret of Broadway show tunes with a fun twist.  Rodd Robertson, DreamWrights actor and Guest Director, came up with the idea. Robertson explains, “A few years ago, another actor and I were discussing songs we would never get to sing in a traditional Broadway show.  We were having a great time imagining what it would be like to perform songs as those characters and suddenly we looked at each other and asked why we couldn’t stage a show where we could perform those songs?!” And the idea for Flippin’ Broadway was born.

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Rebecca Wolf with Michael Frock

Although, Flippin’ Broadway wasn’t originally conceived as a benefit show, it soon took on that life.  Robertson says the idea grew as they talked to friends and other cast mates about the idea.  Robertson reports, “We’re thrilled to be doing this for DreamWrights because we admire their mission statement and that they abide by it.  It’s a real testament to the theatre that we wanted to have our premiere there.  We’re doing good for a great place!”

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Patty Price with Michael Frock

With 18 cast members performing 27 songs, the evening promises to be full of entertainment and surprises. Robertson agrees, “If the scores of people who auditioned for it and the word of mouth buzz is any indication, we should have a really nice crowd; hopefully a sell-out.”  Robertson quickly adds two more reasons to attend the event: “to support this community theatre treasure and to imagine what different Broadway musicals might be like if they were ‘flipped’!”

He’s not kidding when he describes it as “flipped”! The concept of Flippin’ Broadway is for Broadway songs to be performed in a non-traditional way.  For example, “Bring Him Home” from Les Miserable is sung by a middle-to-older-aged white man, Jean Val Jean, but not in the Flippin’ Broadway version.  Robertson dishes, “In our version, a young teenage girl is singing the song.  So we’ve switched it up with some funny results and some thought provoking changes.”

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Hannah Kuhn and Caitie Kieffer with Missy Kiefer

But that’s not the only act that will stand out. The evening will feature talented adults as well as kids.  Robertson boasts, “We have a mother with her two teenagers in the show.  I think this exemplifies the opportunities that DreamWrights provides families in the mid-state region.  How great is it that so much talent lies in one family!  Just wait until you hear them! You won’t be disappointed!”

Flippin’ Broadway will be held at DreamWrights Youth and Family Theatre on March 5,, 2016 from 7 – 10pm. Tickets are $15 and are available online at www.dreamwrights.org or by calling 717-848-8623. There will be an extended intermission offering elegant desserts for purchase. Proceeds will benefit DreamWrights Youth and Family Theatre.

Sew in the Family

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Cali Fife with great grandmother, Romaine Coeyman

Romaine Coeyman and her great-granddaughter, Cali Fife, were been born more than 70 years apart, but surprisingly, they have a lot more in common than just DNA. They both share the love of sewing and creating. And what’s more, they have done much of their craft in the exact same place, but more than 50 years apart.

Romaine Coeyman began working in the William Bernstein Sewing Factory in 1960, soon after the birth of her son. “I liked the job because I got to set sleeves. I loved that!” Coeyman remembers.

She says she always enjoyed sewing and the friendships she made at work. “I always think of [my work] around Christmas time.” She remembers setting tables up and having a potluck lunch to celebrate the season. “It was really jolly at Christmas time.” Coeyman mostly worked on the second floor in the sewing area where she sewed night gowns. She has fond memories of her days at the sewing factory.

These days, the Bernstein Sewing Factory building is occupied by DreamWrights Youth and Family Theatre, where many kids, like fifteen year old Cali Fife, fell in love with designing for the performing arts. Fife used to dance but she quickly realized that she loved the costumes more than the spotlight. She found her comfort zone creating costumes at DreamWrights, working in the second floor sewing area, exactly where her great-grandmother worked decades previously.

Cali Fife Bag
Cute bag created by Fife

Fife enjoys creating with fabric and has made many friends through her craft, just like her great-grandmother. She enjoys the collaborative nature of sewing and designing, and in fact, even has her own online shop called Cali Ann, where she creates cool scarves, clever pouches, cute bags, and even the occasional custom costume.

Although the space is much different than what she remembers, Coeyman is amazed at the transformation of the building from a sewing factory to a theatre space. “I love it! I think it is amazing!” And when asked what she thinks about her great-granddaughter sewing and creating, just like she herself did more than a half century ago, Coeyman sums it up simply, “That’s nice. She really loves it too.”

Top 10 Things Most Often Heard Backstage

1. Can you get my ________ ?
This is mostly heard during tech rehearsals when we’re all trying to figure out the important stuff, like timing and how the show runs. But at one point or another, there’s something you’ll leave in the dressing room or green room.

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2. Put that back!!!
If you are part of the props crew you say this a lot. If you are backstage you hear it a lot. In fact, there are signs saying not to touch stuff! (They don’t always work.)

3. SSSSSSHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!
Even though it sounds like a geyser is going off back stage, this is used a lot. With kids, teens, young adults, and older adults not everyone knows the appropriate level of volume.

4. You need to move!
This also is heard mostly during tech rehearsals. People don’t always know where set pieces live backstage or realize that the costume that person is wearing will end up on that chair your sitting on in about 3 seconds.

5. You can’t sit there.
You might say this is a repeat because you have to tell different people that they can’t sit there every show.

6. Will you help me change?
Also heard during tech rehearsals when the actors are realizing how little time they actually have to switch from a fish to a Whoville character, for example. If you have a buddy to help get the zipper up or the hair in that wig cap, it make those changes go a lot faster.

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7.  I found this.
As a veteran crew member, I have been given all kinds of found treasures including staples, tape, bobby pins, safety pins, plastic things, birthday candles, batteries, parts of costumes, parts of props, and parts of the set! The fun of theatre!

8. What is this?
Even though this prop has been sitting on the props table for six weeks, it never fails that during the most quiet scene in the show, you hear someone ask someone to explain what it is.

9. Where’s the director?
Everyone always has questions for the director. But for some reason, the middle of show is the best time to ask.

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10. It’s dark.
Yes, back stage is dark. Thanks for letting me, the whole cast, and the audience know!

Jacob Schlenker
Student
and Veteran DreamWrights Crew Volunteer