This year, festivalgoers may notice a slight change to the Cucalorus name.
The annual film festival taking place Nov. 8-12 is now under the larger umbrella name of Cucalorus Festival.
The change comes with the addition of Cucalorus Stage, a new branch of the festival’s 2017 programming. It’s now the third piece of the Cucalorus brand name, which also includes Cucalorus Film and Cucalorus Connect.
Dan Brawley, executive director of the Cucalorus Foundation, said the landscape of Wilmington has changed, sparking a change in the festival.
With the addition of more venues, more hotel space and other amenities to Wilmington, Brawley said it was the right time for a shift in the brand, now that there are more opportunities for outside travelers to experience a larger festival lineup.
The film festival started in 1994 with the screening of 16 local films and has grown since then. In 2015 it added Cucalorus Connect, a five-day business conference that runs in conjunction with the film festival targeting the entrepreneurial and startup communities.
The festival had a total accumulated attendance of more than 17,800 in 2016, organizers said.
“Like a lot of the shifts within Cucalorus over the years, we’re really responding to changes in the community,” Brawley said. “We’re showcasing things that we are already doing, that people know about. We’ve repackaged the festival in a way.”
Cucalorus Stage, is expected to showcase performances in dance, theater, comedy, music and installation, according to festival officials.
“We’re adding several theater pieces and several nights of music,” Brawley said. “We think that just rounds out the offerings at Cucalorus, and represents some of the cultural strengths in our community.”
Cucalorus has also named a new coordinator for the Stage programming. Thea Fitz-James, started out as a festival performer in 2015 and joined the Cucalorus team in 2016 as a special programs coordinator.
“She's the third force driving this decision -- she's an increibly gifted performer and organizer, so we're hoping she'll do this work for many years to come,” Brawley said. “And it gives her a chance to experiment and test out new ideas, which is nice.”
As Cucalorus Stage Coordinator, Fitz-James is working to hone many of the performances the festival has showcased in the past, such as its Dance-A-Lorus night, and new events under the Stage name. Her goal is to ramp up regional, national and international performers, while strengthening the overall goal of Stage programming.
“We’re going to start really small,” Fitz-James said, adding that the festival is looking to add about 10 new programs to showcase. Fitz-James is aiming to include programs and live performances within Stage, that she said would enhance the “energy and color” to the overall festival.
“Already there’s been a vibrant performance element to Cucalorus. The goal is to be more intentional in programming,” she said. “I think there is a real potential for it all to grow as well. This is the first year, and we are still trying to figure out a lot.”
Brawley and Fitz-James are starting the process of seeking out performers. Entry deadlines for the 2017 Cucalorus Festival are also fast approaching, with an early deadline of June 1, regular deadline on June 22 and late deadline on July 13.
The additional lineup of programming is one of many new strides festival organizers are taking this year. With Cucalorus Connect, organizers are working to form a board of directors and name a director for the business conference this year.
The festival also announced Cucalorus Connect is taking place for the first time under one roof, at Windell Daniels Hall inside Cape Fear Community College’s Union Station building.
Correction: This version corrects the spelling of Thea Fitz-James' name.