In ways equally endearing and entertaining, student-run theater troupe Beyond the Proscenium (BTP) will present “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” this evening in an unconventional venue for a musical: Sargent Gymnasium. Following six preteens competing in a spelling bee run by three quirky adults, the show hopes to capture the perils of adolescence.
Following BTP’s aim to bring theater to non-traditional spaces, the setting of Sargent Gymnasium is particularly fitting for a show about a middle school spelling bee, and Sargent will be decorated accordingly to provide the audience with an immersive experience. This non-traditional setting brought some challenges to the show at first.
“When we first rehearsed in there about a week ago we were all a little shocked, we weren’t quite prepared for the acoustics,” said Victoria Clarke ’17, who is playing adult “comfort” counselor Mitch Mahoney.
The cast is now confident that it has adjusted well and thinks the setting will add to the show.
“I think it’s really fun, it will totally add flavor to the show and I think it’ll provoke a lot of laughs too,” said Adam Glynn ’17.
To bring a different personality to each show, the production also requires audience participation—for each performance, four audience members are invited up to spell until they are eliminated.
“It’s a different experience for the audience, because some of them will be part of it and some of them will know people who are just themselves on stage. That’s cool, that’s a funny part of it,” said director Cordelia Orbach ’17.
While audience participation and an unconventional venue will change the pace of this piece from Bowdoin’s typical theater offerings, the lighthearted tone of the show is enough to make it stand out.
“There’ve been a lot of really heavy shows, as far as the content, and I think this one will be really fun, and really funny,” said Glynn.
Though the entirety of the narrative is set at the spelling bee, the audience learns more about each character through flashbacks as they spell their words.
“They become more complete people in that way, and I think that that is when they become the most relatable,” said Clarke.
While it may appear unusual for college students to play preteen characters, the actors felt their experiences today weren’t too far removed from the roles they are playing.
“We’re only eight to 12 years out from that period of our lives, so it’s recent enough for it to still provoke cringes but for it to definitely be funny, so I think this is an appropriate time to do it,” said Glynn. “We are toeing the line between characterizing middle schoolers, you know, inspired by our own experiences, and kind of humanizing them as well, as well as seeing the connections to the actor as an adult.”