Monthly Archives: June 2016

DreamWrights Launches $2.5 Million Capital Campaign to Update Building and Programming

On July 1, DreamWrights Center for Community Arts kicks off the public phase of its $2.5 million Capital Campaign. The Campaign effort is headed up by J. T. Hand, COO at The York Water Company, and Suzanne McConkey, Vice President of Human Resources at Glatfelter Insurance. Together with Executive Director, Ann Davis, and a handful of Ambassadors and Solicitors, DreamWrights will hit the ground running on July 1, one day following a community centered kickoff event.

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Suzanne McConkey (left) and JT Hand (right), DreamWrights Capital Campaign Co-Chairs

The work made possible by this campaign will complement, not replace the capital improvements made more than ten years ago. This campaign will allow DreamWrights to make the investments necessary to increase the reach of its special programs and programming, and provide accessibility to all. The capital project will achieve two strategic goals:
Grow Programs and Audience – DreamWrights will expand and diversify its programming, participants, and stakeholders, thereby meeting its mission more fully. The renovations will enable DreamWrights to create better spaces for experimentation, participation, and learning throughout the building.
Revitalize a Landmark Historic Building – The investments made possible by this campaign will ensure that the physical building is fully up to code, activated, and protected.

Both Hand and McConkey have a unique perspective on the DreamWrights organization and the value it holds in the York community. Hand has seen first-hand the amazing impact DreamWrights has on young people when his own children participated in theatre productions. Hand expresses, “We are blessed to live, work and serve in a community that has supported us, encouraged us, and embraced performing arts in our historic theatre. For nearly twenty years, DreamWrights’ founders, staff, volunteers, and the entire DreamWrights family, have espoused a culture of inclusion and accessibility. At DreamWrights, we grow characters for life.”

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McConkey was not introduced to the organization through her kids as Hand and most other community members were, so she does not share the same connection to the program side. However, she is a strong supporter and sees DreamWrights as a center for community education. “Providing this opportunity for people to grow and learn about themselves, other people, and life skills is really impressive to me. The fact that adults and children are learning together and supporting each other is just phenomenal. It’s such a unique opportunity. I’ve always been drawn to the educational piece of it, the life skills the kids and even adults are learning, the respect for each other, and that they are given this opportunity to put themselves out there. So what if they might mess up or might not quite get there? There are no repercussions. It is risk-free, safe and comfortable.”

With pride in its past and passion and excitement for its future, DreamWrights is pursuing this Capital Campaign as the central, structural element of a multi-year and multi-faceted transition. DreamWrights is seeking to cultivate the community’s next generation of donors and leaders, while building relationships and partnerships that will sustain the Center for Community Arts. Hand believes, “Through this campaign we have an opportunity to open wide our doors, to draw back the curtains, and offer more diverse and expansive programming.”

McConkey agrees, “DreamWrights offers the opportunity for people of all ages to test their creative juices and energy in a very safe and comfortable place. DreamWrights brings together people who have different life experiences. It gives kids the opportunity to do something other than sports and electronics and meet kids outside of their classroom and school district. It gets adults connecting with people outside of their typical circle. That’s why it is important to me. The Capital Campaign will allow us to do more of that.”

Growing Stronger Together and Individually at DreamWrights

In today’s culture, families with young kids are pulled in many directions. Soccer, lacrosse, dance, cheerleading – you name it. Then add in the distraction of smart phones, YouTube, gaming systems, and Minecraft. You’re left with families who spend very little time being together, working together, creating together, and growing together.

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Ruffatto Family

But if your family is involved at DreamWrights, you know that this center for community arts is an antidote to our culture’s fractured family time.  The Ruffatto family has experienced this first hand. Forty-seven year old dad, Steve Ruffatto is a retired police officer. Currently, he is a professor of Criminal Justice for the Harrisburg Area Community College an adjunct professor for Elizabethtown College and Boston University.  Like many families, Steve is busy with his career and together with his wife, Jennifer, is focused on raising their two kids, Callie (14) and Steven, Jr. (12).  Steve relates, “In today’s society it seems that there are many things pushing and pulling each of us in different directions. DreamWrights has been something that we, as a family, have been able to do together.” Steve says that every DreamWrights production in which he and his family have participated has given them the opportunity to spend invaluable, quality time together.

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Steve (left) helping with set building

And as a result of their working together at DreamWrights towards a common goal, they have been given the opportunity to learn about the various roles within the theatre. “It is not all about acting. There are so many things going on behind the scenes. We have all really come to enjoy learning those various roles together.”

