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The Cappies is a writing and awards program that trains high school theatre 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 others shows. Cappies students discuss and learn about theatre 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 glamour and excitement.


Each participating school selects a show to be attended, and also forms a team of 3 to 9 student critics and 2 adult volunteers in the fall. Shows may have between 20 and 90 critics in attendance. Critic teams and mentors gather in a private discussion room to perform pre, mid, and post show discussions. The technical and performance aspects of the show are discussed with provided documentation from the host school.

After each show, with adult oversight, the mentors and program director select the best written reviews to be sent to local press outlets. All the reviews are also sent back to the performing school.

At the end of the season, a Tonys-like celebration occurs, where all nominated shows perform a cutting or the critics' choice song, and the final Cappies awards are presented with a trophy by regional critics and peers.


Peter and the Starcatcher, St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School, Alexandria, Virginia, November 2, 2018

Natalie Tubia

Herndon High School


An endless experience of joyful shenanigans ensues on St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School's stage during their eccentric and handsome performance of Peter and the Starcatcher. From the hilarious moments to the raw, touching ones that truly bring us back to our childhoods, the audience is in for one magical evening.


A play based on the novel Peter and the Starcatchers by Ridley Pearson and Dave Barry, Peter and the Starcatcher provides a backstory to the well known and loved story of Peter Pan, Hook, and Wendy. After it premiered in California at the La Jolla Playhouse, it soon moved Off-Broadway in 2011 and opened on Broadway a year later. Having been nominated for eight Tony Awards and winning five of them, Peter and the Starcatcher had its last run on January 20, 2013.


Two ships from the British empire set sail. On the Neverland ship, lost boys Ted, Prentiss, and one more known as Boy meet the intelligent, witty Molly Aster. At first, Boy is bitter and discontent with life, but as time progresses, Molly allows him to let go of his lonely world and see the better side of life. There is also a trunk on the Neverland filled with valuable starstuff that Molly had vowed to protect. On the Wasp ship, Lord Aster, Molly's father, guards a fake trunk against pirate Black Stache, who is in search of treasure. The pirate realizes the trick and goes after the Neverland, only to find himself along with the other passengers torn under a storm and in a new land.


The clever, youthful Molly Aster portrayed by Julie Newman constantly radiated joy throughout the show with an element of child-like wonder. Newman very effectively pinpointed the fine line between Molly's enthusiastic, adolescent side and her more leading, authoritative side when dealing with the lost boys (Fred Gehloff, Andrew Seale, Bette Vajda). Bette Vajda consistently provided raw emotions on stage as Peter and smoothly transitioned from a sullen boy to a more content one through interactions with Molly.


Standout performances that undoubtedly stirred up lots of laughter included those of Jackson de Vallance (Alf) and Mary Margaret Lehmkuhler (Black Stache). Vallance excellently provided high levels of energy through his expressive physicality and big personality as Alf. Lehmkuhler offered much to the character of Black Stache with a hilarious execution of jokes and a consistent English accent. Jenn Lansing, portraying Mrs. Bumbrake, executed her romantic relationship with Alf in a very animated manner, which earned giggles from the audience. Her singing also stood out during some musical numbers within the play, treating the audience with a gentle, alluring voice.


Lights (Jonah Carter, Tripp Pratt, Alex Galdamez, Monty Montgomery) provided captivating stage pictures through the duration of the show. The atmospheric difference between the two ships and the island was highlighted effectively with the clever use of silhouettes and color.


Serving as a sweet indication of how the imagination has guided us through our lives, Peter and the Starcatcher at St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School is awe-inspiring, leaving us with hope for the child left inside of us.

Beverly D’Andrea

Westfield High School


From magical stardust, to fearsome pirates, to ratty orphans, St. Steven's and St. Agnes School's "Peter and the Starcatcher" packed a blast of magic and wonder into a show that truly took the audience "right up to the stars" with its light-hearted innocence.


This show, based off the 2004 novel of the same name, made its Broadway debut in 2012.  The show went on to win five Tony awards and it also got a rave review from The New York Times. 


The show follows the journey of Molly Aster and a poor orphan boy, later named Peter as they struggle to guard a precious substance known as starstuff from greedy pirates, a raging storm, and savage islanders. The two begin to realize they have feelings for each other, but when Peter is irrevocably changed, Molly must leave him forever.


Bette Vajda continues the long-standing precedent of casting Peter Pan as a girl and she does incredible justice to the orphan Peter's fear and defensive instincts, while subtly showing his change to a carefree, confident boy in the second act.  Vajda used physicality to her advantage and opened Peter's soul in her eyes as they shone with happiness or widened in fear.  Julie Newman, who played Molly Aster, completely embraced the role of the teenage girl trying desperately to prove herself and figure out her heart all in one disastrous boat ride.  Newman brought out the petulant aspect of the young teen, using an effective blend of body language and voice pitch.  Newman also showed the tender side of Molly in her scenes with Peter.


From the first moment Black Stache, the fearsome pirate played by Mary Margaret Lehmkuhler, strutted on stage and said her opening line, Lehmkuhler had the audience in the palm of her hand.  Every single line was delivered with a purpose and energy that was kept up throughout the entire show.  Lehmkuhler showed her ability to command a stage along with her minion pirates.  Jackson de Vallance played Alf, the comedic sailor love interest of Molly's nurse Mrs. Bumbrake (Jenn Lansing).  The pair played off each other to create a funny, flirtatious dynamic that was added to by de Vallance's hilarious gestures and physical acting style.  Lansing showed her character's more standoffish yet interested air well against Vallance's eager expressions.


With the whole show taking place either on a ship or on a breathtaking island, the set must be nothing short of magical, and St. Steven's and St. Agnes School's set was transporting.  The set designers (Skye Schofield-Saba and Emma Hughes) created the ships so that there was one on each side of the stage, making the fight scenes even more realistic because of their closeness.  Lighting is often a key player in setting the mood or indicating a big event, which held true in this production as well.  The lighting designer (Jonah Carter) made the creative choice to use blue lighting whenever the sea was involved and gold lighting for the magical starstuff sequences.  Makeup designer Ashlynn Lee did the makeup in a way that clearly differentiated between Englishmen and the Neverland Mollusks.


The show combines all the best aspects of childhood, adds a comedic pirate and group of lost boys, and turns itself into a vessel for all the things that make childhood sweet. St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School's production truly was "an awfully big adventure."


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