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FOCUS ON 21st CENTURY LEARNING

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.

THROUGH THE CAPPIES

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.

HOW IT ALL WORKS

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.

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13Nov

Dark of the Moon, Albert Einstein High School, Kensington, Maryland, November 9, 2019

Dagny Scannell

Bishop Ireton High School

 

"A witch boy from the mountain came…" and soon began Albert Einstein High School's production of Dark of the Moon. This folksy, Appalachian tale based off  the "Ballad of Barbara Allen" was a chilling portrayal of tragic love and how communities search for conformity may resort to drastic measures. It was a narrative of both real life and fantasy, and the dissonant intermingling of these two worlds. Albert Einstein HS moved the audience with their interpretation and the students in this program presented a strikingly poignant and authentic performance.

 

Originally published in 1942, Dark of the Moon is the story of the witch boy John (Ben Butler) who, after catching a glimpse of the beautiful Barbara Allen (Adrianna Quaide), wished to become human. With the help of the mystical Conjur Woman (Talia Silber), John was transformed, but only under specific terms. To remain a man, he would have to marry Barbara Allen and she would have to remain faithful for a year. As the show progressed, their romance grew stronger, but so did the suspicions of the Buck Creek townspeople. Quickly spiraling downhill, the fable became a heart-wrenching tale that kept the audience on the edge of their seats.

 

The emotion and weight of this show was conveyed by the two leading characters, John and Barbara. Butler and Quaide (respectively) had convincing chemistry onstage, and both did their part to develop their relationship in response to the outside influences of their community. Quaide brought a new level of commitment and energy to this production, with her lively and realistic demeanor, effortless singing, and truly heartbreaking moments during the tragic scenes of the play. Butler complemented her nicely, with an intensity onstage that drew the audience's attention to him and their romance.

 

Other strong actors contributed to making this story as moving as it was. The Conjur Man and Woman (Gavin Schulman and Talia Silber) set up the cautionary tale in an eerily urgent manner and set the tone of the scenes to follow. The townspeople of the small, traditionally religious Buck Creek also added the contrasting viewpoints emphasized throughout this show. The members of the Allen family (Ma Allen played by Mia Lulli in particular) developed nicely as the show progressed and their concern for Barbara and desire to set her on the "right path" shone through. The almost salesman-like Preacher Haggler (Carl Parkin) contributed similarly, and impressively added laid-back comedy to an otherwise somber show.

 

The tech elements of this show were extremely well-executed and created a realistic atmosphere for the entire play. An especially interesting element the Albert Einstein tech crews utilized was color. In the first scene, a social event in the central square of Buck Creek, the townspeople were all dressed in more muted costumes, while Barbara sauntered out in a vivid red dress, immediately drawing the audience's focus. Einstein's lighting crew was able to shift the mood of the entire auditorium in a second's notice, changing the lighting of their cyclorama from a mysterious green to a light blue or to a sinister red. Sound worked well to both establish characters (a slight echo was added to the voices of the Conjur Man and Woman) and to incorporate the creatively arranged musical pieces throughout this show.

 

Dark of the Moon left audiences not only contemplating the tale itself, but the important ideas it addressed. The pressure to comply with societal norms and how that conflicts with love and free-spiritedness struck a chord with all who watched, and Albert Einstein High School should be proud of the story they shared.  


Jack Child

Falls Church High School

 

A bright moon peeks through the crest of the mountain range. The stage is flooded with green and oddly dressed witch folk begin a ritualistic dance. Albert Einstein High School's production of "Dark of the Moon" has begun!

 

"Dark of the Moon," by William Richardson and Howard Berney, tells the tale of John, a witch boy from the Appalachian region who wishes to become human after falling in love with a human girl named Barbara Allen. The play opened on Broadway at the 46th St. Theatre in 1945. Since then, it has been performed by many local and high school theater groups.

 

In the lead role of John was Ben Butler, whose simplistic and straightforward acting choices clearly always communicated John's intentions. He captured the internal torment of a boy torn between two worlds well, and he kept the audience engaged. Across from Butler was Adrianna Quaide, who played Barbara Allen. Quaide was a true standout; her beautiful voice and consistent Appalachian accent made her a delight to listen to, and her powerful emotional acting and strong characterization made her a delight to watch.

 

The two leads were backed by a versatile and entertaining group of supporting characters. Carl Parkin, in the role of Preacher Haggler, and Mia Lulli, in the role of Ma Allen, exceeded expectations. Parkin, playing the amiable Preacher, had a true commitment to his character that was always evident, whether he was speaking or not. He brought an authoritative and collected energy to the show, which stood in contrast to the personalities of the townspeople, who spread rampant rumors. Lulli had a wonderful performance as Barbara Allen's mother. She was able to smoothly and realistically switch from being comical to concerned depending on what the current moment called for. She also had a remarkable voice fit for singing bluegrass music, which added a new layer of depth to the show. The Appalachian accents on all of Albert Einstein's actors were impressive; it was clear that they had worked hard on making them as realistic and consistent as possible.

 

Technical elements in "Dark of the Moon" contributed to the immersion of the story just as much, if not more, as the actors did. As the audience entered the auditorium, they were met with a breathtaking image of the moon behind a mountain range with the sounds of nature playing in the background. The mountain range, which stayed looming at the back of the stage for the whole show, had hidden stairs. When the witch folk went up the stairs, it looked as though they were gliding up the mountain. The lighting, managed by Lauren Mattison, was used as a powerful storytelling tool. The cyclorama changed color to represent the passage of time and to differentiate between the human world and the witch world. The sound, managed by Valya Marr, was another important factor that was handled well. Microphones were consistently crisp, and background noises, such as crickets chirping, made the story more realistic.

 

The students at Albert Einstein High School took an already powerful story and put their own spin on it, creating an immersive, entertaining, and emotional experience. As the moon broke through the clouds during the last scene, it seemed as though all of John's efforts were for nothing. However, the effect that "Dark of the Moon" had on the audience indicates otherwise.

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