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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.


Lord of the Flies, McLean High School, McLean, Virginia, February 2, 2019

Audrey Brown

Wakefield School


 "It isn't just kids' stuff; it's serious." Intimate, hair-raising, and emotional, this was certainly the case for McLean High School's production of Lord of the Flies. Each member of the cast and crew united to create a production that was as thought-provoking as it was resoundingly dramatic.


Authored by William Golding in 1954, Lord of the Flies chronicles the triumphs and struggles of a group of British schoolboys as they find themselves alone on a deserted island after their plane crashes and no adults survive. In this microcosmic environment, the reader—or in this case, the audience—experiences the trials that the boys go through as they attempt to establish a democracy but then spiral into savagery.


A key element of the play that was quickly noted was the dynamic of the cast as a whole. The production started with a high degree of tension as the audience watched the rows of young schoolboys grasp for their air masks from the ceiling of the airplane, and the girls playing each of the roles did not lose this level of energy for the entire show and even used it to their advantage to craft their respective characters. Every actress was constantly engaged, while no one player dominated too much control of the stage. In turn, those who were the most prominent members of the island society were able to command the attention of the others with a single shout or stomp of their spear on the stage. The fact that the actresses performed in a black box-style setting, surrounded by the audience on three sides, allowed for such an intimate connection between the audience and the players, and every moment was made significant as the audience immersed themselves in the boys' struggles.


Individually, Ralph, played by Syd Kirk; Jack, played by Kristen Waagner; and Piggy, played by Jordan Prather, were able to deftly maneuver the challenges of the island and nearly flawlessly intone British accents while establishing distinct personalities for their characters. Kirk asserted her dominance from the opening lines of the play, working her way into becoming the chief of all the schoolboys and then devolving into loneliness as the plot thickened. Prather's role of Piggy is one of the most well-known of the novel, and she portrayed the sometimes annoyingly civilized voice of reason by commanding the others, when not overtaken by her "ass-mar" or her near-blindness. Waagner received perhaps the most demanding role: her character arrived onto the island declaring her superiority to the others and, sporting her tailored blazer, easily snapped into anger when offended, but throughout the performance, she developed a controlled coolness and menacing demeanor that was highlighted by her wild hair propped up with bloodied bones.


In general, the production was supported immensely by the detailed costumes, props, and special effects, all impressively constructed by students. Golding's novel is fraught with symbolism, and McLean's crew did not fail to impress, featuring costumes and hairstyles that became progressively more tattered and bloodied as the boys descended into savagery; actual rain pouring from the ceiling during the heavy thunderstorm; and a silicone pig whose flesh squelched as Jack reached inside of it and drew out a handful of blood to paint on his followers' faces.


Constantly immersed in this high-tension show, the audience was collectively on the edges of their seats for the entire production. Golding's novel provoked questions that have been asked for decades about the nature of people initiating a society, and these ideas were brought to the stage in a poignant way by McLean High School's cast and crew.

Mithra Dhinakaran

Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


 A gut-wrenching portrayal of recess gone wrong, Mclean High School's production of Lord of the Flies reveals the sinister nature of humanity beyond the reins of civilization. From masterful acting to the immersive jungle set, wild fantasies sprang to horrifying life in last weekend's outstanding performance.


The play was adapted by Nigel Williams from the classic novel by Nobel laureate William Golding. Though published in 1954, the work's cut-throat analysis of civilization still stands in the present day. The story follows a group of British boys who have been stranded on an island. With an unknown chance of rescue, they split between the leadership of Ralph, who adheres to social order, and Jack, who drives them into savagery.


The show uniquely featured an all-female cast, who embodied their roles with remarkable conviction. Each character was set apart not only by a distinct hairstyle but authentic, individual reactions and body movement. Together, they channel fanatic energy that climaxed in scenes like the pig feast with the frenzied pounding of spears. Punctuating the craze was equally intense silence when the whole stage seemed to freeze at moments like the theft of Piggy's glasses.


Leading the pack, Kristen Waagner in the role of Jack transformed from foot-stamping prefect to militaristic savage. Maintaining a vicious swagger, Waagner walked the line between blood-thirsty hunts and childish tantrums, crafting the delicate facade of boy-chief in a game. When the opportunity arose, she never hesitated to get up in the face of her enemies, such as Piggy played by Jordan Prather.


From her first call for a meeting to the last clutch of a conch shell, Prather stunningly captured her character's anguish. Through twisted facial expressions and an unfailing accent, she tugs at the audience's heartstrings. Prather evoked both sympathy and frustration as she struggled to keep the boys to a virtuous path as much as fumbled to see without her glasses. A bright spot in the dark, Lauren Grobman and Amanda Flores served as the comedic duo of Sam and Eric. Finishing each other's sentences, their well-timed one-liners drew several laughs from the audience.


The technical elements of the show contributed to the dark atmosphere with attention to detail across the board. The hyperrealistic set (created by Piper Phillips, Alicia Dziedzic, Rebecca Blacksten, and Max Engel) made use of natural materials such as sand, trees, and vines. Other meticulous features included a silicone pig molded from the real animal by the props department (headed by Graydon Al-Khafaji) and a raining probe by special effects (headed by Yeon Joon Kim) which combined with lighting and sound to bring the thunderstorm directly to the stage.


Costumes (headed by Marguerite Godwin and Shea Killoran) played an essential role in portraying the devolution of the characters. As the play progressed, clothing would become more ragged, with augmentations including a leaf crown and bone necklace. Make-up (headed by Cassi Creason and Gabi Norton) functioned in tandem, as the sleeves peeled away to reveal artful bruises.


Topped off with a hair-raising original score by Helen Ganley, cast and crew kept the audience on the edge of their seats throughout the show. Mclean High School's Lord of the Flies delivered a spectacular performance that left hearts pounding and viewers fearful of humanity.


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