PCCA faculty, students contributing to St. Petersburg theater scene

“I think it’s interesting to have a black female director to explore a play that deals with a racial situation,” says Erica Sutherlin, director of To Kill a Mockingbird. “But I’m not here to play white vs. black, even though that’s in the play. It’s about how we grow and change and evolve. How do we get to today from 1935 (when the play takes place)? How do we evolve into our greater selves?” Photo by LARA CERRI, courtesy of the Tampa Bay Times.

This week proves a busy and exciting one for the theater faculty and select students at the Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School.  Two community theater productions will be opening with PCCA teacher and student involvement.

Erica Sutherlin, a teacher at Gibbs High School, is directing “To Kill A Mockingbird” at St. Petersburg City Theater.  She is the first black director since the theater was founded in 1925. View a Tampa Bay Times video that features Sutherlin talking about her experience.

“That’s kind of cool”, she said. “It’s interesting to be the first black female director to explore a play that deals with a racial situation.”  The cast of 17 includes current PCCA students as well as alumni.

On the technical side of the production, Wes Reid, the technical director at The Pinellas County Center for the Arts is designing the lighting for the production of “Mockingbird”. Wes has been teaching lighting, sound and set construction at PCCA at Gibbs High School for six years.  While challenging and difficult to manage a more than full-time job at school, juggling a 2-year-old and doing a community theater job, he finds the experience rewarding.

Siobhan Archard, Technical Theatre Department Chair, took on the set design for “To Kill A Mockingbird” because it is one of her favorite stories.  She began her career in St. Petersburg teaching at Eckerd College and designing sets for the St. Petersburg Little Theatre and feels like she is reviving part of her past.

“While the people have changed, the feeling in the facility is mostly the same,” Archard said.  “I love designing in a space with such a rich history.  So many lives have touched that backstage space.  Its nice to be a part of it again.”

Though difficult and time demanding, the PCCA theater faculty feels it is of the utmost importance to work in venues outside of the school setting.  It offers PCS students a link to the community.

Dalton Hamilton, one of PCCA’s current technical theater seniors, is the technical director at Eight O’Clock Theater. He also has a show opening this week.  Hamilton is designing the lighting for “The Producers.”  His community involvement and self-motivation is an inspiration to the PCCA faculty as well as his theater peers.

Find out more about community theater in St. Petersburg:
• Shows, times and ticket pricing: St. Petersburg City Theatre website
Tampa Bay Times story about St. Petersburg City Theatre

Editor’s note: This story was prepared for the district’s Newsroom by Siobhan Archard, PCCA Technical Theatre Department Chair, Gibbs High School. We welcome Newsroom contributions from district faculty, staff and students.

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