VAPA Sets Stage for New Cappies Program


Photo Courtesy of Raksha Rajeshmohan

Cappies members sophomore Paris Suttle, junior Raksha Rajeshmohan, senior Nick Sanchez, sophomore Sushmitha Koomar and sophomore Kristen Fong attend “American Mariachi” at South Coast Repertory for their first show as a team. After the show, the group participated in insightful conversations regarding the set, lighting and design of the production.

Claudia Lin, Staff Writer

Established by new drama teacher Samantha Sanford, Portola High’s first Cappies program invites all artists who possess a passion deeply rooted in theater to take their understanding of the performing arts to the next level by adding the element of journalism. Students selected for the program include senior Nick Sanchez, juniors Raksha Rajeshmohan, Rachel Abalos, and sophomores Kristen Fong, Sushmitha Koomar, Clara Lopes and Paris Suttle.

The Cappies is a national program dedicated to training theater students to become theater critics through writing workshops. These workshops allow students to gain insight on constructing critiques for school productions and professional shows.

To be selected for this program, students are required to undergo an application process where they answer questions allowing them to elaborate on any prior knowledge regarding theater. In addition, students must compose a sample review of about 300-400 words on any production of their choosing in order to be considered.

“This year we really want to be able to establish a good foundation because it’s the first year we’re having this program… we want to make sure that we’re setting a good precedent for all of the teams after us,” Suttle said.

Upon acceptance into the program, all members are expected to view at least three shows per semester.

Following the production, members write a review analyzing the effectiveness of technical elements throughout the show. Once these pieces are finalized, students submit them to local journals and newspapers for a chance to be published.

“Since I do musicals and plays here, I hope that by watching other schools and their set design, acting and vocal choices, I can bring some of that to Portola and help improve our shows,” lead Cappies critic Rajeshmohan said.

On Sep. 17, Portola High’s Cappies team members, Sanchez, Rajeshmohan, Fong, Koomar, and Suttle witnessed their first show, “American Mariachi” at South Coast Repertory Theater.

“Standing out front of the lobby after the show, hearing [the students’] wheels already turning as they talked about lighting effects and acting moments that really stood out to them was truly inspiring,” Sanford said.

Throughout the year, the team will continue to work diligently on their critiques in preparation for the annual Cappies Gala held in May, where all members of the Orange County Cappies program will witness an exciting celebration of the arts.

Similar to the Tony’s Award production, the gala will feature student performers that have been nominated by their peers for awards like Best Actor. The nominated shows will then perform a song selected by regional critics for their final curtain call.

“[The Cappies program] is a lot of observing things from the outside because it prompts students to think about why they liked the show,” Rajeshmohan said. “It really helps students to think beyond just the surface level of productions.”