Category Archives: talent

We’ve Got Two Babes

DreamWrights has had a long history of double casting. Twenty years of it, in fact. This has provided for more involvement and educational opportunities. And more fun. Traditionally, the two actors cast for the same role were very similar. Comparable in size, shape, look, and style. Hilary Adams, Director for Babe the Sheep-Pig, decided to mix things up and choose two very contrasting young actors to play the lead character of Babe. Ten year old Natalie Doran and twelve year old Noah Youcheff are distinctive in many ways: height, gender, style, but both had something that caught director, Hilary Adams’ attention. She explains, “I looked for poise, confidence, and natural ability to interpret text and find meaning. She also had the sense that they would be able to carry the show since they are on stage for practically the entire production. “That’s a lot of stage time to handle effectively for any age.”

Hilary is anticipating the uniqueness that each Babe brings to his/her show. “They both have wonderfully unique, inventive versions of the character of Babe. They are very different actors, and thus their “Babes” are both quite different from each other. That’s one of the really fun things to witness: two very different, equally effective, interpretations of a character in action!”

Both Noah and Natalie were eager to be chosen to be Babe, and even more thrilling for them was that their friend was chosen to be their “other.” The two had become pals while working together on The Wizard of Oz. Natalie remembers, “When I found out I was chosen to be Babe, I was super excited because this is only my second show at DreamWrights and I thought I wasn’t going to get a part this big. I was really happy for Noah and excited to find out he was chosen as the other Babe. I thought it was crazy…” Noah interrupts, “…because we were just joking about it during auditions! I was really happy too.”

Even at their young ages, these two are learning more than the challenging blocking. They are learning the life lesson woven through the story of Babe. Natalie explains, “The show itself has taught me that it really doesn’t matter what you are, you can be whatever you really want to be if you try hard enough.” Noah agrees, “Yes, you can be anything you want. That’s a strong lesson that people need to know. Babe is very realistic story, other than animals talking. A pig could actually herd sheep… It could!” Natalie laughs in agreement, “Yeah, it could happen with them talking animal language. But yeah, it could.”

Come to the DreamWrights farm show, Babe the Sheep-Pig, which opens Friday, February 10 and runs February 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, and 25 at 6:30 pm and February 11, 12, 19, and 26 at 2:30 pm. Tickets may be purchased online or by calling 717-848-8623. Advance seats cost $10 for general, $14 for reserved. General admission seats at the door cost $12.

 

Putting the polish on PSM

Jessica Crowe makes her living as a free-lance performance artist. She is used to performing in unique venues, from underwater-style theatres to big stages.  But Jessica has made a place for herself right here at DreamWrights. “The funny thing is, as a performance artist, I travel all over the country but DreamWrights is my favorite place to be. It’s really cool traveling but this is feels very much like home for me and it has helped York feel like home.”

In only her third production at DreamWrights, Jessica has found her passion behind the scenes. “I love the acting aspect of working on a production but as a Stage Manager you really get to work with the whole cast and the crew and you get to know everyone in the production. Whereas, as an actor, you’re really more involved with the people you’re specifically on stage with. I love being able to work with everybody.”

Jessica Crowe with Jaci Keagy

During The Wizard of Oz, Jessica became quite invaluable to director, Jaci Keagy. Jaci explains, “The most effective stage managers are those people who can see what needs to be done and just jump in and do it.  That was Jessica to a T.  She was especially strong during tech and when the show was running.  She was a good leader and kept her cool.  I felt fortunate to have her.”

This time around, Jessica is the Production Stage Manager (PSM) for Babe, the Sheep-Pig.  At DreamWrights, the PSM is the right hand to the director in a production. With her professional performance experience, and the lessons she’s learned at DreamWrights, Jessica shares her best advice for what makes an effective PSM:

  • Be Organized. “You have to be really organized with paperwork, be able to handle blocking, and be able to instruct your stage managers. Being PSM has helped to strengthen my organization skills.”
  • Listen. “Being able to listen and take direction really well are important because you have to pay attention to everything the director wants and make sure he/she has everything he/she needs to make the production a success.”
  • Be Flexible. “As the production grows, you have to be able to fit in where you’re needed and be able to make it a success. I’ve learned to take each moment for what it is and help out where I can.”

So as Babe opens this weekend and audiences sit back and enjoy the show, they’ll never know about the last minute mishaps or emergencies that may or may not be happening behind the scenes.  The show must go on, and Jessica Crowe will be there to make sure it does… successfully!

