Sunday was a star-studded night at The Kennedy Center, as talented students from area high schools were honored at the third annual Cappies Gala.
The big winner was McLean High School, receiving five Cappies for its play, "David and Lisa."
McLean's honors were for: Best play; lead actor in a play, Ryan Cask; featured actress in a play, Rachel Marshall; cameo actor, Paul Bombast; and ensemble, student patients.
Dressed in ball gowns and suits, the students promenaded on stage to cheers and applause at the start of the show.
And from then on, the crowd was only silent in those moments before each winner was announced.
Several dignitaries presented the awards, including Fairfax County Schools Superintendent Daniel A. Domenech, members of the county School Board and Del. Kenneth R. Plum (D-36th).
Praising the students, who performed selections from their shows in between pairs of awards, Domenech told them, "You don't just put on an awards banquet — you put on a heck of a show."
Theater-arts resource teacher Judy Bowns and Capitol Steps director Bill Strauss began the Cappies to celebrate high-school theater. High school students attend and write reviews of each show and later select the award nominees and vote for the winners.
McLean High School senior Julia Berg believes her school won because "we had an incredibly amazing cast and crew. The show had so much energy to it, and it was a united cast. It all really came together well."
Senior Caitlin Friel said, "It was like a dream come true."
Junior Erin Hallagan said, "I think the show was 100 percent incredible. It feels exhilarating — I'm still in shock."
Winner of lead actor in a play, Ryan Caskie, a junior at McLean High School, said his character "had a huge range of emotions, from serious to angry and upset. I had no idea [I'd win]. I feel great. It's one of the highlights of my life thus far." He plans a career in music after graduation.
Winners of best ensemble, play, student patients, are McLean High's James Taube, Stephen Kane, Denise Kofteci, Amelia Nutter, Megan Haines, Stephanie Bachula and Josh Riley. Amelia Nutter said they won because "We had to work in a black box theater because of construction in our school, so it made us closer. And we were all really good friends, so we had a good connection."
Said James Taube: "It's really overwhelming. We worked very hard for it, and I think we deserved it — we tried our best."
Winner of cameo actor, McLean High sophomore Paul Baumbusch, McLean High School, said he hadn't gotten his hopes up but, "immediately before they announced the award, I said, 'I'm not gonna win.'" After winning, he said he felt "on top of the world — but I want to save something for the next two years because I hope to win another one."
Langley High School's critics team, Katherine Lowry, Sarah Wilson, Sahar Ahmed, Lexy Gutierrez and Lindsay Tanner, won in its category. "Last year Langley was disqualified because of lack of a review, so we're really honored to be given the Cappies critics team award."
Winner of female critic, Langley High School sophomore Lindsay Tanner said, "Cappies is an absolutely phenomenal program, and I'm honored to be a part of it."
Winner of comic actress in a play, Ashlie Butler, from Madeira, a junior, said, "I thought I had a chance [of winning] because I played three different roles, and all were very dynamic and humorous, so I enjoyed it." She'll put the award on her mantle.
Winner of featured actress in a play, McLean High senior Rachel Marshall said, "It's the only down-to-earth human role I've ever played. I've usually played evil characters, but this one is compassionate so it felt good to play a good character. Since it was the first normal role I played, it was really hard. I've been nominated all three years, but lost, so I didn't think I'd win at all. I didn't even want to come here, but I'm glad I did. It feels really good."