Throughout the year, theater programs from over 50 schools in the National Capital region chose one play to perform as their Cappie performance. Student critics from other schools attended, reviewed and nominated their peers for awards in 40 categories. The nominees gathered, dressed to the nines, on Sunday at the Kennedy Center to see who would win.
“We’ve seen black-tie optional at its most unusual with all good fun,” said Cappies co-founder Judy Bowns. “These kids take this really seriously! They are, remember, theater kids. They’re just in their element, their parents and friends and teachers are all there to support them and it’s a wonderful evening.”
Chantilly brought home the Cappie award for best set for their production of Stage Door, and Westfield brought home ten Cappies, eight for their production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, including Best Actor in a Musical, Best Choreography, Best Costumes and Best Ensemble.
This is the seventh Cappie for Best Set that Chantilly has brought home in twelve years, said Ed Monk, Chantilly High School’s theater director. “The great thing about winning the set award is that literally everyone in the cast and crew helped work on the set, so they all had a hand in us winning the award.”
The Cappies was founded 12 years ago by Bill Strauss and Judy Bowns, who wanted to bring some attention to the arts. “Bill was prompted to take action by one event in particular,” said Bowns. “When he went to his own daughter’s celebration of students at her school, there were 26 awards given. Twenty-three were for sports and the other three were academic, and he thought that was an imbalance.”
To correct the imbalance, Strauss went to Bowns with an idea: Students would form teams of their individual schools and see each others' theater productions, critique them, and meet some standards along the way that would be part of writing a good review, said Bowns.
Though the program has two parts, supporting both theater and journalism students, Bowns says that it’s the critics that “drive the program. They are the glue that connect the schools.” Two of the awards that Westfield brought home were for their critics: Returning Critic and Critics Team.
Though the students’ level of talent continues to impress Bowns year after year, she says that the Cappies are more about the art than the awards.
“They are the next theater generation,” said Bowns, “so they really need to just recognize what a wonderful opportunity they’ve had. And as much fun as the gala is, it’s about the year they’ve just traveled through and how much they’ve learned about themselves and about each other.”