Captivating Cappies

Cappie reviewed productions at WHHS over the years. From left to right The Spongebob Musical(2022), Macbeth(2023), Into the Woods(2018).
Cappie reviewed productions at WHHS over the years. From left to right The Spongebob Musical(2022), Macbeth(2023), Into the Woods(2018).
Photos used with permission from Mike Sherman, Created on Canva by Selby Lin

The theater lights dim and a line of people file into their seats in a reserved section. The sounds of their notebooks flipping open echo through the silent theater. These esteemed individuals are the Cappie’s Critics. 

“Cappies is an international organization that has chapters throughout the United States and Canada. It is a program that is meant to celebrate and promote high school theater and high school journalism,” Mike Sherman, program director at WHHS said. “How Cappies works is each school provides a team of critics that go out and review shows [produced by] other schools.”

Sherman is one of the theater teachers at Walnut who has been working with the Cappies program for many years. Recently he has taken on a new role in addition to his title as program director at WHHS.

“I’ve been on the board of the Greater Cincinnati Cappies for now six years, and I just took over as program director, meaning that I’m the person in charge of all of Cappies in the Greater Cincinnati area,” Sherman said.

The Cappies of Greater Cincinnati is a network of 16 schools in the area who have a Cappie’s program. The volunteers who make up the program are teachers and adults who are passionate about supporting high school theater.

“I really believe in the Cappie’s mission, and I wouldn’t have been a part of it for so long if I didn’t,” Sherman said. “I think there are a lot of things that Cappies does well and I think there are some things that we as an organization can improve upon. My goal is to make Cappies as fun as possible for the students while also improving the quality of both performances and critic reviews.”

Another person who is passionate about the Cappies and their mission is lead critic at WHHS, Katie Berich, SENIOR.

“I love Cappies because I get to hang out with my friends without having to make plans. We all just show up at the same shows,” Berich said. 

Berich is also heavily involved in the production of shows at WHHS and will be a member of all the shows produced this year. She is excited to take on the role of lead critic and enjoys working with new members of the Cappies team to help them learn important skills. While she has gained many critical skills from the Cappies program, there is one important skill that stands out to her.

“Thinking positively about things [is something I have learned how to do well] because there are really strict rules about criticism in Cappies, as you can’t necessarily say anything negative about any one person. It helps you to find the real highlights of things and put in your critique [in a kind way],” Berich said.

While this is a skill that Cappies get good at, many of them need help with learning how to write this kind of review in the beginning.

“There’s an orientation that happens at the beginning of the year where we go through how a Cappies review needs to be structured. In addition to this, there are rules about how you write critiques and negative criticism. You can’t directly name someone in a criticism, they have to be general and kind of sandwiched with a compliment,” Sherman said. “While we want students to make decisions like this [for their reviews] we also realize that everyone involved here is a student and is still learning so we don’t want Critics to be too critical because we don’t want anyone to leave the theater due to [reviews] like that.” 

Cappies members work with mentors to write and edit their reviews and then the top reviews for every show are published on the Cappies of Greater Cincinnati website At the end of each season, the Cappies Gala occurs where awards are announced.

“All of the critics vote on a series of awards, including things such as best lead actor in a male role, best play, best musical, top critic review etc. And it’s all student-driven and it’s all student voted on, which makes it one of the more unique programs,” Sherman said. “There’s a lot of programs out there similar to Cappies but they’re adjudicated by adults. Cappies is really the only student-centered program out there for high school theater.”

This year the Cappies team is composed of nine members. In the past, WHHS Cappie’s teams have won multiple awards.

“We have won the Best Critic Team four times and three of those have been in the past three consecutive years. So we’re calling this year ‘one for the thumb’, as a little sports reference,” Sherman said.

This Cappies season promises to be creative, intriguing and original in many ways.

“It is the most exciting and diverse season I’ve seen on paper for a Cappies season in a long time. There’s a lot of unique plays and musicals this year that I think will hopefully elevate and encourage schools to do more of those types of shows,” Sherman said. “Our musical “Chicago” is going to be our Cappie show this year. So that’s the show of our season that the Cappies Critics are going to come to see. So we would love to have a very large and supportive audience the night the critics are here [Saturday, February 17th].”

The process of applying for Cappies can be very competitive as there is limited space on the team. For those looking to apply to the Cappies program next year, Berich has one important piece of advice.

“Don’t be intimidated by not knowing anything about theater or even about journalism, it’s not a barrier to entry, Berich said. “We will teach you everything you need to know because Cappies is all about learning.”

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About the Contributor
Selby Lin
Selby Lin, Section Editor of Fine Arts
In her first year as a Chatterbox staff member, Selby Lin is very excited to work as a Fine Arts Section Editor. She is very passionate about fine arts and is excited to cover all fine arts from theater, to visual arts, and music. Her goal for this year is to increase student interest in fine arts through her writing. While Lin currently doesn't have any journalism experience, she is very excited for this amazing opportunity and looks forward to learning about the Chatterbox. Some of her extracurriculars include taekwondo, being a member of a FLL (First Lego League) robotics team, as well as a member of WHHS Orchestra Program. Other things Lin loves to do in her free-time are hiking with her family and reading.  Lin loves animals and hopes to study veterinary medicine at college and become a small animal internist.
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