When The Kennedy Center hosts the Cappies Awards gala, June 9, Chantilly High will be there with bells on. It received eight Cappie nominations — including best play — for "The Front Page," as well as three critics nominations.
"We're very pleased," said drama director Ed Monk. "It's just like the Academy Awards — it's just an honor to be nominated."
Presented in October, the fast-paced comedy, "The Front Page," recreated life in a Chicago newsroom in 1932. Senior Clint Herring played the lead role of ace reporter Hildy Johnson, who tries to quit his job. Senior John Bonner played his editor, Walter Burns, who did his best to keep him from leaving.
Meanwhile, Johnson and his fellow reporters at The Examiner are covering the hanging of a man named Earl Williams. When Williams escapes, Johnson is compelled to stay and see the story through to the end.
Herring received a Cappie nomination for lead actor in a play, and Bonner received one for featured actor. Also nominated were: Cameo actress, Martha Allison; cameo actor, Ryan Plavnieks; ensemble, the reporters; comic actress, Stephanie Sabelli; and sets, John Delp. Critics nominations went to Nick Crowley and Chris Miller for best male critics and to Chantilly's overall critics team of Crowley, Miller, Allison, Phil Dufresne, Tricia Durrant and Joelle Groesbeck.
Actually, the night of Chantilly's Cappie performance started less-than auspiciously. "We had a sound breakdown — a phone wouldn't ring — and, after five minutes, we had to stop the show and start all over," said Monk. "But the kids did such a beautiful job that it didn't hurt us with the critics. They didn't fold under the pressure."
This is the Cappies' third year and Herring's first chance at a nomination. "I'm really glad I could finish my senior year with the possibility of winning an award," he said. "It's a great way of capping off my four years of experience in high-school drama."
While he hopes to win, he noted that "this area, as it is in sports and music, is rich in talent," so the competition will be tough. But, added Herring, "Since the drama community is tight-knit — no matter what — it'll be a friend who wins it."
Bonner was surprised with his nomination "because it's such a big competition with so many schools that to be nominated is pretty amazing." Saying it'll be a close race, he said, "It's always nice to be recognized for your work. I'm looking forward to the celebration of the arts at The Kennedy Center."
As for "The Front Page," Bonner believes it's strong — especially for a high-school play. Furthermore, he said, "I think Chantilly is one of the top drama schools in the region, so I think [the best-play nomination] is well-deserved."
Junior Phil Dufresne credits Monk with much of the young thespians' success. "He's pretty much solely responsible for molding us into a school that's been nominated three years in a row for best play and won it once," he said. "His strength as a director is seeing a show, being able to tell what's wrong with it and being able to fix it — which not all directors can do."
Dufresne also enjoyed the rehearsals because of Monk. "He's a fun guy to be directed by," he said. "And when he gets serious, you realize you're getting something accomplished."
Nominated with the reporter ensemble, Dufresne said it "felt nice to be recognized — we put a lot of effort into it. We didn't think we were going anywhere after the disaster with the sound, but we got so many nominations so it turned out OK."
However, he said, getting the nomination is easy — winning is something else. "I honestly don't know how we'll do," he said. "But the best part of the night [at The Kennedy Center] will be the dancing and gaiety at the very beginning, when students from around Northern Virginia will perform."
Juniors Kelly O'Brien and Amanda Misiewicz also played reporters and were thrilled about the Cappie nominations. "It's amazing," said O'Brien. "It's Amanda's and my first Cappies play we've ever done, so it's a big honor and we've worked hard for it." Added Misiewicz: "We've been waiting the whole year for this. It'll be so exciting just to be at The Kennedy Center."
Senior Martha Allison said lots of plays were equally good, so she was pleased that Chantilly and the other nominees could bask in the Cappies' glow together. Besides earning a cameo-actress nomination, she also organized her school's Cappie critics team. "I loved it," she said. "It was fun to have such a random group of friends, but we got along so well. We had a good time discussing things about the plays and hanging out together."
Regarding the critics-team nomination, Allison said it reflected everyone's efforts. "It shows what great results can happen when people work together and have fun," she said. "It wasn't so much a job as it was a pleasure. Everyone on the team was awesome — I'm so proud of them.
Junior Meg Baxter portrayed Mrs. Schlosser, a reporter's angry wife, in "The Front Page." She enjoyed her role and was especially pleased that Chantilly's play stood out in the Cappie judges' minds and was "remembered from back in October," despite the initial technical difficulties.
Classmate Stephanie Wilbur played the mayor and said her part was challenging because she had to be so decisive and assertive — "different from how I am in person." She, too, can hardly wait until the Cappies gala. Besides performing, she'll also be assistant director, that night, along with former Chantilly drama director Gael Reilly.
"The Cappies are a subjective thing and we're up against other excellent schools, so there's no way of knowing [how we'll do]," said Monk. "But it really doesn't matter because it's an honor, an exciting night at The Kennedy Center and a celebration of theater."
Westfield High received 12 Cappie nominations, but is competing in a different category than Chantilly. Its production of "Godspell" was nominated best musical, and the school's acting and technical nominations are also in that field. Centre View will feature Westfield's Cappie nominations in next week's edition.