The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School


The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School


The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School


One Act Wonders


Annual Festival Features Student-Directed Plays Competing at School Level Before Advancing to Statewide Competitions

Chloe Yokitis


The ACHS Theatre Department held its annual One Act Play Festival Competition on January 6 and 7 in the auditorium. Five plays— Dinner with the MacGuffins; I’m Okay Now, Poppa; The S-Word; Just a Stage He’s Going Through; and Malaika Sings the Blues— were featured. Just a Stage He’s Going Through placed first and moved onto the District level.

Just a Stage He’s Going Through:

From left, junior Maikol Centeno, freshman Ellie Hartman, senior Jay Andersen and senior Neya Alper star in Just a Stage He’s Going Through

Stage, written by playwright Pat Cook and directed by seniors Neya Alper and Annette Haynie, follows Dwight (junior KD Bectel), an adult who discovers that he is a character in a play when he begins seeing rooms that aren’t there and people who aren’t real. After trying to convince his exasperated wife (junior Lucas Trueblood) that their bedroom is not an enclosed room but a room in a set, Dwight is visited by visions of his mother (junior Angelina Martinez), whom only Dwight can see.

Dwight finds himself at an invisible bus stop where he meets a charming cast of characters, including a quirky saxophone player sporting a rainbow cowboy hat (junior Maikol Centeno), an elegant, ritzy woman (senior Neya Alper), a hardened man who claims society is a “man-eat-man world” (senior Jay Andersen) and a respectable businesswoman (freshman Ellie Hartman).

Dwight’s acceptance of the world he now lives in comes with the surprise appearance of famed scientist Dr. Sigmund Freud (senior Jeffrey Brenchley), who speaks in a zealous Anna Delvey-esque accent accompanied with exaggerated hand gestures.

“I’m really happy with how the actors all worked together, both on and off stage,” Haynie said. “Each rehearsal, they seem to get better and more in tune with their characters!”

The actors that performed at Districts were slightly different than those who performed at the school level, Haynie said.

“Three of the roles we originally casted now are filled by different actors— one of whom is my co-director, Neya Alper— so I’m especially proud of how quickly they fell into the roles,” they said.

At the end of January, Stage competed against other high schools in the District One-Act Play Festival Competition at Lake Braddock High School. The students placed fourth, and Trueblood and Martinez received honorable mentions for best acting.

Malaika Sings the Blues:

From left, senior Naeem Scott, sophomore Matias Chase and senior Jasper Lavan star in Malaika Sings The Blues

Blues, directed by junior Yahney-Marie Sangaré and senior Nora Malone, is written by Sangaré and was one of three student-written plays at One Acts. In the play, Malaika (freshman Jennifer

Adu-Wadier), a D.C. native, visits a New Orleans bar with her boyfriend Ovi (senior Jasper Lavan). The bar, located in the city where her father is buried, is owned by the friendly River (senior Nathan Desta) and frequented by Malaika’s uncle Solomon (senior Chidebelu Ojukwu). The play placed second in the school-level competition.

Malaika also meets Ella (freshman Lyric Hardemon), who takes Malaika under her wing and predicts that Malaika has a transformative journey ahead of her. And a journey it was. Minutes later, Malaika opens a report detailing her family history and discovers what she had suspected is true: Ovi’s third-great grandfather owned her ancestors.

Malaika’s journey is brightened by her newfound community in New Orleans, including sharp-witted Achille (senior Naeem Scott)— “Don’t you ever want to burn down the White House?” Achille asks Malaika when she mentions she lives in D.C.—, River’s good-humored nephew Isaiah (freshman Liam Fiore-Walker) and chess-playing Eloi (sophomore Matias Chase).

Blues features swinging jazz dance scenes and lively musical numbers featuring Nina (senior Isa Valenzuela) and Achille on vocals, Louis (senior D. Jalon Reed) on the saxophone and Pianist (Lavan) on the piano.

Desta, who played River, said that his favorite part of the play was “adapting to [its] uniqueness,” which was “unconventional”— though this also proved to become a challenge. 

“[It was difficult to pull] off all of the dances because we thought it would’ve been easy, but none of us had really done jazz dancing,” he said. “All of the musical elements were extensively rehearsed so there was a lot of time and effort put into them.”

He said he hopes the play resonated with the audience.

“I hope it speaks to people trying to figure out what their purpose in life is,” he said, “because I feel like that’s what Malaika is going through.”

Dinner with the MacGuffins:

From left, junior Jei Huddle, senior Michael Goldsberry, senior Nehemiah Thomas, junior Lucas Trueblood and senior Owen Maccubbin star in Dinner with the MacGuffins

Dinner, written by Chris Sheppard and Jeff Grove and directed by junior MC Finegold-Sachs and senior Jeneya Kamara, is a fourth-wall story like Stage. It is centered on teenager James (senior Nehemiah Thomas), who discovers that he sees an audience that no one around him detects. His girlfriend Karen (junior Jei Huddle) and grandfather (senior Owen Maccubbin) try to convince James that there’s no audience, but to no avail. James does not budge. The play placed third in the school-level competition.