Moves Like Sheep

When I was asked to help provide movement and choreography for some of the animal characters in the upcoming show, Babe the Sheep Pig, I couldn’t contain my excitement.  I would finally have the opportunity to explore how a farm animal like a pig or sheep might express emotions through movement that could range from despair to jubilation.
Perhaps that sounds silly, but actors rely on much more than just their voice to portray characters.  Even with different human characters there is a wide “vocabulary” of movements that may be used in characterization.  For example, introverted characters might use subtle gestures, while the most powerful characters take up the most space.  A character’s walk is in many ways just as important as their lines.

Translating these concepts to characters from the animal kingdom proves to be a unique and thrilling challenge.   I thought it might be insightful for the audience to share my thought processes for developing this “vocabulary” of movement that is going into portraying these delightful bestial characters.

Take the sheep, for example. They are mostly calm and placid and they desperately want to stay in their herd. They are almost unmoving statues when standing together in a close knot.  When presented with a threat that could be dangerous, they move away.  First slowly and then at a full run if the threat gets too close.  Sheepdogs use this behavior to their advantage to drive herds of sheep from pasture to barn.

The sheepdogs  are the monarchs of the farmyard.  They are full of energy, their eyes darting from place to place always looking to keep the livestock in line and be helpful to their masters.  Dogs have a unique canine smile and carry their heads high in pride, particularly when they are hard at work.

Finally, the character of Babe is a unique challenge.  The character has a porcine gait, but the pig’s circumstances change dramatically through the story.  How does a pig look when it is sad? Does a pig trot differently when it is really trying hard? How does a pig show the uncertainty of fear or the thrill of victory?  You’ll have to come to the show to see for yourself. As you watch, be sure to think about all the hard work the actors put into imbuing these animal characters with movements that identify them as the animals they portray, while delivering their lines and exercising their craft.

Andrew Smith
Choreographer

Back by Popular Demand, DreamWrights’ Open Mic Night

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DreamWrights’ inaugural Open Mic Night held last August was such a success that not only is it being featured again, but also the age limit for the event has been lowered. Aspiring entertainers 16 years and older are invited to share their talents, whether it be music, spoken word, comedy, etc. , at this Open Mic Night hosted by DreamWrights Center for Community Arts. Relax in the lounge-style setting while enjoying performances from members of the local community.

Stand up comedienne, Jackie Wyker, performed at DreamWrights’ Open Mic in August and is scheduled to perform again. Wyker, who has been doing comedy for about a year, enjoyed the first Open Mic Night so much, she is happy to return. “It was a great night. Good food, beverages and lots of talent. Both watching and performing was a delight,” Wyker says.

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Jackie Wyker

Fellow comedian and Energy Management Advisor, Greg Billet, is also making a return appearance. “We had a great time last time, it seemed like a big excited crowd and that’s always fun. It felt like they came ready to laugh and have a good time. It’s cool that DreamWrights served drinks and food also. Everyone loves that!”

Ben Garner of Rent Sound Gear is running sound for the event. Garner says, “Rent Sound Gear specializes in providing sound for events like this. We’ve hosted many open mic nights before. We are looking forward to it.”

DreamWrights’ Open Mic Night will be held Saturday, January 28 from 7:00pm to 11:00pm. Food and drink are available for purchase. Bar service is provided by Tutoni’s. All attendees require ID for admittance. Cover charge is $5 at the door. The event is open to anyone 16 and older. Some material may not be suitable for younger audiences. Acts interested in performing are encouraged to go online or call ahead (717-848-8623 x1) to sign up for a 15 – 20 minute time slot. The $5 entrance fee is waived for those who register to perform in advance.

The Wizard of Oz is a Family Affair

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Billy (center) as a munchkin at age 11

This holiday season, DreamWrights invites families to enjoy The Wizard of Oz. And what’s better than watching this iconic adventure story with your family? Bringing the story to life with your family! Many DreamWrights crew and cast members are working to stage this show along with family members. It is a wonderful way to spend quality together time during the busy holiday season.

Billy Ferrell, who plays the Cowardly Lion remembers, “I have loved the Wizard of Oz since I was a child. I was fortunate to perform as a munchkin when I was 11 years old, and it has been a dream of mine to perform in it again since then. I never could have imagined performing in it alongside my daughters. We are making lifelong memories together.” The Ferrell girls can be seen onstage, Elizabeth and Rebecca as snowflakes and Julia as a Jitterbug.

