The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

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Poster for the play, advertising the tickets.

Anna-Catherine Kueng ~ Assistant Editor

     The University of Lynchburg Theatre Department will perform The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Showtimes are Oct. 24-27, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m in Dillard Theatre. 

     According to the University of Lynchburg website, “[This is] not your ordinary Spelling Bee! The musical tale of several socially awkward youngsters finding joy, heartache, and a purpose in competing at the regional spelling bee. Can you spell H-I-L-A-R-I-O-U-S? Humor may not be suitable for children under ten. Produced by special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI).” 

     Brycen Stratton, who plays Leaf Coneybear, said, “The play is about six kids who have all worked really hard in their own personal lives to move onto the national spelling bee. Each kid has their own little quirk of how they spell words and how they represent themselves on stage. Over the course of the show, you will see the characters open up to reveal more about themselves. My character, Leaf, is an ADHD homeschooled kid who was not even supposed to end up being at the bee, but he was invited up because the winner and the runner up had to go to a previous engagement. He is just excited to be there. He has never been in an actual school before where the spelling bee is being held, so he is just bewildered at the fact that the bleachers are the way they are, the gymnasium is the way it is, and everyone is so cool, calm, and collected while he is just over there having fun.”

     Georgia Brown, who plays Rona Lisa Peretti, said, “The spelling bee is about a county spelling bee and you get to learn about these quirky characters who have personality traits that make them special, and [they] add to the comedy of the show. My character is the host of the spelling bee. She has this kind of gentle strength about her, and she kind of runs the show, and she is really invested in the spelling bee and the children’s lives. She explains in the very beginning that she was a winner in previous years, so you can tell that she has this passion for spelling bees. It is a little peculiar but very heartfelt.” 

     The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is Stratton’s first time being in a University of Lynchburg production, since he is a first year student.
    About his involvement, Stratton said, “I really like my costume. My costume is very vibrant and very colorful. It is just fun to be able to portray a character that has so much color, so much energy, but yet show another side of him that you would not be able to see if it were not for allowing glimpses inside characters during monologues and in the songs themselves.”

     Brown is a second-year student, and this is her third time being in a Lynchburg production. Last school year, she was in Peter and the Starcatcher in the fall and Curtains in the spring. 

     Brown said, “I really like this show because it is a really small cast in comparison to a lot of other things I have been in. It is only nine people, so every part is very substantial to the show and every part is so unique that each person can bring their own flare to it, and it makes it very exciting. Since it is such a small cast, you can do a lot in a little bit of time.” 

     All of the students involved have been putting in a lot of effort during this semester. 

     “We have been practicing just about every night since September. We are there every night, except for weekends, but starting this week, we do have weekend practices because it is technical week. We are there every night from like 6 to 9 [p.m.],” explained Brown. 

     If you are interested in purchasing tickets, they are available online at etix.com or at the box office, located outside of the Dillard Theatre. The prices are $5 for students and faculty, $10 for senior citizens (60+), and $15 for adults. 

     Stratton hopes that many people will come to the show. He said, “It is a really fun show. It is a lighthearted show as it is portrayed, but it has very serious undertones about how kids are perceived by other people and the expectations that they have to live up to and push themselves to be. It is a fun show, but it teaches everybody a lot about ‘hey, do not just judge a book by its cover. Look what is actually inside the contents and then judge from there.’ The music is really fun. There is colorful scenery and colorful costumes are amazing. I cannot wait for you all to actually see them. Everyone just has fun with the show. Ask anyone who is in the show and they will tell you the exact same thing. It is very fun to be in.” 

     Brown added, “I think the show is very relatable. We have all been in middle school. It does a really good job at grasping at the awkward aspects of being a middle schooler and kind of finding your place to fit in. It is a comedy, so it is a very funny show, but there are also very heartfelt moments and it is still very real. It is something you can enjoy watching, but also walk away feeling good about watching.”