2024-07-22 1:09 PM

2 Meridian Students Win Cappie Awards

Abby Berg, Carlos Ortiz Win For ‘Frankenstein’ Roles

ABBY BERG and David Ortiz won Cappie Awards for their contributions to Meridian’s production of “Frankenstein!” (Photo: Carol Sly, David Ortiz)

Abby Berg and Carlos Ortiz of Falls Church’s Meridian High School won prestigious Cappie awards for theater arts in a gala that filled the Kennedy Center concert hall to capacity. They were both chosen for their roles in the spectacular spring production of “Frankenstein,” which was also nominated for Best Play among the over 50 schools in the wider National Capital Region.

Berg, now a rising senior, was selected as Best Lead Actor in a Female Role for the two parts she played in “Frankenstein,” and Ortiz was selected in the category of “Creativity” for his role in composing the musical score for the same play.

Commenting on the awards at Tuesday’s meeting of the Falls Church School Board, FCCPS Superintendent Dr. Peter Noonan said that “In all my 32 years as an educator, this was the best high school performance I’ve ever seen.”

It was designed and directed by drama instructor Shawn Northrip, who actually commissioned the play, which was written by Danielle Mohlman, and recruited Ortiz to compose the score. It topped his previous year’s production of “The Love Doctor” at Meridian, which starred Berg as Marotte. Ortiz is the son of F.C. School Board member Dr. David Ortiz.

FCCPS Vice Chair Kathleen Tysse, who came to the stage representing the Falls Church school system to make a presentation and coincidentally had the honor of announcing Berg’s win and presenting the award to her, said she had the honor of driving a car full of Meridian students to the event and was impressed, she said at Tuesday’s School Board meeting, by the enthusiasm all of them had hailing the victories of their high school colleagues.

In the play, Berg played two roles, that of Mary Shelly, the author of the original Frankenstein story, and the creature that Dr. Frankenstein created. Playing dual roles was not new to her, as she had played both Bardolf and Northumberland in a 2023 production of Henry IV.

According to Dr. Noonan this week, two years ago, Northrip came to him to ask for the OK to commission a play that would do better at its representation of females in leading roles., which led to the play and Berg’s and Ortiz’ seminal roles.

Berg was the subject of an interview in last month’s Meridian High student newspaper, The Lasso, by Victor Kidwell. In it, she said her passion is dance and gymnastics and she will be choreographing next year’s production of the musical “Matilda” at Henderson Middle School. An IB student, her extended essay is on the subject of the role of the legendary Bob Fosse on modern dance.

Asked about the impact of Northrip and the Meridian drama program on her, she said the message is, “Give it your all. Take risks. Definitely take risks. Because I think [Meridian theater teacher Mr. Northrip’s] favorite thing is people who come in and take risks. You can come in and in an audition and perform a role completely wrong; but if you take a risk, that shows that you have more to work with, in some way.”
The Kennedy Center concert hall holds 2,500 and was filled to capacity with dressed-up student actors, stage crew and student critic nominees, along with parents, friends and instructors.

The Cappies program, which originated in the D.C. area with the help of the Washington Post, is now operating a dozen active chapters across the U.S. All the reviews of high school plays and award recipients are products of students in the program. It is a program that celebrates the theater arts, on the one hand, and journalism, on the other, as all the play reviews are written and circulated by students.

The News-Press was recognized as one of the news organizations that regularly publishes Cappies student-written reviews, and the News-Press’ Nicholas Benton was invited to the awards gala Monday night to make a presentation for the fifth year in a row.

A total of 47 presenters made up of elected officials and representatives of eight school districts and dozens of schools across the National Capital Area came together to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments of students and teachers in the theater arts and journalism. This year’s gala was the 24th annual event.

The Cappies, according to the non-profit organization’s website, is “a writing and awards program that trains high school theater and journalism students to be expert writers, critical thinkers, and leaders. Student critics vie to be published in local media outlets by attending productions at other schools and writing critical reviews.

Theatre and journalism students are trained as critics and attend each other’s shows. Cappies students discuss and learn about theater production. Throughout the year, newspapers publish the reviews with the students’ bylines. At the end of the year, Cappies student critics decide who among their peer performers and technicians should be recognized for awards at the end of the season with glamor and excitement.”

Other Meridian nominees for Cappies were “Frankenstein” for best play (“Romeo and Juliet” by Lake Braddock won), Featured Actor in a Female Role Alexis West, Sound, Jocelynn Johnson, Carlos Ortiz, Ashe Stoner, Special Effects/Technology Millie Beaudry, Sean Cunniffe, Naomi Lewis, Carlos Ortiz.

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