Category Archives: directing

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?

Diane Crews (5)
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.

2013 The Tempest 10
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.

Kirk
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.

twitter

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.

DreamWrights’ Shakespearience

This spring, DreamWrights Youth and Family Theatre is offering a new experience… a Shakespearience!  The teaching artist for this experience is Billy Wolfgang, founder of OrangeMite Studios where Wolfgang has been involved in 16 different Shakespearean productions.  He promises to bring not only directing experience to our workshop, but more specifically, Shakespearean acting experience. “Getting participants involved in many different scenes will be the key to our success.  Students will be involved in material from a variety of plays to give them a broader view of Shakespeare’s work.  We will then use that knowledge and apply it to the comedy play we produce as a class.”

Billy Wolfgang bio pic
Teaching Artist, Billy Wolfgang

By looking at him, you might not recognize Wolfgang as a lover of the bard. He’s young, hip, and enthusiastic. Wolfgang says that his love of Shakespeare had to grow on him. “It wasn’t something I was born loving.  And, unfortunately it wasn’t something I discovered a love for in high school.” Wolfgang says his love of Shakespeare didn’t start until he was committed to a Shakespeare performance. Wolfgang remembers, “Then, and only then, did I discover what all the Shakespeare ‘hype’ was about – finally I figured out why we had to read it in English class.” It was through the production of Shakespeare’s work that he was fully able to understand and appreciate it.

The DreamWrights Shakespearience will include a look at Shakespeare’s work in different genres and acting out some famous scenes from Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Cymbeline, and others.  Students will learn the importance of verse and how to use it to their advantage, to aid with their memorization. “To say that the dialogue isn’t difficult would be a disservice to those participating as an actor or as an audience member,” Wolfgang explains. “So we will unlock and make it understandable to all involved on both sides of the process.”Wolfgang promises a lot of movement and laughter in the workshop. “Together we will take the text off of the page and make it real for each other and for our audience.  We will laugh and we will move.  Movement and kinesthetic activity are an extremely vital part of the experience.  The movement will be one aspect that will help us with the text, and together they create a complete ‘Shakespearience.’  Also, it wouldn’t be Shakespeare without a little sword fighting!”

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A group of Shakespearean performers at OrangeMite Studios

Shakespeare has many layers of comedy in his plays.  Even Shakespearean plays that aren’t supposed to be funny (like histories or tragedies), are still quite funny.  Wolfgang explains, “This was done intentionally, of course.  Shakespeare was an entertainer first and foremost – he wasn’t writing material to be added to high school English textbooks, he was writing to make people come back to his theatre year after year, he wanted them to have fun.”

Who doesn’t love blatant Shakespearean insults?! “Thou leathern-jerkin, crystal-button, knot-pated, agatering, puke-stocking, caddis-garter, smooth-tongue, Spanish pouch.”  Wolfgang explains, ”We might not know what all those bizarre words mean, but trust me, ‘puke-stocking,’ for better or worse, gets an audience every time.”

Wolfgang promises that the jokes will jump out at you, one way or another. “Silly one-liners may be great, but they don’t necessarily demonstrate Shakespeare’s real comic genius, which is the fantastic, witty and comic exchanges between characters.  The silly mix-ups of mistaken identity or the goofball clown character interacting with a serious and angry lord always prove to be fun moments.”

DreamWrights Shakespearience Billy Wolfgang
Wolfgang performing

The DreamWrights Shakespearience begins March 2 and runs for six Wednesdays: March 2, 9, 16, 23, 30 and April 6 (6:00 pm – 8:00 pm) and six Saturdays: March 5, 12, 19 & 26, April 2 and 9 (9:00 am – 12:00 pm). Participants in this exciting and playful performance class will explore Shakespearean text with the body, voice, mind and imagination, learning how to play with verse effectively in order to communicate story with an audience and portray the intriguing characters presented in one of Shakespeare’s comedies. The class will culminate with a performance of a 30 minute Shakespearean comedy. Beginner and experienced players are both welcome! Ages 10 – 16. Cost is $270. Spaces are limited. Register via phone at 717-848-8623 or online at www.dreamwrights.org.

Directors’ Advice: Favorite Show

DreamWrighters: It isn’t advice per se, but since we recently heard from our alumni about their favorite show, it makes sense to follow that up with hearing from some of our recent directors. Of all in which you have participated, what is your favorite DreamWrights show and why?

Diane: This is an impossible question … there have been so many! Plus I have written so many of them, and I truly like them all almost. The one I’m working on is always my favorite at that time, which is almost a necessity since they require so much work. I know I’m not answering the question.

The Christmas shows are always extra special for me. I love the holiday season because I think people are thinking of others a little more than themselves at this time. Plus all the shows remind us that that is what we’re supposed to be doing. I don’t usually like to direct a script more than once, because there are so many good plays and so little time comparatively. But I do make an exception for holiday productions. For example, this was the fourth time I directed, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Why? Well, it’s very real and funny and touching. I laugh and cry … I feel things and hope he audience will too. So any show that allows for the latter is my favorite.

