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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.

05Dec

Best written reviews for “Sense and Sensibility” performed by Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Potomac Shores, Virginia. Reviewed on December 3, 2021.

Kenneth Anderson

Annandale High School

 

Between flurries of classical music and bouts of posh laughter, one loses all sense of the modern world and is transported into the 18th century by Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School's production of "Sense & Sensibility."

 

Sense & Sensibility, one of English author Jane Austen's most famous works, has cemented itself as a classic within the realms of English literature. The novel explored the greatly altered circumstances and lives of the three Dashwood sisters, Elinor, Marianne, and Margaret, after the death of their father. The sisters received almost no inheritance money and departed their family home at the discretion of their older half-brother and his wife, John and Fanny Dashwood, the main benefactors of their father's passing. The sisters and their mother thus navigated family and romantic drama in their new modest home, Barton Cottage. This 2014 rendition of the show by Kate Hamill featured a simple and mobile set, with most stationary aspects on wheels.

 

Portraying the main duo of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood were Abigail Allard and Chloe Davies, displaying sisterly and playful chemistry within the endless scandals into which they found themselves thrust. With their vocal stability and enunciation, the two molded entertaining characters and effectively carried the story along. Antonio Gutierrez (Colonel Brandon) showed exceptional character development, though subtle, establishing his presence as a reliable and confident character. Yared Pierce, playing Edward Ferrars, offered natural and sentimental dialogue in his English accent, while Grace Hall, playing the young Margaret Dashwood, was comedic and had the audience roaring with laughter with every exaggerated facial and body movement she made. Charles Mayer (John Willoughby) successfully formed a character the audience loved to hate.

 

The Gossip Ensemble and all the featured roles they played throughout the show added comedic effect and were essential to making an eye-catching production. Whether they looked upon all the drama through the middle of hanging picture frames or held trees and branches to establish changes in scenery, these members were lively, engaged, and never failed to elicit a chuckle or gasp from the audience.

 

Crucial to the show's clear smoothness between transitions and specificity in scene changes was its tech. The work of stage managers Virginia Weina and Jessica Kokotajlo helped keep order and efficiency with every entrance of a rolling chaise or table. Jason Brunsman and Sofia Gutierrez's lighting decisions, between spotlights on characters during monologues and softer lighting during transitions, created clarity within the controlled chaos of the production. The use of classical music by sound designers Theresa Varga and Victoria Salley as set pieces were rolled in made such transitions whimsical.

 

The conflation of sophistication and scandal in "Sense & Sensibility" at Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School was nothing short of a joyful production.


Amelia Preble

Robinson Secondary School

 

A warm glow illuminates the stage, revealing faces in picture frames. They come forward, inviting us into an Austenian world of family and enemies, balls and cottages, love and betrayal. Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School's production of "Sense and Sensibility" stunned audiences for two short hours of hope, despair, laughter, and tears.

 

"Sense and Sensibility", a stage adaptation of Jane Austen's 1811 novel by the same name, follows sisters Marianne and Elinor Dashwood as they navigate the challenges of womanhood, romance, and heartbreak. The dually comedic and heart-wrenching story is full of opportunities to showcase a talented cast.

 

Chloe Davies, as Marianne Dashwood, led the show with a rare maturity and connection to the character. Davies mastered both the feisty wit of her character throughout the first act and the vulnerability in the second. Her clear understanding of Marianne's deeper emotions and experiences shone through in a stunning and captivating performance. Abigail Allard as Elinor, the more reserved and thoughtful of the Dashwood sisters, worked beautifully with Davies. The two maintained the strong sibling dynamic between their contrasting characters and showed the growth in their relationship over the course of the play.

 

In a show with constant scene and location changes, it would be easy to let transitions become moments of low energy. However, in a creative twist, actors were moved on and off stage in rolling chairs by their fellow cast members. These well-choreographed and impressively executed movements maintained the immersion and energy of the show. The cast was united as an ensemble, working with each other not only in these transitions, but to form the settings of a variety of scenes. In just a moment they could become a tree, a ballroom, or a moving carriage, complete with a neighing horse. This cooperation and togetherness paid off in a clean and efficient performance.

 

The technical elements highlighted the talented performers and demonstrated the skill of the show's designers. The lighting, by Jason Brunsman and Sofia Gutierrez, was simple and realistic, with tasteful use of spotlights to highlight important characters and moments. At the height of the show's action, the storm scene, sound (by Theresa Varga and Victoria Salley) and lighting worked in tandem to pull off the most technically impressive moments in the show: flashes of lighting, claps of thunder, and pouring rain. Between lighting, sound, and stage management (by Virginia Weina and Jessica Kokotajlo), the unsung hero of this production was the cue pickup. Each scene moved quickly to the next without any mistakes, despite the large number of moving pieces and the differences between each setting.

 

Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School's heartwarming performance serves to remind us all of the power of hope and community. After so long without opportunity for live performance, the love and care put into this show was evident in its powerful delivery.

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