Critical Thinking: The Cappies Program

Julia Stanski, Staff Writer


We all know that MAC students are good at academics, sports, debate and all that other stuff. But very few people know that our school is also home to one of the city’s top teams of student theatre critics. 


MAC participates in Cappies, a program run by the Edmonton Journal that trains high school students as critics to review other high schools’ plays and musicals. All the schools involved have a team of up to nine writers, who are trained by professionals at the Edmonton Journal in October. These writers attend shows and write reviews for them throughout the year, with the opportunity to be published in the print edition of the newspaper and/or online. In May Cappies nominations are released, including those for Best Critic Team and Best Critic in grades 10, 11 and 12, and awards are given out at a ceremony somewhat like the Tonys.

Among the countless awesome things about this program are the chance to develop skills like writing under a strict word count limit and deadline (endlessly helpful for in-class essays) and meet kids from other high schools around the city who share an interest in writing and theatre. Critics also get free tickets and free food at every show they attend, and the opportunity for discussion both before and after the show. 


At MAC, our critic team accepts three new grade tens every year. Applicants usually submit a short writing sample to the teacher mentors (Miss Williams and Ms. Nychka) and the lead critic (this year, it’s Brynn Lewis). Once a grade ten is selected, they’re moved into the program for all three years. Occasionally spots in other grades open up if a grade 11 or 12 chooses not to continue.


The time commitment is pretty minor for critics. They have to attend and review a minimum of 4 shows a year, plus one day for training in the fall and a few hours for voting on awards in May. Attending the Cappies Gala in June is optional (but it’s one of the most fun things ever). At the big Gala, the nominees for Best Play and Best Musical each perform an excerpt from their show, everyone dresses up, and local celebrities present the awards. MAC has been nominated for Best Critic Team for the past two years, and last year had three individual critics nominated as best in their grade.


Some thoughts from a few members of MAC’s Cappies team:


My favourite thing about Cappies is definitely the sense of collaboration that comes with it, even though writing a review is an individual process. I love seeing the plays with other critics and hearing their thoughts during intermission and after the show. It also exposes me to theatre in a very accessible way.”  –Katherine Archibald, grade 11 critic


“To me, it really showcases the talent and potential of high school students. The amount of energy that a school puts into a production is amazing! It completely goes against the stereotype people have of ‘slacker teenagers’. People our age are just as capable of being passionate and involved [as older people], and are able to create great works of art.” –Brynn Lewis, grade 12 lead critic


Free food, nice people, good theatre, and writing; Cappies is basically a dream come true. To read some reviews or find more information, consult the Edmonton Journal’s Cappies Facebook page

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