Putnam Spelling Bee preview

By: Zenab Saeed ~Staff Writer~

spelling bee 2
Photo courtesy of Stephen Skiles | Junior Sean Burlingame takes center stage during one of the Putnam Spelling Bee rehearsals. Skiles directed this show that follows middle school students’ journeys at a regional spelling bee.

Xavier Theatre will present a production of the musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” from Oct. 22-Oct 24. The show, based on the book by Rachel Sheinkin, tells the complex story of a group of middle school students’ journey through competing in the regional spelling bee. It is under the direction of Xavier’s director of theatre, Stephen Skiles.

“As director of the theater and the producing artistic director of Xavier theater, one of my jobs is to oversee season selection. We did ‘Spring Awakening’ at the end of last year, and I felt like that was an important story because it tells a story of growing up. Even though this is a group of young people in ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,’ they’re going through similar pressures, and so I like to do plays that have that thematic idea behind them because I think it’s important for our students to look at from a number of different perspectives, and I think this show is a great perspective,” Skiles said.

Since being selected through auditions during the first week of school, the cast has been rehearsing five or six days each week, and the production team has been working to perfect the production. “I’ve got a great cast, a terrific design team, and this is one of the biggest sets we’ve done in a while. Especially on a play like this, they’re playing 12- and 13 year-old kids that are competing in a spelling bee, so there’s a lot of character work that goes into it. It’s really an intensive process for them,” Skiles said.

“The thing I love most about this show is that the characters are easy to identify with, which just adds to the experience of watching the show,” sophomore Katie Bauer, who is playing the role of Marcy Park, said. “I would say it isn’t a typical musical. Yes, there are songs and yes, there’s a lot of acting in it, but it’s very character-driven. Every single character is a huge part of the story, and everyone is contributing. There is awesome technical stuff plus costumes, lights and sound, so everything comes together with the actors all telling the awesome story,” sophomore Taylor Maas said.

“This is a comedy, and the characters are really pretty outrageous. When I was looking at what we are doing for family weekend, that kind of fit because it’s a pretty good family show. Even though there are some really thoughtful and sometimes sad and serious moments in the play, the characters are very vibrant and unique and fun to watch, so it is a lot of fun at the same time. It’s a funny, upbeat show and you get to meet some quirky characters, but it’s a poignant little piece. Getting to see young kids go through some of the things we all went through when we were younger and that we still go through is really cool. It’s funny because the adults in the play have just as many problems as the kids, so it’s not that the transition to adulthood brings the answers to all your questions, but rather that the transition to adulthood brings its own problems, so it is very unique in that sense. And we do bring some people up on stage, so there will be four people from every show that will actually get to go through and try to win the spelling bee, which is a fun way to kind of get up on stage and go through a show with our actors,” Skiles said.

The production opens at 7:30 p.m. this Friday in the Gallagher Student Center Theatre with its final show on Sunday, Dec 7. There is an additional show at 2 p.m. this Saturday. Tickets cost $12 for students and faculty and $17 for general admission.