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Sunday, October 17, 2021

Under pressure at ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’

Studio 301 to put on musical in 24 hours

Students in higher education commonly face a never-ending onslaught of stress and high expectations. Institutionalized school systems and high-hoping parents initiate this pressure from an early age. Children are taught that the goal is to win and settling for anything else is unacceptable. All of this anxiety forced upon children is satirized in Studio 301’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, which is set to take place Saturday and Sunday in the Vanderhoef Studio at the Mondavi Center.

The show is unique in that it will be rehearsed by the members of Studio 301 in a 24-hour period, as opposed to the months it would usually take to prepare for a live musical. This short rehearsal process is made possible through the heavy use of improvisation, which will take the form of interaction between the audience and the cast.

Melody LeMay Sellers, a second-year dramatic art major and historian of Studio 301, plays Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre. Sellers said she’s not worried about the improvisation and thinks it will be really fun tapping further into her character.

“It’s fun to have that random banter [that comes with improvisation] — but you still have to be in character and think, ‘What would this person say in this situation; how would she feel about this?’” Sellers said.

The show is mainly character-based instead of plot-based, which contributes to the cast’s ability to have such a short amount of rehearsal time for the performance. The audience gets to know the characters and see how they change throughout the experience of participating in the spelling bee.

Jason Moscato, president of Studio 301 and a third-year dramatic art and linguistics double major, believes that the audience will enjoy the unique characters.

“What makes the show really fun is watching the quirky personalities of these kids and watching their characters grow onstage,” Moscato said.

Those acting in the show believe the important underlying themes of the play, such as pressure on children to succeed academically, the poor ethics of competition for children and the failings of the education system, make the show worth seeing.

Moscato emphasized the important commentary in the play but also maintained that it is a comedy.

“I hope the audience looks at this as a kind of metaphor for society and that the pressure we put on kids does negatively affect them…However, it’s a comedy first,” Moscato said.

Sellers sees a clear link between the pressures the students in the show face to the stress that University of California students feel.

“[Despite being a dramatic art major], there are still all these requirements you have to go through and there’s still all this pressure and all this stress and the social hierarchy that you have to deal with, so it is definitely relatable to college students,” Sellers said.

Jillian Price, a fourth-year English major and vice president of Studio 301, plays Rona Peretti, one of the few adults in the play. The teacher is stuck in the past and attempting to relive her glory days in spelling bees as a child. Price explained the failings of the education system today that are present in the play.

“Today there is a lot of apathy to learning, but learning is so important and can be done even into adulthood,” Price said. “Children are taught in school that winning is everything. This play forces the questions of what education should be and who it should serve.”

To learn more about the musical visit its Facebook event page. The event is free but donations are highly encouraged.

 Graphic Courtesy by Studio 301.

 

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