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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.

10May

Best written reviews for “Months on End” performed by Fairfax High School in Fairfax, Virginia. Reviewed on May 8, 2021.

Molly Manhoff

Oakton High School

 

Seriously, how much do we really know about love?

 

Using vignettes as snapshots of a much larger picture, Fairfax High School's Months on End was painted in bright lines and crisp characters, diving into the trials and tribulations of falling in (and out) of love. With one scene a month, both cast and crew carved out moments in time of new beginnings, heartbreak, and calamitous mistakes.

 

A glass of bubbling champagne balanced precariously between her fingertips, the bottle clutched in her other hand, Elaine (Kate Parr) spilled her woes of fleeting relationships to an unrelentingly optimistic Walter (Trevor Sloan) during a New Year's Eve party. The two were a study in opposites, the cynical against the hopeful, one enviously watching her friends as the other's marriage slowly withered away. Parr, head tipped back against the wall, delved into bone-deep exhaustion from a series of failed flings. With her unsteady steps and biting words, she cut a stark contrast with Sloan's gentle presence. Their chemistry alone was remarkable, shared in soft smiles and the occasional party horn, kicking off the show with a golden drop of bittersweet hope. 

 

Then, ripe with tension and simmering with anger, Paige (Anne Marie Seybold) and Nick (Mikhail Goldenberg) furiously sifted through sand to find a lost engagement ring. The scene rose with a crescendo, boiling over into an explosive argument about loving someone, but not being in love with someone. Seybold was sympathetic and gentle, easily shifting into exasperation as the scene pushed forward. Goldenberg's physicality and booming voice, tainted with the pervasive feeling of inadequacy, kept the energy high and the argument spiraling forward until its ultimate collapse.

 

As a wedding loomed overhead, Phoebe (Victoria Collins-Jost) waited, both excited to tie the knot whilst doubts crept in. Collins-Jost was sweet and tender, unafraid to bite back when Phoebe's mother, Gwen (Elana Kaplan) went a step too far. Kaplan herself was a gem, encapsulating the overbearing, off-handedly critical mother with her scathing voice and severe bun. Her brief moment with Chris (Hank Hawkins) drew another set of contradictions, her fierce control up against his whimsical manner. Hawkins, all crooked smiles and a melodic voice, stepped up as Phoebe's wise father, placating her fears with mildly morbid advice.

 

And finally, a pair of friends gone from comforting to confrontational, Walter (Trevor Sloan) and Ben (William Choi) capped off the show with the aftermath of an argument between newlyweds. Their chemistry as friends was palpable from the beginning, with an ease to their delivery and body language. Sloan flawlessly handled a balance of dry sarcasm with a struggle to understand. When Ben's grievances grew beyond absurdity, Sloan erupted in a passionate tirade that struck a chord with the heartstrings. His performance was remarkably mature, from the hands shoved in pockets to the pinched bridge of his nose. Choi, sitting among a mess of crumpled paper and mussed belongings, took his character and ran with it. Every line was underlined with passion, despite the ridiculousness of the situation.

 

Finally, the presentation was spectacular. Recorded entirely on ZOOM, the in-person scenes were seamlessly integrated with the online actors. Kate Parr, the director, did a spectacular job at keeping the actors lively within the confines of their boxes. The costumes, headed by Emily Bird and Ashley Bui, suited the characters completely--whether it was Gwen's tailored pencil skirt or Ben's graphic tee. Each and every detail was fine-tuned and honed to perfection.

 

Fairfax High School has created something truly remarkable. Passionate, colorful, and deeply entrenched in the realities of love, Months on End was a phenomenal show.


Ella Fosse

Lake Braddock Secondary School

 

Ever since the dawn of humanity, the human experience has always been uniquely characterized by feelings of companionship, trust, and hope; or, to put it more simply, love. However, what the romantic poets don't emphasize is how love doesn't always work out, an unfortunate fact of human character. This concept was explored beautifully in Fairfax High School's stellar production of Craig Pospisil's "Months on End", a play that observes the intricate complexity of human relationships.

 

This play, created by Craig Pospisil in 2003, was originally composed of 12 scenes, one for each month of the year (hence the name). However, for this special production, Fairfax's students cut it down to four scenes while still preserving the general flow of the story, an impressive feat in itself. It was directed by student Kate Parr, who did a truly commendable job of juggling both acting and directing, and stage managed by Charlotte Bronaugh.

 

Overall, the acting prowess of the entire cast as a whole was incredible. Every scene had palpable chemistry, even behind a screen, and every conversation felt natural, as if it were unfolding in real time with no lines needed. The cast took on the challenge of producing a hybrid production- both in-person and on Zoom- with ease, as if they had been doing it their entire lives. Even when they were in-person and were wearing masks, they were heard with such clarity, which was a refreshing relief that provided much hope for live theatre going forward. Each actor was so in tune with their characters' emotions, making their performances believable and even heartwrenching in some instances.

 

As previously mentioned, this was a truly stellar cast, but even a cast of all stars has its comets. One such standout actress was Kate Parr, the dual actress-director who embodied the role of Elaine with an incredibly natural performance. Her ability to tune in to the emotional highs and lows of her character, all while getting steadily inebriated, was a feat to behold. Her physicality stayed constant and precise throughout her entire performance. Another standout was her scene partner, Trevor Sloan, who played the role of Walter with a performance done as easy as breathing. He was able to convey such a sophisticated maturity in Walter's shoes, a gargantuan task done as easily as taking a step. It's hard to imagine Sloan as a different person from this witty character: he was able to portray him that well.

 

Since this production was both on stage and online, there were many avenues for technical work to shine. Ashley Bui and Emily Bird, costume designers, did an excellent job both with the in-person actors and the ones on Zoom. Even when the set was not present online, their costumes set the scene when the stage couldn't, whether it was formal wear for a New Year's Eve party or the disgruntled flannel of a soon-to-be divorcé. Their subtle yet effective design work was the bridge between virtual and in-person, which was truly appreciated. Immy Moore's lighting design for onstage work was very precise and effective, even utilizing handheld props to draw focus.

 

Fairfax High School's stellar production of Craig Pospisil's "Months on End" was an emotional observation of the beauty of human relationships.

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