Malibu High alumnus returns to alma mater to act in ‘Evita’

The high school theater department’s lack of male actors required the school’s drama teacher to ask a Malibu graduate to return to play Che Guevara.

By Homaira Shifa / Special to The Malibu Times

Malibu High School alumnus Michael Stahler will be returning to his alma mater as Che Guevara in the musical production of “Evita,” directed by Jodi Plaia.

The production includes a cast of 25, including Ren Martinez, a senior at Malibu High School, playing the lead role of Evita.

“She has a beautiful voice and is perfect for the part,” Plaia said.

Plaia, who has been with Malibu High School for 10 years, directs two plays every year at the school, including a fall play and spring musical.

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During the fall play production, Plaia realized there was a lack of male artists within the school’s theater department.

May of the boys in the department graduated last year, she said.

“I wanted to direct Evita in the spring,” she said. “So I had to bring in a guest artist to play the lead role of Che.”

In searching for someone to fill the role of Che Guevara-the Argentine Marxist revolutionary, physician, author, intellectual and guerrilla leader-Plaia decided to bring back an alumnus.

“I wanted someone who the other students could look up to,” Plaia said. “And I thought there is no one better than Michael Stahler to fill this role.

“I wanted someone who was a peer and who could be a mentor,” she continued. “He has been more than I ever could have imagined and an amazing example. He’s always prepared and brings in one hundred percent every time.”

Stahler graduated from Malibu High in 2008 and was involved in plays and musicals throughout high school, Plaia said.

“I never thought I would be a mentor and I knew it would be a challenge,” Stahler said of his upcoming role. “But, I was happy to get the opportunity to go back to Malibu High.”

Stahler had worked with Martinez while in high school, so he is familiar with the cast and production. “I have worked with Martinez, her sister and her father,” Stahler said. “I am so excited to be part of this production. I missed being in theater, that’s where I got my start.”

In working with Plaia throughout his high school career, Stahler said he and the director got to know each other very well and how each other works.

“We just look at each other and immediately know what to do, Stahler said.”

Upon receiving the part, Stahler studied and learned everything for the role in three weeks. He listened to nothing but musical theater the entire time, Stahler said.

“My favorite part is the research,” Stahler said. “I love researching roles and people. It was so enlightening and humbling to research a real person, Che Guevara.”

He had heard the songs growing up and was able to recognize them, but had never seen “Evita,” the stage or film version, Stahler said.

Since graduating from Malibu High, Stahler has pursued a career in acting and music. He attended the California Institute of the Arts to study theater.

“Acting and music have always been my two passions,” Stahler said.

Last fall he had a guest star appearance on the NBC series “Outlaw,” playing the role of a senator’s daughter’s boyfriend. He is currently in production for Sam Shephard’s “Cowboy Mouth.”

“I know that this is a marathon and not a sprint,” Stahler said of his acting career. “All I need is a little perseverance.”

While Stahler said right now he is focused one the present, his dream is to one day “go surfing with Sean Penn and be directed by him.”

“Evita” will run at Malibu High School June 2, 3, and 4 at 7pm, and on June 5 at 2pm.

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