HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — After more than a year of sharing theater on screens rather than on stage, Open Stage is finally seeing the proverbial “spotlight” at the end of the tunnel. The theater’s first in-person performance since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic opens Friday evening.

Open Stage is kicking off a season of live, in-person shows with “Over the Rainbow: the Songs of Judy Garland.” Singers Rachel Landon, Stacey Werner, and Carly Lafferty perform Garland’s music in the hour-long show debuting Friday, May 28.

“When you’re an actor and you don’t have an audience to perform for, it’s hard, it’s heartbreaking,” Landon said. Landon is also the marketing manager, the costume shop manager, and an actor, director, and teacher at Open Stage.

“Trying to stay connected to people, that’s what you do as a performer, as an artist,” Landon said. “And that’s what Judy [Garland] had going on, too. She felt safe on stage, it was her home, that’s what she loved to do.”

Being an actor without an audience is different and challenging, but Open Stage found ways to continue connecting with the community even during the pandemic. The theater produced around a dozen virtual performances streamed to YouTube and social media after it closed down last March.

“I think theater is theater no matter what. If there’s someone doing something and someone watching, that’s theater for me, and so virtual theater has been our lifeline,” Landon said. However, being on stage in front of a live audience again is a welcome step back toward normalcy.

“We took it for granted for so long that we got to be in the same room with people, and to have that again is just a phenomenal gift,” Landon said.

“Over the Rainbow” launches Open Stage’s 36th season. The show runs May 28-June 25, with a special presentation at Italian Lake for the final show. Upcoming performances this season include a concert of Carole King music, “Every Brilliant Thing,” “White Rabbit Red Rabbit,” “Who’s Holiday,” “A Christmas Carol,” and more. Tickets are available on Open Stage’s website.