The dreams of more than 26,000 seventh graders will take flight this week as the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts rolls out its newest production: “Kitty Hawk,” which incorporates science, technology, engineering, the arts and math (STEAM).
Through a partnership between the Arsht Center and Miami-Dade County Public Schools, “Kitty Hawk” brings to life the story of Wilbur and Orville Wright, better known as the Wright Brothers, and their four-year journey to building the first successful airplane and taking flight on Dec. 17, 1903, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
The production is part of M-DCPS’ Cultural Passport Program and the second phase of the Arsht Center’s Learning Through the Arts Program, a live theater program that started in 2010 with “Rock Odyssey,” a musical that focused on fifth-grade students.
As a production that’s packed with pre- and post-curriculum, “Kitty Hawk” is projected to become a tradition for all seventh graders in Miami-Dade. The show is not open to the general public.
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“We decided to create a STEAM-focused program, like ‘Kitty Hawk,’ that shows our students that they can change the world by following their passion,” said Jairo Ontiveros, director of education and community engagement at the Arsht Center. “The concept of pushing yourself and pursuing your dreams, like the Wright Brothers did, is what we wanted to give to our students.”
To successfully implement this concept into the play, the production process started in 2016 when director Nathan Allen used his expertise to pull together a team of designers and performers, as well as develop the idea of how the play would move on stage.
As founder and artistic director of The House Theatre of Chicago, Allen hosted a blind casting and, although the Wright Brothers were white Americans, students will see Latino and African-American cast members.
“We want students to see themselves on the stage—that they can sing, act, become a scientist, engineer, mathematician, or business woman,” Allen said. “The idea of building something that will be seen by every seventh-grader in Miami-Dade County Schools is a powerful thing.”
But in addition to powerful, the production required lots of practice — five weeks to be exact. However, practice was cut short due to Hurricane Irma’s debut. The production team had to pack up and return home until it was safe to return.
“There are certainly more urgent recovery efforts, and much more horrible impacts that the storm had,” Allen said. “There were sacrifices made, but it was sort of a miracle that they could get us all back here so quickly, and we got back to normal as well as we could.”
With just three weeks of practice, the team came together and successfully pulled off their first show on Tuesday.
“There is a level of respect from the community and center for this effort,” Allen said. “At the end of the day, it’s culminating into something that’s beautiful.”
More about the program
The Kitty Hawk program extends beyond the stage and includes a curriculum, workshops and activities that target populations under-represented in STEM career tracks — specifically women, African Americans and Latinos, according to the Adrienne Arsht Center.
After students have seen “Kitty Hawk” on stage, the “Kitty Hawk” STEAM workshops begin Oct. 23, and will reach underserved youth throughout Miami over the course of 10-13 weeks. Students will work with STEM professionals and participate in a series of experiential activities where they will better understand real-life job opportunities, according to the Arsht Center.