When a black SUV left the westbound lane of Old Shell Road and barreled through the front wall of Sheffield Dance Studio on Friday, May 13, the horrific wreck did more than terrify tiny dancers and send several to local hospitals. It killed 71-year-old Mobile actress Melanie T. Petithory as she sat watching her granddaughter rehearse.

The 1963 Murphy High School grad was the sole fatality at the scene near the University of South Alabama. Of the four other adults injured, police said three were in the SUV.

On Monday, the driver was identified by the Mobile Police Department as 48-year-old Michael Witherspoon. The investigation was ongoing, but the MPD initially suggested it was the result of a medical emergency. The accident occurred at 4:40 p.m.

Pethitory had just completed a three-week run of “Oklahoma!” at the Chickasaw Civic Theatre as one of the leads. An omnipresent stalwart of community theater, it is impossible to find a local stage where the confident and consistent native Mobilian had not danced, sung and acted.

Social media was awash in condolences and fond memories, including a notice from All Saints Episcopal Church where Petithory was an active member. Particularly, her friends in the footlights were shocked.

This has been an unusually morbid year for the Mobile arts realm and its theater community. Longtime theater patron Yvonne Kalen, multidisciplinarian Fred Baldwin, director Timothy Guy’s partner Ron Smith, actress/playwright Danielle Juzan and visual artist/writer Fred Marchman also passed away in the first five months of 2016.

Arts Council commemorates Juzan
The Mobile Arts Council unveiled a new honor just in time for the May 13 LoDa Artwalk when it renamed its largest exhibit room for Danielle Juzan. The actress/writer/playwright was well-respected member of the arts community and, along with husband Allen Perkins, was a consistently robust contributor to the umbrella arts agency at 318 Dauphin St.

Juzan died April 24 at age 55.

MOJO salutes Krall on May 23
It takes a heck of a lot of talent to outshine your partner when you’re married to Elvis Costello. But Diana Krall’s white-hot chops as a vocalist and pianist were well established before the bespectacled troubadour came a-calling.

Krall has sold 6 million albums in the U.S. and 15 million globally. Eight of her albums have debuted atop the Billboard jazz charts and she’s won five Grammy Awards and eight Juno Awards. That’s in addition to nearly 10 gold albums and more than a few platinum and double-platinum albums.

On Monday, May 23, the Mystic Order of the Jazz Obsessed (MOJO) will salute the Canadian chanteuse when they kick off their monthly event at 6:30 p.m. at Gulf City Lodge (601 State St.). Karolyna Vee will pull vocal duties while pianist Gino Rosaria will tickle the ivories, joined by bassist Phillip Whigham and drummer Paul Guzowski.

Entrance is $12, $10 for students and military and $8 for MOJO members. A light jambalaya dinner is included and a cash bar is available.

For more information, call 251-459-2298, email mobilejazz@bellsouth.net or go to mojojazz.org.

Painters blend experimentation with cause
Abstract painting is often underappreciated. Unless you’ve tried your hand at it, it can be difficult to understand how difficult it is to divorce yourself from definitive shape and detail, to surrender to composition and form without influencing the work with preconception.

Now you can earn new respect, maybe pick up some new direction and aid others to boot in “Painting for a Purpose” at the Mobile Carnival Museum (355 Government St.) on Sunday, May 22, at 2 p.m. The event is sponsored by Hargrove Engineers + Constructors and is part of the Man and Woman of the Year fundraising campaign for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
Painting instruction will be provided by Becky Jones of P’zazz Art Studio. A $35 donation is requested.

Hors d’ouevres will be provided by Chicken Salad Chick. Mimosas and painting supplies are included.

For more information call 251-476-0605.