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Best written reviews for “The Literati Awards” and “The PTA Meeting” performed by James Madison High School in Vienna, Virginia. Reviewed on April 24, 2021.

Ellen Keil

Lake Braddock Secondary School


Cameras flash, the crowd roars, and fans wait with bated breath to see what celebrity will step out onto the red carpet. The limo doors open and reveal…a bickering Romeo and Juliet? Anything is possible at The Literati Awards, performed by the talented students at James Madison High School.


Written in 2018 by Claire Epstein and Ian McWethy, The Literati Awards features characters from classic works of literature, such as The Scarlet Letter and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, reimagined as they attend an awards show. Watch as each character competes to win the coveted Greatest Literary Character of All Time Award in this hilarious script that both celebrates and pokes fun at award show clichés.


As one of the first actors on screen, Kira Brombacher had the responsibility of setting the tone for the rest of the show, a task she accomplished magnificently. Her character, the perky red carpet host Anna Fairchild, emanated enthusiasm and Brombacher maintained her high energy throughout the play. Both Katie Hindin and Ciara Stefanik excelled when faced with the challenge of maintaining a foreign accent as the bratty Veruca Salt and the elegant Elizabeth Bennet respectively. At the end of the show while Juliet is giving a speech, Romeo, played by Jonah Uffelman, watched. Although he had no lines at the time, the expressions which flickered across Uffelman's face were clear, and he managed to perfectly express his feelings.


The majority of the technical aspects for this show were completed by Stella Monner and Sasha Tepp. Acting as the props, costume, set, and makeup designers, Monner and Tepp showcased their masterful abilities. As many actors played two different characters, the combination of makeup and costumes helped create a distinction that sometimes made the actors unrecognizable.


Every great awards show has an after party and James Madison High School provided just that with the addition of their short work, The PTA Meeting. Written by students Melinda Goldfedder and Ashlan O'Malley, The PTA Meeting displayed the stereotypical people and common pitfalls in an archetypal Zoom meeting. From the disruptive, overly protective parent to the lady who couldn't unmute herself, to the one man desperately trying to keep the meeting on track, each character was vibrant and relatable to real life.


Both The Literati Awards and The PTA Meeting were phenomenal performances. Each character had a distinct personality that made them stand out. The actors were lively and used their limited space very well. All of this means the award for best double feature goes to James Madison High School.

Alyssa Medici

Langley High School


What do an awards show and a PTA meeting have in common? Both are full of chaos, comedy, and characters that smell like onions! James Madison High School's double feature of "The Literati Awards" and "The PTA Meeting" captured the shift of in-person events on to Zoom in an opposite but equally enticing manner. "The Literati Awards," written by Ian McWethy and Claire Epstein and directed by Stella Monner and Sasha Tepp, gathered a classic group of famous literary characters together and followed their antics as they waited to see who would be crowned the "Best Literary Character." "The PTA Meeting," written and directed by Ashlan O'Malley and Melinda Goldfedder, listened in on a tumultuous PTA meeting with plenty of conflict, technology issues, and… onions?


The cast of "The Literati Awards" did a phenomenal job of portraying a host of iconic literary characters. From Sean Steen's delightfully unsettling Sherlock Holmes to Jonah Uffelman's brooding and moody Romeo, each actor brought their own unique twists to their renowned characters. The versatility of the actors was also impressive; the contrasting portrayals of a modern, teenage Juliet and the intelligent, posh, and British-accented Elizabeth Bennet made it nearly impossible to tell that both were played by Ciara Stefanik. The cast was not only versatile in their range of characters, but also in their settings, utilizing the space around them in a way that truly captivated the audience. Juliet could be seen reflected in her mirror as she readied herself for the awards show, and the cat-and-mouse game between Gollum (Will Bush) and the security guard (Ben Eggleston) bounced from screen to screen, with each actor hopping in and out of their Zoom boxes with ease.


The technical elements of "The Literati Awards" truly made the production feel cohesive. The editing and sound, done by Lizzie Dorsey, helped each scene flow smoothly from one to the other, and the quick cuts back and forth from Moby Dick and the whale noises were hilarious and well-timed. The production boasted an impressive range of costumes (curated by Stella Monner and Sasha Tepp), from a 1800's floral dress for Elizabeth Bennet (Ciara Stefanik) to a full wizard's getup for Gandalf (Jonah Uffelman), beard and all.


The cast of "The PTA Meeting" expertly handled the challenge of maintaining energy and action throughout the "meeting" without any cuts. Each character filled a different trope of the types of parents in a Zoom meeting, from the technologically challenged mom, Lavender (Valerie Dure), to the loud and distracted father, Chad (Bill Gibb). Coco Pinnock truly stood out as Barry's Mom, with her loud and opinionated "Karen" personality being centered wholly around her son and his onion allergy. Even when they weren't the center of attention, each PTA member's facial expressions as they grappled with technology and reacted to what others were saying filled the background and made every moment dynamic.


The technical elements of "The PTA Meeting" were simple, but enhanced the production, nonetheless. The characters could be seen talking through the Zoom chat feature on the screen, and, at one point, Jamie's (Kieran Warner) background changes to a picture of an onion, and an onion filter appears on her face. The costumes perfectly accented each character's personality; from Barry's Mom's posh coat to Fred, the school board member's (Caden O'Malley), suit and authoritative appearance.


The antics of James Madison High School's productions did not disappoint. From a fast-paced and hectic award show to an excruciating Zoom PTA Meeting, there was never a dull moment in "The Literati Awards" and "The PTA Meeting."



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