Picket Fences: A Piece of Virtual Theatre


Emory & Henry Theatre Department

The cast, director, and playwright of Picket Fences in a rehearsal over Zoom.

Emory & Henry’s Theatre Department is virtually showing “Picket Fences,” a play written by alum Pearl Moore. The show will be recorded and posted on the department’s Facebook page for students, faculty, alumni and community members to watch.

The show follows Julie, a supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, and her older brother Chris, a police officer. Given their differing views on the movement, the show brings up an important conversation about today’s social climate, as Chris has been tasked with arresting protesters that were at a BLM rally and is attempting to use Julie to get information.

Second year student at Emory & Henry Clayton Arnold, who plays Chris, talks about the struggles facing the theatre department during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The biggest obstacle is acting from other parts of the state … The challenges we have overcome have been amazing – how creative we can get. It’s been very hard but it’s also something I am very thankful for,” said Arnold, talking about the struggles of distance theatre.

Shelby Hughes, also a second year student at Emory & Henry, who plays Julie, added, “We’re kind of at the forefront of how theatre is changing… Everything can be done virtually, and that’s something that had started to happen, but with this pandemic it’s very likely that it will continue for years to come. A lot of theatre will possibly become online.”

Playwright and graduate student at Southern Illinois University, Pearl Moore, wrote “Picket Fences” in July of 2020 before the theatre department decided to start virtual theatre. Moore wanted to write a show that was short, powerful, and to the point.

“We don’t talk about the Black Lives Matter movement enough; it’s one of those things that you ‘don’t talk about at the dinner table.’ I decided to write a piece about Black Lives Matter, even though I am a white person, because I felt like I needed to do something to try and open some eyes,” said Moore, talking about why she wrote the show.

The show was written to be set over a FaceTime call between Julie and Chris. With the show being adapted to a performance on Zoom, it was necessary for it to be set as a virtual call. “Dr. Bremner talked to me about coming back for the semester, that students will more than likely be doing online classes, so I immediately thought of doing a Zoom play. You don’t want to put any actors at risk or anything,” said Moore.

With the current situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, virtual theatre is becoming more prevalent in the world of theatre. E&H’s theatre department is taking their next steps by uploading their shows to their Facebook page and their YouTube channel. The show “Pandemic Party” is available now, and “Picket Fences” will be available to view on these websites soon.