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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.

09Nov

Best written reviews for “Puffs” performed by Albert Einstein High School in Kensington, Maryland. Reviewed on November 6, 2021.

Kaiya Mayhew

Quince Orchard High School

 

Everyone is familiar with the story of a young, orphaned boy who, at the age of eleven, finds out he is a wizard and gets whisked away to a magic school. A talking hat sorts students into houses that praise bravery, intelligence, or cunning. But what about those who aren't brave, smart, or cunning?

 

Albert Einstein High School's production of Puffs: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic offers a new perspective on a well-known tale by exploring the "Puffs'" point of view. The story follows Wayne Hopkins and his friends Oliver and Megan as they struggle with belonging to the least desirable of the four houses.

 

The students of Albert Einstein admirably executed the telling of this witty tale. The humorous character portrayals and spot-on comedic timing kept the audience laughing and engaged throughout the entire production.

 

Carl Parkin, who played Wayne Hopkins, effectively depicted his character's anxiety in a manner that was lighthearted rather than depressing, allowing the audience to both relate to and laugh at Wayne's failings. Antonio Rivera, playing Oliver Rivers, presented a similar sort of comical anxiety in his character, as well as the delivery of several humorous moments that left the audience tittering. In stark contrast, India Eddy played the hostile, contrary character of Megan Jones. Eddy's body language and tone of voice skillfully communicated her character's emotions, effectively illustrating Megan's changing attitudes towards her mother and her fellow Puffs as the play progressed.

 

The cast engaged well with the audience, causing them to roar with laughter at a comical bit or exclaim with surprise and sorrow at a character death. Additionally, actors that played multiple roles, such as Langston Muller and Amelia Beard as the teachers, added originality to portray each character as humorous and distinct. The narrators were in sync with each other and provided an entertaining form of structure to the story. The sincerity of the entire ensemble created a sense of real community and unity on the stage.

 

The set posed a challenge, as it was originally intended for a production of The Secret Garden, which was canceled due to COVID-19. However, this challenge was met by creative reworking of the original set (managed by Mia Anderson and Maggie Neill), as well as inventive use of the space. Although the background never changed, props (Hayley Brewer, Alex DelSole, Anjali Shah) such as white sheets effectively transported the audience to different locations. Most of the costumes (North Lovelady-Allen) were simple black capes or colored scarves, but they successfully indicated the important identifiers of each character. One praiseworthy costume was the spider, with eight legs that all appeared to move. Noteworthy props included the wands, which glowed at the tips, and the Goblet of Fire, which at first glance seemed to be carrying real fire.

 

The combination of inventive props, skillful acting, and ironic humor ensured that both the main trio and the side characters left memorable impressions. With their entertaining character portrayals and excellent execution of comedic timing, Albert Einstein's production of Puffs left the audience laughing long after the curtains closed.


Cecily Rood

Herndon High School

 

Why does everyone tell the story of the brave? What about the kind or the compassionate, who have just as much to say? Albert Einstein High School's production of "Puffs" shared a tale of friendship -- not a story of slain dragons or damsels in distress, but one of the Puffs.

 

The hilarious yet sentimental play "Puffs," by Matt Cox follows a group of wizarding students over the course of seven years at a school of magic and what their journey entails. At a school where bravery and intelligence are revered, one particular group of classmates, the Puffs, find themselves falling short of others' expectations. But as they're put into increasingly harrowing situations, the Puffs are able to harness a power stronger than any magic spell: the power of friendship.

 

Carl Parkin, as the wary wizard Wayne Hopkins, shone through with brilliant characterization. Parkin portrayed the character with a nuanced balance of timidity and determination, which was exhibited through his physical body language and impeccable comedic timing. Harmonizing perfectly with Parkin's performance were those of India Eddy and Antonio Rivera, as Megan Jones and Oliver Rivers, respectively. Eddy brought confidence to her strong-willed and somewhat devious character, while Rivera established a sturdy sense of stability in the group. All three actors illustrated strength in their respective roles but flourished when put together.

 

With a show as mystical as "Puffs", the several tech crews at Albert Einstein went above and beyond to make the magic happen. With a wave of their wands, Hayley Brewer, Alex DelSole, Anjali Shah, and the Einstein Props Crew supplied the show with over 200 props ranging from a goblet of flames to a scroll that unrolled from ceiling to floor -- each and every one with a great amount of attention to detail. The set, designed and constructed by Einstein Sets Crew, played a vital role in the transformation into the wizards' magical school. Extravagant hedges cut into shapes of animals ornamented the sides of the stage, enhancing the sense of elegance within the wizarding school. Cast members entered and exited scenes through a series of doors lining the back of the stage, creating a set with endless scenic opportunities and a world with no bounds.

 

Equally impressive as the set was the way in which the ensemble utilized it; the space was used to its highest degree, with wizards, teachers, and foes using aisles, house seats, and other unconventional areas of the theatre to enhance the storytelling experience. Though the set itself was stationary, the ensemble held a set-like role and were responsible for carrying out all transformations between scenes. As a group, the Puffs were able to encapsulate seven eventful years and an enveloping sense of togetherness. Their energy and enthusiasm endured throughout all challenges they faced, not just in the world of wizardry, but also as students of Albert Einstein High School.

 

"Puffs" tells the tale of a group of underdogs who, over the course of seven wild and whimsical years, find a real sense of belonging. It may not be the classic story of the "brave boy" or the "intelligent individual", but it's the sentimental story of some silly students who learn that sticking together is the strongest spell of all. The students of Albert Einstein High School put their magic wands together to create a production both heartwarming and spellbinding!

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