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Spelling BEE Blow back

  • 1.  Spelling BEE Blow back

    Posted 08-09-2021 09:57
    Has anyone had any blowback from the Administration and or Parents from this performance? I was told that due to the language and the message that it portrays that it is inappropriate for a high school.  No clarification on what was meant from this as: what language and which message they were talking about?  Would love to have a list of schools that have done this show so I may take it to my administration!!  Thank you for all your help!!!

    Charles Puetzer
    Math Department
    Stage Manager
    Michigan City High School
    8466 W Pahs Road
    Michigan City, IN 46360
    (219) 873-2044, ext. 4360

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  • 2.  RE: Spelling BEE Blow back

    Posted 08-10-2021 06:11
    This is actually the only show I've done that anyone complained about the content. I had one parent tell me that he thought the song "Pandemonium" was inappropriate because the students took the Lord's name in vain. This parent was from a very religious family. My admin, however, liked the show and I only had this one complaint.

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  • 3.  RE: Spelling BEE Blow back

    Posted 08-10-2021 06:47
    Thank you

  • 4.  RE: Spelling BEE Blow back

    Posted 08-10-2021 06:17
    We did SPELLING BEE 8 years ago without the allowable changes.

  • 5.  RE: Spelling BEE Blow back

    Posted 08-10-2021 08:23
    We have done the show twice and used the suggested changes. We didn't have a single complaint.

    Pat Santanello
    Dublin, Ohio

    Patricia J. Santanello, Ed.D.
    Educational Theatre Association - Ohio Chapter
    Co-Chapter Director
    Dublin Scioto High School
    Dublin, Ohio

  • 6.  RE: Spelling BEE Blow back

    Posted 08-10-2021 08:55
    Hi Charles.

    We just did Spelling Bee in May.  The parents and community LOVED it, but my principal was up in arms about the content.  He came to the first performance and we had to make several changes to the script.  We had to tone down the verbal and physical references to Chip's "distraction" (even with the alternate version of "Chip's Lament"), change all the "Goddammits", and remove the "Mexican" definition.   My supervisor approved the script.  It was done at 2-3 neighboring schools this year alone, and we put a PG-13 warning on advertisements.  My principal still did not think it was appropriate for the high school community--even though all of the sexual references went over younger children's heads.  I loved doing the show, but the drama that unfolded during and after the production (again--only from my administration) made me regret doing it.  I don't think you can clean up the script enough and keep the humor.  If you are already having issues with your administration, I'd move on.  It's a shame it is such a wonderful show and the teens especially adore it.  To me, not worth the hassle though.  Do it at the community level :)  Best of luck!

    Laura Russo
    Teacher/Director of Theatre Arts
    Chatham High School

  • 7.  RE: Spelling BEE Blow back

    Posted 08-10-2021 17:24
    We just did this show last season. The small cast enabled us to mitigate risk in the very best way. We usually do big and flashy. Bee was not only ideal for the circumstances, but the messaging (if you want it) is there and so important. The conversations with the cast and we studied this beautiful show and its characters and their importance to the story was immeasurable. As a theatre educator I couldn't ask for anything more. We did this in a small rural Utah community. I did have one aggressive parent (not even attached to a student in our program) that put forth a surprising effort to have the show canceled. We even met with her and addressed all of her concerns and it still was not enough. I was heartened in a difficult year to get full support from my administration and ultimately all the way up to the school board and superintendent. I think if she had come to the actual show, even she would have supported it.
    We opted for the alternate lyrics (which are provided by the writers) for Chip's Lament and as with everything, so much is in the way you handle it (intent, inflection, characterization and storytelling). That part of the show ended up both humorous and sweet and dare I say unoffensive to anyone. This was her biggest issue and she could never let go of the fact that it was different in the original Broadway production and that we should have never even considered it because it once was in there. Sigh.
    Her next concern was that Logan had two dads. I let her know that many of us who have had a parent divorce and re-marry also end up with two dads. Some like Logainne are students in our school. Some are in our production. Life and families come in all sorts and there is something to talking about it. There is also so very important material in the script pertaining to her dads and how they raise her and how they treat her and how she ultimately reacts to their desire for her to win the Bee at all costs.
    Likewise, I anticipated issues with Jesus in the show, but ultimately chose to have that handled as a disembodied voice speaking to Marcy. She just looked heavenward and all the lines played perfectly. The message was perfect. The message of the whole show is perfect, and the beauty of it is how it resonates even in the midst of hilarity. The show is hilarious. Important and challenging and hilarious. Please do the show. I will be happy to advocate for you. Email me or even call if you need to Charles.

    Christopher Piner
    Drama Teacher/director
    Uintah High School

  • 8.  RE: Spelling BEE Blow back

    Posted 08-10-2021 17:26
    May I add also, that once we opened and people actually saw it, not one complaint and lots of praise.

    Christopher Piner
    Drama Teacher/director
    Uintah High School

  • 9.  RE: Spelling BEE Blow back

    Posted 08-11-2021 13:04
    We used the optional/suggested changes and got no complaints.  The show was fantastic, and the material was perfect for our high school kids.  Isn't hard to hearken back to junior high days when you are a high school student!  Two things we did: we put in our publicity that there were junior high and high school issues and language in the show.  Also, in "Pandemonium," I coached the kids to overdo their characterization with the "God damn it" lyrics--some were whispering, some were shouting and then looking over their shoulders to see if their parents heard, some (on-stage) parents reacted with shock/disapproval, some looked embarrassed, some responded with a "kids will be kids" shrug.  I, personally, think this approach was good for the kids as well as the audience.  It allowed the kids to choose something in their comfort zone and the audience to see a wide variety of reactions to the swearing.

