Imagined, produced and presented by the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County (@arshtcenter), I am Me will begin its tour of Miami-Dade County public high schools on January 31. Focused on teen mental health and wellness, the new initiative includes a world premiere play created especially for teens that will travel to local high schools in early 2022 and a series of artistic self-expression workshops for teens. The first arts-driven mental health initiative of its kind, I am Me is the culmination of the Arsht Center’s 16-year partnership with Miami-Dade County Public Schools (MDCPS) and is provided by the Arsht Center at no cost to every 9th grade student and teacher in Miami-Dade County public schools.
The project, which will continue annually following its 2022 launch, was created in response to a rise in depression, anxiety and other mental health issues among today’s teenagers. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, 70% of American teens consider anxiety and depression a major problem among their peers.
“As our students continue to deal with isolation and stress magnified by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Arsht Center hopes to introduce the arts to students as a tool for coping, self-expression, healing and processing emotions. We believe the arts have a positive effect on everyone, especially our youth. The Arsht Center is offering I am Me as a way to equip young people with knowledge and skills to foster their own wellbeing, as well as the positive mental health of their classmates and families,” said Jairo Ontiveros, vice president of education and community engagement at the Arsht Center.
I am Me begins as a traveling play designed to be performed at every high school in Miami-Dade County. In the mixed-media theatrical work, six young people share what it’s like for them to be teenagers in 21st century Miami. Delivering lyrical monologues against a backdrop of oceanic images and vibrant music, the characters express their fears, frustrations and triumphs as they navigate the rough terrain of adolescence in a city whose future is as uncertain as their own. Anxious about climate change, parental expectations, societal pressures and their burgeoning identities, these young people find hope and comfort in one another, in art and ultimately within themselves. Created by a group of established and emerging Miami artists commissioned by the Arsht Center, I am Me features an all-local cast and is directed by award-winning Miami artist Teo Castellanos.
Beyond the Performance
The I am Me program includes services created to engage students in their high schools beyond the free performance experience. After the tour has visited each school, the Arsht Center will integrate teaching artists into MDCPS afterschool wellness clubs to engage students in arts-focused self-expression workshops that will help student to channel emotions through poetry, music, dance and theater. The programs will be offered virtually over a nine-week period this spring.
A digital resource guide is also included as a companion to the performance. The guide was created in collaboration with South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, arts therapists and teaching artists as a tool to help students, teachers and families to process – through the language of the arts – questions and concerns about their well-being and the well-being of others. Projects and creative activities include music, art, movement, theater, writing, wellness and nature. It will also include mental health organizations and resources.
About the Creators of I am Me
The play I am Me was imagined, created and executed by a team of local arts educators, theater professionals and performers who understand Miami’s unique community. The play is directed by Teo Castellanos, an award-winning Miami-based actor, director and writer and recipient of the Fringe First Award at the prestigious Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The creative team also features Seth “Brimstone” Schere (Sound Designer); Keena Blair Brown (Costume Designer); Shamar Watt (Choreographer) and playwrights Teo Castellanos, Maylin Enamorado, Rudi Goblen, Alejandra Nuñez, Christell Victoria Roach, Giovannai Garced-Rosa and Samantha Turner. The cast consists of Miamians Inez Barlatier, Thiana Berrick, Diana Buitrago, Rayner Gabriel, Dayron Leon and Kristie Millie Valdes. Click here for bios.
Arts Education at the Arsht Center
I am Me is the culmination of the Center’s Learning Through the Arts partnership with MDCPS, which also includes access to made-for-students musicalsRock Odyssey (established in 2010) and Kitty Hawk (established in 2017) as well as hands-on STEAM workshops and specialized curriculum. Since 2006, the Arsht Center has offered 10+ signature education programs and free arts opportunities to more than half a million students across South Florida. For more information on the Arsht Center’s 2021-2022 arts education initiatives, click here.
I am Me Supporters
I am Me – including the theatrical presentation at each school, afterschool programs and supplementary materials — is offered free to schools and students through the generosity of the following Arsht Center supporters: Green Family Foundation Trust; The Jorge M. Pérez Family Foundation at The Miami Foundation; The Frederick A. DeLuca Foundation; TD Charitable Foundation; Cornelia T. Bailey Foundation; The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; Florida Blue Foundation; Truist Foundation; Cheryl & Y. David Scharf; Beatriz & Graham Bolton; Yvonne & Tony Conza; Karen & Jonathan Fryd; Jon & Nancy Batchelor; Mayor Daniella Levine Cava & Robert Cava, MD; Neisen & Ana Kasdin; Allard & Julie Baird; and Donald Stobs. Arsht Culturist members are core supporters of arts education programming. Members enjoy benefits while supporting I am Me and other Arsht Center commissioned work that focuses on community well-being, individual expression and understanding.