Category Archives: testimonial

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.”

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.

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.

Making Dreams Come True

Thirteen year old Dream Scholar, Bianca G., says that the motto at DreamWrights is true. “DreamWrights is a place where dreams do come true. I never thought that I would be in a performing arts program or that I might ever see a live performance.” But this summer, both of these dreams came true for this hard working young lady.

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The first week of summer camps, Bianca helped out as a teen counselor for two mini musicals, Pajama Party and Dinostars. Although very quiet and reserved, Bianca’s passion for theatre soon became very apparent. She was diligent in her counselor duties, she loved working with the younger kids, and she soaked up every bit of theatre experience she was exposed to that week. Bianca says, “I loved contributing and helping the younger kids because I could memorize their choreography and help them.” She took the initiative to work with some of the kids, providing them some extra coaching, when the Teaching Artist was busy with other campers.

During her down time, Bianca loved looking at the photo displays of actors and prior DreamWrights performances. She had never seen a live show before and when she realized that the musical, Legally Blonde was opening at the end of the week, she began to save towards the cost of a ticket. Summer Camp Coordinator, Hannah Kohler, remembers, “She would give me updates every day. ‘Last night I did this for five dollars and today I’m doing this for a dollar so I can earn enough money to buy a ticket to see Legally Blonde.’ She was determined to see the show.”

And she did. She was there in the fifth row on opening night. She loved it. When the show was over she patiently waited for every actor’s signature on her program. She said she would treasure that program forever. Bianca remembers, “I was in my seat and I couldn’t keep my eyes off of it. I liked all the songs. I sang them when I went home. Literally I was talking about it all week the week after. I pulled up the Broadway version on YouTube and watched it a million times.”

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A few weeks later it was time for Bianca to come back to DreamWrights as a camp participant. She couldn’t wait. It was not a surprise that she chose to attend Broadway week. “I picked Broadway Week because I really like musicals and I think that maybe if I got to learn songs I could practice and that way when I get more successful I might be somewhere probably on Broadway or in a different show somewhere else.” Sure enough, during the week she learned many songs and even worked on a few solos. Bianca said Freak Flag from Shrek was her favorite.

On the eve of her Broadway camp performance, Bianca was full of anticipation. “I can’t wait to perform tomorrow because I’m going to be up there and a lot of people in my group always are cheering me on and we always have a laugh together and it is really fun. It is going to be sad tomorrow because the friends I made this week are really amazing.”

When asked about what she learned at DreamWrights, Bianca says, “The number one lesson I’ve learned is that I don’t have to be scared while singing up on stage because I know that the people I’m singing with really won’t judge me. We don’t judge anybody here because everyone is perfect in their own way.”

Bianca says she enjoys performance arts whether she’s onstage, back stage, or in the audience. She says she loves it “as long as I feel like I’m a part of it. Even in the audience you’re a part of it. Because you’re making people feel good about themselves when you sit there and watch them and when you cheer for them. Either way, when I’m backstage helping with lights or whatever it doesn’t really matter because I know that I’m a part of the solution.” But the most important part is to have fun and to let people know who you are. “Because you never know, maybe that person might star somewhere. Maybe their name might be heard somewhere, even if it is just something little. It is something that could influence other people.”

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We fully expect to see Bianca’s name in lights someday.

About Bianca G.: Bianca is a middle schooler at Helen Thackston Charter School. She wants to be a comic when she grows up. She loves musicals and comedies and likes to make people laugh without hurting their feelings. She says the best part about DreamWrights is the people. Next month, Bianca will be moving with her mother and two younger sisters. She is hoping to continue to develop her talent at a place like DreamWrights in her new town.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Magic of DreamWrights: A Testimonial

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About twelve years ago, my father took me to see a production of Cinderella at DreamWrights. I was a small, awkward child, I’ll admit, but after seeing the live performance with its hilarity, its sincerity, its magic, I was enraptured. I auditioned for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and managed to land a role. Success! I was excited beyond belief. I, the reticent child, would be a part of a stage performance!

Over the years, I and my acting ability grew. Though I never landed a “lead role,” Diane’s wise words always clung to my skin: “There are no small parts, only small actors.” Everyone was important. Everyone played a role. Without each actor, the show would not be the same. It couldn’t be executed without everyone’s effort. Every performance was a collaborative effort, and the cast was more than a team of actors: it was a group of friends, a close-knit family.

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Under Diane’s warm and wise counsel, I never had a negative experience while within the walls of the old building. Though there were ghost stories about the building, and the rickety elevator was viewed as a death trap (which was problematic at times, as a group of young children, myself included, once got stuck on it), DreamWrights never disappointed me. I could live there, nestled in with the ball gowns and suits, the enormous puppets and the animal outfits.

Sydney Fuhrman

I have, unfortunately, not been able to participate in anything DreamWrights-related for the past year and a half due to my college endeavors, but I still hold DreamWrights in a very special place in my heart. I cherish my memories and my happiness that blossomed there, on-stage and behind the black curtains. I have played minor roles, like little Nancy in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and I have played larger roles, like the Duchess in Alice in Wonderland. I have worked with props and I have worked as a stage manager. I have laughed backstage through tight lips and clasped fingers as the show carries on, and I have cried with people of all ages at the strike parties. I have nothing but fond thoughts of DreamWrights, and I deeply regret not participating in the theater as much as I could have in the past.

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DreamWrights, holder of my heart, nurturer of my strength, friend of my soul, you are a beacon. You foster hope, love, resilience, endurance, well-roundedness, but above all, you foster fun.

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Though I have not been involved in DreamWrights since Alice in Wonderland, I would like to thank everyone who has ever participated, who currently is participating, and who will ever participate in a DreamWrights production, be it on-stage, behind the scenes, out front, upstairs, or in the kitchen. Diane called DreamWrights a “big fun machine,” and as usual, I could never say it any better than that.

Keep thriving, DreamWrights. I hope to see you in action till the end of days.

Sydney Fuhrman