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Billy Ferrell with his daughters

Like Billy and his three daughters, DreamWrights productions often draw talent from multiple generations of families. Families cooperating together as peers is a hallmark of DreamWrights. Guest Director Jaci Keagy explains, “This was my first experience working with a multi-generational cast and I LOVED it!” She adds, “Some are on stage, some are off, but everyone contributes to the show, and no one has to stay home!”

Billy agrees, “Where else can parents and children participate in activities together as peers? It’s an amazing experience to be a part of a creative process along-side my kids — to see them interact with other kids and adults and vice versa. The creative process of making a live theatrical production happen is valuable, but the life lessons and social experience are invaluable!”

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The Fraser Family

Kristen and Scott Fraser are in the show with their three kids. William and Anna are on costume crew while Sophie is on stage with her parents. Kristen says, “DreamWrights is the one place where my family can collaborate to create something great. This place is a second home to us.”

Fifteen year old Anna says that she is the envy of many of her friends, “My friends talk to me about this a lot. They will say, ‘Wow, I wish my family did these kinds of things together like your family does’ and ‘You guys are so lucky.’” Sixteen year old William agrees that doing a show all together is a great family experience. In fact, the Frasers have done so many shows together as a family at DreamWrights they can’t agree on exactly how many it has been. Twelve? Fourteen? But all agree when Sophie, a wise young lady of eleven, declares, “DreamWrights is the most amazing thing I ever do. It is the most fun.”

We invite you to see the Frasers and Ferrells in The Wizard of Oz. It runs December 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, and 17 at 6:30pm and December 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, and 18 at 2:30pm. Tickets may be purchased online or by calling 717-848-8623.

And why not join the fun yourself by rounding up your own family and auditioning for our next show, Babe, the Sheep-Pig?! Auditions will be held December 13 or 14 at 6:00pm. No prior experience necessary.

There’s No Place Like Home for the Holidays

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(l.to r.) Doug Walters, Waverly Speranza holding Daisy, Brandon Flemmens,  and Billy Ferrell

This holiday season, DreamWrights Center for Community Arts is staging the Royal Shakespeare Company’s version of The Wizard of Oz.  This classic story, in which a Kansas farm girl travels over the rainbow to discover the magical power of home, has been entertaining audiences for generations. The R.S.C. version is described as a more “faithful” adaptation of the film that many know and love. Guest Director Jaci Keagy explains, “Some of it will be very familiar, but there will be a few new things as well.”

Keagy, who directed more than 60 productions at Dover High School before retiring last April, makes her directorial debut at DreamWrights. In fact, about a quarter of this show’s crew and cast are new to DreamWrights.  Keagy admits, “I love directing and knew I wanted to get involved as a director in community theatre when I retired. I accepted the challenge of this double casted musical with trepidation, but I’ve loved every minute of the experience and, even after all of my other shows, I’ve learned so many things.”

Chris Quigley, a familiar face (and voice) in York’s musical and performance scene, appears for the first time on the DreamWrights stage playing the cowardly Lion. Ironically, Quigley’s first experience with The Wizard of Oz was when he played the braggart munchkin at the age of ten when he attended York Catholic. But, his Oz history doesn’t stop there. In 2005, he directed the show at Susquehannock High School and most recently, he tapped his way into hearts as the Tinman at Acts of Kindness Theatre in a sheet metal costume. Chris says, “I love being the Lion now. So happy I wasn’t picked for the Tinman. I’ve done that before and I was afraid they’d pick me for that.  It’s so nice doing a comedy part.”

Making their performance debuts are Daisy Raymond and Pepper Hollabaugh, both of whom play Toto during separate performances. The whole crew and cast is excited to add these two adorable distractions to the performance and, as Keagy points out, “The cute kids and dogs create an instant aww factor!”

The Wizard of Oz opens Friday, December 2 and runs December 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, and 17 at 6:30pm and December 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, and 18 at 2:30pm. Tickets may be purchased online at www.dreamwrights.org or by calling 717-848-8623. Seats cost $10 for general, $14 for reserved.

