TAMPA, Fla. — For more than a year, the theater has been quiet and the seats have been empty.
At Tampa’s Straz Center for the Performing Arts, the only thing shining on the stage is known as a ghost light.
“It’s become our symbol for this long period that we’ve been virtually closed. And so I can’t wait until we turn it off and have everybody back again,” said CEO Judy Lisi.
The Straz has held some small outdoor shows during the pandemic. But this weekend, the Next Generation Ballet will perform Swan Lake in the big hall.
Philip Neal is the ballet’s artistic director.
“I think there’s a tremendous amount of excitement. We are still being extremely careful. So of us have been vaccinated like myself. But we still have to obey all of our safety protocols,” said Neal.
Even the dancers will be wearing masks and some numbers are a little shorter to allow them to catch their breath.
“I mean it’s difficult but we’ve adjusted. We’ve practiced a lot so I feel ready. It’s kind of like second nature at this point,” said dancer Alexis Bull.
Broadway officials announced shows will return to New York City in September and the Straz is planning to open to full capacity in the fall with a full season.
“This is what we live for, and were are a gathering place. That’s what performing arts theater is,” said Lisi.
The theater has an upgraded air filtration system and they are ready to keep COVID-19 protocols in place as long as they need to.
“To have artists on this stage. To have people together as a community enjoying all these things, celebrating who we are. It’s just going to be so wonderful,” said Lisi.