This past weekend I took a tour of the Straz Center in Tampa with our friend Shane. We’ve discussed looking into subscriptions to the Broadway series at several venues in the central Florida area for the upcoming 2015-2016 season. Before we decide on tickets for individual shows or packages, we wanted to visit the Straz Center since neither of us had been there before and they are offering a variety of shows that differ from Orlando.
Being that we are both big fans of musical theater in particular, Shane and I were very excited to take an hour to tour the Straz Center and see the fantastic facilities. I did not know prior to arriving that the Straz Center is one of the largest performing arts center in the southeast. According to our tour guide, Debbie (a real life retired rocket scientist by the way), Straz has the greatest number of seats combined between the five theaters south of Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center, but not necessarily the largest individual theater or greatest square footage. The theaters range in size from being able to accommodate just 130 in the blackbox Shimberg Playhouse, to the 268 seat Jaeb Theater with cabaret seating, to 1,042 in Ferguson Hall, all the way up to 2,610 in Carol Morsani Hall. On our tour we were able to see each of these four venues, as well as the Rehearsal Hall and several backstage areas. The only theater we did not see due to ongoing setup and rehearsals at the time was the TECO Theater that is a 3,500 square foot open space with no permanent seating or stage, offering versatility in capacity and configuration.
The Straz Center has a beautiful location situated in downtown Tampa right on the Hillsborough River with indoor and outdoor facilities for dining and events. A variety of shows ranging from Broadway hits like Newsies and Once can be seen here, as well as opera, dance, stand up acts, to shows like MythBusters – Jamie & Adam Unleashed! There are several dining options on the complex including Maestro’s Restaurant for dinner on nights of Broadway shows and select other performances. Maestro’s Cafe is a buffet also open on Broadway show nights and is in the lobby of the Carol Morsani Hall. Maestro’s On The River offers outdoor seating with quick bites and beverages along the river. If you’re looking for a pastry, sandwich, salad, or just a good dose of caffeine, SteamHeat Cafe is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9am until 11pm.
Parking for the Straz Center can be found in public lots and garages within a few minutes walk if you wish to self park. These range in price from approximately $5-10, valet parking is available for around $20 as well. There are also limited spaces available on the street, which are metered during the day and free after 6pm. The Straz Center is conveniently located just off of 275 and Ashley Drive in Tampa, making it very accessible from I4, 75, or 275.
My favorite part of the tour was going on stage in the Morsani Hall. The sheer size of the stage was amazing! It was so cool to be able to look out to all the seats and to imagine yourself performing in front of a full house. Shane and I were both impressed by the ginormous loading doors to backstage which can open to accommodate four semis full of sets and costumes. These door must have been a good 60 feet tall at least. Backstage there is a really cool wall with stencils from many of the shows that have been performed at the Straz Center. I would love to have something like this in artwork form in my house!
If you get a chance, I highly recommend checking out the amazing Straz Center in Tampa. I cannot wait to catch my first show here. Shane already saw his this past weekend and is also looking forward to returning. Have you been to the Straz Center? What did you see there? If not, check out their upcoming schedule and I’m sure there is something for everyone between the concerts, plays and performances.
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