The quest for Cappies


The lights come up, and a troupe of Appalachian actors floods the stage. They cheerfully greet the audience in their period costumes, some clad in guitars and banjos. They take their places on the black set, a stark silhouette against the lit cyclorama at the back of the stage. This is the beginning of the school’s performance of Dark of the Moon, a story of forbidden love in the Smoky Mountains, as well as the school’s annual production eligible for the Cappies awards.

The Cappies is a program where theatre and journalism students attend local high school productions and write reviews of the shows they see. “In 1999, Bill Strauss [a local playwright and theater director] came up to me with the Cappies idea and thought it was a no-brainer,” Cappies co-founder and director Ms. Judy Bowns said. The district chapter was the first established Cappies chapter in the world, and the program has since expanded to seventeen cities across North America, including three in Canada. Ms. Bowns is enthusiastic about the effects the program has had on high schools in the area. “We think the Cappies has really raised the bar for high school theatre,” she said.

The school’s Cappies critic team is made up of six members. “You apply to be on the team at the beginning of the year,” senior and W-L lead Cappies critic Maura O’Reilly said. “If selected, you go to training at the beginning of the year, and then you go see at least five shows that other high schools put on.” At any one performance there can be as many as ninety other critics who are reviewing the show, and following the performance the best five or so reviews are published.

At the end of the year, the critics vote on who should win the Cappies awards at the annual gala, which is held at the Kennedy Center. “At the end of a show, you rate each eligible category,” junior and Cappies critic Mira Soni said. “When you go in to vote, you put in all your scores from every show you saw. You pick based on that who you want to give a nomination point or an award point to.”

Dark of the Moon was nominated for multiple Cappies awards, including Best Actor for senior Sam Burris, Best Sound Design, Creativity for the musical directors of the show and Best Ensemble for “the Witches.” “We’ve been really honored with a lot of recognition for this show,” the director of the play, Mr. Keith Cassidy said. “What made the play a success was the incredible ownership that everyone in the cast, everyone in the crew and all the designers really took of it. We have a lot of talent at this school.”

The Cappies Gala took place on June 12 at the Kennedy Center. The Cappies program still thrives strongly in the district as well as across the continent. Co-founder Bowns is grateful that the program has prospered in the way it has saying, “The mostly volunteer Cappies adults behind the scenes are passionate about keeping this student-driven program alive: the only one of its kind.”