Straz Center for the Performing Arts
History and museums
The David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts opened its doors as the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, Tampa, Florida in July 1987 and has welcomed more than 10 million guests. The venue was renamed in November 2009 to recognize the generous donation, the largest individual philanthropic gift ever made to a cultural institution in the Tampa Bay area, of financier David A. Straz, Jr.
The Straz Center is located downtown on a 9-acre (36,000 m2) site along the east bank of the Hillsborough River. As the second largest performing arts complex in the Southeastern United States (behind the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts), the 335,000-square-foot (31,100 m2) venue provides an environment for a variety of events. It has a leading Broadway series and produces grand opera, as well as presenting a variety of concerts, performances and events. 680,000 patrons attended 4,148 events during the 2007-2008 season.
In 2009, the Straz Center officially began a new program entitled the "Broadway Genesis Project," which intends to present the world premieres of musicals and plays which hopefully will move to Broadway. The first show staged as part of this series is Frank Wildhorn's newest musical, Wonderland: Alice's New Musical Adventure, which opened officially on December 5, following previews beginning November 24.
The performing arts complex consists of five distinct theaters, a rehearsal hall, retail shops, on-site restaurants and banquet facilities.
The five individual theaters are Carol Morsani Hall (2,600+ seats), Ferguson Hall (1,042 seats), the Jaeb Theater (292 seats), the TECO Energy Foundation Theater (250 seats and the Shimberg Playhouse (130 seats).
With the Patel Conservatory, the Straz Center has added 45,000 square feet (4,200 m2) for its extensive education programs. The Conservatory features 20 studios, including two dance studios with sprung floors, a sound/lighting laboratory, technical theater workshop, rehearsal hall, costume shop, isolation/sound booth, state-of-the-art black box theater and media arts/TV studio. During 2007/2008 the Conservatory served nearly 60,000 students with 2,948 classes, workshops and performances.
The centerpiece of the complex which seats over 2,600. The hall's proscenium is 60 feet (18 m) high with a playing depth of 55 feet (17 m) and a total stage width of 120 feet (37 m). When combined with an 11-story high backstage area, the enormous Carol Morsani Hall onstage and backstage areas easily accommodate major productions of Broadway musicals, presentations by Opera Tampa, ballets and orchestral concerts. A 42-ton concert wall can be lowered for the orchestra and choral performances. The traditional horseshoe-shaped opera house has continental seating on four levels: orchestra, mezzanine, balcony and gallery. Excellent sight lines combine with acoustics.
Suited for plays, musical concerts and dance events, the elegant 1,042-seat Louise Lykes Ferguson Hall boasts comfortable orchestra seating and two tiers of curving balconies, creating a unique blend of intimacy and spaciousness. With a 40-foot (12 m) wide by 30-foot (9.1 m) high proscenium, a total playing depth of 50 feet (15 m) and a total stage width of 80 feet (24 m), plus orchestra pit and concert wall, the Ferguson Hall offers flexibility that also suits corporate meetings, lectures and seminars.
The 292-seat Robert and Lorena Jaeb Theater is named for the Jaebs, whose gift to the Capitol Fund Drive in 1985 helped establish the endowment fund for the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. The Jaeb Theater's stage is 40 feet (12 m) wide by 20 feet (6.1 m) deep. The audience area can be configured to stadium or cabaret seating for plays or cabaret shows, as well as recording sessions, television productions, seminars and business meetings.
The 3,500-square-foot (330 m2) TECO Energy Foundation Theater dominates the west end of the first floor of the Patel Conservatory. The room is two stories of open space with glass walls and windows on two sides. Blackout curtains convert the rehearsal space into a performance space. There is no permanent stage and all furnishings are portable for flexibility.
The 130-seat Hinks and Elaine Shimberg Playhouse, located between The Center Store and the Jaeb Theater, is an intimate venue for local and national artists, such as poets, musicians, dancers, comedians, performance artists and companies such as resident theater company Jobsite Theater. This specially-designed, flexible "black-box" theater allows for varied configurations of traditional or three quarter seating, as required by the production.
Annual events include the Broadway Ball, Best of Tampa Bay, Eggstravaganza, and a facility-wide Open House in the fall. The venue also is the annual host of the Broadway Theater Project and International Thespian Society’s Florida State Thespian Festival.
The Center is the home to these resident companies:
Straz Center has housed, and continues to house, a number of constituent organizations, including: