By Hank Tester

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Pivoting back to almost normal, Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center is set to bring back major shows, including Broadway productions, with hopefully all seats filled.

Meanwhile, in the last fourteen months, took on the tradition of “the show must go on” with a social distancing twist.

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“It was like we lost our voice so we had to find and new voice,” said Arsht Center CEO Johann Zietsman.

One major move: entertainment outside.

On the Arsht Center Plaza, outdoor performances kept small crowds coming to the center, while keeping the venue top of mind with patrons.

“Lasting Impressions,” for example, is a spectacular 3D display of classic art on the Arsht campus. Beginning May 19, socially distanced crowds will help keep the Arsht Center cultural flame alive.

“We also went what we called ‘Arsht on the Road’ a series of pop up performances in the community all across the county,” said Zietsman.

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The Arsht Center sent artists into the community, connecting with local kids. That engagement plus an online presence has been so vital for the center in the time of COVID.

“We had the tools. We know there are the artistic components, but we had to learn how to leverage online possibilities and I think we learned a lot,” said Zietsman.

And then there was the hard issue: financial support.

The venue lost $12 million in revenue. As a result, there were staff reductions. Federal PPP funds helped for a while, but the major worry was if longtime and big-time contributors would continue their support.

“To ask somebody for their support and be unable to provide them with any sense of return is hard. We were concerned people would feel, ‘There is nothing going on, what are we supporting?’ Nobody walked away, nobody did,” said Zietsman. “As far as connecting with our supporters, we really connected in a way we probably did not always do to make sure they stayed comfortable and inspired with what we do and what we are planning to do.”

If all goes well, the Broadway production “Hair Spray” will open Dec. 28 with full seating. The Arsht staff is working with a medical advisor from FIU Health System to set up safety precautions. New protocols will be strictly followed.

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Classical and jazz performances are set for an October/November timeframe. But for now, it’s one step at a time.