How FIU Alumni Became Board Members of a Theatre organization

MSP’s seating stalls | Kaysea Suzana, PantherNOW

Sofia Bellon | Contributing Writer

As the South Florida theater scene evolves, three FIU Alumni are playing key roles in keeping an iconic South Florida playhouse not only alive, but thriving.

In the heart of South Miami, Danny Nieves, Angelina Esposito, and Amanda Sparhawk, are keeping the magic of theater alive in their vibrant community. 

All three of them are FIU Theatre Alumni on the Board of Directors at Main Street Players, a theater located in Miami Lakes

The “A-Team”, as MSP Technical Director Sparhawk affectionately refers to their trio as, met at FIU. 

All three of them fondly reflect on their time at FIU and the community they found in the theater department. 

MSP Vice President Nieves, like Artistic Director Esposito, had started doing theatre at FIU.

“The theater department was more vibrant, it was younger; it just had more exciting things going on than what I saw in the [other] departments,” said Nieves.

It was in this demanding and exciting environment that Sparhawk, Nieves, and Esposito connected and nurtured their talents together. 

Eventually their after-school meeting spot at New Wave Billiards as students became the meeting place of three professionals working in the theater world.

MSP, much like the “A- Team”, is one-in-a-million. 

The community theater has been around since 1974, and has survived much turmoil in its 50 years of operation. 

In 2021, Main Street Players lost their previous home theater space which pushed the trio into the challenge of creating their new space out of what was once a Victoria’s Secret storefront.

Sparhawk looked back on that time of struggle.

“It was overwhelming at first, but then we saw the new space… and it became one of my biggest achievements with MSP. It was taking something I learned in college and applying it towards my professional life which was designing a theater,” Sparhawk said.

All three board members were personally involved in this rehoming of MSP; they helped design everything from the stage to the bathrooms. 

Esposito discussed the move as a reflection of MSP’s resilience. 

“That’s what inspired me. No matter what trials and tribulations it goes through, the team and the people who are involved with the theater every day come together and work to keep it alive and get better,” Esposito said.

It is from this new space that MSP continues to bring the beauty of theatre and performing arts to their community. 

All three take great pride in their roles connecting Main Street Players to the neighborhood and culture it’s been part of for the past 50 years.

“We serve the community by providing [it] a place to come and hear stories,” said Nieves. 

This pride and dedication to their audience and artists is part of what makes MSP special. Nieves describes the theater as a place where people can escape while enjoying performing arts.

Productions are chosen both to connect with their audience through the familiar as well as to push them into exploring the unknown. 

“Trying to cater to the people in the neighborhood that you’re in and also trying to do new and exciting things. You just have to find that balance,” explained Sparhawk.

Esposito described a different facet of MSP’s support of the community by discussing MSP’s goal to uplift young artists, and provide them with the space they need to develop their crafts.

MSP has hosted student-led productions, student rehearsals in their space, and encourages students, current and former, to contact them if they need help. 

“We want them to come, we want to give them a place to perform,” said Esposito.

Nieves encourages FIU theatre students to stay connected to their local theater communities and take advantage of opportunities provided by places like Main Street Players. 

“You have a far greater opportunity of being successful as a working actor in a little community like South Florida than you do going to New York or L.A.,” he emphasized.

Looking to the future, Nieves, Sparhawk, and Esposito are optimistic. 

As our communities evolve, performing artists are taking on new challenges and theatres are adapting to their growing audiences. Thankfully, MSP has three board members dedicated to keeping its legacy alive.

“You can’t create art without your team, and they’re my team,” Esposito said fondly. 

It’s this “A- Team” that together will keep Main Street Players growing and thriving and maintain this gem of a theater for generations to come.

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