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Staging Ground: An American Theater and Its Ghosts


A poignant and personal history of one of America’s oldest theaters, the Fulton Theatre.

Paperback edition with 264 pages and 17 black & white illustrations.

SKU: 0100001000 Categories: ,


From Penn State Press:

In this poignant and personal history of one of America’s oldest theaters, Leslie Stainton captures the story not just of an extraordinary building but of a nation’s tumultuous struggle to invent itself. Built in 1852 and in use ever since, the Fulton Theatre in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, is uniquely ghosted. Its foundations were once the walls of a colonial jail that in 1763 witnessed the massacre of the last surviving Conestoga Indians. Those same walls later served to incarcerate fugitive slaves. Staging Ground explores these tragic events and their enduring resonance in a building that later became a town hall, theater, and movie house—the site of minstrel shows, productions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, oratory by the likes of Thaddeus Stevens and Mark Twain, performances by Buffalo Bill and his troupe of “Wild Indians,” Hollywood Westerns, and twenty-first-century musicals.

Interweaving past and present, private anecdote and public record, Stainton unfolds the story of this emblematic space, where for more than 250 years Americans scripted and rescripted their history. Staging Ground sheds light on issues that continue to form us as a people: the evolution of American culture and faith, the immigrant experience, the growth of cities, the emergence of women in art and society, the spread of advertising, the flowering of transportation and technology, and the abiding paradox of a nation founded on the principle of equality for “all men,” yet engaged in the slave trade and in the systematic oppression of the American Indian.


Paperback Edition.
ISBN: 978-0-271-06365-2

264 pages with 27 black & white illustrations.
Published in 2014 by Penn State Press.

Additional information

Weight 13.2 oz
Dimensions 8.5 × 5.5 × .75 in

Author Biography

Leslie Stainton grew up in Lancaster and first worked in the Fulton Theatre when she was 12 years old and volunteered to usher for a play. She went on to work at the Fulton for several years, both onstage, backstage, and behind the scenes in the development office. Her fascination with the Fulton led her to write a history-memoir about the theater, Staging Ground: An American Theater and Its Ghosts, published by Penn State Press in 2014. Leslie is also the author of Lorca: A Dream of Life, a biography of the Spanish playwright and poet Federico Garcia Lorca, and she recently completed a book about her slaveholding ancestors, the Scarletts of Georgia. A two-time Fulbright award recipient, she holds a BA in drama from Franklin and Marshall College and an MFA in dramaturgy from the University of Massachusetts.

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Did You Know?

The Slumbering Order of Hibernating Governors (ie. the Groundhogs) was founded by George Hensel in Quarryville in 1908.