While it has been shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, Fulton Theatre has been changing its outward physical appearance through an ongoing construction project.
But the theater also has been changing on the inside, with its staff using these months of the shutdown to add dimensions to the ways it reaches out to the community.
Fueled by an ongoing national conversation about racial diversity and equality, the Fulton is working on two new initiatives through which it can reach out more fully to diverse voices in the community.
The theater is forming a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee through which the organization hopes to expand its reach into the community and multiply the kinds of voices represented in the theater’s work, on its staff, in its volunteer force and in its education program.
That committee’s first action will be to help the Fulton staff select finalists for a new playwriting festival, set for May, which will have as its first theme a diversity of voices and subject matter.
The theater is seeking applicants for this new 10-person committee, and also for submissions of new plays or musicals for the festival.
“We just realized that there was such a strong need to bring in more diverse voices and focus on equity and inclusion,” says StephJo Wise, the Fulton’s director of education and community engagement. “And the national conversation became such a strong one that it became clear that this is the time to really, really dive in and do it.
“We’re looking for diverse members of our community, with lots of different skill sets, and hopefully different age ranges, to bring as many different perspectives to the table as possible,” Wise says.
Applications from people “passionate about the arts” who want to be considered for the diversity committee are due by Friday, Nov. 13, Wise says.
Festival of new works
With the Fulton’s ongoing construction project expanding its space — adding new theater spaces and more — Fulton marketing director Eric Pugh says, the reopened venue will have the facilities to host an annual festival of new works.
The opening of the festival is planned for May 21. Submissions of new plays and musicals are being sought nationally, Pugh says, with the theme of this first year of the festival being “Stories of Diversity: Reflections of Community.”
The news release about the festival says the theater seeks “new plays or musicals celebrating perspectives from the spectrum of diversity, including voices from Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), LGBTQ+, and religious and economic diversity.”
Pugh says the new diversity committee and the Fulton staff will choose four finalists from among the works submitted. Finalists will be announced March 1.
At the festival, the Fulton is planning to have opening and closing ceremonies, staged readings of the four finalist plays or musicals and the announcement of the winning work that will later be staged as part of the theater’s Ellen Arnold Groff Studio Series, Pugh says.
A $500 cash prize will go to the winning playwright.
Wise notes the festival also will present some kind of original work, created with students from the School District of Lancaster, through the Fulton’s education program.
Plays or musicals submitted for the festival must be at least 60 minutes long, have no more than six characters and must deal with the subject of diversity, equity and inclusion, Pugh says.
He notes reopening activities at the Fulton next year are contingent upon the state of the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring.
All play submissions are due by Monday, Jan. 4.
“It’s so important to foster new works,” Pugh says. “There’s so much creativity out there, and so many voices to be heard.”
Those wanting to apply for committee positions or to submit a play should visit the “community” section of the Fulton’s website at: bit.ly/FultonCommunity.