Aspiring actors have a place to hone skill with Indaba’s grand opening

Shauna Smith (left) and Donna Cotterell celebrate the grand opening of Indaba Theater with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

 Adrian Tucker felt his interest in baseball waning, but had no clue what would fill the void after he gave up the sport.

He began dabbling in acting. Then, by the time the Black Panther movie came out about four years ago he was hooked. He found the acting by Chadwick Boseman and the rest of the cast captivating and convincing.

It solidified his decision. 

“I want to be a part of something like that,” said Tucker, who eventually found his way to Indaba Theater. 

So much for him playing baseball or any other sport.

“I wanted to focus on something that I want to do,” he said, “and acting just appeared out of nowhere.”

Acting will be taking up more of Tucker’s time now that Indaba Theater has found a new home. Founder Donna Cotterell and her business partner Shauna Smith recently held a grand opening that theater enthusiasts welcomed.

Smith, a former TCC professor who is vice president of Indaba, said the theater’s mission is to “appeal and uplift.”

The location in Railroad Village at 1872 Mill Street puts the theater in the heart of the Southside, between Bond and Providence neighborhoods. Smith and Cotterrell said they believe the area has plenty of talented young people who they could develop.

“I want to be able to have that impact on those teenagers that live in my neighborhood and are looking for a safe space to be creative, be artistic; just be children,” said Cotterrell, a Bond resident. “We can take any creative talent. It’s about shaping and molding.”

Smith said she is encouraged about the longevity of the theater because there is plenty of talent around. She saw it when she was an instructor at TCC and started “open mic,” giving students a platform to act out.

Starting with just a handful of young people from the area will be a great beginning, Cotterrell said.

“Hopefully our energy will ripple out into those communities and that would take those kids somewhere else,” she said. “Hopefully their energy would ripple out and help other people in the community.”

Cotterrell brings an extensive acting background into the partnership. After earning a degree in theater, she and a group of friends formed Indaba in the Boston, Massachusetts, area in 2005. 

She eventually moved to Tallahassee and in 2015 produced the play “Marigold Days.” That led to operators of the Plant on Gaines Street inviting Cotterrell to bring her actors to the venue for rehearsals.

Breaking out on their own is going to take as much resource as Smith and Cotterrell could find. They’ve gotten a commitment from Kathleen Spehar, Executive Director of the Council on Culture and Arts.

Having a theater that’s recruiting grassroots talent is a plus for the arts community, Spehar said.

“I think this is a fantastic addition; an example of what’s really needed,” she said. “A place like this is going to bring communities together for creative ventures. I think Donna’s vision of the theater is going to take off.”

With the jovial ribbon-cutting ceremony that marked the grand opening, the two owners have achieved a milestone of sorts. 

Cotterrell called the experience “amazing.” 

“I was so nervous for so long because I didn’t feel it would come together, but it did,” she added. “It clicked. Everything clicked.”