Art/Photo by West High Theatre
The Putnam Spelling Bee Play Comes to West!
December 13, 2022
As a show about adolescence and maturity that comes with adulting, punctuated with spelling, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee sparked joy in its audiences at every showing. The latest interactive musical performed by the West High Theatre Department from Wednesday, Nov. 16 to Saturday, Nov. 19. was definitely a product of extreme dedication from its cast and crew.
After the casting results were announced, the actors rehearsed multiple times a week, and participated in “Marathon Sundays,” practicing for long stretches sometimes reaching up to six hours during particular rehearsals. Mrs. Orabuena, the head of West’s theater department and a proud actor herself, stated that the Marathon Sundays specifically helped the cast get all of the blocking and choreography. Mrs. Orabuena was amazed at the pure dedication and motivation the teen actors had to their roles, saying that “When they’re not distracted by homework or anything else, they work so much better.”
What made Spelling Bee different from most plays was the interactive portion of the show. Before the play began, staff asked particular audience members if they would like to participate in the spelling bee along with the actors. Mrs. Orabuena directed the unique show where audience members would be “brought up to the stage, where they would be asked similar questions to the cast” during the bee. This aspect of the play generated even more laughs and humor for watchers due to the confusion of the audience members on stage. Mrs. Orabuena explained that the random people were the scariest part for the actors to adapt to because each night there were different audience members, and “you never knew how they were going to react.” The random members were also a part of some of the play’s choreography.
Another special part of Spelling Bee was that Mrs. Orabuena performed alongside the student actors. This year marks Mrs. Orabuena’s twentieth year at West High, and to celebrate the occasion, she demonstrated her acting and singing skills up on the stage. She played the character of Rosa Lisa Perretti, the host of the Putnam Bee. She expressed that acting with the students taught her new lessons and “brought back the love of performing” from inside her.
Mrs. Orabuena acted alongside some of West’s most talented actors. She mostly performed with the other spelling bee judge in the play, Douglas Panch, played by Christian Robledo (10). The other main cast of characters were played by Brandon Howard (12), Jack Oakley (10), Bella DiStasio (12), Kate Phan (12), Mia Gibson (12), Greta Wolf (10), and Jeremy Born (10). Each character has a separate dilemma they have to face, which are directly related to the troubles of adolescence. Born played Leaf Coneybear, a spelling bee participant only competing due to a technicality. He stated that playing Leaf Coneybear was an amazing opportunity as he got to play the “diamond in the rough character.” Born particularly loved DiStasio’s song “Jesus”, in which DiStasio’s character, Marcy Park, purposely got herself eliminated from the bee. It was an exciting scene to see develop for Born, since DiStasio “[jumped] off the stage and [ran] down the aisles, overjoyed to no longer live up to anyone’s expectations.”
Each cast and crew member seem to have different parts of the play they are fond of. Caleb Kaufman (12) is a part of West’s Stage Tech crew, which helps keep West’s plays and shows running from behind the scenes. Kaufman particularly enjoyed the way the actors portrayed their characters in smaller ways. He stated that you can really “feel the vibes of the characters before they even speak”. One thing he found interesting was the way in which the actors sat in their chairs. He admired how the actors took every detail of their characters into account, including the ways each one of them sat.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee was an exciting addition to West’s catalog of performances. The play celebrated childhood and divulged into the complicated topics of growing up and learning independence.