Not only that, but the Ruffatto family’s skills and stage presence are growing.  Steve reveals, “DreamWrights has certainly helped each of us develop confidence. Being on stage in front of a group of strangers, having to remember your lines, can be quite daunting.” Steve believes that his family’s DreamWrights experience has given each of them the confidence to get up on stage and overcome their fear of speaking and performing in front of a crowd.  “I also think that through DreamWrights our children have developed confidence in dealing with their peers as well as adults. They have felt comfortable enough to be able to speak up and ask questions to better understand what they are doing.”

Steven Jr. in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

It is the relationships they have built with these peers and adults that keep them coming back. “We have made some great connections at DreamWrights. DreamWrights is like an extended family. We have come to love all the people that are involved as they are just as passionate about the theater as we are. It is a place where we, as a family, can be involved in activity together. It is a place that helps build confidence in our children and teaches life skills without them even realizing it. All this is done while they are having fun performing, building sets, or the many other activities behind the scenes.”

Callie (center) in The Secret Garden

You, too, can make stronger family connections at DreamWrights.  Get involved at DreamWrights today and join the Ruffatto family making new friends, learning new skills, and most importantly, spending some quality family time together!

Legally Blonde Gives a Makeover to the Traditional Greek Chorus

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Omigosh you guys! This summer, DreamWrights will be showcasing its teen musical, Legally Blonde, complete with a Greek chorus. But, this is definitely not a Greek chorus like anything Aristotle would recognize. This Greek Chorus will be made up of three leading sorority girls: Margot, Serena, and Pilar, who will be on stage throughout the entire show, and only visible to the main character, Elle Woods. Director Nic Ecker explains, “Traditionally these characters appear on stage briefly throughout the musical. For this production, I’m going to change things up by having them interacting with the action on stage, with their sole purpose to help Elle become a lawyer. It’s an interesting concept that, to my knowledge, hasn’t been done in this way before. I am looking forward to these ancient Greek ideas coming to life in this very modern musical.”

In addition to the Greek chorus, Ecker has a wonderful vision for the production. He muses, “My overall concept for this show is to portray Elle in relationship to the changing of the seasons. Elle goes through a metamorphosis during the show, going from Valley Girl to Lawyer, with the help of her friends and classmates.” Ecker’s idea for the show, as well as Elle’s journey, is to begin Act 1 in the fall and transition to the winter, when things aren’t going Elle’s way. At the start of Act 2, Elle begins to blossom as her own person and as an attorney, representing the spring season. By the end of the musical, Elle will have finished her transformation and became her own independent woman, which will have the celebratory feel of summer.

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One of the most contagious themes of the production is that if there’s a will, there’s a way. Ecker hopes his audiences take away a sense of empowerment; that anything is possible if you set your mind to it. Ecker is a believer, “No matter what anyone tells you or how much they want to see you fail, if you believe in yourself, that’s all that matters. These themes are all set to catchy, upbeat music, which is never a bad thing!”

This production will be Ecker’s second DreamWrights production as Director. Being a man and not having much experience with sororities or law students, Ecker is rising to the challenge with excitement and enthusiasm. He promises, “Legally Blonde is a fun and upbeat production that has great music and a good message. Since this show was created no more than 10 years ago, everything is very modern and nothing feels outdated. We have a large cast of very talented teens who are excited and eager to create a fantastic production.”

Besides, with a cast ratio of 19 females to 7 males, there is plenty of girl power around to provide Ecker with the burst of estrogen he might need at any given moment. In addition, Ecker says that it helps that many of the cast already know each other. “To my surprise, a lot of the cast is actually from the Dallastown area, all going to school together. I see it as a benefit that almost ten of the cast members are already great friends.”

Nic Ecker Headshot

Director Nic Ecker is recently graduated from Shippensburg University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Interdisciplinary Arts and minors in Music, Theatre, and Communications/Journalism. Ecker says that directing theatre has become a passion of his and he hopes to continue directing in the future.

This musical production of Legally Blonde opens Thursday, June 23 at 6:30pm and runs June 23, 24 and 25 at 6:30 pm and June 25 and 26 at 2:30 pm. Tickets may be purchased online at www.dreamwrights.org or by calling 717-848-8623. Seats cost $10 for general, $14 for reserved.

