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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.

13Dec

Best written reviews for “Leaf” performed by Loudoun Valley High School in Purcellville, Virginia. Reviewed on December 11, 2021.

Tyler Cowher

Heritage High School

 

Stumble through the brush and into the world of "Leaf," a Loudoun Valley High School student-written production. Chock-full of incredible character dynamics and parallel writing styles, "Leaf" boasts impressive world-building and immersive design. The show's exemplary script is dynamic, constantly changing tone to properly fit the ever-unfolding plot.

 

Showcasing themes of trust and companionship, the original production teaches audiences that it is not always easy to forgive the past. The show depicts Leaf (Alex Chinn), a rather quiet boy with a range of floral abilities, as he faces the plants that threaten to destroy his village. Soon, Leaf learns that he possesses a manifestation of magic with the ability to resolve the coming conflict. With the assistance of Maynard (Caleb Barnett), a hardened captain with a soft spot for Leaf, the show's protagonist bridges the gap between foliage and personage, bringing peace to the forest.

 

The production cleverly used stage combat and character physicality rather than dialogue to highlight emotional peaks in the story. The student-choreographed (Chloe Anderson) stage combat is used in the show quite frequently to showcase moments of tension and distress. Leaf's quiet nature prevents him from explicitly communicating his emotional state; however, his physicality bridges this disconnect brilliantly.

 

Alex Chinn's ability to showcase emotion in a non-verbal communication style only elevated the already enchanting show. Chinn consistently presented an ideal understanding of Leaf's physicality. Maynard's gruff exterior, eventually broken by Leaf, was wonderfully displayed by Caleb Barnett. Not to mention the fine chemistry between Chinn and Barnett which created a more than believable performance.

 

The exhibition of grief and trauma necessary for the role of Eris was handled quite well by Keira Anderson. Challenged with an ever-moving, dynamic character, Anderson brought to life the constant pain Eris felt as she lamented her loss of Elowyn. Working in unison to set an ominous tone, "The Plants" (Joseph Felt, Chloe Anderson, and Alexis Davis) maintained synchronicity in their chant-like warnings to Leaf.

 

The show's marketing (Chloe Anderson and Keira Anderson), consisted of several social media posts, flyers, and a mural, was expertly accomplished. Leaf's student-produced script (Cecil Turner-Veselka, Anna Sullivan, and Sammi Sabba) flawlessly depicted emotion, character development, and personality, constructing a magical, immersive environment.

 

Loudoun Valley High School produced a praiseworthy spectacle of companionship and trust, sure to knock the stalks off of any stubborn thornbush.


Charlotte Lobring

St. Andrew’s Episcopal School

 

Enter into the beautiful dystopian world of abundant flora, little boys with magic powers, and nightmarish monsters. Prepare to witness gruesome battles, an eternal love story, and witty humor that brings the dynamic, student-created world to life. Loudoun Valley High School's "Leaf" was a masterpiece of physicality, memorable characters, and phenomenal playwriting.

 

Leaf was written, directed, choreographed, and marketed by Loudoun Valley High School's Theatre III AND IV Class. The staged reading brilliantly narrated the story of a young boy named Leaf, who harnessed the magical ability to connect and revive nature around him. He was plucked from the forest and adopted by Maynard, the captain of the guard stationed in a nearby village, who pitied the boy for always being hungry. Leaf's powers were soon scorned by the other villagers, for their fear of the magical monstrous plants in the forest made Leaf a dangerous outsider. Could Leaf remain true to himself while also pleasing his new father?

 

Alex Chinn, who played the titular character Leaf, embodied the young boy with incredible physicality and emotion. With Leaf communicating primarily through grunts and chirps, Chinn did an amazing job of conveying a convincing, lovable character with minimal dialogue. Chinn also portrayed the stances and movements of a 12-year-old boy perfectly, and one could see the gradual build of trust develop in subtle ways within Leaf's actions towards Maynard. Caleb Barnett, who played Maynard, was as powerful as he was kind. His character arc from tough soldier to caring father was a joy to watch. The relationship between the two characters was classic and beautifully done as father and son.

 

Not only did the students write strong male leads, but they did a marvelous job writing for the female leads as well. Keira Anderson, who played village leader Eris, demonstrated character development in a touching and incredible way. Anderson's versatility in portraying both a younger and older version of the character was that of a skill not found in many high school productions. Eris' relationship with Maynard's sister, Elowyn (played by Alexis Davis), was one of the highlights of the show. One wished they could see more of the sweet and tender interactions between the two girls.

 

An audience favorite was the soldier Hungus, played by FT Whiteley. His singing and slapstick humor was hilarious. Another love of the audience was Maynard's right-hand man, Henry, played by Joseph Felt. The trust and compassion Felt showed toward Leaf was heartwarming. The Plants, played by Joseph Felt, Chloe Anderson, Alexis Davis, and others, spoke their chilling lines in perfect unison and their versatility within scenes was amazing to watch.

 

When listening to the gorgeous dialogue and narration spoken in the show, one could not imagine that it was written by high school students. The devices, characterization, storytelling, and world-building were that of a professional level. The contributions of the whole cast and crew to the story were evident. The combat choreographer, Chloe Anderson, created breathtaking fight scenes that were both realistic and creative. The marketing team, Chloe Anderson and Keira Anderson, did an excellent job promoting the show. Complete with a stunning mural of a sword and vines painted outside the theatre doors. Leaf at Loudoun Valley High School is an impressive work of art with a gifted cast, brilliant narrative, and noteworthy characters.

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