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Beautiful People: Erica Sutherlin inspires beyond the stage for the production of 'Dutchman'

"Being an artist and raising and growing and mentoring young artists — that's what I do. That's how I give back to the world."

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Erica Sutherlin started moving in the direction of working in the Air Force and as an aeronautical engineer, but that changed when she decided to take drama as an elective in high school. Since then, she's been hooked on theatre.

This passion led Erica to teach at the Pinellas Park Performing Arts Center, a visual and performing arts high school. This is where she first began giving back to the community through education. 

Now, Erica is working for American Stage in St. Petersburg, where she's currently the director of "Dutchman."

The play is "a timeless play about race and identity in America focused on the political and psychological struggle between African Americans and White Americans," the American Stage website explains.

The theatre says that although the play premiered 60 years ago, "Dutchman" is "more timely now than ever."

Erica says the topic of the play is heavy but important to talk about.

"It's about Clay's journey with his identity, so Black male identity — what is that in America?" Erica said. "I want you to leave here talking about it. I want you to be confused, but ask questions."

Students from Erica's performing arts classes even worked on the production, one as the lighting designer and another who painted the set and did the scenic work.

"Being an artist and raising and growing and mentoring young artists — that's what I do. That's how I give back to the world," Erica said.

You can catch "Dutchman" at American Stage until July 31. Visit the American Stage website for showtimes and ticket prices.

Editor's note: This story misspelled the name of "Dutchman" director Erica Sutherlin. It is not "Sutherland."

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