Unique Alley Staging Features The Secret Garden

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DreamWrights Theatre in Alley Configuration

Artistic Director, Diane Crews, knew that the biggest challenge in mounting DreamWrights’ next play, The Secret Garden, would be the number of scenes and locations needed. So, instead of the traditional proscenium seating configuration, Crews and her crew felt that this production would lend itself best to an alley configuration, a form of theatrical staging in which the stage is surrounded on two sides by the audience.  Crews explains, “Alley staging will allow for the action to take place on both ends [of the alley] and up and down and in the middle of the audience. There will be five different acting areas including a home in India, the interior of the Manor in England, the Manor’s front garden, outside of the British home, the village, the moor, and of course the secret garden.”

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DreamWrights Theatre in Alley Configuration

Crews is excited. “It’s a wonderful format that lets the audience use their imaginations right along with the actors.  We can all see the wall around the garden, and at the same time be able to see right through it.” But, when Crews first pitched the alley staging idea to Guest Set Designer, Allen Brenner, he wasn’t sold. Brenner explains, “Alley staging presents several challenges. One is the sightline. With the set in this configuration, I have to try to do as much dimensional stuff as possible and it has to be low profile.” Even the blocking can be a challenge, he says. “You have to consider what audiences can see, what you want them to see, then make sure that they can actually see it.”

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Brenner’s scale model

But after some consideration and in brainstorming with Crews, Brenner agreed that with all of the different and faraway scenes in the play, alley is a great option. “Alley provides separate locals for the audience so it gives the feel of different places.” For example, Brenner reveals that on one end of the alley will be the scene of the English manor and the other end of the alley will be scenes in India.  “Alley staging gives me a lot of territory to work with. It makes it a lot of fun.” Brenner also points out that it will require the audience to participate more in the action, as they will feel the movement from one end of the corridor to the other and in between.

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Guest Set Designer, Allen Brenner

DreamWrights is pleased to have the talents of Guest Set Designer, Allen Brenner, for this production. Brenner’s design hasn’t appeared at DreamWrights since The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe in 2010, and it will beautifully transform the audience to faraway lands including the fascinating secret garden. According to Brenner, alley staging is less common than the traditional proscenium. It has rarely been done before at DreamWrights, and as far as he knows, possibly never elsewhere in York.You can count on The Secret Garden to be a unique experience. Call it an adventure, one that will take you from India to England to a secret garden. You won’t want to miss it.

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.”

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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.

Top 10 Life Lessons You Learn As A Theatre Tech

1. Black is always chic. Although, I once dressed as a monk while a stagehand at DC’s Arena Stage.

2015-07 Bob McCleary

2. Patience is a virtue.  And waiting is an art.
3. Be clear when communicating with others.

In theater:
In is down, down is front
Out is up, up is back
Off is out, on is in
And of course,
Left is right and right is left

4. Treat everyone with respect, especially those lending a helping hand.
5. Always get a good night’s rest. There is nothing worse than waking up in the middle of a scene change and wondering, “Am I putting this on stage or taking it off!?”
6. Organization is the key to success.
7. Expect the unexpected.
8. Silence is Golden. The audience pays to hear the actors ON stage, not the gossip BACK stage!
9. You must be able to keep cool under pressure.
10. You are never alone…except maybe for one-man shows.  But this is ALWAYS true at DreamWrights.

Bob “T. Builder” McCleary
Technical Director, DreamWrights

A One-of-a-Kind Santa

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1997 Miracle on 34th Street

Since Christmas of 1997, Santa has been a DreamWrights institution. In fact, Santa is a DreamWrights founding member and has participated in 22 consecutive Christmas shows with Artistic Director, Diane Crews, starting with her even prior to her DreamWrights days. Santa got his DreamWrights start in 1997 by playing the role of Kris Kringle in Miracle on 34th Street. Although a lot of work, Santa found it very rewarding and fun and agreed to continue visiting DreamWrights every year for breakfasts, playlets, and even to play himself in the Christmas shows.

When asked about his favorite part of the job, Santa exclaimed that he loves working with the children, especially the ones who are afraid of him! A little shy himself, Santa enjoys trying to win over the kids who aren’t sure. To do this, he spends a lot of time on the floor. Santa explained, “Getting to their level seems to relax them.  I have quite often ended up with hugs from children that were at first afraid to get near me.”

