In early March, St. Petersburg College‘s Palladium Theater was booked almost every day until the Fourth of July with local music, opera, recitals and other events. But by mid-March, the theater had to close its doors to the public for more than six months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That all ends this Saturday, when the venerable theater will open Hough Hall for the first of a series of performances this month.
Palladium Director Paul Wilborn said this is great news for many reasons.
“I love sitting in my theater hearing a great show, and we’ve been shut down so long,” Wilborn said. “If people can come out safely and enjoy something optimistic, it makes us all happier while going through this period.”
The Palladium shows, which will be on October 3, 10 and 17, will offer around 180 seats in the 831-seat Hall. People who buy tickets together will be seated as a group, and groups will be separated in a safe distance from other patrons. The 90-minute shows will not have intermission, and masks are required to enter or move about the building.
“These shows allow us to support our local artists,” Wilborn said. “We’ll have blues guitarists from Tampa, four local comedians as well as local jazz.”
Getting local artists back to work
Supporting local acts is a priority for Wilborn, who noted that, despite the greatly diminished number of seats available, the acts will receive the usual pay. While the Palladium doors were closed, he and his staff have worked to implement live streaming capability that will create a new revenue stream for the Palladium and allow performers to get back to work. In addition, the Palladium Creative Class, funded by a private donation, will pay local musicians and dancers to create work to be performed at the Palladium.
“These artists are like my extended family,” Wilborn said. “And I’ve been worried about them.”
Making the best of it
The theater has also used the down time to update the theater and its website.
“We’ve hired theater sound consultants to study the main hall to offer improvements that will take us through the next 10 years,” Wilborn said “We’ve also revamped our website, and we took all the recordings of our previous nightclub shows that featured live local bands and edited them down. WUSF is airing a monthly Palladium side-door show using these recordings. The station plugs the show regularly on air, so even though we haven’t been doing shows, we hope that is keeping the Palladium alive in people’s minds.”
This Saturday, October 3, will feature Tampa blues guitarists Jose Ramirez and Anson Funderburgh. Tickets and information regarding the other October shows can be found on the Palladium’s website.
Wilborn believes that it is time, and, at least for now, audiences can enjoy live music and have a safe experience.
“Because Pinellas and St. Pete have been very diligent about masks and other measures to lower the rate of infection, numbers are at a safe enough place where we feel good about having a show.”