To keep local high school theatre and journalism students engaged during the ongoing COVID pandemic, South Florida Cappies, a chapter of the writing and awards program that molds students into expert writers, critical thinkers, and leaders, will continue its virtual creative outreach in the new year. The organization’s programs are open to public, private, and parochial schools.
The South Florida chapter was the only chapter in the international organization to complete its show season. In spring of 2020, 152 student critics from 25 participating schools gathered on Zoom to evaluate all of the written reviews and select the season’s five best.
“Each of the participating schools selected three to seven student critics, one faculty mentor, and one ‘Cappies’ show for review and awards evaluation by critics from other schools,” said program director and theatre teacher at J.P. Taravella High School in Coral Springs, Lori Sessions. “We have up to 50 student critics attend each of the ‘Cappies’ shows and write 300-400 word reviews, of which more than 1,100 were published on Bill Hirschman’s popular South Florida Theater On Stage website.”
With support from NSU University School, a live-streamed Cappies Gala was held on May 19, 2020. Awards were presented virtually to winning student critics by Broadway stars Erich Bergen, Stephen Buntrock, Erin Dilly, Rob McClure, Dana Steingold, and Nathen Tysen.
In fall of 2020, the local organization launched Cappies Connect to keep students engaged and celebrate high school theatre from home. The Cappies Connect Zoom sessions covered topics like evaluating digital content, evaluating a directorial or design concept, writing reviews, and having critical discussion.
“For 2021, we are inviting schools to submit any digital content from 15 to 150 minutes in length. This can be a show live-streamed from their school, a ‘Zoom-style’ production or recorded content,” said Sessions. “Students and mentors will meet via Microsoft Teams and discuss the shows and still submit reviews. Though we will have our traditional awards gala, we still plan on a celebration at the end of the school year.”
Applications are open to all schools in Palm Beach and Broward Counties until January 7. Critics will be trained virtually on January 19 and the season of shows starts February 1.