Lisa Marone of Pass-a-Grille never considered herself a theater person. While she enjoyed attending an occasional performance, she didn’t give much thought to what went on behind the scenes. But all that changed when she discovered a local treasure – the St. Petersburg City Theatre (SPCT).
Founded in 1925, SPCT is the longest continuously running community theater in the state. Once housed in an old gristmill, its mission was to use community-produced theatrical productions to enrich the lives of St. Petersburg’s diverse popu- lation. In the 1950’s, the theater purchased the building where it stands today, a 14,000 square foot structure located at 4025 31st Street S.
When her daughter, Georgiana, attended the 2016 SPCT summer theatre camp, Lisa’s interest was piqued.
“I was smitten with the stage,” she recalls. “It’s an old Broadway-style wooden stage with big curtains. “ She was also impressed with the enthusiasm of the interns and educational director. In fact, Georgiana enjoyed the summer camp so much, she decided to join the school year program.
Lisa also appreciated SPCT’s support for other non-profit organizations. “I’ve enjoyed being involved in community events in St Pete Beach,” she says. “When The Friends of Gulf Beaches Historical Museum hosted a fundraiser at SPCT where they purchased a command performance, the collaboration between two history rich, non-profits really touched me.” So when the former SPCT board made the decision to close the theater, Lisa decided to get involved. “I’d gone to the performances and thought they were wonderful, but I could tell that the organization was in need,” she says. That’s when she reached out to Sharon Cook, prior board president, to see how she could help.
“The SPCT had been the heart of St. Petersburg’s theater scene,” Lisa explains. “I wanted to help bring that back.” So she volunteered to serve on the board. “It’s a dedicated group with a diverse skill set,” she says. “Some of us have a child in the program and others have theater experience themselves, so we all have a stake in it. We’re focused on connecting with the community. In the 60s, the theater was so popular it had to limit membership. We’re trying to revive something in St. Petersburg that has an incredible history.” The Pass-a-Grille Women’s Club, founded in 1922, reached out immediately to support that mission.
As a member of the board, Lisa does everything from changing toilet paper and meet- ing with electricians to organiz- ing fundraisers and reaching out to local businesses. But for Lisa, all the hard work is worth the satisfaction she gets when she sees how the theater touches lives. “This theater affects so many people,” she says. She’s observed children learning life skills of empathy, supporting one another and working as a cohesive group; the autistic child on stage where all limitations are gone and the audience can’t tell the difference, and the 89-year-old woman who organizes the ushers and says that this is her home. According to Lisa, “Something wonderful happens every day.”
She encourages everyone to join the SPCT family. “It’s much more than a great theater,” she says. “We’d like people to experience the building and suggest ways to expand its use to other community events. Donations and volunteers to work on productions are always needed. This is a place where everybody can give. There’s a spirit of unity in this community, a level of acceptance when you come into the theater. We celebrate that unity, where everyone is coming together for a common cause; the love of community theater.”
For more information, go to spcitytheatre.org.