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.”
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.”
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.”
As we countdown the days to 2017, our twentieth year, we take a moment to relish our accomplishments and great memories from 2016.
10. Our transition from a Youth and Family Theatre to a Center for Community Arts
In March we began to transition our identity from a Youth and Family Theatre to a Center Community Arts. Building characters for life became our mantra while putting growth center stage was identified as the inspiration behind our capital campaign. As a Center for Community Arts, a new Innovative Programming Committee was formed and wasted no time sponsoring DreamWrights’ first Open Mic Night. Budding comedians, talented musicians, and a friendly faced magician graced the stage of our relaxed and casual space. We had so much fun we are planning to do it again soon!
9. New camp and event programming
This year, DreamWrights offered a wider array of art and performance based camps as well as a few new events. Our first ever DreamFrights Haunted House was a huge success! With different fright levels, we were able to entertain young ones up through older kids and adults who enjoy the thrill of the scare. We hosted a tea parties during the runs of The Secret Garden and The Adventures of Peter Rabbit and we had cookies, cocoa, and caroling with Santa, Dorothy, and the Wizard in Oz earlier this month. Flippin’ Broadway, a cabaret of Broadway show tunes with a fun twist, was a crowd pleaser in February.
7. The enthusiasm and energy that Guest Directors bring
This year, DreamWrights benefited from the expertise of five guest directors: Andrea Unger (Our Miss Brooks and The Adventures of Peter Rabbit), Nic Ecker (Legally Blonde), Michelle Denise Norton (As You Like It), Kirk Wisler (The Beverly Hillbillies), and Jaci Keagy (The Wizard of Oz). In anticipation of the upcoming season, where we will be using six guest directors and three guest assistant directors, a formalized guest director process was introduced. The first introduction and kickoff meeting for guest directors was held in early December. Please join us in welcoming Guest Directors Rodd Robertson (directing Pride and Prejudice), Andrea Unger (Peter Pan and Mary), Michelle Denise Norton (The Taming of the Shrew), Timothy Storey (The Mousetrap), Chris Quigley (Disney’s Beauty and the Beast), and Jaci Keagy (It’s a Wonderful Life) as well as Guest Assistant Directors Amanda Nowell, Kevin Alvarnaz, and Andrea Unger. We hope that our improved processes for these guest directors will make for an even better experience for our crews, casts, and audiences!
This year we honored the career of founding member, Diane Crews, and we welcomed Hilary Adams, our new Director of Artistic Programming. Diane’s DreamWrights career was memorialized in the naming of our black box theatre. Hilary has hit the ground running as she is currently finalizing the crews and casts of her first DreamWrights production, Babe, the Sheep-Pig.
We ended the year with a bang as we enjoyed our 4 minutes of fame on Fox 43‘s morning show on December 1. It was a great way to kick off our run of The Wizard of Ozas nearly every show was sold out. Our hearts, minds, and confidence was renewed as we remember that there’s no place like home – or your second home – as many of you call this place known as DreamWrights.
What began as a dream took a foothold in reality this year with the funds we have raised towards our capital campaign. We brought our message to the broader community through fundraising events like Hats at the Hound. Although we have not met our goal of $2.5 million dollars, we are standing strong at $1.8 million with phased construction plans and approvals from the appropriate local municipalities to begin moving forward with our construction this spring. We are excited for the opportunities the future holds with the new studio space, upgraded building enhancements, and expanded programming. We have received some amazing support from businesses and individuals alike. We thank you for your support. If you have not done so already, we graciously ask you to consider helping us get closer to our goal.
1. You walking through our doors
Your involvement is what makes DreamWrights the amazing community it is. People of all ages, from all backgrounds and experiences are welcome to safely explore the arts, try new things, and be part of something bigger than themselves. DreamWrights builds characters for life. We look forward to working together with you again in the coming year to create our best, brightest, and biggest year yet!
In a completely new position to DreamWrights Center for Community Arts, Hilary Adams joins the team as Director of Artistic Programming. In this visionary role, Adams will work with and oversee all areas of programming and show direction, even directing some shows herself.
Growing up on the east coast, Adams was introduced at a very young age to theatre, ballet, opera, and puppetry. Pretty quickly she was hooked. She remembers, “My first forays onto the stage were around the age of five, when I began acting in community and school productions. In my teens, I directed shows in my high school, assistant directed a summer musical theatre camp for young people at the local community center, and attended Yale University’s graduate acting program in summer session.”
At Evergreen State College, she worked with a children’s touring theatre based in Basingstoke, England. The experiences and challenges she faced setting up in places like barns and grange halls, offering up what, in many cases, was the community’s only theatre production for the year, made her realize how much of a difference access to the arts made to a community. Thus, her love for community theatre arts and education was born.
After college, Adams headed to New York City to intern at Playwrights Horizons. From there, she was offered a Society of Directors and Choreographers Foundation Observership in the position of 2nd Assistant Director on the Broadway show Titanic. She assistant directed three more Broadway shows (Aida in Chicago and NYC, Collected Stories, Reckless) and assisted the playwright David Henry Hwang on Flower Drum Song. In addition, she also served as personal assistant to Hwang. She received a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Director of a Play for her direction of Works Productions’ Moby Dick, and was awarded 5 Manhattan Theatre Club Directing Fellowships.
