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‘Catalyst Sessions’ recap: Lisa Marone

Bill DeYoung

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St. Petersburg City Theatre will turn 100 in five years, and that’s a pretty impressive milestone.

It’s even more impressive when you crunch some recent numbers – in 2016, the longest continuously-operating community theater in the entire country was all but out of money, its all-volunteer board totally out of gas. There was, for a time, little hope it would ever achieve centenarian status.

And yet, here we are.

This month, SPCT – known for decades as the St. Petersburg Little Theatre – will put on its first virtual show, Robert Harling’s Steel Magnolias.

Lisa Marone, newly-elected board president, appeared on The Catalyst Sessions Monday to talk about the events leading up to today’s silver-lined reality – the post-2017 board has had the roof and the air conditioning replaced at the 14,000-square foot building on 31st Street South. There are new lights and a new sign, too, and best of all there’s a renewed enthusiasm for what an organized and involved community theater can do for … well, for the community.

If there was a big, bold newspaper headline to the story, it would read MOMS BAND TOGETHER TO SAVE THEATER. Marone’s daughter was happily enrolled in the SPCT children’s programs when the bottom almost fell out; along others whose children were thoroughly enjoying the transforming experience of theater, its discipline, its camaraderie and its fun, she formed a new board and went to work. Everyone worked double-time for no money.

“We didn’t know what we were doing,” Marone said. “We just knew we didn’t want to see it close.”

The most recent adult production, the musical Mamma Mia!, sold out in February and March, and the socially-distanced kids’ production of The Lion King Jr. was a smash hit last month.

St. Petersburg City Theatre’s numbers are up, and the can-do level is off the charts. Donations are always gratefully welcomed. Moving forward, the goal is to help it reclaim its rightful place in the St. Pete arts community.

“We aren’t centrally located, but we’re easy to get to, right off of 275,” Marone explained. “We have a 40,000-square-foot parking lot, so parking is not an issue. A lot of places downtown have that as an issue. We don’t.

“It’s really just getting us back on people’s radar downtown, and collaborating with other organizations.”

 Today on The Catalyst Sessions: Bob Devin Jones.

Streaming weekdays at 7 p.m. on the Catalyst Facebook page. All episodes are archived on our YouTube channel.

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