Backstage Tours at Sarasota Opera House & More Places

Backstage Tours at Sarasota Opera House & More Places

Backstage tours. Something different!

Take a Sarasota Opera House tour around the building and backstage – the tour pulls back the curtain to reveal the hands and hours it takes to produce an opera.

Backstage tours Detail of a Sarasota Opera House pillar, restored with gold accents. Photo by Lucy Beebe Tobias
Detail of a Sarasota Opera House pillar, restored with gold accents. Photo by Lucy Tobias

Singers fill out a multi-page costume questionnaire with detailed body part measurements many of us never consider (think wrist to elbow, elbow to shoulder, etc.).

Scenery must be built just so in order to slide in and out of a very tight backstage area.

And did you know the orchestra plays in a pit? Honest. A real pit placed under the stage. They see nothing happening on stage but hear everything.

Backstage tours. Sarasota Opera House Pit. Photo by Lucy Beebe Tobias
Backstage tour. Sarasota Opera House Pit. Photo by Lucy Tobias

Mondays during opera season public tours offered at 10:30 a.m. on these upcoming dates: Monday Feb. 20, Monday, Feb. 27, Monday March 6, Monday, March 13 and Monday, March 20. Tickets are $12 each. This qualifies a unique gift to yourself or an opera lover friend.

Private tours for groups of 20 or more available. Call the box office at (941) 328-1300.

Tours are led by members of the Sarasota Opera staff and take two hours.

backstage tours costume detail. Photo by Lucy Tobias
backstage tours costume detail. Photo by Lucy Tobias

Consider doing the tour then staying downtown for lunch – a perfect combo.

The 1926 Sarasota Opera House, a lovely historic building with outstanding acoustics, stands restored and elegant inside and out.

Speaking of acoustics – in Greece a guide asked us all to walk high up on the steps of an amphitheater built into a hillside. Once there, he dropped a dime on the stage. We heard it clearly up high.

This Opera House is like that. Drop a dime on the stage floor and the last row hears it.

We stood on stage and squinted into the upper regions of the balcony. Our guide told us a racy story of how the highest seats were used when the Opera house was a place for working girls. Go on the tour to get the details.


opera house backstage tours
Backstage tour -inside Sarasota Opera House. Photo by Lucy Tobias

Getting behind the scenes can be as popular as attending an upfront performance at a theater or a theme park.

Backstage tours popular around the state

Busch Gardens in Tampa offers a number of backstage tours including their animal care center behind the scenes (starting at $29) and my personal favorite, their award-winning Serengeti Safari, done in an open air truck that goes out into the plain.

Photographers who had been to Africa said they got better photos that day we were there at Busch Gardens then when in country. We were all dropping long lenses and grabbing wider ones as zebras came right up to the truck – with a long lens it was just one big black stripe on white.

A Wild Night Backstage Tour at the Miami Zoo

Are you a night owl? This next one is for you:

The Miami zoo has a Wild Nights tour – a walk on the wild side ($30 adult). This guided tour takes place the second Saturday of each month from 7 to 9 p.m. Go behind-the-scenes with the zoo’s nocturnal, night-loving animals, your newest best friends. Each month’s theme visits a different part of the zoo.

Backstage Tours at Disney World

Of course Disney World in Orlando captures the backstage magic in a really big way with a full day (seven hour) tour (adults $275). Go behind the scenes to see the wizardry at Epcot and Magic Kingdom Park explained. But is it still magic if we know how they did it?

Ah, that is for you to decide.


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Give a Day, Get a Day, Clean Up & More

Give a Day, Get a Day, Clean Up & More

In the chill of early morning a line of cars blinked their left turn signals to get into Lake George Ranger District parking lot. Orange cones directed cars into two lanes.

I rolled down my window and pulled up to a woman dressed in the fashionable two-toned forest green uniform favored by Ocala National Forest personnel.

She leaned in and said: “Welcome to Disney World.”

