The Process Bee-hind Putnam

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For the past two months, fifteen students have stayed after school, perfecting their acting, singing and dancing for the winter musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” The show has finally reached the stage, and is now causing the audience to laugh hysterically every night.

The play is a comedic musical about elementary and middle schoolers who participate in a spelling bee, and grow up in the process. This is an unusual musical because it is student run and includes the audience.

“There are some really fun elements that the actors get to do in this play that they don’t typically get to do in other plays,” director William Staggs said.

The audience is seated on the stage, and some audience members are even in the show. Every show, four audience volunteers participate as spellers in the bee.

“I really enjoy the fact that we have the audience on stage with the actors. The fact that everyone is really close to it creates an intimate setting. It makes the audience feel like they are a part of the action,” Staggs said.

Another unique aspect of this show is its small cast. The entire cast consists of fifteen people. Many students auditioned for the show, but only a small number landed a part. This made the casting process difficult for Mr. Staggs.

“Because people knew it was such a small cast, everyone really prepared very, very well for it and they worked very hard. It was a very difficult process casting this show because everybody came with so many good ideas and a high level of talent,” Staggs said.

Though the casting was difficult, some actors in the musical found the small number of actors to be beneficial. Liza Shourds, who plays Marcy Park, one of the main spellers, has really enjoyed this experience.

“I’ve become so close with the incredible cast and crew and have grown so much as an actor during this process,” Shourds said.

This show is the school’s CAPPIES show, meaning that student judges from other schools in the county will be judging the show for national high school drama awards. Because of this, most aspects of this show were student led.

“I really enjoy being able to hand over the reigns to students and say ‘Let’s see what you come up with,’ and that is probably the most rewarding part about being a director in high school,” Staggs said.

For this show, sophomore Emily Simpson had her first shot at being props master, meaning that she was in charge of collecting and making all the props, and she loved it.

“My favorite props to work on this year were the banners. Even though they took a long time to make, it was really fun to design them, paint them, and now seeing them hung up on such a large scale is really cool,” Simpson said.

The actors’ dedication is evident in the months they’ve spent preparing. They’re now read to step back, open the curtain and let the audience enjoy the show.

“My favorite part of acting is being able to stand on a stage and push everything else away,” Shourds said. “To become something else and inspire people who might not even know me.”

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