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South Florida Cappies Continues to Inspire and Train High School Theatre and Journalism Students


Applications are open for all schools in Palm Beach and Broward Counties until January 7.

South Florida Cappies Continues to Inspire and Train High School Theatre and Journalism Students Add the respected South Florida Cappies to the long list of cultural and community service organizations impacted last year by the COVID-19 pandemic but still 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 productions at other schools and writing critical reviews.

"Our organization is open to any public, private or parochial school and, last year, 25 different schools participated. 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," explains Program Director Lori Sessions, theatre teacher at J.P. Taravella High School in Coral Springs. "We 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 www.SouthFloridaTheaterOnStage,com."

The South Florida Cappies was the only chapter in the international organization to complete its show season. While proms and graduation were being cancelled 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 such Broadway stars as Erich Bergen, Stephen Buntrock, Erin Dilly and Rob McClure, Dana Steingold, Nathen Tysen and more.

"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," says 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," says 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. 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, Cappies can still provide opportunities for students to connect and celebrate their work," says Sessions. "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. Students and mentors will meet live using Microsoft Teams and discuss the shows as they do normally in person and still submit reviews. Though we will not be able to have our traditional awards gala, we still plan on some type of celebration at the end of the school year."

Applications are open for all schools in Palm Beach and Broward Counties until January 7 at Critics will be trained (online) on January 19 and the season of shows starts February 1.

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