Adams earned a master’s degree in Applied Theatre from the City University of New York (CUNY). She explains, “Applied Theatre is using theatre for education, social development, and community building, in addition to entertainment. This is exactly what I have been passionately practicing in various forms since I was a teenager.” She put these skills into practice when, as part of the master’s program, she worked with the Creative Arts Team Youth Theatre, trained in interactive storytelling for preschoolers, and worked with Carte Blanche, a youth theatre in Viborg, Denmark.
All in all, Adams has directed hundreds of plays and musicals from staged readings to full-fledged productions. She has held many theatre positions, from Assistant Directing on Broadway to participation in many festivals, handling both world premieres and previously produced material. She even served as the Artistic Director for a mid-west community theatre for two years.
As far as DreamWrights, Adams says, “When I learned about DreamWrights I knew I had found a perfect match for my values, and an artistic home where I can give back through my work.” She feels that her Applied Theatre background will be useful as she anticipates returning to the heart of what is most important to her, “the intersection of community and the arts, with a solid foundation of education inside of all theatre practice. I was seeking a theatrical home that was as passionate as I about the importance of arts for and with community. I’ve found that in DreamWrights.”
DreamWrights is excited and anxious to introduce Hilary Adams to the greater York community. Join DreamWrights for a “Meet and Greet” prior to the evening show of The Adventures of Peter Rabbit on October 8 from 5:00pm – 6:30pm.
On Saturday, September 24 from 6pm – 9pm, the DreamWrights family will honor founding member and Artistic Director, Diane Crews as she is set to retire at the end of the month. As Crews reflects back on her time at DreamWrights, she remembers, “What began out of a desire for a special place for people of all ages to come together to create live theatre and then share it with audiences of all ages, still is! What began as a dream of a few is now a reality for many!”
Long time DreamWrights members, Paul and Corinne Brown, will emcee the evening which will include a pot luck dinner, a “hit parade” of memories from the nearly 70 shows directed and more than 30 shows written by Crews, and a gift presentation. Participants are encouraged to wear their favorite DreamWrights t-shirt and share brief stories and memories during the evening.
As Crews makes her exit from the place she called home for the past twenty years, she asks something simple of the family she leaves behind. “As you go forth, may each of you share your many gifts with as many others as you possibly can. What you will get back is priceless.”
All are invited to attend the retirement party. Visit www.dreamwrights.org for more information.
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.
“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.
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.”
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.
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.”
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, 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 email@example.com.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Our roots as a youth and family theatre provide us with a strong foundation to grow even taller. As we approach our 20th year anniversary, we refocus our efforts, ensuring that we remain sustainable and relevant in a fast and ever changing world. This focus includes appealing to a wider and more artistically diverse audience while expanding our vibrant center for community arts to serve as a safe and growing place for all ages, all backgrounds and all types of performing arts.
As with any big milestone, we recognize our upcoming 20th year as an opportunity to refresh our image, like we have done for past milestones. To that end, we are excited to reveal our fresh logo, complete with a new descriptor and tagline!
Drum roll, please…
We do not make this change lightly. Over the course of the last 18 months, we have solicited input from our DreamWrights family through surveys, meetings, focus groups representing all different niches of our community, and our transition task forces. All of this input was compiled and reviewed, and is being used as a solid foothold in re-focusing our initiatives going forward.
We believe that identifying DreamWrights as a center for community arts elevates the work we do. We are more than just youth and family. We are about community. You are welcome here with or without a family. You are welcome here if you are not a kid. We are more than just theatre arts. As a center for community arts we can offer much more, including: spoken word, dance, fine art, open mic, and many other types of performance and creative arts.
Our Center for Community Arts allows us to Build Characters for Life, expressing ourselves in new and unique ways, all of which tie us back to our core: valuing the process, discovering yourself, stretching your limits, growing and learning together, appreciating everyone’s contribution, and providing access to all regardless of financial, physical, or learning challenges.
Please join us on our journey forward. We welcome and encourage everyone’s involvement.
Romaine Coeyman and her great-granddaughter, Cali Fife, were been born more than 70 years apart, but surprisingly, they have a lot more in common than just DNA. They both share the love of sewing and creating. And what’s more, they have done much of their craft in the exact same place, but more than 50 years apart.
Romaine Coeyman began working in the William Bernstein Sewing Factory in 1960, soon after the birth of her son. “I liked the job because I got to set sleeves. I loved that!” Coeyman remembers.
She says she always enjoyed sewing and the friendships she made at work. “I always think of [my work] around Christmas time.” She remembers setting tables up and having a potluck lunch to celebrate the season. “It was really jolly at Christmas time.” Coeyman mostly worked on the second floor in the sewing area where she sewed night gowns. She has fond memories of her days at the sewing factory.
These days, the Bernstein Sewing Factory building is occupied by DreamWrights Youth and Family Theatre, where many kids, like fifteen year old Cali Fife, fell in love with designing for the performing arts. Fife used to dance but she quickly realized that she loved the costumes more than the spotlight. She found her comfort zone creating costumes at DreamWrights, working in the second floor sewing area, exactly where her great-grandmother worked decades previously.
Fife enjoys creating with fabric and has made many friends through her craft, just like her great-grandmother. She enjoys the collaborative nature of sewing and designing, and in fact, even has her own online shop called Cali Ann, where she creates cool scarves, clever pouches, cute bags, and even the occasional custom costume.
Although the space is much different than what she remembers, Coeyman is amazed at the transformation of the building from a sewing factory to a theatre space. “I love it! I think it is amazing!” And when asked what she thinks about her great-granddaughter sewing and creating, just like she herself did more than a half century ago, Coeyman sums it up simply, “That’s nice. She really loves it too.”
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!