Last Thursday my wife and I went to the Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts for a performance of Wicked. In a manner of speaking, it took us more than 10 years to get to our seats.
Am I the only journalist still working locally who remembers back in 2011, when Mayor Robbie Perkins, fresh off his election victory against Bill Knight, began touting the necessity of what came to be called the “GPAC”? This was before Steven Tanger made the donation that would bring the project to its final tipping point, before council okayed $20 million for the project that would eventually cost more than three times that, before they chose a site and tore down the building where Solaris used to be, before they eventually broke ground.
Because Perkins never once mentioned the performing arts center in his lengthy, expensive and verbose campaign for mayor, I knew it was a done deal — one of those #sogreensboro instances where a decision was made far from the public eye, pre-approved and set for the fast track, inevitable as the dawn.
And so I got on board. The fight, such as it was, had ended before it had even begun.
I watched all the deliberations in council meetings and went to public-input sessions. I got reports of the background machinations to garner support for the project, about the labyrinthine quest for funding, the deep misunderstandings some of the movers and shakers held for what the building would actually be used for.
While it was being built, I drove past every day on the way to drop my kids off at school. They love musicals, and were excited about the slate of Broadway shows. My wife considered season passes. Even I found myself sort of giddy as I watched it come to be, understood the ramifications for the immediate neighborhood and, indeed, for the city itself. We were ready and waiting for its opening weekend, which happened to fall in late March 2020 just as the coronavirus reared its head.
I mean, c’mon.
And so last week we took our seats on the right side of the orchestra level. We took photos of the inside and texted them to our kids, two of whom are off at college now. We settled in for the show, 10 years in the making, but never in doubt.