PAHS Theatre presents original play at VTA Conference


Emma Halman

Restrictions from social distancing and quarantine were not enough to stop the PA Theatre Department from receiving a superior rating at the annual Virginia Theatre Association (VTA) conference earlier this month. Students from across the PA community took the unique opportunity to participate in the creation of an original play, ironically titled “Unmasked,” written by seniors Rafael Alfonso and Alondra Talley.

Earlier this spring, students from both the Intro to Theatre and Studio Theatre classes auditioned for a role in the piece to be performed at the VTA competition. However, due to the unusual circumstances of this year, VTA decided to turn the competition into a conference where schools could choose to be judged. 

After the play that was first planned to be performed became inherently more difficult to rehearse and execute virtually, PAHS theatre director Julieta Grey mentioned the idea of creating a new play to perform to the cast. 

A scene from the virtual play. Courtesy of Emma Halman.

 Alfonso jumped at the opportunity to write an original play, as it had been his dream to do so since freshman year. Drawing inspiration from current events, Alfonso, along with Talley, began co-writing the play in late August. The writing process took a little over two weeks.

With an eager 16-member cast and six-member tech crew, virtual rehearsals began in late September and continued until early October. The rehearsal process Alfonso described was intimidating at first because “I had never directed before so it was a bit of a struggle figuring out how to do so over Zoom.”

Although the plays for VTA are normally performed live, the virtual aspect of this year taught the actors new skills when it comes to acting over a screen. Talley explained, “In regular theatre, the movements need to be big so that the audience can see them from far away. However, since that is not the case virtually, we had to put more emphasis on what was said, the way it was said, and the smaller movements like hand twisting or eye-rolling.”

 Two actors even received special recognitions: sophomore Evelyn Teske for Best Actress and junior Malachi Windom for All Star Cast. 

The play itself focuses on the various challenges that have been brought on by COVID-19, from the slow unraveling of a friend group, to the heightened mental struggles of the past eight months, to the difficult position of parents having to help their children with their schoolwork. All these vignettes are intertwined by the narration of a girl writing in her diary throughout quarantine about her struggles. Alfonso explained, “We really just wanted to approach COVID from different perspectives and bring them all together.”

A scene from the virtual play written by Raphael Alfonso and Alondra Talley. Courtesy of Emma Halman.

Throughout the play, COVID is only ever referred to as “the virus” in order to maintain a sense of ambiguity. This role of the virus is performed by the voices of the ensemble throughout the play as an overwhelming voice of negativity. 

The use of creativity from the tech crew is greatly apparent in the final product of the play. Junior Ella Schumacher and senior Andrew Christoff edited the different video clips together in a way that really “elevated it to a whole new level,” according to Alfonso. The play also received the awards of “Outstanding Use of Music,” “Outstanding Response to Contemporary Circumstances,” and “Outstanding Creation of New Work,” another testament to the talent of the cast and crew. 

As for Talley, she believes that everyone “really bonded over the new experience together.” Talley and Alfonso worked very closely in the writing and directing process; they both believe that the play is the embodiment of that connection. 

To watch “Unmasked,” visit