Written by Victoria Pallien
Stepping into the Arnold Hall theater Monday, Nov. 7, meant stepping into bright costumes, instrumentals and laughter as the cast and crew of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” rehearsed days before opening night. The one-act musical produces a comedic spin on a group of elementary school kids entered in the spelling bee, each very determined to out-spell the others.
Our host for the 25th annual bee is Ms. Rona Lisa Peretti, a role shared by two SCAD actors, one of whom is second-year graduate student, Megan McGarvey. Previously in SCAD’s production of “Rent,” McGarvey says she’s excited about this production because of the improv.
“You get to use all the tools in your toolbox,” she beams as she speaks about her character, explaining how this show allows the cast to take a step back and place themselves into a school’s gymnasium, where most of them haven’t been for quite some time.
Set designer, fourth-year student, Andres Poch says his theme was nostalgic for that exact reason. “We want anyone who comes here to basically feel like they’re going back…they see the posters they’d see back home.”
The cast and crew hope to leave their audience reminiscing about elementary school and who they were as eight-year-olds. McGarvey says, “there’s a little bit of all of these characters in us,” proving the musical enjoyable for everyone.
The role of Rona is just one out of 16, most of which are double cast. Fourth-year student, Lexi McKay, the play’s stage manager, explains, “this is the smallest cast probably in a long time here at SCAD for a main stage [production], but there are so many aspects to the show,” which include things like costume, lighting and set design.
McKay states the hardest day was this past Sunday when the cast was able to rehearse with all these elements. “I think almost all of us ended up crying at some point and honestly, that’s the day everything came together.” It was the first day the cast and crew had all the props, every costume, and were calling all the cues—dance, music, and lighting.
In order to get everything just right, McKay says, “You have to stop every 5 minutes to…try again,” which third-year Mikaela Baird, the lighting designer, can attest to. Because of the show’s scale, Baird says the tech process is a little different from other productions she’s worked on. There’s a little more time to work but a lot more collaboration and each student has a mentor, which Baird references to by saying, “I have more people watching me—what I’m doing—and I have to please more people.”
Professor Wainstein, the director, is one of those sets of eyes as he sits on the right side of the auditorium for this rehearsal. While pleased with the show, he mentions the biggest hiccup— “it was a huge hiccup, it was a belch”—Hurricane Matthew, which pushed the musical’s opening night back an entire week.
“We didn’t get to rehearse for 12 days, we had to greatly scale down our set…There was no time.” Perhaps the cast and crew felt the time crunch, but the audience definitely won’t. And hopefully there was no blood, but it’s clear to see sweat and tears have built this show.
Who will win the 25th annual spelling bee in Putnam County? Sing along this weekend at the Arnold Hall Auditorium and find out. The showings take place throughout the week starting November 10 at 8 p.m., November 11 at 8 p.m. and ending on November 12 at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Tickets cost $15 for general public and $10 for non-SCAD students, seniors, military and $5 for SCAD students with valid SCAD ID. To purchase tickets online visit the Savannah Box Office website.