Play offers an artistic interpretation of race

Published April 26, 2007

Using a distinguished art collection as a prism for a discussion about race is an unlikely premise for a play. And the two probably would never have been joined in a drama if not for the real-life, ongoing drama on which it's based.

Permanent Collection by Thomas Gibbons is being presented by the Studio@620 for a two-weekend run beginning today. It's a loosely veiled account of the turmoil surrounding the Barnes Foundation and its outstanding art collection located in a suburb of Philadelphia.

In Permanent Collection, the fictional conflict centers on Sterling North, newly appointed head of the Morris Collection, who is black, and Paul Barrow, the collection's longtime curator, who is white. They tussle over North's desire to make changes to better reflect multiculturalism and Barrow's resistance, based on the wishes of its founder, Alfred Morris, prohibiting any changes.

It's a highly charged debate that explores racial discrimination, cultural correctness and the universality of art.

Shown here is the cast for the Studio@620 production, clockwise from left: Aleshea Harris, Bob Heitman, Bonnie Agan, Bob Devin Jones, Gloria Bailey and Matt Huffman.

Studio@620 is at 620 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg. Performances are at 8 p.m. today, Friday and Saturday and May 3 through 5 and at 7 p.m. May 6. Tickets are $10. For information, call 727 895-6620 or go to www.thestudioat620.com.