Category Archives: Alumni

Celebrating Twenty Years Full of Drama

This year marks a major milestone for DreamWrights – its twentieth year anniversary. Founded in 1997 as a community and family theatre, DreamWrights was built on the values of collaboration, perseverance, dedication, responsibility, leadership, and education. Now, twenty years later, DreamWrights still upholds the same basic tenants as it did all those years ago, but with a broader focus. Just last year, DreamWrights expanded from a youth and family theatre to an inclusive center for community arts by offering new programming that includes open mic nights, art classes, and improv for older adults.

Joan Bitzer and her family of four were part of DreamWrights from the start. Joan has seen many changes as she’s participated and volunteered her way through the past twenty years. “Watching DreamWrights grow from an idea in 1997 to a huge and successful educational arts facility has been an absolute joy. When we started planning, we had a vision that has been far surpassed in both the size and scope of what DreamWrights is and does.” Joan’s daughter, Allison Witherow agrees, “What started as a few families in a small church basement has turned into an arts organization that has touched the lives of thousands in our community.”

Joan Bitzer with daughter Allison in the very early days of DreamWrights

Since 1997, DreamWrights has had an impact on literally thousands in the community. The magic of DreamWrights has reached more than 206,000 audience members with its touring and traditional shows and has engaged more than 200,000 people through camps, classes, workshops, casts and crews. Joan says that she hopes DreamWrights continues to grow and meet the needs of the community while retaining the values, opportunities, and wholesome atmosphere that has helped shape community leaders and strengthen family relationships.

Allison started at DreamWrights in 1997 as Janet Mara in Miracle on 34th Street and now holds a seat on the Board of Directors. Allison shares, “DreamWrights has been a part of my life for each of the 20 years of its own life. It has taught and continues to teach me life lessons about responsibility and collaboration. I think I would truly be a different, less driven person if it weren’t for the lessons I’ve learned at DreamWrights.”

Joan and Allison today

Throughout its history, DreamWrights has proven that there is a passionate audience for its valued programs. As a center for community arts, DreamWrights is poised to more fully realize its vision of broad access to its transformational programs and greater engagement with the community. To that end, DreamWrights has launched a capital campaign to raise funds to revitalize and reimagine its building and offerings to be able to attract new participants, audiences, and partnerships.

Joan has seen many changes to the DreamWrights building throughout the years, but she says construction doesn’t change the foundation of what DreamWrights is. “I would like people to know that through participation in DreamWrights, they can find a place in their community where people are welcoming and inclusive, where their children can be among good role models, and where adults can find a group of peers with whom they can share quality time and make life-long friendships.”

Learning More than Just Lines at DreamWrights

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Katy Newton in 2007

Twenty-four year old Katy Newton says that DreamWrights was her first artistic endeavor in life. “It taught me how to use art to impact the community. It showed me how a large group of people can come together and produce something fun and entertaining! It taught me teamwork skills and respect for hard work.” After studying theatre and English in college, Katy went on to pursue a few art internships and now works in the art world at Whitney Museum of American Art.

Katy’s interest for theatre began in 1999 when she came to see DreamWrights’ production of Miracle on 34th Street. She remembers, “I was in first grade and my first ever crush was in the show! It was cool because we got to go to different rooms and walk around. All of the Christmas shows are special because the whole community comes out to see them and it’s a magical time of year.”

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Katy Newton (front) in The Clumsy Custard in 2002

Katy’s DreamWrights “career” began in 2002 with The Clumsy Custard when she was just nine years old. But she credits M*A*S*H (2007) and Welcome to the Monkey House (2008) as her favorites. “With M*A*S*H, I got to learn a lot of history about the Vietnam War as well as a few swing dancing moves. ”

A departure from the more traditional DreamWrights programming, Katy enjoyed Welcome to the Monkey House because of its unique take on four Kurt Vonnegut stories, complete with subtle societal messages. “It was one of the first DreamWrights teen shows, and was great to see literature brought to life on stage. The director, Jay Schmuck, was a lot of fun and the whole cast was great to work with because we were all about the same age.”

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Katy Newton (center front ) in M*A*S*H in 2007

Art appreciation, philanthropy, history, literature, dance moves, and life skills like teamwork and respect were all learning opportunities for Katy at DreamWrights during her formative years. Now that she’s a young adult, she finds that these experiences have benefited her in life and in her career. “Being able to improvise and adapt to different roles and fields of study is invaluable. Being able to use art as a way to give back to the community was one of the most important things I learned and is something I still try to do in my current career.”

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Katy Newton’s head shot for Kurt Vonnegut’s Welcome to the Monkey House in 2008

As for advice she gives to rising DreamWrights kids, Katy says, “Take chances; don’t second-guess yourself. Put yourself out there. Remember there is no timeline or correct way to do things — everyone goes at their own pace. It’s okay if you don’t have an idea of what you want to do when you grow up — nobody really does! You make it up as you go.”