The kooky yet warm family dynamic between the characters is built on by James’s parents, Helen (senior Michael Goldsberry) and Dwight (junior Lucas Trueblood).

Dinner is sprinkled with surprises, like the appearance of FBI agents (juniors Alexander Cirmo and Yousef Khalid) and a game-changing discovery about Grandpa’s past.

Junior Vanessa Mensah stars as a “plant”: she sits in the audience until her character’s phone rings— which James hears, since he can hear the audience— and she unexpectedly gets out of her seat and walks across the theatre. “I’m at this play,” she says with her smartphone up to her ear, “about this Black boy— with white parents, can you imagine? I think he must be adopted or something!”

Finegold-Sachs said that they really “enjoyed” co-directing with Kamara and is excited to keep pursuing this interest.

“It made me decide that I definitely want to try doing student leadership for theatre next year,” Finegold-Sachs said. “And I really do enjoy directing, because while it’s hard, it feels so good seeing your work come through at the end.”

They said that they’re especially proud of the play because it was produced entirely by Advanced Theatre students, and historically, the play put on by the class has not done as well in competition as the other plays.

“I’m really proud of my actors, seeing how they grew and how the effort changed. And while it wasn’t perfect, it was good, and I can’t wait to see what else they do— especially with Black History Month coming up and having a different play to do,” they said.

The S-Word:

Junior Peter Russo stars in The S-Word

The S-Word, directed by sophomore Quinn MacBride and junior Jei Huddle and written by MacBride, follows friends Ari (freshman Ailinn Colarulli), Casey (senior Amiera Miller) and Parker (senior Kai Avila) as they plan for a picnic. But before they leave, Ari and Parker share some startling news: anyone who speaks the word “sandwich” will be hunted by murderous sandwiches who are hell-bent on getting revenge for being eaten for years with no consequences. The play placed fourth in the school-level competition.

The characters have their first encounter with the Sandwich (ju-nior Peter Russo) when it chases a hunchbacked old lady (senior Owen Maccubbin), clad in a baby blue nightgown and hobbling across stage with her walker. After the audience witnesses the characters surviving several close calls, panicking for their eventual dooms, figuring out what to eat for lunch and finding romance, the play goes out on a sweet note with a full-circle twist.

“It’s a very surreal experience knowing that you have the power to make the play whatever you want it to be, because it never feels like that. In the end, it’s up to the actors to do what feels natural, and to the directors to tell them to keep doing something or never do something again,” said MacBride. “It’s keeping everything in mind while trying to uphold the writer’s vision— which, luckily, wasn’t too much of a problem for us, since I wrote it!” said MacBride.

MacBride says that they and Huddle got to know each other at the annual spring Writers’ Festival event where S-Word premiered. That’s where they “recruited” Huddle, they said.

“We work really, really well together; we agreed on almost everything and the things we didn’t agree on, we were able to compromise on. It meant that the play didn’t turn out exactly how I imagined it when I was writing it, but that was a good thing,” MacBride said. Huddle says that the relationship between the co-directors and the cast was “amazing.” The cast, which was primarily made of new actors, was one of their highlights of the experience.

“In my opinion, one of my favorite parts about One Acts is how we introduced so many new actors into our department,” Huddle said. “In The S-Word, for our three lead actors, this was either their first high school experience acting, or at least their first lead role— and they all killed it!”

I’m Okay Now, Poppa:

From left, junior Maikol Centeno and freshman Kit Vontz star in I’m Okay Now, Poppa

Poppa is a story about the importance of real friendship and family throughout difficult times. It is written by junior Rachel Ross Calixto and directed by Ross Calixto and junior Tanween Syed. The play placed fifth in the school-level competition.

Poppa follows the friendship between teenagers Rhea (freshman Kit Vontz) and Molly (senior Rodase Demissie).

Rhea and Molly, who were close friends before Molly moved away, reunite when Molly travels into town for Rhea’s birthday. Rhea— who has finally come to terms with her romantic feelings for her friend— is ready to make the most out of Molly’s visit and tell Molly the truth. With the help of her friend Owen (sophomore Matias Chase), she prepares to face her feelings on the night of her eighteenth birthday party.

But when what should have been a sweet moment turns sour, Rhea is reminded that the world is not always a kind place. In the aftermath, Rhea leans on her kindhearted father (junior Maikol Centeno), and they share a tender moment as she is reassured that even when she didn’t know it, her father was cheering beside her.

This is Ross Calixto’s first year directing a play. In last year’s One Act Festival, she acted in a play called The Couch.

“As an actor myself, I was used to hearing how important relationships amongst actors are outside of characters. I guess I didn’t really understand it until I saw it myself while co-directing this play,” she said.

Ross Calixto says that she thinks of the play, which she wrote over the summer and finalized in the fall, as a coming of age story.

“I have had some friends say that the play touched them because they found it relatable in many aspects,” she said. “[The purpose of] my play was really to portray that it’s okay if things don’t necessarily work out the way one might want them to.”

Featured Image from left: Junior KD Bectel, junior Angelina Martinez and senior Jeffrey Brenchley star in It’s Just a Stage He’s Going Through

All photos by Chloe Yokitis for Theogony

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