Monthly Archives: April 2016

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.”

20160329  Tony Fogle (7)

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.

20160212 The Secret Garden (23)

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?

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.

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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