The show must go on at Miami Arts Charter – even during a pandemic

(Theatre Directors Michelle Perkins (left) and Leo Arteche (Right) at the Miami Arts Charter High School drive-in graduation taken by a faculty member/SFMN)

As South Florida gradually begins to reopen its schools again for in-person learning, Miami Arts Charter School students are not only back in class, but ready to get back on stage. 

Eitan Sasson, a senior at the school this year, is more than eager to bring back live performances in a safe manner. 

“I think it’s necessary in a time where the world is hurting so much,” said Sasson. 

Sasson has attended Miami Arts Charter School as a theatre student since the 7th grade and he hopes to end his journey in the department in front of a socially distanced audience. 

“Everything is being done safely as much as it can,” said Sasson. “Of course, performing with a mask on isn’t exactly the same, but we have to do what we have to do.” 

Although adjusting to the “new normal” may seem stressful, one of MAC’s theatre directors, Leo Arteche, is taking the situation in stride. 

“It’s exhausting, I’m not going to lie,” said Arteche. “But luckily at MAC, we’re allowed to teach in person and online at the same time.” 

Arteche has served as a teacher at the art school for 10 years and currently directs musical and technical theatre at the high school level. He is also one of the troupe directors for the school’s Thespian Honor Society. 

“The rehearsals are a challenge, but we’re making it work,” said Arteche. 

In April, the school’s spring production of “The Women” was canceled, which left some senior students unable to perform the last show of their high school career. 

Andrea Neal, former Miami Arts Charter student and valedictorian of her class, would have been the lead actress for her first time since attending the school as a 6th grader. 

“It was really hard and so unrewarding to have that taken away from me,” said Neal. “It literally felt like someone ripped it out of my hands.” 

Neal began her freshman year this fall at the University of Georgia as a Landscaping Architecture major. 

“That was my last shot,” said Neal. “I’m not doing theatre in college so that was my last time, my last everything and I was ready for that.” 

For Miami Arts Charter students, the closing of schools had left their future performances unclear. 

“I’m not going to sit around and wait for COVID to end to try a show,” said Arteche. “If for some reason we got shut down again, god forbid, we have very flexible licenses so we can do live streaming or video on demand.” 

Arteche has provided students with a safe and positive space in the classroom by spacing out their desks according to the CDC guidelines and ensuring students wear their masks. 

According to the theatre director, the Florida Thespian Competition is still being held and troupes will present their pieces virtually. The competition, which brings high schools all throughout the state, allows theatre students to present their pieces at both the district and state levels. 

“Thespians is all virtual this year, which is obviously not the same but at least the kids have something to look forward to,” said Arteche. 

Since the school has allowed blended learning, students who are at home are practicing their solos and lines while students in their physical classes are doing their duets and ensembles.  

 “It requires a lot of organization to make sure everything gets done,” said Arteche.

Since the beginning of March, the pandemic put a hold on all things including flights, public outings and watching live theatre. For performing artists in Miami such as Arteche, the coronavirus jeopardized people’s careers. 

“If I wasn’t teaching theatre, I probably wouldn’t mind staying home because it would be a lot easier to do,” said Arteche. “Teaching theatre online is so much harder, I mean it’s not impossible, but it’s definitely not the same.” 

Regardless of the circumstances, Arteche is continuing to provide safety and positivity in his classroom as his students slowly return. 

“I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time and I’m actually getting a lot done with the kids,” said Arteche. 

Liana Alexis Martell is a journalism major and a local actor in South Florida. While continuing her college career, she also finds time to focus on her craft by working on film projects and theater productions in Miami.