Monthly Archives: May 2016

She Came with her Grandkids but Stayed for Herself

Connie Shorb’s first introduction to DreamWrights was when her granddaughter enrolled in one of the summer camps. Connie remembers, “She just had a wonderful time. Of course, we came to see the performance. I was very impressed with how happy the kids were, what they were learning, how the staff handled them, and how they came back excited about what they were doing.” Connie says that it became very obvious early on that her granddaughter, Megan, was enjoying herself and that more summer camps and acting opportunities were going to be in her future.

20160510 DW Connie Shorb (7)

Megan participated in a Broadway camp. Her brother, JR, enrolled too, and was cast as a spoon. Connie says for Megan being on stage came naturally, “Megan likes to perform. This gives her an opportunity to blossom.”  Connie laughs, “But JR wasn’t quite sure if a spoon was something he wanted to be doing. But, Megan explained it was a pivotal role.” JR ultimately grew into his role as a spoon and liked it so much he returned to a Dinosaur Creativity Camp.

As Connie has come to several performances to see and support Megan and JR, she’s gotten to know DreamWrights and its values. “I’m impressed with the vision about what they’re trying to accomplish. I like the outreach to the community. I would hope that in the future that DW would be able to do things with some of the other arts groups in town.” Having an art background herself, Connie recognizes the opportunity that DreamWrights can offer the community both on and off the stage. “Bring the kids in, teach them set design. Hopefully these kids will take this back to their high schools and middle schools.”

20160510 DW Connie Shorb (5)

Her grandkids on stage might be what brought Connie in, but it is the art that keeps her coming back. Formally educated with a degree in fine arts from Rollins College, Connie has had a love for art since she was a little kid. Even when the responsibilities of raising a family set in, Connie always kept herself engaged in art by building the Art Goes to School program at Indian Rock Elementary and providing what would now be considered rudimentary (only 4 colors at a time – hey – it was the 80s!) computer graphics for a local software house. But now, as Connie has more free time, she’s trying to get back to her artwork. As a step towards this goal, she’s decided to give set painting a try. “This is another venue. It is a different kind of art work.  I’m hoping to learn a little about this as well. It’s fun to see how they put it all together. Trying to work in a totally different area is a challenge.” She’s not working 12 inches away like she’s used to. She’s working on a much grander scale with set design. To speak with Connie, you can tell that she’s enjoying the challenge to her art skill to work in this setting.

Connie has also been impressed by all of the volunteers’ time and dedication. “When I was working yesterday, there were a lot of young people that came in and they were doing all sorts of things, and not necessarily in front in the spotlights. I was impressed with how Bob [McCleary] worked with them.  Everybody had something to do. Bob was guiding them, letting them do their own thing, but also keeping an eye on what was being done. Everybody was being part of the whole. I was impressed with everybody’s attitude and level of cooperation.” Connie believes the secret to this success is the competent supervision. “In just the little time I’ve been here, people know what they’re doing. They do a good job with it. Frankly, if they weren’t you wouldn’t see the success in productions that they have.”

20160510 DW Connie Shorb (12)

From Connie’s unique perspective, she is especially excited about DreamWrights’ capital campaign. “I think having a better setting for all of this is definitely a positive. You know, it’s an old building and things need to be brought up to code. That’s going to be a benefit.” As far as what the DreamWrights experience brings to budding actors and actresses like her granddaughter, “What Megan learns here gives her confidence to participate in talent shows and perform at school. Just the basic life skill of being confident and speaking in front of a group is something that’s going to carry on for a life time.”

Being on stage is great, but it isn’t for everyone. It might be for Megan but it wouldn’t have been for Connie. “My dad introduced me to golf. It is something you can do on your own. As is art. You don’t have to have a crowd. I guess it goes with what I was comfortable doing. Not everybody can be captain of the football team. As time goes on you kind of figure out what you are good at and what you want to do.” DreamWrights gives people of all ages the opportunity to do this.

Directors’ Advice: Go Time

DreamWrighters recently turned to our resident and several recent guest directors to learn about their “go time” words of wisdom.

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 is your “go time” advice to your cast just prior to opening curtain?