Stuffed with Love

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(left to right) Pauline Kucinsky, Betty Thomas, Phyllis Reeling

Every quarter when DreamWrights issues its newsletter, it is not the DreamWrights staff who prepares the mailing, but rather a small group of unsung spritely volunteers that zoom in to DreamWrights to fold, stuff, and stamp. Meet “Pauline’s Group.” 88 year old Pauline Kucinsky organizes a group of ladies that provide a wonderful service to local non-profit groups, while catching up with each other.

But it didn’t begin with Pauline. It began with Eloise in 1996. Eloise had the idea to get some friends together and make themselves helpful to the non-profits. They were informally known at “Eloise’s Angels” and provided this service to any non-profit who asked: York County Libraries, the Literacy Council, York Little Theatre, Margaret Moul Home, and DreamWrights, to name a few. Pauline says, “Mention a nonprofit and we’ve been there!” Soon Eloise’s initial 4 helpers grew to around 20. They were stuffing up to 5000 letters every couple of months. Eloise operated her group through the 1990s but when Eloise became ill, Pauline, who was already a part of the group, took over.

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“I was always with people and I had to do something,” says Pauline who likes to keep busy. She started by calling the United Way and asked if they needed help. They said they could use assistance with a bulk mailing. “I said I don’t know what that is but I’ll do it!”

The group has shrunk to about 7 due to aging issues of the group (eyesight, driving challenges, Alzheimers, etc.) as well as email and computers replacing traditional mail. Many of the groups former “clients” have moved to mailing houses over the years. But on this particular day at DreamWrights, Pauline is joined by Betty Thomas, almost 80, and Phyllis Reeling, 82, who have been active with the group for 8 and 10 years respectively. “There were times when we had something to do every day,” recalls Betty.

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These ladies chat and catch up with each other while they work. You can overhear them comparing notes on their grandchildren’s latest activities and asking about mutual friends. They say the best part about the work is getting together and the friendships they’ve cultivated. Betty explains, “I really like helping somebody and doing something worthwhile.” Phyllis adds, “We have a special group. We really enjoy it. We really do.”

So next time you open your DreamWrights quarterly newsletter, know that it was folded, stuffed, and stamped with love by Pauline and her “gang.”

DreamWrights Offers a Creative Lineup of Summer Camps

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DreamWrights is in a period of transition and its lineup of summer camps reflects the innovation and change as well. New classes have been added to the mix to include hip hop, digital photography and movie making, wacky summer Olympics, and poetry reading, writing, and reciting with York’s very own Poet Laureate! DreamWrights will continue to offer its most popular camps which include Broadway Week, ballroom dancing, and three Disney musical productions.

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“This year we’re excited to offer Aladdin, Cinderella, and 101 Dalmatians Disney Kids Camps,” says Ann Davis, Executive Director of DreamWrights. “This will be our first year offering three of these camps.” Since the Disney licensed camps have been very popular and successful, DreamWrights has expanded to offering more this year than in the past.

Even though there is a significant cost to license the Disney camps, DreamWrights does not pass this additional cost on to the campers. DreamWrights does, however, honor the high quality of the Disney brand by keeping the student to teacher ratio low, allowing every camper the opportunity to be highly engaged throughout the week. Davis points out, “DreamWrights limits its enrollment for the Disney camps and for all of our camps to ensure lots of hands-on participation and exploration for all participants. This is what keeps many of our campers coming back.” These three Disney camps culminate with a final production that is open to the public. DreamWrights hopes to recoup some of the cost of the licensing through ticket sales of these shows.

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In addition to the beloved Disney musical camps, DreamWrights is offering several other mini musicals for the 3-5 and the 5 – 8 age groups. “Since we limit the minimum age for auditions to 7, we find that many kids who want to get started in theatre earlier really enjoy and thrive at our summer camps,” says Davis. “Many look forward to the first show for which they can audition after turning 7 and they attribute their success to the experiences they had at summer camp.” Not only that but they also learn the ropes at DreamWrights, becoming part of the family and putting them at ease when audition time rolls around.

Another summer favorite is the Create a Play camp. Led by DreamWrights’ Playwright-in-Residence, Diane Crews, during this week long camp, an original script will be inspired and created by the campers.  From auditions to rehearsals to the final production of the original play, campers will learn blocking, lines, as well as create characters, set, and costumes. “No two Create a Play camps are ever the same and the creativity that comes out of the campers is always delightful!” exclaims Crews. “I look forward to what they’ll come up with every year!”

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DreamWrights’ summer camps are offered in full and half day options. They kick off the week of June 20 and run for eight weeks.  For a full summer camp schedule or to register, please contact DreamWrights Center for Community Arts at 717-848-8623 or online at www.dreamwrights.org.