By Arielle Elise from McLean High School
Lights, music, and sparkles galore! In a breathtaking display of talent and artistic prowess, the stage was set for an extraordinary evening at The 23rd Annual Cappies Gala. Held amidst the opulent halls of The Kennedy Center, this prestigious event showcased the very best of high school theater as young performers and writers gathered to celebrate their passion and dedication. From the moment the dancers and singers graced the stage to the final applause, the air was thick with anticipation and excitement as attendees eagerly awaited the announcement of the coveted awards. With each passing moment, the Gala’s grandeur illuminated the timeless power of the performing arts, leaving an indelible mark on all those fortunate enough to be in attendance.
The Cappies Gala, often called the “High School Tony Awards,” emerged as a celebration of the exceptional talent in high school theater programs. Originating in 1999, the Cappies (Critics and Awards Program) was created by Bill Strauss and Judy Bowns to recognize the achievements of high school theater students. Inspired by the prestige of the Tony Awards, the Cappies Gala aims to provide a similar level of recognition and honor for young theater artists. Through a network of chapters across North America, the Cappies program trains student critics, who attend and review school productions, culminating in the annual Gala, where outstanding performers, writers, and technicians are acknowledged. This Gala has become an emblematic event, encapsulating the passion, talent, and future aspirations of rising stars in the world of high school theater.
“Some critics go into the journalism field, and we have some Cappies participants on Broadway right now. We see everything,” said Glenda Miesner, Program Manager for the Cappies in the National Capital Area. Miesner oversees all the critics and mentors. When the Gala approaches, her duties shift quite a bit. Some of her new responsibilities include writing content for the scripts, souvenir program, and managing ticket distributions. “The trophies are sitting at my house right now,” she said playfully, “it never ends!”
Amidst the multifaceted demands of the Cappies Gala, an opportunity arises for enthusiastic students to immerse themselves in the realm of professional theater by shadowing seasoned adults in various roles. “I follow around Glenda and help with a lot of the pre-production, which involves script edits and organizing the announcers,” stated Rebecca Sullivan, a senior at McLean High School. Sullivan’s active involvement as a shadow at this year’s Gala allowed her to contribute to the intricate workings behind the scenes. Notably, Sullivan earned a nomination in the stage management category, further cementing her dedication and passion for the craft. Through her transformative gala experience, Sullivan gleaned invaluable insights. “It’s important to keep a tight show to limit the number of errors and not waste any time,” she remarked, underscoring the paramount importance of precision and efficiency in creating an unforgettable event.
This year, Phillip Reid, an FCPS theatre teacher, was appointed as director of the Gala for the first time. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a lot of these kids to perform on the Kennedy Center Stage, so it’s all about creating a fun show for everyone involved,” he shared.
The technical realm, the vital backbone of a seamlessly executed production, must intertwine harmoniously with the unwavering dedication of performers. Among the distinguished productions, South Lakes High School’s rendition of the musical “Bright Star” shined resplendently. Paying homage to the show’s setting and style, choreographers August Rivers and Anna Leo diligently maintained authenticity, particularly when choreographing show-stopping musical numbers. In the words of August Rivers, “We wanted to stay true to the time period, which was the 1940s and 1920s contrasting, but we knew we were mixing that in with a show heavily based on intricate storytelling, so we put in more lyrical dancing to combine with that and make a unique product.” The meticulously crafted production reaped well-deserved recognition, as August Rivers clinched the Cappies Award for Dancer in a Male Role for the second consecutive year, while the show itself garnered ten Cappies Awards, including Best Choreography and Best Musical. Elated by their triumph, Henry Carter, winner of Lead Actor in a Male Role for “Bright Star,” humbly acknowledged, “We put a lot of time into the show, so it’s great getting recognized for it.”
As the final notes faded into the night, the essence of the Cappies Gala lingered in the air, a testament to the extraordinary talent, commitment, and profound artistry that graced the stage. With every captivating performance, the Gala became a beacon of inspiration, transcending the boundaries of high school theater. Through collaborative spirit and unwavering devotion, every individual involved in the Cappies Gala transformed it into a remarkable night of celebration, radiating positivity and fostering a vibrant atmosphere of joy and camaraderie.