By Sharon Aron Baron
The respected South Florida Cappies is determined to keep its vital mission going, even during the lockdown and aftermath.
One of 12 active chapters through the United States and Canada, the South Florida 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 other schools’ productions and writing critical reviews.
Program Director Lori Sessions, theatre teacher at J.P. Taravella High School in Coral Springs, said the organization is open to any public, private, or parochial school, with 25 different schools participating last year.
Each school selected three to seven student critics, one faculty mentor, and one ‘Cappies’ show for review and awards evaluation by critics from other schools.
They have up to 50 student critics attend each of the ‘Cappies’ shows and then write 300-400 word reviews, of which more than 1,100 were published on Bill Hirschman’s popular website SouthFloridaTheaterOnStage.
The South Florida Cappies was the only chapter in the international organization to complete its show season. While proms and graduation were being canceled last March due to COVID, 152 student critics gathered on Zoom to evaluate all the written reviews and select the season’s five best.
With support from NSU University School, a live-streamed Cappies Gala was held on May 19, where awards were presented virtually to winning students by Broadway stars including Erich Bergen, Stephen Buntrock, Erin Dilly, Rob McClure, Dana Steingold, and Nathen Tysen.
“We knew the students were faced with so much disappointment at the end of the year, so we just pushed to make our digital production the best it could be, and it attracted thousands of unique viewers online,” said Sessions.
Last fall, with so many students homebound and the theaters all closed, the local organization launched Cappies Connect as a way to keep students engaged and celebrate high school theatre.
The Cappies Connect Zoom sessions covered such subjects as evaluating digital content, evaluating a directorial or design concept, review writing, and critical discussion.
Cappies Connect was the best choice that could have been made during these chaotic times, and it was so much more beneficial than I had ever imagined, said student critic Rachel Goldberg at Cooper City High School.
“Rather than going to one training in September and then spending the rest of the year trying to write the perfect review, my Cappies team and I got four in-depth training days to help hone our skills in criticism, writing, and discussion,” said Goldberg. “We learned more about what to look for when watching a performance and how to turn the notes we take into a well-crafted review.”
While students may feel somewhat isolated these days, the South Florida Cappies can still provide opportunities for them to connect and celebrate their work.
Sessions shared that for 2021, they are inviting schools to submit any digital content from 15 to 150 minutes in length, either live-streamed from their school, a ‘Zoom-style’ production, or recorded content. Students and mentors will meet live using Microsoft Teams and discuss the shows they normally do in person and still submit reviews.
“Though we will not be able to have our traditional awards gala, we still plan on some celebration at the end of the school year,” Sessions added.
Applications are open for all schools in Palm Beach and Broward Counties until January 7 at cis.cappies.com/sch-apply Critics will be trained (online) on January 19 and the season shows start February 1.
For more information, please visit cappies.com.
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- Sharon Aron Baron is a Parkland resident and editor of Talk Media. She has been covering Parkland news since 2012. Parkland Talk was created to provide News, Views, and Entertainment for the residents of Parkland.
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