ANDREA: Our Miss Brooks has a number of new teens— to DreamWrights, but also to the stage in general. Each day of rehearsal has been crammed with “teachable moments,” so we all learned a lot — everyone’s brains are full!  I’m not sure there’s room for more advice. With that in mind, besides the last minute reminders to listen, play open, enunciate, and project, I will encourage my cast and crews to have fun. Just breathe, relax, and enjoy the show.

20151006 Seussical Dress Rehearsal (48)
Paige Hoke just prior to a show

PAIGE: Listen, concentrate, project, cover, don’t break character, and have fun!

MICHELLE: Breathe.  Relax.  Keep going. If you mess something up, the audience often doesn’t know.  But don’t miss your entrances.

KIRK: You know what you’re doing , this audience will be blown away. You’re a great cast!

RODD:  I don’t put a lot of stock in any last minute speeches before a show.  As a director, I don’t prepare anything ahead of time.  And if I’ve made any last-minute speech, I bet it wasn’t very motivating.  I make so many of those types of speeches during rehearsals, that I don’t think my casts need any more.  I say, keep it sweet, short, simple, and then get out there (on stage) and knock ’em dead!

20160207 The Secret Garden (20)
Diane Crews giving last minute encouragement

DIANE: We have ‘circle’ before each show.  It’s a time to focus everyone on the task at hand, and unify the group.  Anyone who’s ever done a show with me can readily share the things I have distilled from, oh my goodness, 53 years in the theatre are as follows: listen, concentrate, project, cover, and don’t break character. EVER!  Those are the big five. The slightly lesser items are quiet backstage, ride the laughs and applause, don’t eat in costume, drink only water,  have fun  and a great grand good show!  These are given to and repeated by all in one fashion or another prior to each performance just before the spin and going down to start the show.

About the Directors

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

Paige Hoke: Paige 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.

Andrea Unger:  Making her directorial debut with the upcoming DreamWrights production, Our Miss Brooks, Andrea is a wife, mom of three boys, and grandmother of 1 boy. She and her family were introduced to DreamWrights through a summer camp, followed by her youngest son being  cast in Alice in Wonderland. During that production, she and her husband offered to volunteer with set production and have been helping out in all areas of the theatre, both on and off the stage, ever since. As a family, the Ungers have been involved in over 14 shows.

Kirk Wisler: Most recently directing The Mouse that Roared, Kirk 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.

Homeschooled Teens Perform a Play Set in a Public School

The irony is not lost on Director Andrea Unger.  She explains, “I love the irony of a group of mainly home schooled kids performing a play about a high school class putting on a play.”  Unger is directing DreamWrights’ upcoming show, Our Miss Brooks in which high school teacher, Miss Brooks, is obliged to direct the high school play, much to her chagrin. Unger laughs, “Most of the cast and crew have never stepped foot in a school, so I think that’s pretty funny in itself.”

Funny, yes. But the skills kids can learn through live theater is no funny business. Unger knows that exploring live theater gives adults and kids alike the opportunity to grow and develop skills and talents that many don’t even know they possess. “To watch this development and, as a director, help facilitate the process is so exciting. For example, to see a self-described shy person take on the enormous  challenge of just getting up in front of their peers , then eventually transform into —become— the character is amazing to witness. Growth takes place in every facet of this theater.”

Participation in Our Miss Brooks gives these teens the opportunity to grow and stretch themselves. Many of the cast are early teens, 12 – 14 years old, portraying high school seniors and adults. Unger understands the challenge this presents to them. “This means they have to understand adult/older teen issues and perspectives. Something they haven’t yet experienced in their own lives but need to bring to the stage, believably.”

Unger and her troupe are up to the challenge. “While I love working with casts and crews of all ages, teens have an approach and energy that is all their own. They have great ideas about character development and are quite enthusiastic. This show is a really good play, and it’s been exciting to see what the teens are doing with it.”

Altogether, Unger is directing 27 kids between the ages of ten and 18. (17 in the cast and 10 in the crew) Additionally, she works with several adults including a Production Stage Manager, and a Technical Director as well as an additional trusty band of volunteers. Unger’s three Producers also volunteered to take on the job as Props Mistresses. “They are true multi-taskers. Also, while most of our Designers are adults, our Costume Designer, Cali Fife, is a teen.”

These young actors and crew members are exceptionally enthusiastic to bring Our Miss Brooks to the community. Fourteen year old, John Patterson, who plays Ted Wilder, sums it up well. “It’s going to be a great show. All the actors have taken so well to their characters. The dialog is fast-paced, entertaining and witty. That, along with the set and props will make it really good.”

