Starlight Performing Academy

BY PUNEET SANDHU, Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG — It is the end of an era for the Starlight Performing Academy, Inc., a St. Petersburg youth performing arts troupe, which after running for more than 25 years will host their two-day final performance next weekend.

The first part of the final event takes place Fri., March 13 at the Enoch Davis Center, 1111 18th Ave. S., with the second part that Sun., March 15 at Catherine Hickman Theater, 5501 27th Ave. S., Gulfport.

Each leg of this two-day event offers different highlights. Tickets cost $5 for the March 13 event and $15 for the March 15 event ($10 for children 11 years and younger). The tickets can be purchased the night of the shows at the venue doors, which open at 6 p.m. Both events begin at 7 p.m.

Deloris Green Foster, the founder and CEO of the Starlight Performing Academy, Inc., said overall 28 people will be performing in the final show, including current and former Starlight students.

“The show is called ‘Reuniting: A Reunion Celebration/Ending of An Era,’” she said. “This will be the closing of the Starlights. We are ending it.”

According to Foster, the first night’s event is primarily a meet and greet opportunity. “That’s where hopefully a lot of the alumni from the ‘80s, ‘90s and early 2000s will come,” Foster said.

Dinner will be served and guest will be treated to a gospel show. Junior Starlight members will perform gospel speeches and dances. Then some of the alumni will do a number called “Gospel Has No Limits,” which Foster explained would have very different gospel dances in it.

“We’ll do one or two minutes of each dance, but the last dance is called ‘Now Behold the Lamb,’ which is a tribute to Iyanna Beard who joined the Starlights at eight years old but died at age 14. She had performed that dance.”

An alum of the program will also perform a solo tribute to Whitney Houston and Bobbi Kristina Brown.

Foster said the first night would focus on the successes of the Starlight alumni, with many serving as guest speakers.

“I’ll have a lot of alumni that grew up in the group that are now in very good standing in the city,” Foster said. “We’ll also have different articles that were written about us in the paper and different pictures of past dances. There will be a lot of meet and greet picture taken during the show.”

The second night will be a throwback to the past with tributes to former artists and works, and will also feature fashion shows. Starlights will perform two famous speeches from author and performer Maya Angelou, “Still I Rise” and “Phenomenal Woman,” as well as a monologue from the novel “The Color Purple.” Music from the 1960s through the 1980s will be featured, such as songs from The Temptations.

“I want the people to understand that there’s not going to be a lot of up-to-date songs because this event is reflecting on the past,” Foster said.

The fashion shows will include a gay pride tribute called “You Better Work” and a youth fashion segment called “Teeny Tots: Sugar and Spice.”

“We’re also doing a segment called ‘A woman’s worth,’ where we’ll be showing pictures I have of the Starlights that have graduated,” Foster said. “With this, we’ll show a young lady walking across with her cap and gown. She’ll start off with something from Beyoncé and then go into a dance and into a fashion theme.”

Foster said the show will end with a tribute to fallen Starlights, after which junior and alum Starlights will join together in a Black Lives Matter tribute.

The event will honor the success of the Starlight Academy and serve as the closing performance for the group.

“I know I’ll be sad and really touched because each and every one of [the Starlights] who I asked to do this, I know they did it because of the love they have for me,” Foster said. “It shows they’re thankful for me being a part of their lives.”

Foster started the group in 1979 to serve as a creative after-school outlet for St. Petersburg area youth ages eight through 18. Though initially small, word spread quickly and eventually Foster secured non-profit status for the organization. Over the years, the group has performed drama and many genres of dances, including modern and hip-hop. Through fundraising and community donations, the group has been able to perform in several states and tour many cities across Florida.

Foster estimates that Starlight has served 2,000 area youth in its time. She said about 500 youth graduated from the program after completing a full 10 years as a Starlight.

In later years, alumni of the performing troupe returned to help run and direct Starlight.

“I’ve been doing this since I was 25 years old and I turned 60 this year,” Foster said. “I have given the Starlights 35 years of my life. We’ve been blessed with the things we experienced: We’ve been in MLK Parades; in different performances here in the city; we went to New York City twice on our own chartered bus; we went to many different states and different cities here in Florida. I’ve been blessed that throughout the years, I haven’t had too many Starlights not graduate or go on to college. So I feel like I’ve done my part and it’s time to let somebody else have a chance.”

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