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Rise Up Arts and the Lancaster Masonic Lodge #57 Form Partnership

The Full Story

Lancaster Lodge No. 57 Free & Accepted Masons of Ohio has a long history of community involvement.  Three churches – St John’s Episcopal, First Presbyterian, and St. Peter’s Lutheran were in large part founded by members of the Lodge.  The first public library was established solely by Lodge members.  We were instrumental in establishing Lancaster’s public school system, and established the first private school in Lancaster.

Lancaster Masonic Lodge also has a history of supporting the liberal and performing arts in Lancaster.  In 1868, the Lodge hosted a “Grand Masonic Concert” in the cavernous City Hall Auditorium, featuring “vocal and instrumental music, tableaux, and dramatic entertainment.”  Talent came from within our community.  In December 1920 for the Lodge’s centennial celebration, New York Metropolitan Opera soprano Sophie Brosnan gave a public recital at the City Hall auditorium. Our amazing Lancaster Men’s Chorus was started at the Temple by members of the Fraternity and others in the community, and gave its first public concert in the building many decades ago.

Members of the Lodge and its Appendant Bodies have a respectable history of musical variety shows and concerts in the Temple’s auditorium.  First-run movies were shown on the big screen.  When the present building was built, it was designed with a projection booth that would house two carbon arc projectors.  Though these were never installed, historic records show that more conventional projectors were used to show reels on the auditorium’s 10x13 movie screen, which remains in use today in conjunction with the Lectures of the degrees of Freemasonry. 

In 2020, Lancaster Masonic Lodge saw formidable administrative changes at the behest of the Grand Lodge of Ohio, which returned administrative oversight of the Temple to the Lodge, from a committee that had overseen it for some 30 years.  Despite the adventures that 2020 gave the world in the form of Covid, Lancaster Lodge took this opportunity to try to reclaim its legacy of service to community.  The auditorium, with its history of theatrical and musical entertainment, could be admirably used to host the same once again, but for public entertainment rather than just for the membership.  Also, given the considerable annual cost of operating the historic building, seeking out external sources of revenue were of importance as well.  The Temple’s auditorium is the last surviving traditional theatrical stage in Lancaster, and incorporates theatre seating from the former Liberty Theatre on Main Street.

It was at this time that Thurlow Weed, then Assistant Secretary of the Lodge, and Judith Cosgray, Executive Director of Rise Up Arts Alliance, made a connection.  RUAA was actively seeking a suitable performance venue for their productions, and the stage and auditorium at the Lancaster Masonic Temple were well-suited to their needs.  Though not 100% ideal in terms of handicap accessibility, the presence of a stair lift nonetheless provides handicapped patrons access to the auditorium.  Pirates! The Musical was the first RUAA production in the Temple, and was the first time the public was able to experience the historic auditorium as a performing arts venue.

Rise Up Arts Alliance and Freemasonry share much common purpose.  Especially for children’s theatre – and particularly for Penguin Project – theatre teaches about interpersonal relationships, communication skills, leadership skills, music, respect for others, bettering ourselves, and community building.

Freemasonry teaches much of the same.  The lecture of the Entered Apprentice degree teaches that “Freemasonry conciliates true friendship among those who might have otherwise remained at a perpetual distance.”  

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