Santa is often touched by hearing emotional requests from children for gifts that are hard to deliver. “Sometimes I get touching requests for people other than themselves including, moms, dads, siblings, or acquaintances, and the occasional request for someone they know to get better.  It can be tough to hear such requests.”

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Santa in 2011

But, most often kids ask for gifts for themselves, including some strange requests. A real pig, a real unicorn, and empty boxes are some of the more peculiar requests he’s gotten. Turns out, the empty boxes were for fort building. Santa joked, “When a child doesn’t know what they want I always suggest broccoli, since I have a lot of it at the North Pole.  The look on the child’s face is always priceless and the answer is always, ‘NO!’”

Drawbacks of the job? Growing Santa’s beard! Not too many people know this, but Santa’s beard falls off right after Christmas (probably from the cold air blowing on it while he’s flying in the sleigh).  Santa then spends the whole year growing it to get it into Christmas shape!

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2013 Miracle on 34th Street

Over the  years, Santa has created great memories, a sense of accomplishment, and fondness for his time at DreamWrights. “I want everyone to know that the years I spent at DreamWrights went so fast, were so much fun, and the people I met were the best, friendliest, and most dedicated that I have ever met!” And then Santa said one last, “Ho! Ho! Ho!” as he drove out of sight!

Of course, Santa will be visiting DreamWrights again next year. However, you may notice a change in him. Perhaps the change will be a result of Santa’s relaxing, sunny days in warmer climates. Never fear, he will still be spreading Christmas cheer. You can count on that!

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.

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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.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever Reunion

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Cast and Crew of the 2003 TBCPE

As DreamWrights Artistic Director, Diane Crews, prepared to wrap up the final performance of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,  nearly 75 former Pageant cast and crew members gathered to reminisce and celebrate. 2015 ended DreamWrights’ fourth run of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and Diane’s last holiday production. Cast and crew members from the 1998, 2004, and 2009 shows gathered to share stories and honor Diane.

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Cast and Crew of the 1998 TBCPE

Many great memories were shared and lots of nice words were exchanged. Bob Godfrey, who was unable to attend the reunion, made sure his sentiment was heard  by sending in a video tribute to Diane. Several others including Ann Davis, Brian Frey, Joan Bitzer, and Jo Olewiler spoke up, honoring Diane and the wonderful experience that The Best Christmas Pageant Ever was.

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Herdmans through the years

1998’s Gladys Herdman, Lexi Hubb, traveled from Chincoteague with her husband. She fondly remembers the fun she had playing Gladys seventeen years ago when she was only 12! Father and daughter Mark and Christiana Lipsitz, played father and daughter Bob and Beth Bradley in the 2003 version. Joan Bitzer and Steve Brown have been in every Pageant, Joan as one of the church ladies (different each time) and Steve as Rev. Hopkins, twice a PSM, and a crew member. Megan Cintron’s first DreamWrights appearance was as Jessica in the 2003 Pageant. She went on to become Beth Bradley in 2009.

Cast and Crew of the 2009 TBCPE show
Cast and Crew of the 2009 TBCPE

For many, Pageant was a family affair. Over the years, many of our DreamWrights families participated in the holiday show as a family (or nearly whole family): the Browns, Kominskys, Oles, Gordons, Dunlaps, Bitzers, Beckers, Hartnetts, Mir-Youngs, and Sheltons, to mention a few.  It was great to see these families and everyone who came to the reunion to reminisce with Diane moments before she headed back stage for her very last holiday production at DreamWrights. What a perfect way to celebrate Diane’s final holiday show!

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Broken-legged Mrs. Armstrongs
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TBCPE Crew and Staff through the years
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Bradleys
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Firemen
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Church ladies

DreamWrights Alumni: Favorite Show

As we tie up the year of 2015 and embark on 2016, the year in which our founder and Artistic Director, Diane Crews, will retire from DreamWrights, it seems appropriate to check in again with our beloved alumni. This time, we wanted to share some favorite show memories from some of our favorite people.

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Lexi Hubb’s favorite was playing Gladys Herdman in the 1998 The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. “I remember hamming up how unruly Gladys was.  I was flying around the stage preparing for my role as the Angel of the Lord and Mel Eyster runs up behind me and catches me as I was flailing around the stage.  Tons of fun for a 12 year-old, well-behaved kid to have.”

