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After retiring from a 20 year stint at DreamWrights, Diane Crews is opening Theatre Arts for Everyone, or TAFE, this fall. Skye Leppo, FlipSidePA

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After 19 years as the founding member and director of DreamWrights Center for Community Arts in York, Diane Crews, at 69 years young, announced she was retiring, effective Sept. 30.

The next day, a new project called TAFE — Theatre Arts for Everyone — was already advertising auditions for its upcoming Christmas production.

Who’s the leading force behind TAFE? Crews, of course.

“When I thought I should retire at 70, I thought, ‘that’s a good idea, I could spend time with the dog, I could read, I could write,’…for about two days. But I have all these ideas,” said Crews. “Plays are what I do.”

TAFE is not something Crews created to be in competition with other theater organizations, she insists. Instead, it’s an opportunity to bring theater to more people.

“I started DreamWrights at 50, and I’m almost 70 – I didn’t think about it for two seconds this time,” Crews said. “The need for live theater is greater than it was 20 years ago.”

The driving force behind TAFE’s mission is to bring theater to performers of all levels, especially groups of preschoolers, senior citizens, adults who might be on the autism spectrum and groups organized through recreation centers. Crews hopes to have this aspect of the program begin in March 2017.

“Everyone’s born with an imagination,” Crews said, explaining that while technology brings ‘a lot of good things,’ it can also be detrimental to social development. “I want to give them their imaginations back.”

Her goal is to work with individuals who she can teach theater to, instead of expecting a professional production.

“If I do outreach, I can go to the homes and senior centers and reach more [people],” Crews said. The groups will work together on a project for four week, and, at the conclusion, they’ll present a performance that they can invite their loved ones to watch.

In the meantime, though, Crews said TAFE will still present three multi-generational plays every year, completely open to the public.

The first performance of this kind, called “Everything Christmas and a Mystery Too,” is an original play written by Crews. Auditions will be held next week.

The production staff is currently seeking four men, ages 30 to 70 years old; four women, ages 30 to 80 years old; six boys, ages seven to 17 years old; and nine girls, ages seven to 15 years old.

“I was just going to do a small cast, but I should have known better,” Crews laughed, going over details for the show.

The story starts out like many holiday plays, focusing on a nuclear family and a few grandparents thrown in. A magical twist starts to shift the rhythm of the universe a bit when Santa Claus has an unexpected guest delivering gifts with him.

The performances will be presented in mid December at the Early Learning Center in York.

If you’re interested in auditioning:

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18
Where: Early Learning Center, 300 Seventh Ave., York
Info: tafepa.org; 717-884-8233
Performance dates: 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 16; 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17 and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18

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