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Help with Spelling Bee

  • 1.  Help with Spelling Bee

    Posted 09-13-2019 14:17

    This year for the musical I was looking to do a smaller show, such as 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and potentially double cast the whole thing and put up four shows instead of three (each cast getting two performances). Only issue the interest meeting I held today I pulled in 32 students who are thinking of auditioning. This has thrown everything into chaos.

    My questions are:
    1. Has anyone had experience double casting a smaller show in a high school setting?
    2. Does anyone have experience adding ensemble to Spelling Bee in a way that doesn't feel too awkward? Really out of ideas here, but I still want to do this show...trying to think of any possible way before pivoting to a different selection.

    Andrew Fallu

  • 2.  RE: Help with Spelling Bee

    Posted 09-14-2019 07:42
    I produced Spelling Bee a few years ago. It was a blast! I added an ensemble of The Putnam County Honor Choir. We created a mini stage for them to sit on, kind of like a 'gymtorium'.  They jumped into several of the songs. I even had Rona introduce them at the beginning.  They also played the roles of characters in the dream sequences like Jesus, Logainne's dads and Olive's parents. Because they were on stage the whole show, we really worked on coming up with distinct characters and staying in that character the whole show. Hope this helps!

    Jennifer Gunther
    Colerain High School
    Cincinnati OH

  • 3.  RE: Help with Spelling Bee

    Posted 09-14-2019 08:05
    Years ago I employed a similar tactic with Godspell, using my chorus for a different purpose-as a means to bolster singing-and it worked great.

    Bettie-Ann Candelora
    Director of Performing Arts
    Hackley School
    Tarrytown NY

  • 4.  RE: Help with Spelling Bee

    Posted 09-15-2019 13:42
    I'm getting on board with the ensemble playing the extra parts, my biggest hesitation comes with The I Love You Song. The potential Ronas and Mitches I think I'll get could handle that song very nicely, but I on't think anyone who would potentially end up ensemble could handle it. I know I could always b surprised, but I try to prepare for as many different outcomes as possible. I would feel weird not breaking Olive's parents to ensemble members if I'm doing it for all of the others though...

    Andrew Fallu

  • 5.  RE: Help with Spelling Bee

    Posted 09-14-2019 08:03
    We had a great time with PUTNAM COUNTY. Had an ensemble who played the parents, the entire Coney Bear family, etc. They were onstage as Spelling Bee audience for the entire show, watching from the elevated bleachers, then would exit at planed times, to change into the parent/family costumes to enter into the “dream” scenes.
    It was an acting exercise for the ensemble to stay in character the entire time.

    A fun happening-Rachel Feldman the creator of the show was vacationing in town, saw our show poster and brought her own children. She volunteered to be an audience speller, using her maiden name. I did not tell the cast until after the performance. We have a memorable cast photo with her.

    Gai Laing Jones
    President of Educational Theatre Association (EdTA), National Board Member of Educational Theatre Foundation (ETF), CETA Executive Board, DTASC Advocacy Director, SAG/AFTRA Member
    Ojai, CA

  • 6.  RE: Help with Spelling Bee

    Posted 09-15-2019 13:38
    That's awesome! I'm sure the students lost it when they realized who she was. We had a similar experience when we did Charlie Brown five years ago, and a former cast member of that show ended up at on of our performances somehow. Small world!

    Out of curiosity, how big was your ensemble? Did they seem happy with the amount they were being asked to do? My biggest fear is making sure there would be enough for a hypothetical ensemble to do in this show.

    Andrew Fallu

  • 7.  RE: Help with Spelling Bee

    Posted 09-14-2019 09:25
    Andrew, I double cast our shows all the time. It does take a little longer to block the show, but it sure saved me in the past. I can’t tell you how many times an actor got sick during rehearsals, or they would go on college tours or school retreats. I find double casting incredibly helpful.

    Sent from my iPhone

  • 8.  RE: Help with Spelling Bee

    Posted 09-15-2019 13:36
    It has been so nice to hear other people who do this on the regular! A post I made in the Musical Theater subreddit garnered a lot of student responses in support of double casting, saying it was the norm at their school. Do you double cast ensemble as well? I am still trying to think through what do with a potential ensemble in a show like Spelling Bee...if I dont double cast the ensemble and take everyone, I'm looking at an ensemble of like, nearly 20 for this show which just doesn't feel good.

    Andrew Fallu

  • 9.  RE: Help with Spelling Bee

    Posted 09-18-2019 13:13
    We've doubled every major musical role that we could for a number of years now.  With 2 goals always in mind.  #1 They gotta have the talent.  #2 It saves us so often.  It does take a little more patience and energy to handle.. but lots of times it helps (you get a study buddy ​​and loads more leads = MORE AUDIENCE!)  As far as extending the Chorus - We always look at the costs...  creatively, "will the audience accept it, and time wise it will take more time with more bodies on stage...)


    [Drama] [Dan] []
    [Drama Teacher/Director]
    [Dublin Coffman HS]
    [Dublin] [Ohio]

  • 10.  RE: Help with Spelling Bee

    Posted 09-18-2019 15:26
    We did an added ensemble of 4 people. I gave them all like pun names (Constance Norring, Summer Camp, Paige Turner, Penny Lane) and we used that to make them a broad stereotype (sleepy girl, super into friendship bracelets and tie-dye, reader, hippie). I had them all spell twice and made up fun facts about them. They were in charge of the audience members and made sure they knew what to do. I had them go off in that big round that eventually gets Leaf out and it worked pretty seamlessly.

    As for the random things, I just had students in the cast do it, except for one student who wanted a small role of Jesus. It worked out great and was one of their favorite shows to be a part of. We ended up with about 15 or so in the cast.

    If you have to cut kids, I think it can be okay. We are doing a fall play with 13 in the cast and 25 auditioned.I just made it very clear to them that a lot will not be cast. I put in the cast email that if they wanted any feedback from me, they could email me. I think some people might have been a bit sad, but since they knew how small it was, they ended up not having much drama with it. I always tell them when they aren't cast they appreciate their roles more and it ultimately makes them a better performer.

    Jaclyn Marta
    Moline IL