1. Black is always chic. Although, I once dressed as a monk while a stagehand at DC’s Arena Stage.
2. Patience is a virtue. And waiting is an art.
3. Be clear when communicating with others.
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
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.”
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!
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!
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: 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.
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: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!