22 March, 2023
Visualize actors and actresses rehearsing in separate corners of a huge auditorium. On one side of the room, lines are dramatically rehearsed as eyes quickly glance left and right across their scripts. On the other side of the room, voices are warming up, floating up and down a vocal scale. Everyone in this room shares the same goal: preparing for Atholton’s spring musical auditions.
The Atholton musical, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, is about a devoted group of spellers. The musical mainly focuses on the characters’ individual experiences at this small town spelling bee. What makes them all different is their wildly different personalities and their reason for being at the Putnam Spelling Bee. This musical was chosen this year to address the serious topics of pressure, and how parental and self stressors heavily impact the student’s lives.
“While it’s a comedy, [the musical] is about the toll that people take on when they put too much pressure on themselves,” said Ms. Stackhouse, the director of this year’s production.
As the pressure of time strikes down against them, Atholton’s production company explodes into action in order to be fully ready before their opening night on Thursday, March 23rd. It’s necessary for performers to familiarize themselves with the background information before showing up to an audition for a musical, so that they are able to decide what role they want to take on. One of the leads of the musical, Amanda Minino, feels that it’s important for performers to make their auditions authentic, “make your audition fully how you see your character, and don’t shy away from personality. For lead roles in particular, I feel like you have to have a lot of security and confidence.” She first got interested in performing, after watching her older sister perform in their high school productions.
Preparing for a musical after the audition process helps the actors to fully understand the composition of the show on a deeper level. This includes a deep dive into character development, finding the right notes in a song to emphasize the emotions of scenes, and memorizing dance movements, so that continuity flows seamlessly together. “We have done a lot of rehearsals working on separate sections of the show–song, dance, and acting. And have been gradually piecing everything together over the past two months. We’ve done improvisational character work, line bashing, and work with pit instruments,” Minino explained.
This is Ms. Stackhouse’s first year directing a musical at Atholton High School, although she directed many productions during her college years. In this musical production, she is working alongside her counterparts, Ms. Haffey, the choreographer, and Ms. Freel, the vocal director and producer. Ms. Stackhouse advised that anyone who wants to audition for a musical should, even if they feel like they don’t have the talent or the experience for a musical. She further explained that the AHS production company always needs people for the ensemble, and that, “students shouldn’t be afraid to audition for ensemble because being in the ensemble is a blast.” From past experiences, she felt like the ensemble was the most fun because she spent most of her time as an ensemble member, backstage getting to know the cast and connecting with them. “Theater people are very social creatures, so bonding with the cast and getting to know people is so much fun,” reflected Ms. Stackhouse.
Amanda Minino also feels that it’s very important for performers to bond with each other because it helps to make rehearsals more bubbly and lively. “We don’t all have to be best friends, but feeling comfortable in the group makes rehearsals so much easier,” said Minino. The performers are all a part of a GroupMe; the performers use it to help them all stay connected. Although they mainly use the platform to keep everyone informed about practice schedules and other important events, the performers also use GroupMe, in a fun way, to casually talk and make jokes with each other.
Bryce Smart, another person in this musical, also loves the atmosphere that the production company brings because it’s a causal environment that allows him to have fun and make jokes with the other cast members. He encourages people to come see the musical because it’s not your “normal spelling bee.” It’s a production worth getting excited for because the performers are allowed to be loose with their characters and are able to interact with other characters in fun and playful ways.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a improv and vocal heavy performance, which is a huge challenge for any high school performer to overcome. “It’s going to be hilarious. I sit with them every rehearsal at these lines I’ve heard 100 times at this point,” recounted Ms. Stackhouse. She went on to commend the performers for being “naturally funny and talented.” Ms. Stackhouse enjoys working with high school students because they have taught her to listen and learn from younger individuals. The musical relates back to high school because it explains the pressure the people put on themselves to be the best. She’s proud of her students for tackling such a serious topic. Everyone is welcome to come see Atholton’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, the musical will be performed for three nights: Thursday, March 23rd, Friday, March 24th, and Saturday, March 25th.