John started the Outlet for Creativity in 1996 as a venue to make art, music and drama accessible to anyone interested in creating, experimenting in, or just enjoying the arts.
By early 1997, the amount of interest and number of activities grew quickly substantiating the need for this type of facility in the Beaver County area. The Outlet for Creativity found a home in Rochester, PA, where it offered a wide variety of workshops and activities to all ages.
Soon, The Outlet started branching out to area festivals, high schools, colleges, and special events.
The Outlet for Creativity was originally funded privately by John until Feb. 1999, when the primary volunteers formed The Outlet for Creativity, Inc., a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Although the facility and main organization no longer exists, many off-shoot groups and achievements live on. Here is just a small sample of what the Outlet was able to accomplish.
John served as president, creative director, and program manager for 9 years.
The Outlet For Creativity, Inc:
Held music, art and acting classes at The Outlet as well as local colleges and Boscov's Department store at the Beaver Valley Mall.
Had two 'Literary Festivals' - These gatherings of local and national authors, writing clubs, and guest speakers, were free to the public. Area writing clubs had the opportunity to set up a booth with informational publications of their organization and works of their members. The open stage was used for authors and the general public to recite their works or announce upcoming events.
Organized 'Beaver Valley Arts in the Parks' - These events consisted of artists, musicians and actors performing free shows in area parks.
Held numerous 'Theme Nights' - These evenings of performances and displays were designed to promote and call awareness to special topics. (e.g. Literacy, humane society, teen issues, etc.)
Held numerous audience participation 'Murder Mysteries' using Outlet acting students.
Held two 'Street P'arty' events - These outdoor 3-day festivals of various performances and hands-on art (velcro sculptures, paint by number murals, clay stations, etc..) not only give the public the opportunity to enjoy performances, but also experiment in the Arts first hand.
Established a weekly showcase for local musicians and poets.
Established and helped organize 'Factor 4' - This group of area teenage musicians, artists and actors created and performed shows throughout the region and volunteered for various events and fundraisers.
Organized and held theater improv sessions for the student body at various area colleges (Penn State Beaver, Geneva, and CCBC)
Held improv workshops with students at various high school drama clubs.
Organized various poetry, video, acting and writing contests. The contests were promoted through area highschools and the entries submitted were judged by volunteer professionals. (ArtWorks Logo Design, Rochester Banner Design, Video and Poetry Comarama Contest, Rochester Slogan Contest, Boscov/Riverfest Coloring Contest, PTA Western PA. Art Initiative)
Held an annual 'Cultural Summit' - This regular gathering of local artists and concerned public was an open forum discussion of the present and future cultural scene in the Beaver County area.
Helped to establish the Boscov's River Theater in conjunction with the Beaver County Riverfest Committee.
Created and produced "Diary of Expressions" - A continuing book and video project which is a collection of artwork, writings and poems of area children whose families have been affected by substance abuse
Initialized the groundwork and development of ArtWorks Cultural Alliance, a Beaver County Council for the Arts.
Historical re-enactments for museum and county events
Organized "The Poor Man's Dinner Theater" - These Performances consist of various drama classes, clubs, and individuals, performing two one-acts with pizza for a low bargain price.
Worked with the Beaver County Commissioners and the Pittsburgh Film Office to secure and supply local cast and crew for Beaver County Projects.
Volunteers designed shows and performed for various special groups (such as MENSA, Scouts, Churches, Senior Homes, Rotary Clubs) to help inspire involvement in the Arts.
Designed and ran 3 Halloween haunted trails/houses
Worked in conjunction with area professionals to conduct workshops in acting, art, music and writing.
Worked with local area high schools in special in-school/after school workshops and field trips. These programs got students involved in all facets of production on a professional level and concluded in full productions. Portions of these shows are then combined with other schools as multi-school programs.
