New performance space, more opportunities for DreamWrights

For 14-year-old Makaela Cooper, DreamWrights Community Arts Center is a place where she can go to forget her worries and feel safe.

For 8-year-old Jack Herrington, it's a place that gave him the confidence to make speeches he hopes to give as president one day.

And for so many others, it has been a beloved place in the York community for 20 years.

The children spoke at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the York City theater on Thursday, Sept. 28, to unveil renovations paid for by a $1.8 million capital campaign in time for its 20th anniversary.

Dozens of theatergoers, cast members, families and staff gathered to share their memories and celebrate the big reveal.

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Phase one of the renovation project began in April and included an updated box office, lobby, concessions area, restrooms on two floors and an elevator.

Hanging pendant lights decorate the lobby, which opens into a dining area with white-clothed round tables and painted blue brick walls, while yellow, blue, red and purple spotlights cast a glow on a new performance area.

This was the second capital campaign for DreamWrights, which was previously renovated about 11 years ago, adding its main stage performance space and making upgrades to the building's exterior, parking lot, front courtyard and windows.

The theater was founded in 1997 and moved to its current building in 2000 — a historic space that was originally built as a farmers market and served as a sewing factory for many years.

There is a sewing area for costumes on the second floor, so "that piece of the history continues on," said executive director Ann Davis.

Davis said the new performance space will invite different audiences and genres of art as well as allow for more technical classes, such as lighting and sound.

The space also allows the theater to extend its arm to other groups looking for a performance space. 

DreamWrights previously opened its doors to the Weary Arts Group, which performed "Hairspray" in the summer, but now there will be even more opportunities to host local talent.

Cassandra Smith and Brandon Flemmens arrive in costume at the DreamWrights ribbon cutting to show support for the theatre and their upcoming show, Beauty and the Beast, running Oct. 6-22.

Davis' son and founding member, Jordan Davis, was very excited to see the changes brought about by his mom's hard work.

The project was not without its challenges, said Andy Trout, whose wife is marketing director at DreamWrights, but it was the passion for the community that kept it going.

Founding member Cindy Terlazzo signed the memories book and remarked at the beautiful and open new space, while Jason Wolf, whose wife is playing Mrs. Potts in "Beauty and the Beast," which opens Friday, Oct. 6, watched a slideshow of the renovation progress with his son, Kai, on his shoulders.

Wolf is happy about the new studio space and thinks it will allow for a wider range of shows and draw in more people. He thinks the changes make the theater more open and inviting.

But the theater still retains some original architectural features, such as the wooden support beams and old sliding fire door, Trout said.

Hundreds of individuals, families and businesses donated, as seen on the website's donors page.

Mayor Kim Bracey and DreamWrights executive director, Ann Davis, cut the ribbon to reveal renovations from the recent $1.8 million capital campaign donation on Thursday, Sept. 28.

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York City Mayor Kim Bracey expressed her support for the capital campaign project, even joking that she felt a personal connection to it after serving as celebrity bartender for one of its fundraisers. 

"It was really wonderful, actually," Davis said. The money raised completely covered costs of the first wave of renovations and will allow DreamWrights to start on phase two — updates to the second floor, classroom areas, front stairwell and front office.

DreamWrights is still raising money for phase two, but Davis estimates the cost will only be about $600,000.

Upcoming events include a 20th anniversary party on Oct. 27 and the first show in the new performance space, "All in the Timing," opening Nov. 10.