Give a day, get a day at Disney World – this works for me

I started laughing. It is 7:15 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 23, 2010. Mickey Mouse is nowhere in sight. We are in Ocala National Forest, two hours north of Disney.
She groaned and squeezed her eyes shut.

“I didn’t mean to say that,” she gasped, then handed me the form to fill out for picking up trash at the Ocala National Forest Clean-Up Day. On the form is a box to check if you are registered as a Disney volunteer. No wonder Disney was on her mind.

You see Disney has this really cool program that started January 1, 2010. They want to inspire one million people in a program called Give a Day, Get a Day. You give a day for community service and in return you get a free day at either Disney property – Florida or California.

The list of possibilities is long and diverse and included this cleanup day.

After checking in at Lake George, cars were directed to staging areas. I ended up at the Fore Lake Division with 407 other people. There were 10 divisions in all. Heather Frebe, pubic information officer for Ocala National Forest, said an estimated 2000 people came to clean up on Saturday morning, with 1322 people checking the Disney box. (you had to be preregistered with Disney to qualify the event).

Give a day - essentials for trash picup
essentials for trash picup

“We started out at 4 a.m. this morning,” said John Romig of Jacksonville, armed with his black garbage bag and walking the sides of a forest road with his wife Nicki, daughter Reagan and son Mitch. It is a good two-hour drive from Jacksonville to the forest.

Give a day - family
Give a day – family

Give a day, get a day brought people to Ocala National Forest

The Romigs came well prepared with packages yellow latex kitchen gloves purchased from the dollar store. They gave me a pair and I was grateful. These gloves are a must for picking up trash.

“It is fun picking up trash,” said daughter Reagan then she gave me a look and made a pronouncement with a teenager’s grown-up wisdom: “Picking up trash is picking up trash.”

So true. And pick it up we did, at least two bags each. – beer cans were everywhere along with soda bottles, water bottles and the occasional finds of really big dump sites – sofas, household trash – time to call in the pickup trucks and serious muscle to haul that trash away.

“My daughter signed the whole family up, six of us,” said Lois Gibbons of Ocala. She was searching dirt road areas along with her husband Richard. It was the couple’s first time at a forest clean up.

Give a day - trash cleanup
Give a day – trash cleanup

“This is a beautiful place. It is land God gave us, we need to take care of it,” Lois said but she didn’t see much hope of changing behaviors that lead to throwing cans out car windows. “It is young people driving off the paved tracks throwing cans.”

Her husband asked if I know the difference between a good old boy and a redneck. Ummmm, no.
“A good old boy throws his cans in the back of his pickup truck,” said Richard. “A redneck throws them out the window.”

Now you know.

Give a day - trash disposal
Give a day – trash disposal

And the Disney angle? Huge. Being out in the forest in the sunshine, picking up trash, would be a Disney day for me, for the Romigs and the Gibbons and so many others. Who knew picking up trash could lead to such fun and such a savings?

“We couldn’t all afford to go to Disney as a family without doing this,” Gibbons said. “My daughter worked a night shift at Munroe and she is coming out for this today.”

It is one ticket per customer no matter how many times you volunteer. The program continues until one million tickets are distributed or until December 15, 2010. To search for an activity on the Disney site, type in your zip code and look at the all or narrow the categories down to say, animals and the environment, arts and culture, children and community. Personally I loved getting outdoors and doing something positive.

What are you waiting for? Sign up to give a day. This is, as management gurus like to say, a win-win situation.

And volunteering makes a difference. Forest officials say the six hour cleanup netted 46 tons of trash in the Marion County area and 30 tons of trash in the Lake County area. Yes, it was worth it.

NOTE: this blog was written in 2010. Disney continues the Give a day, Get a Disney day campaign in 2015-2016, read about it here

Lucy Beebe Tobias is your expert for finding authentic Florida. She is a former New York Times Regional Group reporter and columnist and the author of “50 Great Walks in Florida”, University Press of Florida. Her Website is:

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