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Westfield High Wins 'Best Play' Cappie

Centreville, Chantilly snare one Cappie award each

Westfield High's only been around for four years, but it's already won the two top Cappie awards honoring the cream of high-school theater.

The first came two years ago, when it snared the Best Musical trophy for "Godspell." The second came Sunday night at the 2004 Cappies Gala at The Kennedy Center, when it captured the Best Play award for "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead."

"I feel very complete," said drama director Scott Pafumi, in the midst of the jubilation after the four-hour ceremony. "Four years ago, I set out on a mission to bring success to Westfield's theater program. The Cappies have been, in many ways, a venue for that. Having now won the top award for both musical and play, Westfield theater will be known as a well-balanced, performing-arts center in the National Capital Area."

Centreville and Chantilly high schools took home one Cappie each. Centreville's Sarah Villyard was named Lead Actress in a Musical, and Chantilly's Marley Monk and Greg Scali won a technical award for Best Set.

Westfield, South Lakes and Lee each garnered two awards, and Alexandria/Mt. Vernon schools won a total of 11 trophies. Westfield's first award of the night went to sophomore Branson Reese for Comic Actor in a Play.

"It's a rush of excitement and surprise," he said afterward. "I'm speechless." But he found the words when asked to what he attributed his victory. "It was definitely Derek [Rommel]," said Reese. "We did a lot of duo work and, without Derek, there's no way I could have won."

Since this is his second Cappie (he won last year as part of an ensemble with Reaves McElveen in "Hamlet"), Reese, 16, joked that he'll use them as bookends on his bedroom shelf. "Chris Matthews [host of the TV program, "Hardball"] presented it to me," he said. "How cool is that?"

Sophomore Monk and senior Scali were thrilled with their Cappie for Best Set for their school's production of "Don't Drink the Water." Monk called their triumph "amazing" and couldn't stop grinning.

"I'm really happy and glad that all my friends were here tonight," she said. "I'm probably going to keep my Cappie in the living room — right in the middle of the coffee table — 'til my mom makes me put it away." (Dad, however, probably won't mind, since he's Ed Monk, Chantilly's drama director).

AS FOR SCALI, he described winning as "pretty awesome." He said he had a lot of fun creating the set, but didn't know if Chantilly would win because "I heard Woodson was really good." So where's his trophy going? Said Scali: "I'll probably put it right above my bed."

Senior Villyard, 17, capturing Lead Actress in a Musical for her performance in Centreville's "Fame - The Musical," was truly surprised with her victory. "I'm shocked and I'm honored," she said. "This is my first year in theater, and I could only go to practice once a week because I had to work."

But, she added, "I'm so thankful." She expressed her gratitude to those who "let me get cast" and to drama director Mark Rogers "for dealing with me." Villyard also thanked Paige Williams "for being my other Carmen [the role was double-cast], ensemble members Megan Moran and Kaelyn Arnold and "the entire cast and my family for being so supportive."

Speaking on behalf of Westfield's Best Play award, senior Rommel — who played Guildenstern to Reese's Rosencrantz — said he felt, "wow, absolutely incredible" when his school was announced as the winner. "Words can't even describe how much of an honor this is," he said. "We all worked so hard on this, and it feels so good to know that so many people liked our show so much."

Senior Katy Duncan called receiving the Cappie an "amazing honor." She credited Westfield's victory to "the energy everybody gave to [the play], how each person was perfect for the role they were cast in, and the dedication they all showed. Added classmate Ashley Ford: "It's such an exhilarating experience, and I give all my thanks to Mr. Pafumi."

Westfield Principal Dale Rumberger — himself, a former drama director at Hayfield — was also ecstatic. "Blue-ribbon music, state Honors Band, seven Cappie nominations and we got two — the arts are a very important part of our program," he said. "And what's really great is that neutral people see that, too — not just a proud principal."

He's leaving Westfield soon to open the new South County high school in Lorton, but Westfield's tremendous achievements will always remain with him. "I'm very proud of what those kids did," said Rumberger. "What a way to go out!"

AS FOR PAFUMI, he's pleased that the young thespians celebrating with him Sunday night included "my original patriots that started the Westfield theater program with me. I think my students are awesome — each and every one."

"They truly give themselves to the work and allow themselves to be risk takers," continued Pafumi. "They trust me and, for that, I thank them. We truly have created a family — and their spirits and legacy are what uphold the great tradition that is Westfield theater."

In other honors Sunday night, South Lakes took home trophies for Lead Actor in a Play, DJ Cashmere, and Featured Actress in a Play, Michelle Johnson, in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Lee's pair of Cappies were for its production of "The Rivals." Liz Hebert won for Costumes, and Alex Valentin won for Comic Actress in a Play.

Best Musical went to "Les Miserables" by St. Albans and National Cathedral schools. Madison's Steve Hock was best Cameo Actor, and McLean High was honored for best Ensemble in a Play for "Noises Off." Also winning technical awards were Herndon for lighting, and Fairfax for props and effects.