A close-knit community: Inside Mason’s Cappies


The Cappies pose for a photo. Back row, left to right: Junior Maryn Hiscott, junior Elisabeth Snyder, freshman Matthew Bloss-Baum, junior Callie Russell, junior Umika Pathak. Front row, left to right: Freshman Erin Tarpgaard, freshman Isabel Pierce, junior Grace Tarpgaard, junior CC Meade (Photo by Eva Williams)

Eva Williams, Staff Reporter

If you’ve attended a Mason theatre production, you may have noticed a crowd of dressed-up students watching and scribbling notes in the lower section of the auditorium during the shows. During intermission, and after the production, these students are escorted in and out of the theater before anyone else is allowed to leave.

For the past three years, junior Grace Tarpgaard has been a part of that crowd. Tarpgaard is a member of The Cappies, an organization that works on building high schoolers’ skills in theatre and journalism.

At Mason, she has now taken on the role of lead critic, which is equivalent to club president. She oversees the eight other Mason critics: freshmen Erin Tarpgaard, Matthew Bloss-Baum, and Isabel Pierce; and juniors Callie Russel, CC Meade, Umika Pathak, Maryn Hiscott, and Elisabeth Snyder. 

Through the program, students attend and critique local shows. 

I really love theatre and writing so it seemed kind of perfect,” Isabel Pierce, a freshman new to Cappies, said. 

Most shows have between 20 and 90 critics in their audiences. The Cappies from Mason attend about nine shows in a year. 

Although Cappies is an organization of critics, “it’s a positive environment,” Tarpgaard said. “We want to highlight the good parts [of a show] and if there are challenges, technical difficulties, whatever, we want to praise how they deal with them and join together and celebrate the production being done.”

For each production, each school has a designated “Cappies room,” decorated in the theme of school’s show. As Tarpgaard explained, posters around the room display the technical elements of the show and depict the technical process. The Cappies are served dinner and dessert in the room before the show and return to the room during and after the production to compare notes and to discuss the show with their group members. 

Tarpgaard regards the Cappies as a close-knit community. “You get to meet different Cappies from different schools and you’ll start seeing the same ones throughout the year.” 

Local newspapers later select and publish some of the Cappies members’ reviews. 817 pieces are submitted to newspapers on average per year. 

In the spring, a Tony-like award show takes place at the Kennedy Center. 

People work so hard on [productions] and to see that work pay off will be really fun for them,” Pierce said, referring to the awards and positive reviews of shows. 

Students, stage crews, and casts as a whole win in categories such as Male Dancer, Props, and Ensemble in a Play. There are over 8,000 award winners. 

“[The Cappies] are made up of all kinds of passionate, like-minded people who just love musical theatre, plays, anything theatre-related, and all come with different perspectives on theatre,” Tarpgaard said. “Cappies critics will be stage crew members; a lot will be leads, singers, dancers. All parts of the theatrical process want to be a part of Cappies.”