Making a big production, or just seeing one

Located in downtown Tampa, the 290,000-square-foot Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center lures people from far and near. TBPAC, one of the top 10 largest performing arts centers in the country, holds approximately 800 shows per year. Most of the shows are musicals, concerts, ballets or operas. While many of these seem like they pander to an older audience, Shannon Conner, public relations manager, says the Center is for all ages.

“Some productions are geared to students, we don’t have just Broadway. There are a lot of alternative theater shows. For example, every October we have a Halloween-type play. This year it is After Frankenstein. It is a continuant alternative, like a fun, hip theater,” Conner said.

TBPAC not only provides entertainment, but is also an educational experience as well.

The education department reaches more than 100,000 children and adults annually. The Center is currently building a new area where students can participate in arts. The decision to build the new area was made because of budget and curriculum cuts in the Florida school system. Several different educational programs are offered yearly. For more information, visit

Children aren’t the only ones gaining experience at TBPAC. Volunteers also have the opportunity of learning at the Center, as well as getting valuable work experience.

“One of the most popular things to do is ushering a show, where you can see a show for free. There is a waiting list for that,” Conner said.

Volunteers must be at least 18 years old and a permanent resident of the Tampa Bay area. Contact the management office for questions and opportunities at (813) 222-1065.

Aside from volunteering and attending the shows, individuals can also audition. Auditioning is a great opportunity to build acting skills and perform in front of a live audience, Conner said.

“All of the people in the current performance, I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, are all professional actors, but anyone can audition. For example, every year we have a Christmas show, except this year, and Tiny Tim is a 10-year-old. It all depends on what the show is and what the parts are,” Conner said.

This is a great opportunity for drama students or any student who is interested in theater work, Conner explained.

People can buy tickets online or in person. There are also season tickets available for the operas. TBPAC provides a discount to students for specific shows by offering a “student rush ticket.” This ticket is obtainable 90 minutes before the show.

“You have to come to our ticket office and you will receive half off the normal price,” Conner said.

Now Showing

I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change is one of the shows currently being performed at TBPAC.

“This is a comedy and it is basically a cabaret show, which means it is a very intimate venue with 300 seats,” Conner said.

Conner added that what makes the show so intimate is that theater guests sit at a table where they can eat and drink while they watch the show.

“(In) this show, there are four characters that make couples throughout each scene. It is called a vignette, where every scene is a different story,” Conner said.

Conner said this performance honors student discounts and will be staged every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night until June 13th. The price of a normal ticket is $28.50. The student price is $14.25.