Advertisement
  1. Education

Theater program returns to St. Petersburg College

Published Jan. 21, 2012

CLEARWATER

Eight students, ages 17 to 41, huddled around the table in the costume shop at St. Petersburg College to rehearse a play.

Just minutes into their reading of Stones From God, Scott Cooper, the director of SPC's theater program, stopped them. This section of the play is not about the words, he said, but the senses.

"All of these things they give you, really feel them, really smell them, really touch them," Cooper said Thursday.

The Acting Repertory class is one of several classes Cooper teaches in the college's theater program, recently revived after a nine-year hiatus. The revamped program has about 50 students.

Some, like 27-year-old Army veteran Daniel Williams, would love to parlay the experience at SPC into a professional acting career.

Others, like Kenneth City police Officer Kevin Daniels, said the program offers a fulfilling diversion.

"This is great because it allows me to blow off steam," said Daniels, 41, who also performs in Renaissance festivals and teaches stage combat elsewhere.

And Nicole Bredeson, who has taken classes at SPC for several years, says her involvement in the theater program helped her discover another passion.

"I just realized I want to teach drama," said Bredeson, 28, of Largo.

Both she and Daniels said they've learned much from Cooper beyond performing.

"I loved more so watching him teach, watching him guide people and watching people grow," Bredeson said.

During the two-hour class, Cooper offered dozens of bits of direction. He suggested the students experiment with which words they emphasize. He told them to really think about the meaning behind the words. And he made them repeat their lines until they rang true.

SPC's revived theater program officially launched last fall. The general plan is to produce one performance each semester. But this semester there will be two: Stones From God, which will only be performed at a Greek language and culture conference, and the musical Godspell, which will be performed for the public from March 28 through April 1 on campus.

This summer, the program will also produce The Laramie Project, about the town where Matthew Shepard, an openly gay college student, was killed.

SPC now offers about a dozen theater courses, including stagecraft, stage management and costume design.

Many of the students "know what it takes to do theater, but they don't realize how many specialties you need," said Cooper, 47.

Some of Cooper's students, including a couple of senior citizens, consider theater a hobby. Others hope to transfer to university theater programs or build a foundation for a career, he said.

"I always tell them this is sort of a jumping-off point," Cooper said. "Hopefully, if they're in the right place at the right time, they may go and work professionally."

Cooper was the full-time instructor when the college ended its theater program in 2002. A set designer by trade, Cooper has also worked in Chicago theaters and has designed scenery for various theaters in the Tampa Bay area, including American Stage and Jaeb Theater at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts. He was teaching at the University of South Florida when his present job at SPC became available.

SPC's theater program blossomed from a club that started when the college opened and it became an official program in the 1960s. SPC placed the theater program on the Clearwater campus after it moved from St. Petersburg's Gibbs campus in 1998. But within a few years, the department fell victim to budget cuts.

Recently, however, officials on campus said it was time to revive the program. They prepared their case for college president Bill Law.

"His response was, 'Let's go ahead and do it,' " said Stan Vittetoe, campus provost and vice president for workforce and continuing education.

"It's a part of a general education curriculum," Vittetoe said. "It just needs to be there."

Lorri Helfand can be reached at lorri@tampabay.com or (727) 445-4155. Go to tampabay.com/letters to write a letter to the editor.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Mittye P. Locke Elementary School in New Port Richey was recommended for closure by the Pasco school district administration. [Jeffrey S. Solochek | Times]
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  2. Pasco County School Board member Alison Crumbley wants her colleagues to take a closer look at making improvements to west-Pasco schools.
    The board plans a workshop before the end of the year.
  3. Tampa resident, Ann Turner Cook and Mike Dermo, vice president of field sales for Gerber Products Co., celebrate Gerber's 80th anniversary at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay in 2008. Times (2008)
    Widely known for appearing on baby-food jars, Cook taught for 26 years before retiring to become a mystery writer.
  4. Hudson High School principal David LaRoche plans to seek election as Pasco County schools superintendent. Courtesy of David LaRoche
    ‘I feel like I have to do this,’ says Dave LaRoche, a 30-year district educator.
  5. Scott Purcell, a senior geophysicist with GeoView, left, and Mike Wightman, president of GeoView use ground penetrating radar technology to scan a portion of King High campus in search for Ridgewood Cemetery in Tampa, Florida on Wednesday, October 23, 2019.  OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
  6. The Florida Supreme Court building in Tallahassee. SCOTT KEELER  |  Times
    Department of Education attorneys say the lower courts ruled properly in tossing the case.
  7. Pasco County School Buses. Times (2018)
    The School Board also approved a student calendar for 2020-21, with Aug. 10 as the first day of classes.
  8. Enterprise Village in Largo is celebrating 30 years this month. The facility, which provides hands-on education about economics, has served generations of children across the Tampa Bay area. In this photo from Nov. 7, fifth-graders from Safety Harbor Elementary School begin their day at the village. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    More than 400,000 kids in the Tampa Bay region have gone through the program, which offers a hands-on look at the free enterprise system.
  9. Students at Dunedin Elementary welcomed teacher Stephanie Whitaker back to campus the morning after she was named Pinellas Teacher of the Year in February 2012. The 2019-20 winner will be announced Jan. 29 at Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. Ten finalists have been selected. DOUGLAS CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    News and notes about K-12 schools and colleges in Pinellas County.
  10. Florida dropped one spot to 45th on the National Education Association's annual list of average teacher salaries. [National Education Association]
    A roundup of stories from around the state.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement