The executive director said he had to find a way to keep the center open during the pandemic.By Kristine Sorensen

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — With so many kids doing at-home learning, they need an outlet to socialize, express themselves and exercise.

That’s why many families are grateful that musical theater schools in our area have found creative ways to continue teaching and performing.

Nothing will stop the kids from dancing, singing and acting their hearts out. Fourteen-year-old Adam Ash at Center for Theater Arts in Mt. Lebanon said, “It gives a sense of normalcy. And with everything else canceled, there’s still at least one thing that I can look forward to for actually seeing other people in person.”

The students at the Center for Theater Arts are learning how to act with their eyes through a clear plastic wall on wheels and dance big even in a small space. For many of the kids, the center is the only place that they get out of the house because they have to social distance from friends and are doing school at home.

Fourteen-year-old Lili Popcak drives an hour from Steubenville to get here.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

“To have this place that has always been my home and the place that I come to recenter myself, to have this place to be here in this time, it’s really incredible. … It made me feel like myself again,” Popcak said.

Billy Hartung, the Center for Theater Arts executive director, says in the school’s 40-year history, they’ve never turned away anyone for an inability to pay and they offer free classes for children and adults with disabilities.

He says he had to find a way to keep the center open during the pandemic.

“They have a space where they belong or a destination to grow and become their best selves,” Hartung said.

Another local school, Pittsburgh Musical Theater in the West End, built a stage outside where students take classes and perform. They also do temperature checks and health questionnaires before students arrive.

Hartung came up with the “CAR-baret”, kids performing for parents in cars.

But with capacity limited to 25 percent for six months, the Center for Theatre Arts is struggling, just like restaurants that can’t survive with minimal income.

“We’re a restaurant, too,” Hartung said. “It’s just that the buffet that we’re serving is dance and theater.”

The Center for Theatre Arts is beginning a major fundraising drive in order to remain open. To support them, click here.

Pittsburgh Musical Theatre is also raising money, and professionals are performing at their new outdoor stage. To support them and see their calendar of performances, click here.

Kristine Sorensen