Meant to be…
There was a time when Anne Rodella envisioned a career as a high school teacher. She majored in theater and secondary education and English at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre. Three weeks before graduation, she changed her mind about her career plans; her lifelong interest in the arts beckoning her to shift professional gears. Around the same time, she was offered a position at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts. That was 13 years ago, and she’s been there ever since. Some things are just meant to be. She’s worked in the development office, in the box office and now she’s serving as the marketing manager. In addition, she’s a founder of Gaslight Theatre Company in Wilkes-Barre, and a volunteer for Third Friday Wilkes-Barre. And we were delighted to discover that in her spare time, she makes pickles; her specialty being hot pickles. “It’s definitely what I’m known for in my group of friends: I pickle,” she said, chuckling. Meet Wilkes-Barre’s Anne Rodella …
When did you discover an interest in the arts?
I started with theater when I was 12. My mom enrolled me in a workshop at Little Theater of Wilkes-Barre. Little Theater was very hands-on. We learned our parts and performed in the play, but we also built sets, and took seminars. They had a special effects seminar, and a makeup seminar, and one where you’d make costumes, so you did everything. It was great. I went from that to King’s College, and it was the same (type of experience). I was there as an acting/director major, but I stage managed and built the sets and worked on lights and costumes all the time. You got that well-rounded experience, and all of it led me to where I am at today, at the Kirby Center. I love my job. I love the theater, and I love art.
There’s a lot going on at the Kirby Center this fall. Cyndi Lauper is coming!
Yes! The first time she was here it was her At Last tour, and hands down, it was one of the top three concerts I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m a lifelong fan — she’s wonderful. And our fall is just jam packed with something for everyone.
What else is coming our way?
October is just non-stop. We have Dinosaur Train Live, which is a show geared for toddlers to 5 to 6-year-olds. After that, we go into a really crazy period because we have Alice Cooper, then Cyndi Lauper, Ghost Hunters Live, comedian Jeff Ross and then we have Splatterday.
Splatterday is our Halloween Film Festival, and I’m so thrilled we’re doing this. Once Will (Beekman) and I started working together, we realized we both really love Halloween movies (laughs). In the beginning, we had a list of movies we wanted to show that was a mile long, and we had to narrow it down to fill one day.
That’s the hard part.
It is the hard part, but it’s exciting, too, because if this goes well, we can do it again and feature different movies. And after Splatterday, we have Merle Haggard and Kenny Rogers and then in November we’ll have my favorite of our whole season — Yamato Drummers. They’re a Japanese drum group and they just have a really nice story. Their energy is so strong and the stories behind the drums are incredible. Some of the drums are over 400 years old, and they’re trying to create a force between them and the audience. My favorite part about this group is their motto: go anywhere if invited and make the world a little more happy. That’s going to be a nice night at the Kirby.
The Kirby Center is a beautiful staple of the downtown, and now it’s part of Third Fridays, too. Can you tell us a little bit about this event?
Third Friday is an art walk, and on the third Friday of every month, different venues participate and host an artist or multiple artists. You can walk around from venue to venue and enjoy the art. The Kirby is a venue for Third Friday because we have wonderful gallery space. We’re not a venue every month because if we have a show, we may not be able to accommodate the two events at the same time, but we’re involved whenever we can be. Third Friday has been great for me personally because it’s bringing more art downtown, and I think it’s bringing more people to downtown and both of those things also positively affect the Kirby Center. Everything about this has been positive. We have great partnerships and a wonderful group of people working on it, including the Wyoming Valley Art League and the Osterhout Free Library, and so many smaller venues. We have Art Seen right across the square, Downtown Arts is just down the street, and we have King’s and Wilkes within walking distance and they both have galleries. The space doesn’t have to be a gallery either to be a venue – we learned that from First Friday in Scranton. We’ve had yoga studios join in, and Ibop Coffee Company, and Froyo, the yogurt shop, and restaurants are getting involved. It’s a lot of fun.
Are all of the venues within walking distance of each other?
Art walks are different in different cities and ours has a few places that are more of an extended walk, so we have a trolley that runs. If it’s too much of a walk, you can get on the trolley and go to the different stops. We print a map every month and it has all the venues, who the artists are at each venue, and each venue that’s a trolley stop.
Tell us about your theater background.
I majored in theater at King’s College, and two years after graduation, a group of friends and I started a community theater — Gaslight Theater Company. We’re a gypsy theater company. We don’t have a home, so we travel. For the past four years, we split our season, and half of it is in Scranton. We’ve done well, and we just celebrated our tenth anniversary in August. This year we’re doing Much Ado About Nothing at the Theater at Lackawanna. Auditions will be held on October 20 at King’s College Theater from 2 to 4 p.m., and October 21 at the Theater at Lackawanna from 6 to 8 p.m.
— julie imel
The F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts is located at 71 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre. For a schedule of events at the Kirby Center, visit kirbycenter.org. For more information about Gaslight Theatre Company, visit gaslight-theatre.org. For details about Third Friday Wilkes-Barre, visit thirdfridaywb.com.