If you haven’t been at one of the annual gala awards concerts in the Kennedy Center concert hall of the innovative Cappies program celebrating the theater arts of high schools throughout the D.C. region, you’ve really missed something. The combination of the enthusiasm of the student theater arts program contingents from each of the high schools represented and the energy and talent on display in the dozen or so scenes from winning plays and musicals chosen for performances on that night are downright awe inspiring.
George Mason High School’s theater arts department has been a big part of the Cappies programs each year in the recent period, coming home with its share of winners. This last year, the school’s rousing musical production of “Spamalot” won a bucket of nominations and a scene was selected for a live performance at the gala to the great delight of the standing-room-only audience. Among the great moments for our local school was the award for best male vocalist in a musical, won for the school’s 2011 production of “Les Miserables” by the late Samuel Waters. As it was announced that Waters was undergoing treatment for a cancer that ultimately took his life at age 22 in January 2016, a large-screen video of his performance of the moving “Bring Him Home” was shown.
“Spamalot,” “Les Miserables,” and other memorable shows like the pitch-perfect production of “Oklahoma” in 2004, starring Greg Corbino and Sarah Snyder, and many others could not have been possible without Mason High’s existing “fly loft” system.
The News-Press has been an avid participant in the Cappies program, which includes the pivotal role of student journalists and critics writing reviews of the productions of their peers at other schools. The News-Press has made it a point for years to publish those reviews covering the performances of all schools in the Falls Church wider region. In this context, its owner-editor Nicholas Benton has been invited to present award winners at the annual Cappies Gala, along with the chair of the Falls Church School Board.
At many of these opportunities to speak briefly to the 700 or more eager, hopeful faces of the talented student theater artists, Benton has quoted the great novelist E. M. Forster in a short essay, “What I Believe,” he wrote on the eve of another unspeakable war, World War II, in 1939. In democratic opposition to aristocracy, Forster wrote that he put his hope “not in an aristocracy of power, but of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky.” Its members, he wrote, “are to be found in all nations and classes, and through the ages, and there is a secret understanding between them when they meet. The represent the true human tradition, the one permanent victory of our queer race over cruelty and chaos.”
In Falls Church, this “aristocracy of the sensitive, considerate and plucky” needs a fly loft system in the new high school.