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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.


The Heiress, Wakefield School, The Plains, Virginia, April 27, 2019

Mary Lawler

Teen Theatre Company


Love is not admiration of someone's attributes, appearance, or achievements. Love is the total gift of one's self for the sake of another, not because of what they can do or how they look, but because they are intrinsically beautiful by their very existence. Without ever experiencing this true love, a human heart may shatter into a million pieces. Through a fervid and stirring rendition, this truth emanated from Wakefield School's production of The Heiress.


The Heiress is a drama based on an 1880 novella by Henry James. Though it premiered on Broadway in 1947 and takes place in mid-19th century New York, its conflicts are still relevant today. The demands of social norms and the complexities of manipulative relationships depicted in the play provoke ponderings on fulfillment, dignity, and truth.


The story begins with a wealthy physician, Dr. Austen Sloper, who is annoyed at his daughter, Catherine, for her social-awkwardness and lack of accomplishment. When a charming bachelor named Morris Townsend enters the picture and sweeps the lonely Catherine off her feet, her father is suspicious of the young man's motives for wanting such a woman. Catherine goes through tumultuous mazes of manipulation and in the end succumbs to using it herself.


Skyler Tolzien played Catherine masterfully, like a flowing piece of music. The symphony of her character had three movements: the first, a withdrawn girl who fails to wear the two-dimensional façade of her society's behaviors; the second, a young woman enraptured and enlivened by being desired; and the third, a decorous spinster who refuses to ever be caught vulnerable again. Tolzien's complex Catherine expressed a myriad of sentiments including her hilarious waffling during small-talk, her candid (and beautiful) personality shared with her aunt Lavinia, and her final iciness toward the world.


Complementing Catherine's intensity, Ethan Rosenfeld convincingly supplied the adoring Morris. He captivated the audience as he captivated Catherine. The passion in his voice, the confidence in his manner, and the persistence in his endeavors created a man of keen and unknown intellect. Catherine's father, Austen, came to life through the performance of Charles McKee, who displayed an insensitive shrewdness as well as an impractical necessity of unattainable ideals. In the end, he indignantly pleads to Catherine in attempt to retrieve her affection.


The culture of Catherine's quiet life, is in part shaped by two aunts, Lavinia and Elizabeth, played by Annabelle Lassiter and Tori Finn respectively. Lassiter and Finn provided distinct personalities, bubbly Lavinia bringing laughs to the audience and strong-minded Elizabeth stood her ground in dialogue with Austen. Another unique performance was by Ella Reidway, who played the household maid with a genuine and delightful dedication.


As if peering through a portal into Catherine's city home, the audience sat before the sturdy set of a drawing room, decked with crystal cups, rosy furniture, working gas lamps, and back-lighted windows. Like the art of the performances, the technicalities of the production were pieces of art themselves. All of Catherine's dresses were handmade by Sophia McMahon. From the stunning red of Catherine's entrance costume to the delicate, white lace of her Paris gown, her detailed costumes reflected her inner strength and beauty. Well-timed sound cues (Sean Miller) and elegant soft lighting technics helped the audience submerge into the conflicted yet cozy ambiance of Catherine's world.


Wakefield School's The Heiress enchanted audiences by its complex character portrayals, fervent passion, and impressive atmosphere. This play moved hearts as Catherine discovered the lack of true love in her life and so failed to recognize her own strength and beauty. As in Catherine, there was strength in beauty in this production.


Julia Tucker

Westfield High School


The hooves of horses clop down a weathered street as they approach a grand home. Hidden within the ornate house is a plain girl, shy and awkward. The people around her see but one agreeable quality: the grand fortune bequeathed to her by her late mother. When an impetuous boy strides through the door he charms the girl and asks for her hand in marriage. That prompts the question: is the boy in love? Or does he desire the key to a massive fortune locked away? Wakefield School paid homage to classic literature in their poised production of The Heiress.


The play's original title was Washington Square when it was first published as a novella by Henry James in 1880. In 1947, Augustus and Ruth Goetz transposed the book into a play and renamed it The Heiress. The Heiress played Broadway for 410 performances in its original run beginning in 1947 and has since been revived multiple times. The play is set in New York in the 1850s and follows the story of a young woman who undertakes a journey of self-discovery after feeling unloved and unwanted her entire life.


The lengthy play demanded that the actors deliver their lines with purpose and account for any hidden undertones in the phrases. The Wakefield School cast mastered their delivery of lines whether they were a lead or a small character like Arthur Townsend (Graeme Mischel). The cast worked through microphone feedback like professionals; they never broke character or acted startled as a result of the noise.


Starring as Catherine Sloper was Skyler Tolzien, who shifted from being awkward and clunky in conversation with people she was familiar with to being fluid and self-assured with every person she conversed with. Tolzein demonstrated this change through her mannerisms and her voice. In the first act, she would wring her hands and brighten and dim her face before responding to a comment. By the second act, all her nervous quirks had vanished as if they had never existed.


Catherine's beloved aunt Lavinia Penniman was portrayed by Annabelle Lassiter. Lassiter used comedy while crafting her character and created depth to her character by reacting to the action and taking a clear side on every conflict presented. Dr. Austin Sloper was played by Charles McKee, who added a flourish to his performance by setting up his sickness in the second act by making a conscious decision to cough and hack the scene before the official diagnosis. Master manipulator Morris Townsend was played by Ethan Rosenfeld. Rosenfeld used over-the-top movements to emphasize his character's "star-crossed-lover" act. The maid Maria, depicted by Ella Reidway, moved with purpose and displayed her character's objectives without needing to speak. Reidway developed her own character while contributing to the main plot line.


The sound designed by Sean Miller featured appropriate sound effects that enhanced the performance by creating the atmosphere in and around the Sloper household. Sophia McMahon conducted extensive research to ensure her costumes were ravishing and appropriate to the time period. The girls' hair was styled by Justice Jones and Brooke Ballhaus. All of the hair braids featured on stage were intricate, unique, and beautiful.


Filled with old-time charm and sophisticated characters, Wakefield School's production of The Heiress implored all who watched to realize their own potential and release the beauty that lives inside them.


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