The Avalon Foundation's Underground Actors present The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee on the weekend of August 21st, 22nd, and 23rd. Director Liz Clarke, a veteran of Church Hill Theatre, Tred Avon Players, and directing her first UA production, explains what draws us to community theatre, its popularity in this area, and what you are in store for at the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee:
What exactly is it about community theatre that we love so much? Some Broadway extremists would say that there isn’t a thing about community theatre that’s enjoyable. After all, professional productions get huge budgets, the best singers, actors, dancers, musicians, designers, technicians… and the list goes on and on. It’s obviously the best that live theatre has to offer, right? Respectively, I have to disagree with those notions. This summer, I have had the pleasure of directing a musical that has been on my directing bucket list: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, with music and lyrics by William Finn and book by Rachel Sheinkin. Conceived by Rebecca Feldman, it was nominated for six Tony Awards in 2005, and won two that year, including Best Book. Spelling Bee is an exuberant musical about six middle-school-aged students in the prime of their awkward pubescent stage and their burning desire to win the Putnam County bee. Throughout the show, some of these contestants realize that winning isn’t everything, while others come to grips with the fact that losing is not the worst thing to happen in one’s life. A vibrant cast, including the two emcees of the bee, the comfort counselor, and the requisite overbearing parents, add much of the humor and charm to this show. Part of what I have enjoyed the most about directing this production of Spelling Bee has been working with the flourishing local talent. With the exception of three cast members, everyone involved in Spelling Bee is from the Easton area; Iz Clemens, Rachel Cox, Tara Kitchelt, Emma Langfitt, Lukas McGee, Nathan Mullen, Jonah Sanders, Kevin Thomas, Markel Williams, Emily Wittman, and Jeremy Wolfberg call Talbot County “home,” and the other cast members, Catharine Jacobs, Patrick Powell, and Joe Tyler, hail from Ridgely, Stevensville, and Baltimore respectively. Seven individuals in the cast attend or have just graduated from Easton High School and are active members in the theatre program there, and many of the cast and crew have performed with the Tred Avon Players, Church Hill Theatre, and elsewhere.
So, what is it about community theatre that we love? What makes it so special? It’s the people involved: the community performing for the community. They are volunteers, not hired actors. They perform because they want to, not because they are obligated to. They do it because they want to keep the performing arts active in their local communities, and you can’t ask for a more dedicated group of individuals than that.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee runs for one weekend only: Friday and Saturday, August 21 and 22 at 8:00pm, and Sunday, August 23 at 2:00pm. Tickets are available online or by calling the box office 410-822-7299.