‘We want equal opportunity’: CMS parents not allowed to see students’ theater performance in person

CHARLOTTE — Providence High School students have been looking forward to their end-of-year performance. However, this week, the program learned parents and the community will not be allowed to attend the performance in person.

“These kids were so excited just to be on stage and be back together and performing again after so long,” parent Mitzi Lynch said.

Two parents, who are also part of the school’s theater boosters organization, said their students have been thrilled to rehearse for the show “Spamalot,” which was set for an in-person performance in May.

Lynch and Jessica Daitch said they planned to keep families and spectators socially distant in the theater, following guidelines aiming for 15%-20% capacity.

“It’s a comedy. They’re looking to get laughs and looking to be engaged with the audience. Theater is a back-and-forth relationship with the people you are performing in front of,” Daitch said.

But this week, they learned the audience will be limited to just students and staff members, as will be the case for many extracurricular activities and other end-of-year celebrations, such as arts performance and club events.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools said the decision prioritizes the well-being of students, along with in-person graduation. A representative said a lot of decisions being made are to protect that opportunity, where families will be able to attend.

Some families are questioning fairness since spectators are allowed at sporting events. The parents who won’t be able to see their children perform in person said the same opportunities should be extended to all activities.

“We’re very happy that athletics have been able to have people in the stands, have people in the gym. It’s great. These kids have just craved being able to show off all the hard work they’ve been able to put in,” Lynch said. “We just want equal representation. We want equal opportunity for our kids.”

“The culmination of our rehearsals is our performance, and it’s akin to going to practice and getting ready for the big game. Our performances are the big game, and it’s time to let us on the stage,” Daitch said.

A district representative said sports are governed by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association, and they have a very clear set of spectator attendance guidelines that the district follows. CMS is allowing 30% maximum capacity at spring athletic events.

In response to CMS restricting access to school facilities due to COVID-19, the Town of Matthews announced that it’s offering facilities for schools to use. It said the Providence High School theater program can use the community center for their performance.

Parents said set designs and lighting are already set up at the high school, so that would make moving to another facility more difficult.

And just this week, the district announced high school graduation can have up to four guests per ceremony. Tickets are required.