A Shadowy Month in Fullerton

The city of Fullerton, long known as the Paris of North Orange County, is also the most artistically dense city in the OC. Want proof? Try Fullerton Shadows, a month-long theater–and other artsy stuff–festival involving 120 events on display at eight venues scattered across town.

Since this is October, most of the plays, films and other offerings have some kind of spooky component, including the first one: a screening of the film Young Frankenstein, on the exterior of the Fox Fullerton.


Along with the Fox, other venues or participants include: Fullerton College; the Fullerton Civic Light Opera; The Hunger Artists; The Maverick Theater; the Muckenthaler Cultural Center; Stages Theatre, and the OC Theater Organ Society.

We caught up with the inaugural festival's primary mover and shaker, Zoot Velasco, the executive director of the Muckenthaler Cultural Center and picked his brain about Orange County's biggest theatrical event to date…

OC Weekly (Joel Beers): How'd you come up with the idea, Zoot?

Zoot Velasco: Eighteen months ago, I asked all the (city theater's artistic directors) to meet at the Muck with the idea of starting a roundtable of ideas for cooperative marketing and audience development.  From that meeting we discussed the idea of a month-long theatre festival and took six months debating different themes and dates before settling on this one. 
Is there a reason you planned this for the month of October?

It was a natural because most of the theatres were already doing similar themes in October and October is arts month in the state,  giving more free publicity. We didn't see any one else doing this theme as a theatre festival and thought it would be good for niche marketing.
Is the goal to give attention to the various venues or to elevate the conscience of Fullerton as an arts community in Orange County and the rest of Southern California?

Our thinking is that even if all the people who go to the Fullerton Civic Light Opera tried one of the 99-seater's shows out, and vice-versa, it would be a success.  Just to get audiences here to cross-pollinate.  
Do you think this is something that could become an annual event in Fullerton?

If we can get people coming in to town for theatre it would drive tourism for the whole city much as Shakespeare has for Ashland OR or the Masters Pageant has for Laguna. The potential is really large. How many cities of 125,000 people have over a dozen theatre venues like us? Cultural tourism should be high on the city's agenda and we are helping to show that.
Is this a self-funded venture or has the festival been given any financial assistance to promote itself?

We actually were awarded two grants- one from the city for just under $5,000 and one from Arts Orange County for $5,000 to help make this happen.  As cities go, I've seen none better than Fullerton, but I've been here three years and been talking about cultural tourism and its potential to make tens or hundreds of thousands in revenue for the city with little interest.  I just thought, why wait for the city to do something?  Let the theatres lead the way and they can jump on our band wagon.  And to some extent they have. The success of this will really determine if the idea has legs or if its a good idea before its time.

Young Frankenstein, at the Fox Fullerton, the corner of Harbor Boulevard and Chapman Avenue, Fullerton, 7:30-9:30. Free. www.foxfullerton.org

For information on the month-long Fullerton Shadows festival, which begins tomorrow with plays at the Hunger Artists, The Maverick and Stages, visit www.fullertonshadows.org.

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