The Cappies: Creating The Next Great Theatre Generation

Genevieve Austin (Winston Churchill), Aaron Fellows (Albert Einstein), Jay Besch, Joe Lilek and Lena Aragon ( all Walt Whitman). Photos by Andrea (Andy) Mays.

Co-founder and director of the satirical musical theater group the Capitol Steps and co-founder of the Cappies, William Strauss, who died in 2007, always proudly said: “High School Theater is the real youth culture in America, and someday, these kids are going to revitalize Broadway. They’re the next great theater generation.”

Since 1999 the Cappies “Critics and Awards Program” has been a vehicle through which over 400 area high school theater and journalism students are trained as critics, attend shows at other schools, write reviews, and then publish those reviews in local newspapers.

William Strauss

The year culminates with a formal Cappies Gala held in the 2400-seat Concert Hall at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

On May 13th, approximately 380 student critics voted for Cappie awards, through a digital, student-designed voting process, creating a list of nominees (5 for each of the 37 award categories).

Some of these talented young high school students include, Genevieve Austin who was nominated for Lead Actress in a Musical and Aaron Fellows who was nominated for Lead Actor in a Musical. Lena Aragon was nominated for Makeup and Joe Lilek for Lead Actor in a Play. Walt Whitman was also nominated for Best Play. Winston Churchill (Legally Blonde), Albert Einstein (The Mystery of Edwin Drood), Thomas Wootton (The Wizard of Oz), and Walt Whitman High Schools (Frankenstein) were all nominated for Cappie awards.

This year the Thirteenth Annual Cappies Gala will take place at 7:00 PM on Sunday, June 10, 2012 at the Kennedy Center where the casts of the nominated shows and the performers of nominated songs will present musical numbers as well as sketches from the nominated plays.

Performers, critics, and tech crews from 54 high schools in Northern Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, D.C., will receive 37 prestigious “Cappie” awards in which Bill Strauss, used to call “part Tonys, part Final Four.”

This coming year, the Maryland Theatre Guide will be participating by publishing some of the reviews from the Cappies.

The Cappies is truly a remarkable program, created by a remarkable man who sought to inspire the next great theatre generation.