Poly Presents “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”

Poly Presents “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”

Elizabeth Perry, Photography Editor

This year’s Upper School Musical, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, featured different forms of casts and previews then seen in previous Poly productions, with the shows beginning on March 2 2023. While there are only roughly nine roles built into the original cast, Poly’s Art’s Department is much larger, with 27 students auditioning for the show. To accommodate both the high demand of roles and previous years’ issues with recastings, the show was casted with a full understudy cast in addition to the standard main cast. 

I wanted to give the people who spent time learning the understudy roles a chance to actually perform them. So we added a fourth show and that show ended up being the understudy show and the other three shows were with the main cast,” said Director Mariko Watt. 

“I think that double casting was a really good idea because there are really only about nine parts in this show. To have that opportunity to allow more people to showcase their talents, I thought that was really thoughtful. I think that it was really well-received; however, it did add another level of stress to the rehearsal process because we would have to run every scene with two different casts,” said Junior Zeke Wise. 

Watt also noted new difficulties with the rehearsal process, as “cast members were covering different roles all the time and jumping around. That was really hard because I was trying to give people a chance to not have to be in rehearsal every single day, and yet they still needed to be there when their understudy role was also rehearsing,” said Watt. 

This year’s new casting process provoked questions on future casting methods at Poly. “I do like having the parts covered,” said Watt. “However, I don’t know if it’s sustainable to do a full rehearsal process so that they get their own show. I think it might have to be similar to what they do in Broadway shows and professional theater where people are covering a few different parts. If anything happens, there is still somebody to cover that, but it’s not a direct sort of swap all the time.” 

In addition to double casting, the musical preview format changed from previous years. For the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee assembly preview, a trailer-style video was presented in place of a musical number performed by the cast. “Last year we had to do a number. Everyone hates doing it. Everyone hates watching it. I was so scared last year that I skipped a whole verse. The video took so much pressure off us,” said Wise.

  “When we would run a number in the preview, it really didn’t capture what the musical actually was. We weren’t familiar with the space of the chapel, we weren’t in costumes, and one number didn’t show the musical in the way we wanted. By creating a video of the process, the audience was able to see little snippets of our rehearsals and how it got put together,” said Sophomore Sadie Schoenberger, assistant director of the musical and creator of the trailer. (Schoenberger is also the Arts editor for the Polygon.) 

The video followed the cast as they developed the musical, capturing a 10-week-long process in a 10-minute video. The trailer began introducing the role of each cast and crew member in the style of a television series’ opening credits with a theme song. The video then displayed the development of the show with snippets of interviews with the cast. Towards the end, the video contained a bloopers segment, capturing moments of laughter and joy within the cast during rehearsals.   

“We initially talked about having this video be something that the seniors took on where they would document the process of rehearsals. However, it morphed into Sadie documenting the process. She would be at rehearsals, taking clips and videos constantly. She put all of the content together and learned as she went about how to put those things together with balance and sound. She put in a whole lot of effort, especially in that week leading up to the assembly and the performances,” said Watt. 

Though only a sophomore, Schoenberger worked alongside Watt in directing. This was the first time that there was an assistant director for the winter musical. In their partnership, Schoenberger was able to work with specific cast members, while also lending help to Watt. 

“I have been doing theater for so many years but I had never directed before this show. It changed my whole perspective on theater because I saw the process from a completely different angle. I feel like I really found my place in Arts at Poly,” said Schoenberger.

“Having Sadie as an assistant director was extremely helpful. I could send her off to work with different scenes or do character work with specific actors. Just having someone to bounce ideas off is really nice. In most shows, it’s usually just me making up things as I go along. It was really nice to have someone to talk things through with,” said Watt. 

In their combined effort, Watt and Schoenberger directed the cast of 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee to four incredibly successful shows with a total of 750 tickets sold across all of the shows. Through changes from previous years from new casting, a new directing team, and a new way of presenting their work; the cast and crew of this year’s musical adapted to these changes to put on an amazing show.