Christiana Lipsitz lists Pageant as her favorite as well because it was her first lead role (Beth Bradley) and because of the sentiment of the story. “And, it was the first show I’d ever done with my dad… He played my dad!”

Melissa Baker (1)

Melissa L. E. Baker loved the 2001 Miracle on 34th Street. She remembers, “It was the first time I ever got to play a lead character. It was just so much fun and so rewarding. And, I got to have a daughter.  She was so cute.”

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Dory Lerew  and Gary Hubb’s favorite was Miracle on 34th Street, but the 1997 experience. Dory says, “I think it was one of the first big DreamWrights productions and it was in a cool building with a huge cast and the audience moved around the building for each scene.” Gary

Dory Lerew Miracle 1997

remembers it similarly and fondly, “The run was held in an old city school and the audience moved from room to room to watch each scene performance. It was a play that involved a breakfast show, Santa Claus, and a collaboration of new faces mixed with the veterans of DreamWrights.  Two very important people who took part in this play are now sadly no longer with us: Ann Noll and Chris Davis, two of many amazing people that worked on the play.”

Nick Ryan’s favorite was Tom Sawyer Sings. “It was a great experience as a young kid to work with so many people and be involved in a fun production process.”

Rosa Terlazzo Our Town (3)

Rosa Terlazzo has a soft place in her heart for Our Town. “It’s such a beautiful play, and I think that it required the whole cast to really push ourselves. It certainly made me push myself more than any other show I was ever in – that play brought tears to my eyes at every single performance.”

Arlo Ehly has two favorites. As a performer, he enjoyed You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown and as a music director, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. “Charlie Brown was my favorite as it was such a sweet and charming show, and I landed my first big role (Charlie Brown) in a musical. It was also a show during which I made many new friends, whom I still keep in touch with today! Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was my favorite as a staff member as I felt it showcased the growth of the teen musical program. It was the first time we had a full orchestra for the show, and I piloted the newly installed A/V system now used for larger musicals. I also got to work with a bunch of talented teens and production staff members. The show itself was a big step for DreamWrights in terms of production values and some edgier content, all of which have continued to be staples of the teen musical.”

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Calida Davis, Joe Nabholz, Brianne Good, and Dory Lerew (yep, she has two favorites) claim Rupert Meets Mrs. Tales as their favorite DreamWrights show.  Calida says, “I have a soft spot for Rupert… I performed almost all the roles at one time or another, and was one of the first Ruperts. I still have the bright red converse shoes that I wore for the part, whenever I wear them I think of performing Rupert!” Joe says,” I was also in the Rupert touring show from the beginning for probably ten or so years.  I was a founding member, and even though I was quite young I’m very happy that I was involved with DreamWrights from the very beginning.  There was an intense camaraderie with the founding families that was tangible.”

Rupert Meets Mrs Tales (3)

Brianne says, “Rupert was my favorite because I really enjoyed changing up what part I played. Also, because it was a touring show, the people I saw each time were different. I also think that it challenged me to be a better actor.” Calida agrees, “I LOVED the interactions with the kids in the audience and the versatility of all of the cast members playing whatever role fit for that particular show.”

Brianne, Dory, and Calida all enjoyed the challenge of the touring aspect which included never knowing in advance on what kind of stage (or floor) they would be performing. Brianne remembers, “We had to adapt to all kinds of different audiences, from preschool all the way to elder care and venues including outdoors, giant auditoriums, and stages so small they only fit a small portion of the set.”  Dory remembers it similarly, “We performed in all sorts of places, elementary schools, libraries, parking lots.”

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Besides Rupert, Joe Nabholz’s favorite experiences included You Can’t Take it With You and A Christmas Carol.  “Several times I was in the rare situation in which I had to fill in for an actor who was suddenly ill or had an accident and where their ‘other’ also couldn’t cover.  Those were thrilling experiences that I remember to this day–learning their part as best I could, literally hours before curtain time.”

Kate Harrison couldn’t choose just one favorite. There are several shows that are dear to her: Robin Hood (performed on Sumner Street), Miracle on 34th Street (performed at The Bradley Academy), and Arkansas Bear (traveled to a conference in South Carolina). She perfectly sums the sentiment of most, if not all of our alumni, “I couldn’t possibly decide! I loved any reason to be with our theater family!”

Thanks to the alumni who responded. If we haven’t connected with you yet, we would love to hear from you! Contact hilary@dreamwrights.org to share your wisdom and your whereabouts! Best wishes for a fantastic 2016!

