Recently Erin Donovan ’20, Advancement Intern, sat down with Cappies moderator David Kelly to discuss the history of the Cappies at O’Hara, what the O’Hara’s Cappies program has accomplished, and how the Seniors this year kept the program alive. Here’s a recap of their discussion:
- What is the history of the Cappies program at O’Hara? Cardinal O’Hara joined the Greater Philadelphia Area Critics Awards Program (Cappies) in the fall of 2013, when Mr. Jeff Dietzler took over as director of the school shows. I was already a member of the Cappies Steering Committee, and volunteered to become the moderator of the new O’Hara Cappies team. O’Hara then joined with the 30 plus member schools in the Philadelphia area, and in the time since then, has been the only diocesan to maintain continuous membership. Each school is only allowed to have six student critics, and I held writing auditions each school year to select the most promising critics. To “audition”, each student writes a review of a short video of a show from a Cappies member school. The first O’Hara Critics’ Team consisted of Isobel McCravy (Lead Critic), Molly Kilker, Fiona Magnini, Colette Nolan, Liz Bradley, and Mary Anna Gatta. Every critic commits to attending at least 5 shows, (drama or musical) at member schools during the year, and write reviews of these shows. In early May, critics then vote on their choices for the prestigious “CAPPIES” Award. The winners of the awards are presented at a Gala in May.
2. What are some of the highlights of the Cappies Program over the year? From the very beginning, O’Hara earned many honors in the program. Many of our critics had their reviews selected for publication in both the print and online editions of The Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as local papers in the area of the reviewed school. O’Hara’s entry in the 2014-2015 season, The Drowsy Chaperone, saw nominations for the Cappies Award for Stage Crew, Song: “I am Aldolfo!”, show, Comic Actress: Jackie Rooney, Comic Actor:Billy Issertell, Supporting Actor: Dan Szkudlapski, Lead Actor: Adam Landolfi, Vocalist : Katelyn Hayes. The O’Hara critics team also was nominated for top team, and Molly Kilker was nominated for upperclass critic. More recent winners include Thomas Dempsey as the Cat in the Hat in Zeussical, and Billy Issertell as Aldolfo in The Drowsy Chaperone. O’Hara twice hosted the training day for the 200 student critics from member schools, and also provided computer labs for secure on-line voting sessions.
3. What is your perspective on theater and the role of the Cappies? Theater in general provides so much for high school students in so many areas. They learn to work under tight deadlines when preparing for opening night, memorization of lines, songs and dances, and teamwork with the entire cast and crew. Students on stage crew learn skills to design, build, and paint sets, as well as keeping a show fluid during scene changes. At O’Hara, students run the sound and light cues, as well as being the stage managers to keep the show going. Marketing is another area where students generate interest in the show through creating lobby displays, photos for press releases, and videos for social media posts. The quality of shows at O’Hara gives all participants pride in creating a quality production on stage twice a year. I have been involved with high school theater since 1985 when I worked with former O’Hara teacher Harry Dietzler to revive the theater program at the former St. James High School in Chester, and directed shows at Lansdale Catholic High School. Cappies allows students the opportunity to learn critical writing skills to promote high school theater. The reviews accentuate the positive efforts of students at member schools. Critics also work with students from other schools to learn listening skills during discussions at intermission and after the shows when voting on selections for awards. The lead critic works with the team to insure that our critics attend and review their required shows. All students are also invited to help with show marketing efforts, whether or not they are in the theater program.
4. What happened with Cappies due to Covid? The Cappies Steering Committee hoped to have critic training in January of 2021. However, no training was held as the pandemic worsened. But in the fall of 2020, I had decided to use the available time to train new critics, and keep the O’Hara Cappies team sharp. The team used Zoom meetings to watch, discuss, and review older O’Hara shows. In December, the team voted on their choices for each Cappies category, and I created a video for YouTube to share their results. The critics continued this Zoom effort for the second semester once they learned that there would be no in-person shows this year. By May, the team has “Zoomed” 9 shows for review this year.
5. How have the three seniors being featured made an impact on the program during their four years at O’Hara? Our three senior critics have kept the Cappies spirit alive. Haley Begany and Theresa Haas are both second year critics, and drew on their training to write new reviews and lead discussions with new members during Zoom meetings. Lead Critic Katie Tuberosa insured that the whole team knew when Zoom meetings could be held for maximum participation. She has been an award-winning critic her entire four years at O’Hara. Katie had also been nominated for top critic in underclass and upperclass categories before the shutdown in the spring of 2020. She wrote a wonderful article“The Show Must Go On” for COHS social media.