Before they were portraying the angst-ridden adolescent spellers in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, the stars of our latest mainstage premiere were living similarly angst-ridden adolescent lives. Below they share some of their favorite, most precocious and sometimes bizarre childhood memories.
Jack Bartholet, who portrays the homeschooled, socially defunct Leaf Coneybear shared his character’s panache for entertaining himself with a wild imagination.
“I highly anticipated thunder storms so we could have indoor recess. I would put on puppet shows for all my friends–with fully realized characters.”
While her character, Logainne Shwartzandgrubenierre, aspires to someday enter the world of politics, Janie Wallace had decidedly less ambitious goals as a child.
“Most kids want to be doctors or teachers or astronauts
when they grow up. I wanted to work in a doughnut store and be a University of Kansas cheerleader.”
Much like her character, Olive Ostrovsky, Darcy Wright was always prepared to jump in and defend a person in need. Whether it’s her onstage friend Barfée in Spelling Bee, or a real life cast-mate as child
“I was sent to go find one of my fellow cast members when Iwas a kid, and when I informed the director that she would be right out, he remarked that she was ‘chewing the fat.’ I obviously didn’t know what that meant, and bravely stood up for her, in defense of what I thought was a comment about her size.”
Just like his character, Will Barfée, Kyle Adams found himself immersed in the cut throat world of competitive spelling as a child. While Barée may struggle with asthma and a “rare mucus membrane disorder,” Kyle wrestled with the phonetics behind the letter “p.”
“In fourth grade I found myself among the final two spellers in the school spelling bee. My performance in the bee had been flawless thus far, so when my name was called I felt confident that I would win the trophy…and the hearts of all the popular fifth grade girls. My word was “raspberry.” I smiled with rock star confidence and spelled: “r-a-s-b-e-r-r-y.” The collective groans after I forgot the “P” were enough to make me start crying onstage, but I toughed it out and stood there as my competitor (a nice kid named Andrew who I never spoke too again) quietly spelled my word correctly, “P” and all. He got the trophy, but I still got the fifth grade hotties.”
Alexis Kinney may not be able to speak six languages like her Spelling Bee counterpart, Marcy Park, but as a child she certainly displayed a level of precocious street smarts that would surprise any unsuspecting third grade teacher.
“When I was in Elementary School, I was practicing how to count money with my teacher. While I was trying to add some dimes and quarters together to make a dollar, I brushed the money aside, turned to my teacher and said, ‘That’s okay. I’ll just use a credit card.'”
We all suffer embarrassment when we’re kids– it’s practically a requirement. Andrew Kruep and his Spelling Bee character, Chip Tolentino, can both relate.
When I was a kid my parents put me in tap classes, and I was the only boy in my class, so the teacher made up a routine to ‘Please Mr. Postman.’ We practiced every week, and I loved tapping my little heart out. Finally, it was time for the recital! My job was to deliver letters to the girls on stage, then join in for some shuffle ball changes and flaps. Unfortunately when the lights came up, I froze, then ran offstage crying. They did the whole number without a postman!
My parents later told me that a lot of the parents were upset because of how my stage fright affected the girls in the number. It was definitely embarrassing for my parents and me. Needles to say, I stopped tap class and didn’t have any desire to be on a stage soon after. They never thought in a million years that I would grow up to be a musical theatre actor!”
Like many of our other cast members, Tessa White shares similar experiences with her onstage persona. Unlike the gracious Spelling Bee moderator Rona Peretti, White didn’t find much success at her childhood spelling bee’s.
“I was in the finals of my spelling bee. I got eliminated on ‘mozzarella’.”
We’re inclined to believe that she has never eaten the achromatic cheese ever since.
Come see all of our spellers, and maybe relive some of the joys (or horrors) of your own childhood experiences.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee opens July 7 and runs through July 18. Tickets are on sale now! To reserve your spot, call our box office at (217) 728-7375.