Tull Family Theater patrons waiting before a show. Photo courtesy of Tull Family Theater.

Tucked inside Sewickley’s nonprofit Tull Family Theater is a 2,044-square-foot space that’s just waiting for the perfect partner.

The theater, which offers a wide range of first-run movies (including sensory-friendly screenings), live performances and events, currently serves the sort of refreshments you might expect — a nice array of candy and small-batch popcorn topped with fresh butter.

But after talking with patrons during their first two years in operation (they opened in February 2017) and collaborating with researchers from CMU’s Masters of Arts Management program (who studied offerings at other art house and nonprofit theaters around the country), the Tull Family Theater has issued a request for proposals.

They’re seeking a restaurant or chef to design and manage a food and beverage program that would occupy the flexible, auxiliary space they currently use for special events and overflow seating. It could be a full-on restaurant or a series of creative pop-ups.

And though the request has gone out nationwide, they’d love to find someone local.

A ballet company currently uses the theater’s auxiliary space for occasional performances. Courtesy of The Tull Family Theater.
A ballet company currently uses the theater’s auxiliary space for occasional performances. Courtesy of The Tull Family Theater.

“It’s so important to us that the local entrepreneurs, the local restaurateurs, know about this opportunity,” says the theater’s Executive Director Carolina Thor. “We want to give an opportunity for these up-and-coming chefs to showcase what they have to offer.”

The theater is open 365 days a year, Thor says, but many local restaurants are not.

Finding open restaurants to recommend to patrons, especially on Sunday nights, can be difficult, she says. So adding an in-house restaurant will be a welcome change. It’s also a chance to share some of Pittsburgh’s latest culinary innovations with a wider audience.

“We’re using the word ‘creative’ quite often in our conversations about this,” Thor says. We want “to really bring in a little bit of this food renaissance that Pittsburgh has experienced, and bring it a bit further into the suburbs.”

The theater serves audiences in places like Beaver and Butler counties, and offers free transportation to groups in these communities.

The main refreshment currently served at the theater: popcorn topped with real butter. Courtesy of The Tull Family Theater.

“They want very much to experience quality arts and quality food,” Thor says, “and the innovation that’s happening around cuisine in Pittsburgh.”

But geographic distance, lack of available transportation and the sometimes prohibitive cost can keep residents in these towns — especially older people or children in underserved neighborhoods — from “really accessing these amazing innovations.”

A fabulous in-house dining program at the theater is the perfect solution.

The request for proposals is open through Aug. 30.

Melissa Rayworth

Kidsburgh Editor Melissa Rayworth specializes in stories about culture, gender, design and parenting. She has written for a variety of outlets in the U.S. and Asia, and is a frequent contributor to The Associated Press. Find a selection of her work at melissarayworth.pressfolios.com.