DreamWrights’ Capital Campaign Opens the Curtain Wider

Karin Swartz

Twenty something Karin Swartz is struggling to find theatre arts offerings in the York area for her age group. She says that local productions that appeal to her are few and far between. “I would love to see more offerings, especially straight plays and productions that push boundaries, try new concepts and are well done. I think this could include both traveling shows as well as local productions.”

Karin is a young professional who spent a number of her formative years at DreamWrights. Growing up, she participated in several production camps, served as a stage manager, and ran light and sound boards. Later, Karin did the lighting design for the DreamWrights production of MASH.

Karin’s DreamWrights experience had a big enough impact on her that she went on to pursue it after high school. She majored in theatre at Ursinus College with a focus on technical theatre, stage management, production design and lighting design. “If it were not for that first production camp at DreamWrights where I learned that there was a place in theater for the hyper-organized, coordinator-of-all-those-in-the-vicinity planner that I am, I may not have pursued it at all.”

Despite the fact that she had not been active at DreamWrights for many years, when Executive Director Ann Davis asked her to be a part of the fundraising committee for DreamWrights’ $2.5 million capital campaign, she didn’t hesitate to jump in. “I may not have been the target audience for the programming of DreamWrights Youth and Family Theater but I still recognized its value to younger generations and families. As I learned about the new mission of DreamWrights Center for Community Arts, I became even more excited knowing that there is a place for the programming I grew up with as well as a multitude of other opportunities for the live arts.”

Once Karin was on board to help with the campaign, DreamWrights learned of her interest in directing The Complete Works of William Shakespeare… Abridged. With less than a month’s notice, Karin agreed to direct an abbreviated version of the show at DreamWrights’ Capital Campaign Kickoff Event. Karin explains. “Complete Works is a hilarious show and one that anyone who has picked up, seen or experienced Shakespeare will enjoy. The true fans of the Bard will love all the details but a novice fan will appreciate the larger references to his most popular work. I wanted to stage this show, or part of it, because I miss theatre and I think this is an easy to digest piece of theatre that is new to many of the audience members that will see it.”

Complete Works

On June 30, Director Swartz, dressed in black behind the curtain, along with Bryan Caine, Mike Pritchard and Patrick Casey performed an abbreviated version of Complete Works to an eager audience at DreamWrights’ Capital Campaign Kickoff Event. The performance was a hit! Along with acts like Kingsfoil, Illstyle & Peace, and Oxymorons, DreamWrights introduced its potential to young professionals, solidifying its place in the York community as a center for performance arts.

Karin sums it up, “I’m really excited about the future of DreamWrights as a Center for Community Arts! There is so much potential for great programming, education and productions!”

The possibilities the capital campaign will provide for DreamWrights are indeed exciting. Stay tuned!

About Karin Swartz: President of York Young Professionals, Karin works at York Country Day School as the Director of Communications. She is thrilled about YCDS’ anticipated new performing arts center scheduled to open later this summer.

About DreamWrights’ Capital Campaign: On July 1, DreamWrights kicked off the public phase of its $2.5 million Capital Campaign. This campaign will allow DreamWrights to make the investments necessary to increase the reach of its special programs and provide accessibility to all. The capital project will achieve two strategic goals: to grow programs and audience and to revitalize our landmark, historic building.

Community support like Karin’s is essential in helping DreamWrights reach its $2.5 million goal.

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.

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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.”

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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.”

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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.

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

Young King Arthur’s Ten Year Quest

DreamWrights strives to give as many participants as possible the opportunity to experience our interactive art. Young King Arthur is comprised of two casts of 40 each and two crews of 20 each plus staff, making an approximately 120 people involved. These 120 people set out on their quest to bring the story of a young King Arthur to stage, opening on April 8.

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On right, Artistic Director, Diane Crews in 2006

This quest has been paved by an earlier community of cast, crew, and staff. Young King Arthur was written by Diane Crews and performed at DreamWrights in 2006, the premiere show in its then new black box theatre space. “Ten years is a long time,” Diane Crews, DreamWrights Artistic Director muses. “Most of the [former]cast will have finished their schooling and now are busy raising their own children.”

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Jerry Young, front left, in 2006

There is only one actor who is actually reprising his role as Merlin. He is Diane’s son-in-law and the father of her grandchildren, Jerry Young. Diane has a soft spot for this character, “Merlin, was my kind of teacher. He is patient enough to let his students learn, and he knows that experience is indeed the best teacher. Plus he cares enough to let go when, ‘It is time.’”

In addition to Jerry, the staff has five returning members. Rebecca Eastman is designing costumes again. In 2006, Jan Ruman was a Props Mistress and Corinne Brown was a food coordinator and now they are now both on the costume crew. And, in 2006 Karen Watson was a Producer, but now is DreamWrights’ front –of-house decorator. Ann Davis was PSM in 2006 and now she is the Executive Director of DreamWrights!

As far as Diane and her quest in life? “That’s too simple,” she says. “I have been on mine for the majority of my life, and will remain so until I am no longer.” Diane declares that since the age of ten or so, she has felt the need to make a difference. “Of course, at that time I had no idea what it could be. I was going to join the Peace Corps right out of high school, but decided I needed to know more.” So, she chose college instead. That’s where she discovered theatre.

