While she was growing up in the home she shared with her grandparents who raised her, Sharon E. Scott felt that the gospel singer Mahalia Jackson was living right there in their midst.
"I always felt like Mahalia was in our house," Scott said. "In our house, we had a picture of Martin Luther King Jr., JFK and in the center was Jesus. But on the record player was Mahalia."
Scott, an actor and singer familiar to St. Petersburg stages, speaks admiringly not only about Jackson's talent but of the woman she was and how she touched Scott's life. It seems only fitting that Scott wrote a play about Jackson's life and songs, titled Just As I Am, the Life, the Times, the Voice of Mahalia Jackson. It features songs such as How I Got Over, Didn't It Rain and This Little Light of Mine.
The play, directed by Bob Devin Jones, will run on a limited basis through Oct. 25 at the Studio@620 in St. Petersburg.
Mahalia Jackson passed away in 1972, but her story should not be lost, said Scott, who recently spoke with the St. Petersburg Times before an afternoon rehearsal of the show. Here's an excerpt of the interview.
How did Mahalia inspire you?
She's always been a part of my life. Not only am I a round, brown woman who can sing, but I'm also a round, brown woman whose grandfather was a minister, as was Mahalia's. There are a lot of similarities between us. The story that's most prevalent is that on Sundays my grandmother would get up before the sun was up to make dinner. She would always put on a Mahalia Jackson record. I would hear her in the kitchen, singing.
Tell me a about the show.
It is a two-person show. My acting partner in this production is Steve Garland, who is stellar, fabulous and magnificent. The way I've structured the show, the female is Mahalia. The male character is Everyman. … The character Steve plays is a composite of Louis "Studs" Terkel, her friend for more than 30 years; her first vocal coach; a motorcycle trooper; and the voice of her grandfather. He is Everyman. … In this economic crisis, theaters are closing left and right, and to do productions, you need small shows with big voices, and that's what this is.
How did you come up with the name?
I like being just the way I am. That's one of the reasons I called it Just As I Am, and Mahalia said that was one of her favorite songs. I liked that concept.
What is the message of the show?
Don't give up; keep going. It's not about who you are or any of those things. It's finding your passion and going for it. I think it's a great story for so many reasons. There are a lot of messages, some subtle and some overt. The most important thing is Mahalia's voice, her energy and her songs. She is incredible.
Orchids abound: Browse the greenhouses with thousands of orchids and tropical plants for sale. Also get info and see demos on orchid care. 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Florida Native Orchids, 6820 Second St. N, St. Petersburg. Free. Call (727) 527-2821 or visit floridanativeorchids.com.
Tampa Bay Bridal Show: The show brings prospective brides and grooms together with more than 80 specialists for helpful hints, ideas and exhibits to plan their dream wedding. Noon to
4 p.m. Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. $2. Call
(727) 893-8523 or visit
Ikebana demonstration: Take in this class about ikebana, the Japanese art of arranging flowers. 10:30 a.m. to noon. Chapel on the Hill, 12601 Park Blvd. Seminole. Free. Call (727) 392-4012.
Tampa Bay Senior Expo: Exhibits, seminars and free health screenings. Educational seminars on health, recreation, fitness, investing and more. Door prizes. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N, St. Petersburg. Free. (727) 893-8523 or visit
Bike Night: A ride-in bike show for motorcycle owners to show off their wheels with live music by Rebel Pride. 5 p.m. Drunken Clam, 46 46th Ave., St. Pete Beach. Free. Call (727) 360-1800.
Pickleball: Play the indoor sport similar to badminton and tennis. 9 to 11 a.m. St. Pete Beach Community Center, 7701 Boca Ciega Drive. $2. Call (727) 363-9245.
Ghosts of Our Town: Join Ghost Tours of St. Petersburg for an eerily entertaining evening of true ghost stories and real haunted houses in St. Petersburg. 8 p.m. Ghost Tours of St. Petersburg/Full Monty Cafe, 119 Second St. N, St. Petersburg. $15, $8 ages 4 to 12. Call (727) 894-4678 or visit
Angels After Dark: This annual event features about 40 vendors selling mixed lower priced gifts, food and more. Benefits First United Methodist Children's Ministry. 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Bank of America Tower, 200 Central Ave. St. Petersburg. Items individually priced. Free babysitting available from church members while you shop. Call (727) 687-1051.
Masik audiovisual concert: The multimedia performance ensemble/improvisational jazz trio from Gainesville will experiment with the outer limits of contemporary audiovisual digital performance. Dali Museum, 1000 Third St. S, St. Petersburg. 8 p.m. $10, $8 seniors/students, and $5 for members. Call (727) 823-3767 or emitseries.org.
Necronomicon: The annual round-the-clock science fiction, fantasy and horror convention features a masquerade party, trivia contests, live-action and board games, "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" shown live alongside a live cast, and more. Through Sunday. Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront, 333 First St. S, St. Petersburg. $50 all three days; or $25 Friday or Saturday; or $20 Sunday. Call (813) 390-8418 through Thursday; (727) 894-5000 Oct. 23-25.
Haunted Firehouse: Firefighters are getting into the holiday fun. Each room of the station will be decked out in the theme of their favorite scary movies, neighborhood associations will give away candy, and Fire Explorers will sell hot dogs and sodas. 7 to 9 p.m. Fossil Park Fire Station 7, 6975 Ninth St. N, St. Petersburg. Free (canned food donations appreciated). Call (727) 776-4879.
John's Pass Seafood Festival: This year's event is dedicated to fishermen lost at sea and features fresh local seafood specialties, arts and crafts, live music, street dance, fishing expo, a kids area and a children's Halloween costume contest (3 p.m.). 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. John's Pass Village and Boardwalk, 150 John's Pass Boardwalk, Madeira Beach.
Free. (727) 394-0756 or visit
SPCA Pet Walk: Pull on your walking shoes, grab a leash and walk on the waterfront with your pet to benefit homeless and abused animals. Event also features an adoptable-pet parade, a pet howl-o-ween costume contest, fly ball, K-9 obedience/agility demos, shopping, music and food court. Proceeds benefit the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. North Shore Park, 901 North Shore Drive NE, St. Petersburg. $10 registration plus collected pledges. (727) 586-3591 or visit petwalk.org.
Times Festival of Reading: Annual celebration of reading with more than 45 published authors available to sign their books. Also children's book authors, book market, family activities, guest speakers and concessions. 10 a.m. to
5 p.m. University of South Florida St. Petersburg, 140 Seventh Ave. S. Free. Call (727) 892-2358 or visit festivalofreading.com.
Zumba bash: Certified instructors lead you through an energetic exercise session to benefit Community Tampa Bay to fight hate crimes. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. North Straub Park, Fifth Avenue NE and Bayshore Drive, St. Petersburg. $10 per hour. Call (727) 568-9333.
IF YOU GO
'Just As I Am, the Life, the Times, the Voice of Mahalia Jackson'
When: 7 p.m. today and Oct. 25; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Where: Studio@620, 620 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg.
Tickets: $20, students and seniors $15.
Information: Call (727) 895-6620 or visit studio620.org.