Black Hawk County to host “Spelling Bee”

Theatre+UNI+will+be+performing+the+hit+musical+%22The+25th+Annual+Putnam+County+Spelling+Bee%22+in+the+Gallagher+Bluedorn+Performing+Arts+Center+on+Oct.+26%2C+27+and+28.
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Black Hawk County to host “Spelling Bee”

Theatre UNI will be performing the hit musical

Theatre UNI will be performing the hit musical "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" in the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center on Oct. 26, 27 and 28.

COURTESY PHOTO

Theatre UNI will be performing the hit musical "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" in the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center on Oct. 26, 27 and 28.

COURTESY PHOTO

COURTESY PHOTO

Theatre UNI will be performing the hit musical "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" in the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center on Oct. 26, 27 and 28.

COLBY WEBER, Staff Writer

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The stage is set and the stakes are substantial. The lights are on, the curtains drawn and the participants’ hands are trembling with anticipation. Hundreds of ears are listening to every syllable that’s coming from their lips. One false move could spell the difference between the buzz of victory and the sting of defeat.

Such is the plot of Theatre UNI’s latest production: “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” showing in the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center on Oct. 26 at 7 p.m. and Oct. 27 and 28 at 2 p.m. The two-time Tony-award-winning musical, which first premiered on Broadway on 2005, will also involve audience participation in the form of guest spellers.

UNI alumna Anne Healy is the guest director for the play.

“It’s the story of a group of middle schoolers who come to the spelling bee to try to win the championship,” Healy said. “They’re a group of misfits who come to learn a little bit more about themselves. They learn that winning isn’t everything and that losing doesn’t make you a loser.”

As the play’s director, Healy’s duties include framing the show and figuring out how it will look. Sound is also taken into Healy’s consideration for the musical. Being a guest director requires working with a new team, which Healy says she finds exciting.

“This is a very interesting production,” Healy said. “We first began work on the show in Strayer-Wood Theatre, and now we’ve moved the set and musicians and all of that over into Gallagher Bluedorn. We’re in a new space and a much larger hall, and it’s kind of an interesting process for the students to have to change spaces and work in a different theatre under different working conditions.”

The performers in the play have also faced challenges in their roles.

Erika Bailey, a senior criminology and theatre performance major, will be playing the role of Rona Lisa Peretti, one of the spelling bee hosts. Her character is confident, passionate about what she does and nostalgic for the old days.

“First thing to know about me is that I like to have all of my ducks in a row,” Bailey said. “While I share that trait with my character, Rona’s dialogue is partially made up of improvised lines. That is absolutely terrifying. I’ve really had to focus in on how I operate within the ‘improv’ technique — where my strengths and weaknesses lie. That’s been a really interesting category of theatre to explore. I’ve always admired the greats like Chris Farley, and while I’m only dipping my toes in the water — dang, is that stuff hard!”

Once they’ve left the auditorium, Healy hopes play-goers will have seen a bit of themselves within the charming and quirky characters.

Healy is a fan of the show’s music, composed by William Finn. When the cast starts singing, she believes the audience will find the lyrics to be clever and imaginative.

“I think that I would want everybody going home believing that every moment is a learning opportunity,” Bailey said. “Throughout every experience that we have there is something that we can take from it. From there, we can move forward and grow. Nothing is not important. I believe that if we start thinking like that, we’ll begin to take more risks and we’ll begin living our lives more how we want to and less like we think we have to.”

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