First show of the year: “A Journey of Growth”


“A Journey of Growth” cast and crew. Courtesy of @pahstheatre.

Courtesy of Gabi Altinok.

Gabi Altinok, Staff Writer

A student-curated show, “A Journey of Growth,” was the first production of the year held by our PA Theatre Department. Not only was it directed by seniors Jailyn Valdesere and Ella Schumacher, but the entire show was written by PA studio theatre students. 

“Well, this [was] my first time directing an in-person show,” Valdesere noted. “I was going to direct a studio one-act two years ago… but you know COVID happened and that never actually happened. So, I am very grateful for this opportunity to direct in person. It was a wonderful experience. I had the best co-director in the world, our cast was amazing, and the tech crew was awesome. It was great!”

“Our biggest challenge was definitely time,” she continued. “Since our script was student-written by our studio class so it was a work in process, we had to have auditions before our script was even finalized.”

Both Schumacher and Valdesere were presented with the challenge of directing a play, and they did it all in a three-week timeframe. Schumacher said, “Directing the play was a class project. Typically for this project, directors have a year in advance to get everything worked out, but because of COVID and how we didn’t know how theatre would look this year, Jailyn and I completed the year-long planning process in about three weeks.”

“It was a challenge, but it was nice to know that Ms. Grey [PA’s Theatre teacher] had enough trust to think that we could do that,” explained Schumacher. 

“A Journey of Growth” is a play containing two separate acts that display the transition from youth to adulthood in the life of high school students. Sophomore Grace Puma, acting the part for Christina, experienced the quick switch in both costume and mentality as she portrayed the maturity that comes with age. Puma remembered the growth she not only had to utilize in-character, but in skill as well: “When I was in the UNO scene there was a lot with being in tableau, which is being frozen, but when certain people talk you would start moving. So it was a lot to learn and try to master.”

“The play is about three stages of growth: misunderstanding, forgiveness, and then growth,” said sophomore Lauren Wilmoth, who was head of the costume crew.

Wilmoth, much similar to Puma, experienced both challenges and new opportunities as the head of the costume crew. “Opening night was really smooth with costumes. We made sure everything was organized beforehand and everyone was very cooperative,” said Wilmoth. “A difficulty I had in preparations was finding all the individual pieces for the costumes. I had to look through the costume closets and ask people to find things from their own closets and it was very difficult. But, everyone was really helpful and we were able to pull together really nice costumes.”

Between the two acts, there was a 10-15 minute intermission. Valdesere noted, “A part of the intermission was to use that time to allow all of our actors to change into their Act Two costumes, so immediately after the curtains close the actors rush back to the dressing rooms to get changed. That’s the big reason for the intermission. The costumes and the whole set have to change.”

With the set crew setting the stage, props crew quickly changing the props, sound and light crew staying active, costumes and makeup crew preparing actors, actors putting their all on stage, house crew guiding guests, and other tech students pitching in, it was a full team effort.

“Act One is meant to be all of the characters in high school, with friendships and relationship drama. It shows and introduces our characters and their relationships,” described Valdesere. “Act Two is to show our characters’ lives in the future, and how they grow up and change. It’s about how life is a journey of growth.”

Schumacher expanded on the difficulties during rehearsals in a pandemic: “Obviously, having such a big in-person cast being our first cast at PA after COVID was a learning experience because we have actors who’ve acted in our virtual plays over the past two years of COVID, but this might be our first in-person play. I think that just getting into the groove of in-person rehearsals after having so much time away from the theatre was an adjustment for everyone.”

However, in spite of all of the uncertainties and constraints, “The show’s opening night was amazing!” revealed Valdesere. “I had a lot of fun, and I think our actors put it all on stage, and our techies rocked the show.”

“Oh my god it was so scary,” said Schumacher, who feels that, despite her nervousness, both nights went off without a hitch. “I could not have asked for a better cast and a better show night.”

Having had this first-hand experience of directing a full show, Schumacher had found something new she wanted to pursue. “Honestly, this has shifted my plans for college in a way because I did not plan on doing much theatre in college. I was thinking of doing a more media production path, but now I’m actually considering technical theatre,” said Schumacher.

“Technically this was my first time directing a show of this scale, but this is the second time Jailyn and I have directed together. My junior year we both worked together for the studio one-act directing project which is something we do at the end of the year, and will be happening at the end of this year, which is basically a night of student-directed one acts.”

Schumacher feels that she could not have done it without the assistance of her other director, Valdesere. “I love working with Jailyn. I feel like we complement each other very well when we’re directing. We kind of take on a ‘good cop, bad cop’ role where Jailyn is nice, and I tell people to get their work done. In the nicest way possible,” joked Schumacher.

According to Valdesere, “I will definitely take a lot away from the experience, it was a lot of work, but it was so much fun. I’ve made some great friends and memories from this and I’m so glad to have done this show!”