Chantilly High's play, "Auntie Mame," garnered three Cappie awards — Stage Crew, Sets and Best Actress in a Play — Sunday night at the seventh annual Cappies gala. The school was nominated for seven, and Theater Director Ed Monk was delighted with the trio it received.
"We were very excited, happy and proud to win because the competition is so tough," he said. "The nice thing about the Cappies is that it's different schools from a wide area so everyone has a hope."
Honoring the best in high-school theater — actors, techs and critics — the 2006 event was held, as always, at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Nominees from 58 schools from throughout the Washington Metropolitan area donned their finest formal attire and cheered for their friends and classmates while eagerly awaiting the announcement of each winner.
And when the 3 1/2-hour ceremony was done, schools from Loudoun and Arlington counties walked off with the two top awards for the first time in Cappies history. H-B Woodlawn in Arlington won for Best Play with "The Marriage of Bette and Boo," and "Best Musical" honors went to Stone Bridge in Loudoun for "Seussical."
Chantilly's Abba Kiser was honored as best Lead Actress in a Play, and Corey-Antonio Hawkins of Duke Ellington received the Cappie for Lead Actor in a Play for "The Laramie Project." Lead Actress in a Musical went to Clifton's Nicole Smith, of the Seton school in Manassas, for "Annie, Get Your Gun." Lead Actor in a Musical was Stone Bridge's Mace Sorenson.
T.C. Williams in Alexandria won the award for Critics Team for the fourth year in a row. And Burke's Chelsea Cook, named Rising Critic, became the first home-schooled student to ever receive a Cappie.
Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-11th), there to help present the Cappie for Props & Effects, praised the nominees in all the categories. "Each year, the level of performance just keeps getting better and better and better," he said. "Forget the Tonys; this is it, as far as I'm concerned."
CHANTILLY SENIORS Marley Monk and Kevin Jones won the Cappie award for Sets, and it was Monk's second win in this category. She won two years ago for "Don't Drink the Water." Marley, (Ed's daughter), was thrilled. "It's really nice," she said. "This is the best way I can think of to end senior year." Added Jones, also happy: "I don't know what to say — that's why I'm not in drama."
Accepting the Stage Crew award were seniors Lindsay Wright, Tommy Norfolk and Richard Kruse, plus junior Laura Kim. "It's awesome," said Wright. "It was a lot of hard work and a lot of long hours." Added Norfolk: "It's cool — well worth all the hours."
"We were the best stage crew of all time — no joke," said Kruse. "It was a gigantic set," said Kim. "And the fact that everyone was able to work together and make it move smoothly added to the whole effect. If not, things wouldn't have moved the way they were supposed to."
The stage crew consisted of nearly 30 people and, since the play was double cast, everyone took turns working on the crew, as well. "This was the most physically taxing play we've ever done," said Kruse. "The next week, we were zombies."
Lead Actress award-winner Abba Kiser, who shared the role of Auntie Mame with Faith McAuliffe, thanked director Monk and "everyone in the play" during her acceptance speech. And, she added, "To Faith McAuliffe, this is for you."
Afterward, Kiser said she felt "awesome" about receiving the Cappie. "I've never even been in a main-stage show before," she said. "This is just so cool." She plans to attend the University of Washington in Seattle and work in community theater there. Said Kiser: "I'll keep theater in my life, but I'll try other things, too."
LOOKING BACK on the evening, Ed Monk said he especially wanted Chantilly to win for Stage Crew because "that literally involved everybody in both casts. One cast was the running crew for the other."
He was also pleased with the Sets award because "there were 37 schools eligible" for nominations in that category. Chantilly alumnus Nick Ryckert won two Cappies for Sets while he was a student there so, said Monk, between him and Marley, "They've won four Cappies for Sets in seven years." (Ryckert also did the light design for Sunday's awards gala).
As for Kiser's victory, Monk said she truly deserved it. "She did an amazing job," he said. "But that was so classy of her to dedicate the award to Faith. To be that talented, thoughtful and humble is why I really like her, and I'm very pleased for her."
Proud of all his students' achievements, Monk said receiving some Cappie awards is the "icing on the cake." And, noting that Chantilly Principal Jim Kacur and Assistant Principals Debbie Santmyer and K.T. Lynch were there in the audience at The Kennedy Center, Monk said, "That means so much to the kids to get that kind of support."
A resident of the Clifton Glen community, Nicole Smith, also received a major honor at the ceremony, receiving the Cappie for Lead Actress in a Musical. A senior, Smith attends Seton in Manassas and played Annie Oakley in "Annie, Get Your Gun."
"It's amazing; I'm so happy," she said. "I did this for my school. It's just incredible." Smith, 18, said she did her best with the role and had a lot of fun with it. She also noted that Seton sophomore Kelly Morrison, who lives in Fair Oaks, won the Cappie for Costumes.
The show won the award for Song, as well, for "Anything You Can Do." Said Smith: "It was definitely a group effort because our ensemble behind us was terrific and really made that song come alive."