Organized and held publicity stunts to strengthen cultural awareness. (e.g.. Two artists lived and performed in The Outlet's storefront windows for 48 hours straight; Outlet volunteers performed a 'Laundromat Tour' of theater improv; Outlet volunteers held a 'Picket line for Culture'; and more) all getting TV news, radio, and newspaper coverage
The Oulet also worked with The Rochester Borough Development Corp. (RBDC); The Beaver Initiative for Growth (BIG); Beaver County Main Street Program; HELP, Inc. (Beaver County Homeless Shelter); American Diabetes Assoc.; Adult Literacy Action (ALA); The Beaver County Chamber of Commerce; The Rochester Chamber of Commerce; The Beaver County Riverfest; Aliquippa Alliance for Unity and Development; Bridge to Recovery Social Services; in a continuing effort to promote the quality of life and the importance of cultural growth in Beaver County and the surrounding areas.
Members from all over the valley. The troupe boasted members from Aliquippa, Ambridge, Beaver, Blackhawk, Center, New Brighton, Riverside, Rochester, and Quigley.
Some members of the troupe regularly performed as part of CCBC's Evening of the Arts. Various members have performed in productions by United Hosanna! Ministries, R-Act Theatre Productions, The Outlet for Creativity, Keisha's Shout School for the Performing Arts, New Castle Playhouse, Comtra Theatre, The Cellar Dwellers and the Jr. Dwellers.
As a group, the Factors have written and performed skits in full-length variety shows; held poetry readings; supplied voiceovers for Diary of Expressions, a film for Bridge to Recovery; illustrated, animated and filmed original cartoons; worked with the Beaver County Bicentennial Committee on performances at the Beaver Valley Mall and on historical re-enactments; performed at Riverfest '99 and '00; performed for Boscov's grand opening and ran their Street Fair; performed in Walden Books Harry Potter book release party; and worked on the Haunted Riverbank.
They held a membership campaign, which essentially doubled their numbers, and began planning projects like a bi-weekly variety show, making a film, more full length productions, and field trips to cultural spots. They also volunteered for the Mancini Awards and Aliquippa Embraces Art.
MISSION AND GOALS
The goal was to offer resources needed or a place where:
Anyone can gather to see or be a part of original comedy skits, theater improvs, plays, original music, locally made films, open stages, etc.
Community theaters, established acts, schools, clubs, groups or individuals can perform or promote their productions or display their works.
Where professional actors, artists and musicians share their talents to assist anyone in learning to play music, act, write, paint or draw.
The novice feels comfortable experimenting in the arts, and the more established artist will be drawn to as a cultural center to collaborate, express themselves and create a talent pool for the area.
Board of Directors (c.1999):
John J. Dessler, President
Founder, Artist, Musician, Actor, Writer
Lawrence E. Phillis, Vice President
Actor, Musician, Writer
Maria Longo, Secretary
Office Administrator, Digital Design Dimensions
Mark Elder, Treasurer
Manager, Toys R Us
On and off the stage|
John got an early start acting and entertaining at the age of 12. He has been heavily involved in all aspects of the performing arts in the 4 decades since then including musical, comedic, experimental, and dramatic performances on stage, as well as directing, design, writing, and crew off.
He designed sets, lighting, and sound for performances and shows for small black box theaters, large auditoriums, and outdoor productions. He was stage manager and creative director for hundreds of concerts, performances, and corporate events
School Plays and Musicals
Directed plays and musicals throughout the Pittsburgh school district and its suburbs. He was director and instructor for various arts camps, after school programs, and workshops for groups including the scouts, Sweetwater Arts Academy, and Tiger Pause Ministries. John also directed and produced shows through C.C.B.C.'s Continuing Education Program.
Mancini Musical Theater Awards
Served on the board for the Henry Mancini Musical Theater Awards hosted by Geneva College for 4 years. He helped organize and promote the event, and managed backstage during performances.
Wrote specials shows and performances that he produced for festivals, events, and other special occaions including Rochester Sesquicentennial, Adult Literacy fundraisers, Mensa gatherings, Barnes and Noble book releases, Beaver County Riverfest, Pennsylvania Councel on the Arts, Boscov's grand opening, corporate events, etc... He was also the director and show programmer for Boscov's River Theater in Rochester, PA for 4 years.