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Young King Arthur in 2006

Diane sums it up nicely. “It really is quite fascinating how our lives evolve. I won’t bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say that live theatre happened to me. I knew this was it! Ever since, my quest has been to share this most important, universal and ancient art form with as many people as one person is able.”

Bravo, Diane! So far so good!

A Young King Arthur Reunion for the 2006 cast and crew is planned for April 23 at 1pm. Participants are encouraged to stay for the 2:30pm matinee and relive the magic of young Arthur’s quest.

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!”

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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.”

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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.”

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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!

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever

This holiday, DreamWrights Youth & Family Theatre will present The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, a classic Christmas comedy written by Barbara Robinson.  It’s a story about hardship, discovery, and making a difference in the lives of others, which in turn makes a difference in our own.

DreamWrights' 'Best Christmas Pageant Ever"

As six delinquent siblings with the promise of donuts, find their way to church at Christmastime shenanigans, misbehavior, mishaps ensue. Through the comedy of it all; however, is the reality that we all know kids like the Herdmans – naughty, misguided, but good at heart. We’ve crossed paths with them in our lives. Artistic Director, Diane Crews, was attracted to direct this production for this very reason. “Just like the church ladies in the play point out, ‘Real is what they were.’ We all know these characters.”

Speaking of characters and families, this production is family friendly to audiences, cast, and crew alike. Of the 80 cast and 65 staff and crew members, 30 of our families involved have multiple family members participating. Four families have four and ten families have three members involved. Of course, these individuals make up a myriad of cast and crew combinations ranging from a father Food Coordinator and daughter actress, to a father Production Stage Manager and son actor, brother and sister on set crew, a mother actress and son sound designer, and so on. Seventeen year old Kalie Stroup says she’s excited to participate in this show with her dad “because this was the first show we did together six years ago!”

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The Best Christmas Pageant Ever has previously played at DreamWrights in 1999, 2003, and 2009. Not only will this be Diane Crews’ fourth time directing this show, it will also be the fourth time acting in it for several cast members as well. Four timer Joan Bitzer says that she’s enjoyed playing the different “church ladies” and this time she’s having fun being the bossy one. “I love this show. It has moments that offer the audience, as well as the cast and crew, a good, warm Christmas feeling,” explains Joan. “Plus, it’s funny! It’s got everything a Christmas show should have.”

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Diane agrees that this show is special. “Each performance is as unique as the actors in it, and each actor is unique in his or her own way.”  Diane also reminds us that this production is extra meaningful to her because it is her last holiday production at DreamWrights as she will be retiring in 2016. She recalls directing her granddaughter in the 2009 production,” She was one of the smallest baby angels and now she is the tallest non-baby angel!”

Even if you’ve seen Pageant before, you won’t be disappointed to see it again. Those Herdman kids are an awful lot of fun, and the story is as touching as it is funny.  Even Diane never tires of it, “I always laugh and cry, and I have seen it hundreds of times, if you count all the rehearsals. It is what the season is all about!”

DreamWrights' 'Best Christmas Pageant Ever"

DreamWrights’ The Best Christmas Pageant Ever opens December 4 at 6:30 pm and runs for 12 shows: December 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 & 19 – 6:30 pm and December 5, 6, 12, 13, 19 & 20 – 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.

The Herdman in All of Us

From left, (back row) Conner Ney, Olivia Rill, Sam Brown, (front row) Steven Ruffatto, Sophia Kearney and Alex Shelley in DreamWrights Family Theatre production of "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever"

In her 1971 story, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Barbara Robinson introduced me to the Herdman clan. With eyes squinted, arm extended and fingers pinched to the thickness of a hair, my mother warned me that I was “this close” to becoming Ralph Herdman, and I am absolutely certain that my sister was Imogene incarnate.

1998 Best Christmas Pageant Ever (30)

I never thought about the redemptive qualities of our protagonists. They were rough and tumble, and, deep down (well, not too deep), I envied their mischievousness.

Beginning next week, the Herdmans are performing on large and small stages across the nation, from The Drama Workshop in Cincinnati to the Raleigh Little Theater in North Carolina and the Seattle Public Theatre. Even here in York, PA, this is the fourth time in our theatre’s history that we bring this classic to life on our stage.

Cast-F-024

This show, and the 12 actors and members of crew returning from the 1998, 2003, or 2009 productions, are part of the fabric of our theatre’s tapestry. While other theaters may be larger, or more ornate, DreamWrights has what no other theater has; Diane Crews. In her 18 years with DreamWrights, I’m certain our Director has known her share of Herdmans, and we celebrate Diane Crews, her warm touch and steadfast character, that have transformed mischief into splendor before our audiences’ eyes. Welcome to DreamWrights; prepare to be inspired.

J.T. Hand
President, Board of Directors
DreamWrights Youth & Family Theatre

Editor’s Note: DreamWrights’ The Best Christmas Pageant Ever opens December 4 at 6:30pm and runs for 12 shows: December 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 & 19 – 6:30 pm and December 5, 6, 12, 13, 19 & 20 – 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.