    Kristen Hoch
    Thunderhawk Theater Director
    Lakota East High School
    Liberty Twp, OH

  • 10.  RE: Spelling BEE Blow back

    Posted 08-11-2021 07:53
    Happy New School Year!

    Did the show 10 years ago. Fantastic experience and many relevant topics that tied into SEL and made for great exploration and discussions.

    We made most of the recommended and approved edits for high school. (i.e. "Distraction" and "Gosh Darn Letter"). We had the right ethnicities and had Chip come back as Jesus. When Marcy said her line as he appeared on stage, it brought the house down.

    This was one of the best experiences I've had with my kiddos. I hope you get your production gets the go ahead.

    William J. Eyerly, Ph. D, Ed. D
    Director of Theatre K-12
    The Village School of Naples
    Executive Director
    Gainesville Association for the Creative Arts
    Fort Myers, FL

  • 11.  RE: Spelling BEE Blow back

    Posted 08-11-2021 11:25
    We did this show in 2015 - and it was well-received overall, and we are in a very conservative community.  We used the alternate lyrics for the Unfortunate Distraction song - which helped.

    My son played Panch - and there is some flexibility about which words and definitions can be used, if I recall correctly - which allowed us to tailor the jokes a bit to suit the limits of our community better.

    Is it possible that they read/watched a production that was simply too "over the top" and they're afraid that yours would be the same?   Our HS principal has had a few concerns over lines in other shows we've done in the past (Almost, Maine and Clue) - but ultimately, we have a good relationship and were able to convince him to trust us to handle scenes responsibly.

    Perhaps knowing that you have some "creative license" to tailor the actual spelling words used would put admin's mind at ease?

    Best of luck!

  • 12.  RE: Spelling BEE Blow back

    Posted 08-11-2021 12:51
    We performed it in March and had no negative feedback. We used the alternate version of Chip's song, and changed the word in Pandemonium to gosh darn it. We had a girl play Jesus with two tough-looking guardian angels. We also didn't use all of the words and definitions provided - I think Mexican lettuce is hilarious, but the kids thought it was too much, so we didn't use it.

    I can understand objections to a few words, but the message of the play? Part of the message is to be yourself and be proud of who you are.

    Good luck with this - it is such a fun show!

    Ken Buswell
    Drama Teacher
    Peachtree City, GA

    Theater kills ignorance

  • 13.  RE: Spelling BEE Blow back

    Posted 08-11-2021 14:40
    I did the show twice and had a wonderful reaction from students, parents, audiences and admin.  I think it's got so much heart and is so much fun.

    Jenni Caruso
    Theatre Director
    Salem High School
    Conyers, GA

  • 14.  RE: Spelling BEE Blow back

    Posted 08-11-2021 16:29
    I did Spelling Bee in 2014. I chose the alternate version of Unfortunate Erection, mostly because I didn't want to get into it with my music director, who's a pretty strict Fundamentalist. He loved the show, but I do remember him pounding extra hard on the piano to drown out the God damn its. Our principal loved the show, and even  agreed to be a guest speller.
    If your admin has already made up their mind, you may be out of luck, but just in case you need some real data to back you up, Putnam County was the third most produced high school musical as recently as 2016.
    You should also show your principal the section in the back of the libretto that shows the alternate material. Let them work with you on it, like a choose your own adventure!

    Billy Houck
    Theatre Teacher, Retired
    Northern Rep to the California Thespian State Board
    Carmichael, CA

  • 15.  RE: Spelling BEE Blow back

    Posted 08-20-2021 09:48
    We had no negative feedback from out production and brought up several administrators as part of the show. We did use the suggested changes in the script, but it did not detract from the hilarity of and sincerity of this piece.

    Crit Fisher
    Lighting/Sound Designer
    New Albany High School

  • 16.  RE: Spelling BEE Blow back

    Posted 29 days ago
    Mr. Puetzer...
    I was on a production of this a few years back at Eastside Prep in Seattle. We produced it to great fanfare and no blowback. It was a crowd pleasing experience for all. I have a feeling, acceptance of this edgy(?) type of material is almost wholly contingent upon region. As Ms. Gunther pointed out there could be some religious/sex related complaints in a few areas.

    I found these that might be of interest...

    And then a little while later...

    Just goes to show that sometimes a little pushback to the blowback can make a difference!

    I wish you all the best with your campaign to produce the really is a nice piece.

    David Holmes

  • 17.  RE: Spelling BEE Blow back

    Posted 28 days ago
    We did this May 2021 as it was easy to socially distance and had a small cast. No complaints--everyone just seemed happy to actually have a spring show. With that said, some of the language is a little dated at this point (Gay/Straight Alliance joke) and the erection song definitely had the audience a little uncomfortable. But no complaints and lots of love....
    Sunset High School, Portland, OR. Actually, we've performed it twice. First time was back in 2012.

    Christopher Rust