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Monday, Jun 18, 2018
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Local theater groups find new spirit of cooperation

SUN CITY CENTER – There has always been dramatic tension between the Performing Arts Company of Sun City Center and the Pelican Players of Kings Point – until now. The two theater groups have decided to play nice with each other and will be working more in concert to present the finest in community theater to all of South Shore.

“Aside from a couple of radio shows in the past, we really haven’t established any sort of working relationship with each other,” said Linda Halperin, Pelican Players president.

Ellen Kleinschmidt, Performing Arts Company president, agreed.

“They’ve stayed on their side of the street and we’ve stayed on ours,” she said.

What’s new now they both say is a sense of collaboration, of sharing talent and ideas.

“In the old days there was a perception that Kings Point actually wanted to be exclusive,” Halperin said. “But interestingly enough, that perception is no longer valid.”

Earlier this year, Kleinschmidt, Halperin and Lew Resseguie, Performing Arts Club board chairman, met to talk about moving forward together.

One of the first changes they made was for each group to welcome performers from the other, to eliminate any sense of betrayal members might have for wanting to join what might once have been considered a competing production.

This summer Resseguie hosted an open workshop for folks who wanted to learn how to direct or those wanting to brush up on their directing skills. Currently in the works is a plan for the nonprofit groups to have a combined show together, and for the first time they will advertise their productions together.

“Our grand vision is to have both groups retaining their own individual identities and missions but work under the same roof at a proposed community theater to be built on the grounds of the Community Association,” Halperin said. “Currently there’s not a lot of rehearsal space at Kings Point and because we’re considered a club we have to share the Borini Theater. That’s why our shows normally are limited to two nights.”

The Performing Arts Company doesn’t have that restriction because its performances take place at Rollins Theater. But it too needs more rehearsal space.

“So far there’s no commitment on the part of the Community Association to build a new theater, which we would manage and administrate,” Ressigue said. “But if a theater and rehearsal hall does get built both groups could certainly benefit.”

The theater is actually in the Community Association’s overall plan, said its president Ed Barnes.

“But our philosophy is pay as you go and right now under that plan, it’ll probably be 2020 or later before it’s built,” he said. “It’s up to the community if (residents) will let us borrow to push that date up.”

Meanwhile, the groups keep doing what they do.

The Pelican Players focus on producing plays, comedies, dramas and mysteries to raise money for scholarships for local graduating seniors going into the theater arts. The club has awarded close to $500,000 since the early 1980s. The Performing Arts Club concentrates its efforts on musical productions to raise funding for the new theater.

The Players recently gave $15,000 in seed money to start a scholarship fund that the Community Foundation of Greater Sun City Center will administrate as a lifelong endowment. Colleges will apply for scholarships to be paid from interest only on behalf of their theater arts students.

As a result the Pelican Players mission is evolving to include the goal of excellence in community theater while continuing to raise scholarship funding.

Both Kleinschmidt and Halperin agree cooperation between the two groups will not only benefit their members but also the community. Good community theater, they say, should include a wide variety of genres and at least half a dozen productions each year to remain viable. And that’s what they want they want to do.

Resseguie said he’s “anxious for the Pelican Players and the PAC to be able to work together and build a better theater environment for all of South Shore, and the spirit of cooperation is a good thing.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Kleinschmidt said. “This could be the start of something big.”

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