By: Wesley Martin
Pensacola’s Saenger Theater was almost to the maximum capacity of 1650 last Saturday. Hundreds of people came to enjoy the local stage production, “Praying Grandmother,” presented by the Pensacola Arts and Recreation Association.
With an “All-Star” cast of over 40 and a special performance by national gospel recording artist, Dorothy Norwood, founder of PCARA, Leroy Williams, says his grandmother was the inspiration for his latest work.
“Sometimes we don’t give a lot of credit to our grandparents,” he said. “My grandmother raised me. I give her a lot of credit for my success today because of the things she instilled in me like fervent prayer.”
PCARA, which celebrates its’ 25th anniversary this year, also has an enrichment program.
“PCARA was initially established to provide children with theatre and fine art exposure,” Williams said. “We work with young children to keep them away from some of the negative things in life. We offer acting, singing, modeling, aerobics, boxing and karate.”
Though the organization receives some local sponsorship, Williams says the one of the reasons PCARA stays active is because they have to be.
“About 90 percent of the [money we get] we raise it ourselves,” Williams said. “We fund our own organization.”
Always networking, Williams often works with other organizations and churches to assist them with their staged productions.
Debi Phillips, who played the character of Aretha in “Praying Grandmothers,” says she met Williams when he helped her church, Olive Baptist, with their Christmas Panorama production.
“He offered an invitation for us to audition,” said Phillips when speaking on how she got involved with the PCARA stage-play, “And I got the part.”
Phillips says working with Williams was different than in other productions.
“Leroy works at such a professional level. And because of that, we learned a lot about what it’s like working on the stage,” she said.
For more information on PCARA, please visit their website at www.pcaraonline.com