The Palladium Theater: Incubator for Local Talent

Member Spotlight on the Palladium Theater by Nicole Roberts Published on February 4, 2018

Paul Wilborn, executive director of the Palladium and representing member for the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership, on the Side Door Stage

If you don’t know much about the Palladium Theater and its history, take a few minutes to watch this video. It does a great job explaining where they came from and what their mission is:

The Palladium has strived to be a performing arts center for the community since it was started by its visionary founders. They accomplish this by not only offering affordable ticket prices to locals looking to appreciate the performing arts, but also through their commitment to showcasing local artists and giving them a space to perform. They are dedicated to finding the best local talent and nurturing them to be the best that they can be. One example of this is Selwyn Birchwood, an African American blues guitarist and singer who began his performing career at the Palladium right after graduating from University of South Florida. He is now one of the biggest blues artists in the world, playing at blues festivals and other venues all around the world. When he is home from tour, he performs at the Palladium. You won’t see him in Hough Hall, although he can certainly fill the seats, because he prefers to play the more intimate Side Door venue where it all started. Find out more about Birchwood and see his tour dates here: https://www.selwynbirchwood.com/tour

There is also Victor Wainwright, a pianist and singer who started performing at the Side Door with a local band. He now also tours the world, and has been nominated for a Grammy this year for Best Contemporary Blues Album. He frequently comes back and plays Hough Hall, below you can see a poster of his, along with others that have performed at the Palladium. Read more about him here: http://victorwainwright.com/

They even let the local artists use the theater as their canvas, allowing them to put on their own shows. This is how the Beacon Dance came about; two dancers who grew up in St. Petersburg and went on to have national dance careers, Helen Hansen French and Lauren Slone, were given the freedom to put together a dance troop of their choosing. The brought in performers from all around the country, and created critically acclaimed platform for contemporary dance that is now in its fourth season. Come see them perform on April 5th at 8pm in the Hough Hall, tickets can be purchased at: https://www.mypalladium.org/beacon-19-contemporary-dance/

Additionally, the Palladium holds local events, some of which celebrates its homegrown performers. In early January, the held a birthday party concert for John Lamb, an American jazz double bassist who toured the world with Duke Ellington. He moved to St. Petersburg and started playing shows in Hough Hall in 2007. The Palladium put together some of the best local blues artists and filled their parking lot with food trucks, hosting over 600 people who attended to celebrate the 85th birthday of the national artist.

But the Palladium has more than just local acts! Back in 2009, Billy Joel did a show at the theater during his College Only tour (The Palladium is owned and operated by St. Petersburg College). The show sold out in 2 hours and Paul Wilborn says really put them on the map. Later this month, Puddles Pity Party, a clown who sings like an angel without saying a word that debuted on NBC’s America’s Got Talent a few years ago, will be performing at the Palladium. Catch his performance on Tuesday, February 26th at 8pm. Tickets can be purchased here: https://www.mypalladium.org/puddles-pity-party-2/

So what should you see at the Palladium in 2019? I asked Wilborn what he was most excited about seeing at the Palladium in 2019 and he started listing some of the great performances they have coming up this year, many of which have already been mentioned above. He said he’s very excited for the Palladium Chamber Players, composed of extremely accomplished musicians. They perform once a month in Hough Hall, with their next performance being on Wednesday, February 13th at 7:30p. Get tickets here: https://www.mypalladium.org/palladium-chamber-players-beethoven-korngold-schumann/.

He also reccommends Kiss Me Kate, a play put on by the St. Petersburg Opera that is going on right now! It’s a play about A Shakespeare troupe putting on The Taming of the Shrew and all the drama that occurs backstage. It’s only here until February 10th, so get your tickets now: https://www.mypalladium.org/st-petersburg-opera-kiss-me-kate/.

Another very unique act they have performing at the theater this year is the Florida Bjorkestra, a 20 piece ensemble of musicians from the Tampa Bay area paying tribute to groundbreaking pop artists. As the name suggests, it started with music from Bjork, but they have performed music by Madonna and George Michael. They even do an annual Buffyfest in September performing the music from the TV show Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Keep an eye out for details on their performances on the Palladium Website. If you are looking for something a little more casual and intimate, check out the Side Door’s summer shows! Last year they did a Summer of Soul, hosting sold out shows of acts based around soul music. This year’s theme is still to be determined, but it’s bound to be a hit! Details can be found on here as they are released: https://www.mypalladium.org/category/side-door-cabaret/

As you can see, the Palladium has something for everyone. I think Wilborn put it best when he said “Our target audience is people who want to hear and see great stuff!” In 2019, the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership dares you to go to a show at the Palladium. See all their upcoming performances here, and enjoy the show!