On May 23, at the Broward Center of the Performing Arts’ Au-Rene Theater, the Cappies Gala was celebrated by hundreds of theater enthusiasts and their supporters. High schoolers dressed to impress in hopes that they would later step onto the stage to receive one of thirty possible Cappie awards. The passion for the arts surrounded the event and could be felt by anyone in attendance; students cheered on their peers and conversed excitedly in the lobby about the festivities to follow. The events of the gala went as seamlessly as the awards shows on TV, with heartfelt snippets of the nominated performances followed by the dramatic suspense of award presentations. The night was filled with pride for the upcoming generation of drama that proved that theater is not, in fact, a dying art.
The Critics’ Awards Program, or Cappies, is an organization of teenage writers and their mentors dedicated to commending both high school theater and the skills of young journalists. Each high school involved in a regional chapter has a panel of representatives of three to nine students who attend the shows of the other schools in the area and write comprehensive reviews of the performances. According to the Cappies, an average of 881 reviews are submitted yearly. The exceptional minority of the reviews are published in school newspapers or online. In South Florida, the published reviews can be found on Florida Theater Onstage.
In a private designated Cappies room, the critics meet before a performance to discuss their expectations, then again at intermission to talk over what stood out. After the last act, they convene once again to assign nominations. The Cappies sort actors into categories such as dancers, vocalists, comic actors, supporting actors, and the lead actors, in addition to scoring them out of ten points. Technical aspects are also voted on, such as creativity, choreography, sets, and stage management. Even after all of this excitement, each individual Cappie must compile a review that is not only well-written but also accurately reflects the performance. The mentors read the anonymous reviews and select the most organized and eloquent for publication, typically narrowing the submissions down to five. Critics must submit a minimum of five reviews by the end of the season in March, at which point they gather to digitally rank the quality of each performance. This data decides which schools win a Cappie, which can be compared to a high school version of a Tony, which is celebrated during the Cappies Gala in May.
There are twelve chapters of the Cappies encompassing both the United States and Canada. The South Florida chapter was founded by Lori Sessions in 2002 and consists of 22 schools that participated in the 2022-2023 season, with St. Thomas Aquinas among them. Deanna Wallace led the Cappies this year: Kelly Induisi, Isabella Rangel, Celeste Estrada, Mira Kraev, Broderick Sullivan, and Lila De Almeida.
STA acquired nine nominations at the end of the season: one critic nomination, six tech categories, and two acting categories. Lila De Almeida was nominated for sophomore critic; Alexi Arocho, Isabella Baena, Jade Edwards, and Andi Klein were nominated for hair and makeup; Mariana Garzon, Manu Gomez, Nina Morandi, and Caitlin Petrovich were nominated for sound; Jovanni Azpiri, Dylan Degenhardt, Deanna Wallace, and Ashley Zyjewski were nominated for props; Eva Davis and Victoria Verlangieri were nominated for lighting; Emma Coronado, Celeste Estrada, Abigail Hilbert, and Ryan Porter were nominated for costumes; Dina Budraj and Liam Connor were nominated for musicianship; Christopher Zarn was nominated for comic actor in a male role in a play; and Daniel Ramos was nominated for supporting actor in a male role in a play.
On the night of the gala, Deanna Wallace and Sammy Jo Strassel were named STA’s drama commendees, and Broderick Sullivan and Lila De Almeida were commended as STA’s Cappie critics. Although St. Thomas did not receive any Cappie awards, the event was an inspiring way to bring attention to the upcoming stars of South Florida!