Our Miss Brooks opens Thursday, May 19 at 10am and runs both May 20 and 21 at 2:30pm and 6:30pm. DreamWrights will have a piano/percussion duet performing 40s and early 50s music beginning 30 minutes prior to each performance. Tickets may be purchased online at www.dreamwrights.org or by calling 717-848-8623. Seats cost $10 for general, $14 for reserved.

Growing Leaders

One great thing about DreamWrights is the opportunity it gives for leadership. DreamWrights is bubbling over with opportunities for personal growth. One example of this is found in our current and former teen board leaders.

DreamWrights began in 1997 and from the start, children, teens and adults of varying backgrounds and experiences were engaged from the grass roots, shoulder to shoulder, building, learning, and experimenting. As the board of directors of DreamWrights was formally organized that year, it seemed obvious to include three teens in addition to the 14 adults that would serve.

Alex Bitzer
Alex Bitzer graduating from Stevenson University in 2016

The teens provided a voice that was respected and encouraged. Alex Bitzer (teen board member in 2010) agrees, “Everyone brings something to the table that will help the board. Your field of expertise and previous experience will be helpful to the board, whatever it is.” Taylor Slusser’s (2011) experience was similar. “There were many times that the other members looked to us for insight on how they could reach out to our age group and what the best social media platform for that would be.”

Being on the board expanded the horizons of the teens as well. It gave them a broader perspective and greater appreciation for running a business. Carter Anstine (2014) remembers, “Being on the board taught me that there are many things that make up an organization and that it’s like a puzzle, the organization is trying to fit the pieces together to make it run as smoothly and successfully as possible.”

Joseph Nabholz (2003) elaborates, “It was a continuation of all of the other work that we did at the theater.  We talk a lot in the theater about the importance of all the preparatory and backstage work that is “unseen” to mount a show.  Being on the board was the backstage to the backstage, so to say.  It taught me, implicitly, how enterprises exist in the world.  It also prepared for me the various hiring committees that I sat on through college, school faculty meetings where I work, and other types of clubs I’ve been affiliated ever since.”

Taylor Slusser 1
Taylor Slusser (right) with fellow teen board members in 2011

Sarah Hricik (2001) says that her board position gave her the opportunity to see how a board functioned, and how adults intelligently discussed a variety of issues.  “The biggest thing I learned was the importance of presenting the benefits of an idea.  Other people will help to find the flaws-they’ll also help you to sort them out and strengthen the plan, especially if they’re DreamWrights people-but the best ideas begin from a positive place.”

As far as the board experience preparing these young people for future endeavors, Sarah relates, “There are many times, even today, when I sit down at a big table with several people who are older and wiser than me.  It can be intimidating!  Serving on the board helped me to find my voice and approach these situations with confidence.  Even when I’m the least knowledgeable person in the room, there are still ways that I can contribute.  It’s been particularly helpful for job interviews!”

Alex was encouraged by his experience, “It is definitely worthwhile because you get to help DreamWrights in a new way. You can learn things about the organization you never knew even after years of volunteering. If you’re worried that you might not be able to handle it all, remember that you have an excellent group serving with you. Fellow board members can always help out or answer questions.”

Taylor Slusser 4
Taylor Slusser Photography

Taylor, who now runs her own business, also discovered her inner leadership skills as a teen board member. “Being a member of the board as a teen, gives you a sense of leadership and responsibility in the community that you’re a part of and I feel like these skills are still very much important in my life now. I just graduated with a Bachelor in Fine Arts from Kutztown University with a concentration in Photography and I plan to have my own Photo Studio Business that I’ve been building for a while now.” With running her own business, Taylor says that since she doesn’t have anyone telling her what to do, she relies on those leadership and responsibility skills that she learned years ago at DreamWrights. She also pays it forward. “I’m constantly focused on reaching out to the community around me to make a difference in our town.”

Wow. These kids (turned young adults) are impressive! Bravo to Taylor, Alex, Joseph, Carter, Sarah, and all of our current and former teen board members! DreamWrights is honored and fortunate to have your participation. We greatly value your voice.

If you are interested in participating as a teen board member, please contact Executive Director, Ann Davis at annd@dreamwrights.org.

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.