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Diversity Month Highlight: Anne E. Rodella

Diversity Month Highlight: Anne E. Rodella

Throughout the month of April for Diversity Month, we will be highlighting some amazing individuals in our community that are spearheading diversity, equity, and inclusion causes and initiatives, as well as business leaders and owners with diverse backgrounds. Next, we spoke to Anne E. Rodella, Artistic Director at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts, about Sensory Friendly/Relaxed Performances that she put together for the community in her role at the Kirby. 

Anne E. Rodella is a life-long resident of Wilkes-Barre. She treasures and believes in the future of Wilkes-Barre and its residents.  Anne has worked at the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts for the last 21 years. She began by selling tickets in the box office and her latest role is Artistic Director. Her favorite role has always been as the Kirby Center's front of house staff and usher's self-appointed favorite employee. She firmly believes the Kirby has the BEST volunteers in town. They are the heart of the Kirby. If you ever get to speak with Anne about her Kirby Center career, she will probably tell you about that time she danced on stage with Weird Al Yankovic as a Smells Like Teen Spirit cheerleader and mention how she has started producing sensory friendly/relaxed performances for our underserved community members. The latter changed her life. Anne was introduced to Sensory Friendly/Relaxed Performances in 2017 through a performance at King’s College of A Year with Frog and Toad directed by Dave Reynolds and sensory friendly work by student, Skyler Makuch. Thankfully the Kirby staff, board, and local community supported Anne's dream to create this type of programming. She partnered with King’s College and moved forward working on producing a sensory friendly play at the F.M. Kirby Center. They put countless hours of work in to make sure this adventure was successful. That work was important, but what struck Anne to the core about that experience was the need and reactions to having a safe space. "Kindness and understanding can change the world! I hope to spend the rest of my life learning how," says Anne. 

Anne is a founding member of Gaslight Theatre Company and currently still serves on the board. Creating art with friends may be Anne's favorite part of this life. In addition to Gaslight, Anne serves on several local boards: Diamond City Partnership and the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Improvement District (BID), Fine Arts Fiesta, and the Preservation of the Arts in Wilkes-Barre. Anne serves on the advisory council for the Pauly Friendman Art Gallery. She volunteers regularly with the Downtown Wilkes-Barre Business Association, Osterhout Free Library Book Sale, and Art Block Wilkes-Barre. Anne is a recent graduate of Leadership Wilkes-Barre's core program and is currently enrolled in their new certificate program. Anne was awarded The Marie F. Luksic Memorial Award for Theatre in 2001 by King's College, the NEPA Distinctive Woman Award in 2018 by the Times Leader, and the Young Professionals' Cultural Ambassador of the Year Award in 2018 by The Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce. 

Get to know Anne in the Q&A below!

Q: I am inspired to be a leader in our community because…

A: ...of all the leaders who paved the way.

Q: I am most excited to accomplish what through my diversity, equity, and inclusion community programming…
A: EVERYTHING!  I am excited to learn what holes, gaps, and changes need to be made in the art/performing arts world. I will continue to work on Relaxed Theater and hope to make those performances more inclusive for our community.

Q: Three words to describe yourself…
A: Eccentric, Creative, and Kind

Q: My greatest achievement to date is…
A: Producing sensory friendly/relaxed performances at the Kirby Center and I think this goes right along with it, opening my mind to the accessible needs and possibilities in the art world.

Q: Five years from now, I will be…
A: Creating and healing through Art

Q: Best advice you’ve received…
A: That I can do anything.

Q: Favorite activity/place in NEPA…
A: The F.M. Kirby Center and my best friend’s back yard hanging out with her family.

Q: Why NEPA?
A: So many reasons: my friends and family, the downtown Wilkes-Barre community, proximity to New York City, the Fine Arts Fiesta, and of course my job has been a driving force of keeping me in NEPA. I have worked at the F.M. Kirby Center for 21 years now.
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