If you check the Palladium website, you’ll notice a shortage of shows this week. That doesn’t mean it’s quiet down here.
The crew from American Stage is in the building, finishing the set and the lighting work for the upcoming production of the Pulitzer Prize winning drama, Wit. Working with them both backstage and in the rehearsal hall are students from the St. Petersburg College Theater program.
Palladium and American Stage fans will recall that we initiated a partnership last year which brought the American Stage production of August: Osage County to our stage. The show was a hit and won the Critics Choice Award for Outstanding Play at this year’s Jeff Norton Theater Awards (also held at the Palladium).
This year the SPC theater program joined the partnership. Eighteen SPC students, ages 20-35, are participating in the production in a variety of capacities, such as acting, costumes, props, set loading and assistant directing. Students began rehearsals on Oct. 2. The show runs from Oct. 21 – Nov. 4 at the Palladium at SPC.
“This is an extremely new experience for me,” said Erica Simpson, 24, an Associate in Arts student at the Clearwater Campus. “The amount of professionalism that’s being displayed is out of this world. It’s been a great learning experience!”
SPC student participation doesn’t stop with the theater program. Interns from the college’s Music Industry and Recording Arts program will work alongside the Palladium tech crew and the American Stage crew during all the productions. During regular MIRA classes at the Palladium, student will learn first-hand how major theatrical productions are mounted, including lighting, cues and working with more than a dozen body microphones.
The college’s theater program was restarted in the fall 2011 after a nine-year hiatus. When Scott Cooper was hired as SPC’s theater director, he was asked to focus on getting the program more involved with American Stage.
“Todd Olson, Artistic Director of American Stage, and I have actually done this before, when I was teaching at Eckerd College,” said Cooper, who has designed scenery for American Stage, Jobsite, Gorilla, Jaeb (Straz Center for the Performing Arts), Stageworks and freeFall theaters in the Tampa Bay area. “So it was something that he and I have always talked about doing again.”
“For our theater students, this is a master class in what it’s really like to do theater professionally,” Cooper said. “The students that are participating will get real master classes with the professional actors— connections that most college theater students can only dream of making.”
The students have the opportunity to work with leading actress Kim Crow, a 2012 Emmy award nominee as co-producer and female voiceover talent for Echoes from the Holocaust, and other professionals including Joe Parra, Barbara Redmond, LuLu Picart and Bill Grennan.
“I think they feel very lucky to have this kind of experience and I am so happy the SPC theater department can provide this for them,” Cooper said.
SPC students perform multiple roles in Wit, which is the story of Vivian Bearing, an uncompromising English professor who is dying of late-stage ovarian cancer.
For some of these young actors, the play touches them in a personal way.
Simpson hopes this will help students realize the importance of staying informed about their health.
“Vivian Bearing waited four months before she went to get checked out because she was having cramps,” she said. “I think that students, whether we have insurance or not, we need to go see a gynecologist and get things checked out when we feel like something is not right. Usually when we say that ‘I don’t feel right,’ or ‘there’s something going on in my body,’ usually we’re right.”