Straz sets fall schedule, smaller shows during COVID-19

For the entertainment industry, it hasn’t been so easy to bounce back from COVID closures. Despite this setback, the Straz is gliding into fall with the announcement of upcoming performances to expect.
“It’s kind of the worst thing we’ve been in in terms of our artists and venues, since we’ve been closed since March 12 and had to lay off ourselves more than 400 people. It’s been devastating. The big problem is we don’t know how long this is going to last. This is different than visual arts because our art is human beings that dance and sweat. We have to figure out how to do this to keep them safe and keep our audiences safe because we are mass gathering spaces,” says Judy Lisi, President and CEO of the Straz Center.
Instead of using their previously scheduled plan for fall, this new fall programming is specifically created for COVID times with smaller casts and orchestra to reduce aerosols created and keep the actors, musicians, and staff safe. From October through December, performances will include The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised];Opera Tampa’s The Witching Hour; Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus; Always … Patsy Cline; Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992; and Opera Tampa’s Home for the Holidays.
Along with reducing casts comes with reduced audiences and new layouts as well as expected safety protocols including temperature checks, required masks, and touchless entry. Jaeb Theatre, which usually seats around 300, will now be limited to 110 or just around 30% capacity. With socially distanced tables that seat up to four along with 2-tops and singles, the Straz will be selling by the table to ensure that visitors can select their seats and will only be mingling with their own party for everyone’s peace of mind.
“Since touring artists are not touring, we have a lot of local and regional talent,” says Summer Bohnenkamp, VP of Marketing and Programming. “We’re starting with a very modest schedule for these performances. We think people are excited and ready to come back out. We’ve done a lot of surveys and while people are excited, they’re also cautious.”
Because touring artists aren’t traveling, that means no outside-of-local bands, comedians, and no Broadway shows in the near future.
“We depend on Broadway, we’re one of the biggest Broadway series in the country. It’s completely shut down and it doesn’t look like it will come back until April. We now have to figure out how to get through now until April. It’s a serious financial issue,” Lisi explains. “Broadway is what supports our other shows and creates a huge economic impact on the foodservice industry as well as local hotels and restaurants. Getting Broadway back will get this whole machine going again.”
To find out more and to purchase tickets, visit the Straz Center’s fall schedule
Update on the Straz Center’s expansion
For over 5 years, the Straz has been working on plans to expand their building to give a more welcoming look and feel for visitors. Though one might think that COVID closures would have provided time for progress, plans are being put on the back burner for now.
“Because of the situation, we’ve put this project on hold onto we can go back to our normal operations. We want to do a big capital campaign and go to city and state for funding, but because of all the needs the city and county have with the pandemic, we felt like putting it on hold until this passes,” Lisi says.

Read more articles by Caitlin Albritton.

Caitlin Albritton is a freelance writer based in Tampa with a BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design and a MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art. When she's not looking at art throughout town, she can be found making it. You can keep up with her visual art on Instagram @caitlinalbritton or on her website. Visit her recent line of inlay “wearable paintings.”
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