Michelle Denise Norton in Anne of Green Gables
Michelle Denise Norton in
Anne of Green Gables

Michelle: I cannot pick a favorite as a director; I love them all for many reasons. But my non directing favorite is my most recent experience as an actor, playing Rachel Lynde in Anne of Green Gables. I auditioned because every once in a while I like to challenge myself and remember what it’s like to be an actor. I think it helps me improve as a director.
I had had a very difficult tech and dress rehearsal week fighting off bronchitis. But audiences really do perk you up, as did the concern of my fellow cast members.

One performance, while doing the scene where Anne and Rachel meet (which involves both characters losing their tempers), I could feel the audience leaning forward in their seats, listening to every word. I told Steve (the actor playing Matthew) at intermission that this audience was going to cry during his death scene. After we finished signing autographs, Steve took me aside to report that two ladies told him they had cried. Actually being able to share the play with the audience is a feeling different than what success as a director feels like, but is still amazing. The whole Anne of Green Gables experience revived my love of theatre a little, thanks to both off and onstage experiences.

Kirk: It might surprise some people that my favorite is The Rememberer. It was very well casted and I was so excited to explore my character every day.

2015 DreamWrights Grease Group
Rodd Robertson in
The Rememberer

Rodd: I’ve directed two shows at DreamWrights and been in two shows as an actor here. From a directing standpoint, both shows have a special place in my heart. To See the Stars was my first and it was so wonderful to see the way the teens dove into the history of the show and the way they became empowered to portray such courageous people as those involved in the Ladies Garment Worker’s Strike of 1911. It was thrilling to know that these teens took what they learned and parlayed it into their school work.

With Nancy Drew: Girl Detective, it was fantastic to see how close-knit the kids were. They rallied around each other and were such fun to direct. They were thrown so many curve balls during our rehearsals and rose to the occasion every time one came across the plate. They were truly exceptional.

As an actor, it was a learning experience to be back under someone’s direction and be on the acting side of a show again. TIm Storey was the director and made The Rememberer so much fun. The history and moral the play brought to life was so enlightening. This past summer, I was directed by Kirk Wisler in The Mouse That Roared and was in awe. It was thrilling to see Kirk stretch himself in his first outing as director; he did a fantastic job! And the cast is sooo funny! I was amazed by their comic timing. Kirk and Amanda cast a great group. This show was a joy to be in.

Paige Hoke in The Gentleman from Indiana
Paige Hoke in
The Gentleman from Indiana

Paige: That’s a hard question! I guess I would say my favorite show was The Gentleman from Indiana. We had a great cast and crew that really bonded and supported each other and it was just a touching, beautiful show.

About the Directors
Diane Crews: Artistic Director and Playwright-in-Residence at DreamWrights Youth & Family Theatre. Diane is currently directing The Secret Garden. Having directed well over one hundred shows at DreamWrights, The Secret Garden will be her next to last production as she plans 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 lists “Leo” from Leading Ladies and “Prof. Koknitz” from The Mouse That Roared as two of his favorite roles. 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.

Directors’ Advice: Audition Etiquette

With auditions for The Secret Garden just around the corner, DreamWrighters turned to our resident director as well as a few of our recent guest directors for some advice. Here is the second installment of wisdom and guidance on the topic of Audition Etiquette.

DreamWrighters: Thanks for taking a few moments to share your advice and experiences with our audience. Hopefully this advice will benefit new actors, experienced actors, as well as directors. As a director, Can you give us a few pointers on audition etiquette? What to do? What not to do?

Auditions

Paige Hoke: For me, the biggest “do’s” are being as nice, outgoing, confident, and prepared as possible. Act this way from the moment you enter the door to the moment you leave because directors and audition helpers do talk to each other and directors tend to be super observant. <wink>  Most directors look not only for talent, but for people they want to work with!

Also, make sure you say thank you after your audition! Always try to read the play or musical, or at least a synopsis, beforehand. This helps a lot if you are not given materials to use ahead of time. But if you are given materials beforehand, practice them a lot and be comfortable with them!

As far as don’ts…. don’t hide any conflicts you have, and don’t apologize or make excuses if you do mess up! Just keep going and recover from the mistake. :)

Rodd Robertson

Rodd Robertson: Have fun with it.  If you are nervous it will translate to the audition panel.  Someone who is having fun, is relaxed and handles any audition situation with poise will be remembered as someone with whom directors will want to work. Roll with the process.

Diane Crews: Dress comfortably and appropriately.  You need to be able to move freely.  No high heels, tight/short skirts/pants, not a lot of skin, and please don’t dress like the character you want to play.  The latter will usually be a negative for a director.  Casting is the director’s job! Be yourself … have energy … project … if asked to read different characters, make sure there is a difference.

Kirk Wisler: Be professional, listen to the panel, have your phone off, not doing this could really hurt you. Don’t give the audition panel any reason not to cast you. Have good eye contact with people in scene.

Michelle Denise Norton: Listen.  Be nice to other people.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand.  Be yourself, which may seem counterintuitive but actually works.

About the Directors

Diane Crews: Artistic Director and Playwright-in-Residence at DreamWrights Youth & Family Theatre. Diane is currently directing The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. Having directed well over one hundred shows at DreamWrights, Pageant will be her last holiday 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 lists “Leo” from Leading Ladies and “Prof. Koknitz” from The Mouse That Roared as two favorite of his favorite roles.  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.