Bright Lights, Young Talent At '08 Cappies

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Nominees for prizes in the Critics and Awards Program, which celebrates its winners at a season's end gala Sunday, include students from Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, Montgomery and Prince William counties and Alexandria, the District and Falls Church.

The high school theater program, known as Cappies, began in 1999 with 14 schools in Northern Virginia. Today it boasts 17 programs across the country and Canada.

This gala will be the first without co-founder Bill Strauss, who deied in December.

This was a year in which "Senioritis," a student-written musical that Strauss shepherded through conception, writing and production, was fully staged by Centreville High School. Strauss helped produce the piece last summer in Cappies International Theatre, his last Cappies project.

Actors, singers, dancers, musicians, choreographers and stage crews will show off their skills in several numbers during the gala.

Winners will be announced to an audience that has, historically, filled the Kennedy Center Concert Hall since it was moved there in 2001. The first gala was at Hayfield Secondary School in 2000.

Cable TV Channel 21 will broadcast the gala in Fairfax County, officials said.

In the program, each participating school designates one show a year as its Cappies production. After receiving instruction in criticism, some students attend the show and submit their reviews for publication.

One former Cappies participant recalled his days working with Strauss, saying students got more jazzed when they were working on a Cappies production than during other shows.

The Washington Post publishes some of the reviews, which are available at

This year, schools produced rarely chosen plays -- "As Bees in Honey Drown," "The Andersonville Trial" and "Night Watch" -- plus such standards as "Guys and Dolls," "The Music Man," "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Kiss Me, Kate."

The program was conceived by Strauss and got immediate support from Judy Bowns, a longtime theater arts resource teacher in Fairfax schools.

Together they refined the concept and launched it. Strauss said they hoped to highlight some of the good students did, attention he thought was sorely needed after the bleak view of students in the wake of the Columbine tragedy in Colorado.

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