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Arts & Culture

As Pandemic Continues, Arsht Center's Outdoor Theater Season Puts Safety First

The cast of 'Zoetic Schmoetic.' L to R: Clay Cartland, Jeni Hacker, Fergie Philippe, Elena Maria Garcia, Daryl Patrice, Gabriell Salgado.
Chris Headshots
The cast of 'Zoetic Schmoetic.' L to R: Clay Cartland, Jeni Hacker, Fergie Philippe, Elena Maria Garcia, Daryl Patrice, Gabriell Salgado.

Shuttered by the COVID-19 pandemic last year, Arsht welcomes back in-person audiences with programs by Zoetic Stage and City Theatre.

The Adrienne ArshtCenter in Miami is one of many performing arts venues that shut down last year once the COVID-19 pandemic spread to South Florida. And like so many others, Arsht has been working on ways to bring the live theater experience back to its audiences.

Since November, Arsht has hosted physically-distanced live musical performances outdoors, on its Thomson Plaza for the Arts. And now it will host two new series of outdoor shows — by theater companiesZoetic Stage andCity Theatre.

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The events will be socially distanced and conducted according to CDC and local health guidelines.

"For us, the safety of our audiences, our artists and our staff is really the main concern," says Arsht Center president and CEO Johann Zietsman.

For the outdoor performances, Arsht has set up touchless digital ticketing. Guests must pass a wellness screening and temperature checks prior to entry and protective masks must be worn throughout the entire performance.

For "Zoetic Schmoetic," an evening of improv comedy, the performers were masked for rehearsals and will be again for performances.

"The actors are miked — so we're going to be able to hear them very well," said Stuart Meltzer, Zoetic Stage's artistic director.

City Theatre, which last year had to cancel the 25th anniversary celebration of its Summer Shorts festival due the pandemic, comes to Thomson Plaza next month with its "Shorts Outside the Box" series of original plays.

The threat of COVID-19 has not only changed the rules for rehearsals and performances. Arsht and Zoetic are among the organizations acknowledging that the pandemic is affecting the arts in ways few could have forecast a year ago.

"I think that we're on a journey for a more perfect theater community, a more perfect way to tell stories," says Meltzer.

Zietsman says the pandemic has given theaters a reason to think about their purpose in a bigger way.

"We've got huge social tensions at all kinds of levels," he says. "And I think the arts is the perfect, universal, non-threatening, non-judgmental language to teach us about social skills again, about compassion, about learning about the 'other.' And so that language right now is more important than ever to bring us back — not just as we were before — but better."

Zoetic Schmoetic: A Hysterically Safe & Socially-Distanced Improv Comedy Experience
Feb. 27, March 27 and April 24, 2021 at 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.
The Adrienne Arsht Center's Thomson Plaza for the Arts

March 11, April 8, and May 13, 2021 at 7:30 p.m.
The Adrienne Arsht Center's Thomson Plaza for the Arts

*The Arsht Center is also continuing its series of pop-up performances throughout Miami-Dade County, called Arsht on the Road.

This interview is part of “Intermission,” WLRN’s series looking at how South Florida’s arts community is coping during the COVID-19 pandemic.

We’ve also been hearing from people who are NOT artists by trade, but who are tapping into their creative side during COVID isolation.

If you’ve got a story for us, please send an email to talktous@wlrnnews.org, with the word “Intermission” in the subject line.

Christine DiMattei is WLRN's Morning Edition anchor and also reports on Arts & Culture.
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