‘Spelling Bee’ Actors Play on Audience Participation
The cast of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" rehearses. Photo by Marielle Schuchardt.

‘Spelling Bee’ Actors Play on Audience Participation

Curtains will rise for the company’s first performance of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” on Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m. in the Noel Fine Arts Center Studio.

Mark Hanson, the Bachelor of the Fine Arts musical theatre program coordinator, directs the musical. The show follows the story of six quirky preteens competing in a spelling bee.

The cast of "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" rehearses. Photo by Marielle Schuchardt.

The cast of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” rehearses. Photo by Marielle Schuchardt.

Things will take a turn when characters onstage prompt audience members, who have not practiced with the company, to sign up to be part of the show.

“The audience members go on stage and spell the words with the cast,” Hanson said. “The first part of the show is improvisational based.”

Due to the nature of the production, what occurs onstage depends on how volunteer audience members participate with the cast.

“Sometimes the audience spellers can be really good and stay in the game for a really long time,” Hanson said.

“What I like about the show is that you don’t have to be an actor to participate. For people who have always been sitting in the audience for a show, it’s interesting to see it from a cast member’s perspective.”

Hanson is excited to put on a show with dynamic characters.

“The cast was put together really well,” Hanson said. “They’re just a top group of actors who, in a way, are like the cast of “The Big Bang Theory” because they are very complex.”

Hanson commented on other personality traits in the production.

“There’s the really smart girl, the nerdy guy, the goody two-shoes Boy Scout and the hippie carefree kid,” Hanson said. “The audience can see themselves on stage, which makes them want to root for the characters.”

Photo by Marielle Schuchardt.

Photo by Marielle Schuchardt.

“The show is a lot of fun, it’s a comedy,” said actor Cole Witter. “It’s very unpredictable. My character often has to ask the actors and volunteer audience members questions on stage and you never know what they’re going to say.”

Witter plays Vice Principal Douglass Panch, one of the few adult characters in the production. Most of the show’s characters are much younger.

“These adult college students are playing children, so you have that juxtaposition going,” Witter said. “My character really struggles with the way that the children don’t answer questions the way he wants them to.”

Witter said in a fast paced and partially improvised show, actors must be quick-witted.

“We can memorize everything we have, but if a volunteer audience member goes in a different direction, we have to adjust,” Witter said.

The score of the show compliments the quirky, fun and upbeat themes.

“The songs in the show always remind me of my childhood watching ‘Sesame Street,’” Hanson said. “It’s very fun and quirky and there’s a bit of edginess to it. I would compare the sound to ‘Avenue Q.’”

Hanson expressed pride that the production is completely student-designed from the costumes to the set.

“I’ve had nothing but great experiences with the designers,” Hanson said. “It’s great to collaborate with people who are just learning how to do that and to mentor them.”

The company will perform “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” Nov. 14 to 16 and Nov. 19 to 22.

Tickets are available at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Box Office.


Anna Welton

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