 

DreamWrights Expands Programming, Hosts First Open Mic Night

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With the promise of expanding programming to non-traditional audiences, DreamWrights Center for Community Arts will host its first 21+ Open Mic Night on August 26. This anticipated event is just one example of the fresh and new activities that DreamWrights plans to add to its lineup of programming in its soon-to-be renovated facility. With the changes underway at DreamWrights, a new Innovative Programming Committee (IPC) was formed headed up by DreamWrights board member, Kevin Alvarnaz. “There is a community of adults who is seeking an outlet to showcase their talents in a fun, relaxed, and low pressure atmosphere. DreamWrights has the space and availability to host such an event. So we decided to give it a try and so far, the response has been great.”

One local talent who plans to perform is the father son blues duo, 10 Gauge. Ben Garner and his father will be playing a couple of acoustic numbers as well as running the sound for the event through Garner’s company, Rent Sound Gear. Garner says, “Rent Sound Gear specializes in providing sound for events like this. We’ve hosted many open mic nights before. We will also be recording the event.” He says he is looking forward to this community event.

For this first open mic event, DreamWrights will be limiting its audience to those over 21 years of age. Tutoni’s will be providing a cash bar and York Pretzel Company pretzels will be available for purchase. DreamWrights will be following up this first open mic with plans for an all ages open mic event and maybe even a teens only one as well. Alvarnaz explains, “Our teen committee members are anxiously awaiting a date for their own event. I think several of them have even begun rehearsing for it already!”

DreamWrights’ inaugural Open Mic Night will be held Friday, August 26 from 8:00pm to 11:00pm. Advance tickets may be purchased online for $4 at www.dreamwrights.org or by calling 717-848-8623. Tickets will be available for $5 at the door. Ages 21+ only, please.

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!

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.

Volunteering at DreamWrights: It’s Contagious

Volunteering at DreamWrights is contagiously fun. Take Tony Fogle, for example. One night, he was bored so he agreed to lend a hand striking a show in which his aunt had been involved. Three and a half years and 26 shows later, Tony is a pillar of the DreamWrights family, as the “go-to” Lighting Designer. “I came to help with strike one night because I had nothing else to do. A bunch of people asked if I was trying out for next show but theatre really isn’t my thing. But sure, I’ll come help with something backstage,” Tony explained.

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Tony did return, thinking that he would be able to participate behind the scenes, where he would be more comfortable. “They threw me onstage as Little John in Robin Hood,” Tony winces. “That was a little overwhelming for me.” He describes it as tough but fun. Admittedly, he did enjoy it but he did not look forward to getting back on stage.

“The people here were awesome.” They kept him coming back. The next show was Gentleman from Indiana and Tony did props for that show. At that time, a talented college student was doing lights. Tony was impressed with him. It probably was due to Tony’s height (he’s 6 feet 6 inches tall) that he was asked to lend a hand. “I helped him out. As he was adjusting the lights, he started explaining to me what he was doing. Before he left, he gave me a quick run through of how the lighting system worked. Two shows later I was doing lights and I’ve done just about every one since.”

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Not originally educated for his technical career at a micro electronics company or in lighting, technical is where Tony’s interests lie. He says the best part of being the Lighting Designer is that it keeps him off stage. “If it weren’t lights, it would be props or set. I’m not a big social person.” He likes that everyone greets him on his way in but he quickly finds his place in the shadows, where he’s comfortable behind the control panel. He says he likes how all the jobs are connected. “I’m here doing my own thing but I’m part of the bigger picture. I like having my own little piece of the larger puzzle.”

When asked what his secret to making the actors on stage look so good, Tony responds, “Make sure you can see them all. If somebody is in the dark, it is glaringly obvious to me. If there is part of the set that the lighting isn’t nice on, I notice. When I’m doing it I try to hit everything and make it look nice.”  His best advice is to simply make sure everyone is lit.

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Tony considers Seussical to be his toughest show to light. “I stressed a lot about it but Seussical was my favorite because it was more of a challenge. It pushed me to learn things [about programming lights] that I didn’t know previously.” He anticipates The Wizard of Oz to be equally challenging. He says an option could be to go with “plain Jane” lights.  Tony explains, “Just like Suessical and some of the other shows I’ve been involved with, I feel lights can make a big difference in how the audience connects with the show. I have to make sure I compliment, and hopefully add to, the mood of the show.”

When Tony counted up the number of shows in which he’s been involved, he surprised himself. “This is show number 26 I’ve been involved with… which is ridiculous! But it is fun so I keep coming back. And they keep asking me to.”