Top 10 Things DreamWrights Techies Cannot Get Enough Of

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Tape – Masking tape, glow tape, scotch tape, double-sided tape, electric tape, spike tape, mic tape (surgical tape), hem tape, pretty silver tape, magnetic tape, police tape, Velcro® tape, friction tape, tape measures, and gaff tape (a fancy duct tape that holds most theaters together)

Help – As in, “I’ll help!” or the more common, “Help me!”

Anonymity – Why else would we dress in black and hang out BEHIND the set?

Teamwork – “Can’t get that screw in?  Get another person in there pushing on the drill!”

Learning & Experience – “Angle the drill upwards with a downhill ‘fermature’…. Just keep trying.  You’ll get it.”

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Imagination – “We need to find a (cheap) way to:  flood the stage, blow up the world, etc.”  Just another day at DreamWrights.

Drills – “Bob, I would be working but we’re out of drills.”

Pins – Safety and bobby

FOOD – But this might just be a York thing. (Or “Bob, Is it snack time yet?”)

YOU! – We miss you when you are not here!  And bring a friend!

Bob “T. Builder” McCleary
Technical Director, DreamWrights

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.

All in the Family

Any time of year is a wonderful time to get involved with your family at DreamWrights Youth & Family Theatre. However, a holiday show at DreamWrights with your family is extra special. A handful of families participate in the theatre as a complete (or nearly complete) family.  Because they love it so much, they keep coming back for more.

Natalie Smith as Grace Bradley, center in navy
Natalie Smith as Mrs. Grace Bradley, center in navy.

Natalie Smith and her three children have done three shows at DreamWrights including The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, which is currently running. After living abroad for many years, Natalie looked for something to help her family get oriented with their new community when they moved into the area. Natalie explains, “DreamWrights offers a place for all of us to feel welcome and connected. The people involved with this theatre are so friendly and family-focused. It’s a fun way to spend quality family time together and the holiday show definitely puts us in the holiday spirit!”

Andrea Unger, far left as Mrs. Irma Slocum. Her husband, David Unger, center as Reverend Hopkins
Andrea Unger, far left as Mrs. Irma Slocum. Her husband, David Unger, center as Reverend Hopkins.

Andrea Unger, her husband, and her youngest son have participated in ten DreamWrights shows together, including The Best Christmas Pageant Ever. “Since we are a small family (our two oldest boys are out of state as are our other relatives) being in the Christmas shows has been like celebrating the holidays with an extended family,” she jokes, “…one that you actually like and want to spend time with!”

Natalie says there are many perks to participating together as a family. “It gives us some fun conversation topics at home. We all enjoy meeting new people at DreamWrights and also seeing other families we’ve been with before.” Andrea’s son, Jonah explains, “Being together gives me an opportunity to talk over the play with my family, to receive critiques and suggestions….and also to give them.”

Jonah Unger
Jonah and Dave Unger on stage together.

After rehearsals and the performances the Ungers pile in the car and go over the show in detail, all the way home. They discuss any mishaps that may have occurred, (Andrea discloses, “Live theatre! Yes, it happens!”) talk about audience reactions, as well as things upon which they could change or improve.  “We talk and laugh and tweak all through the run of the show,” Andrea reveals. Over the course of the shows in which the Ungers have been involved, they have developed some family traditions:  Handel’s for ice cream after auditions, recording the script to help with memorizing lines, and giving little surprises to each other instead of flowers after the last performance, to mention a few.

All three of Natalie Smith's children perform in the play along with her.
All three of Natalie Smith’s children perform in the play along with her.

Natalie loves having the opportunity to participate in activities like live theatre with her children. “I hope someday they will look back on this experience and want to participate in activities like this with their own children.” Andrea gets right to a big reason why DreamWrights is special. “While we participate in theatre as a family, we do this at Jonah’s lead; theater is where he wants to be. DreamWrights has made it possible for us to do this together.  I don’t know of any other theatre that considers the entire family during the selection process.”

To see how much fun the Smiths and the Ungers are having this holiday season, join us for a performance of the The Best Christmas Pageant Ever on December 11, 12, 18 & 19 – 6:30 pm or December 12, 13, 19 & 20 – 2:30 pm. Then bring yourself (or even better –  the whole family) to audition for The Secret Garden on December 15 or 16 at 6pm.  Visit dreamwrights.org for more information.