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An Interview with Matthew Cloran of the Philadelphia Cappies Chapter

October 21, 2011

For those of you who aren’t aware of the Cappies, it’s a fantastic program where kids see musicals from other schools, review them, and nominate them for awards. Some reviews wind up in the local papers. The program combines Critical Thinking, English, History, and Theatre in an amazing way, and it really raises the bar for participating schools when actors see productions from other districts and schools. I can’t really say enough good things about the program. When I music direct at participating schools, I love the night when the Cappies kids come to see the show. I wanted to get the inside scoop, so I asked some questions of Matthew Cloran, who is the program director for the Greater Philadelphia Cappies.

Who is Mr. Cloran? Let’s get you up to speed:

This is Matthew Cloran’s third year as Program Director of the Greater Philadelphia Cappies.  Matt gives major thanks to Harry Dietzler for starting the program in Philadelphia seven years ago and to Kathy Moscotti for being the best Program Manager that ever was.  He is also proud to be the Drama Chair at The Haverford School.

Got it? Good. Let’s get to the questions:

Music Directing the School Musical: Many of my readers may not be familiar with the Cappies and what they’re about. Can you briefly describe them?

Matthew Cloran: The Cappies is a nationally recognized program that celebrates theatre excellence in high schools.  There are over two dozen chapters throughout the country.  Philadelphia is the second largest behind Washington, D.C. where it all began.   What drives the program are the students involved called “critics” who attend the productions of those high schools involved and write reviews.  They also vote on the awards given out at the end of the year.  There are no “bests” in the program.  We celebrate all of our achievements!  RESPECT for everyone involved is the foundation of the program!

MDTSM: Where and when did the Cappies start?

MC: The Cappies started in Washington D.C by a great man by the name of Bill Strauss who has sadly passed on. Bill loved high school theatre and all of the kids involved in front of and behind the curtain.  He wanted to create a program that let the world know about the amazing work that was happening in high school theatres everywhere.

MDTSM: How many students and how many shows are involved annually in the program?

MC: In our chapter, there are 34 schools involved and 33 shows to see, celebrate and review (one of our schools is a partial member)!

MDTSM: Give me a pitch for my readers to join in what you’re doing.

MC: If you love theatre and want to get your school, your community and beyond to know about the great work you’re doing – join the CAPPIES!  You will see, dicuss, and write about awesome theatre….and best of all: meet new friends!

MDTSM: As school budgets are being slashed, and programs cut, some school musical programs find themselves in jeopardy. Why is it important for schools to support musical theatre for kids, and what benefits do musicals provide for their participants and communities?

MC: This one’s the easiest to answer.  It is a proven fact that young people involved in theatre find themselves accepted in ways they couldn’t find anyplace else (I’m one of those kids!).  It’s also proven that being involved in theatre increases confidence, self-esteem and builds community.  AND it brings entertainment and joy to those who see it.

Thanks, Matthew!

Here’s a link to a New York Times article about the founding of the Cappies:

To find out more about Cappies, or to see if there’s a chapter in your area, go to their website at: www.cappies.com

To contact Matthew Cloran: matthew.cloran@cappies.com.

This is a photo of the 2011 Cappie Winner for musical, Cats at East Regional High Schools, Camden (photo courtesy Harry Dietzler)

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