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Remembering writers

After 11 years of studying the life, work and personality of a Pulitzer Prize-winning actor and scholar, Betty Jean Steinshouer has compiled a monologue about the writer, which she will present to honor the author.

Steinshouer said she’s prepared hours of material over the years – a process involving much studying, reading and interviewing.

“I started in 1989,” she said. “It’s like learning a foreign language. You have to learn this person’s vernacular, personality and about their friends.”

In the performance called An Evening with Three Florida Writers, at 7 p.m. May 2 at Davis Hall 130 on the USF St. Petersburg campus, Steinshouer will perform her portrayal of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, author of The Yearling.

Steinshouer will be joined by a performance of novelist Zora Neale Hurston, portrayed by Phyllis McEwen, and NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson, depicted by LeRoy Mitchell Jr.

The event is sponsored by Florida Humanities Council, as part of their effort to educate Florida residents about their state’s history.

Ann Schoenacher, program coordinator for the council, said the actors will not only perform but also answer questions from the audience.

“All three have been performing these characters for years,” Schoenacher said. “They’ve honed their skills in interpreting their character and you really believe that they are this person.”

Steinshouer said this performance is unique because each of the actors is one of the most senior chautauqua performers. Chatauqua is a literary tradition mixing acting and answering audience questions.

Though she has several hours of material prepared, Steinshouer said she thinks the St. Petersburg campus performance will focus on the real life friendship that Rawlings and Hurston shared.

“This is tremendous,” Steinshouer said. “This is the first time we’ve ever performed together. We’ll each be packing the best of our performances into 30 minutes.”

Contact Rachel Pleasant at