Casting a Spell-ing Bee

Img 0883Ankeny Community Theatre presents The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee beginning October 6. This popular musical features quirky characters and delightful songs, and lets its cast be truly offbeat and memorable. The characters try to be letter-perfect, but their portrayals call for anything but serious and staid performances.

Ostensibly about an ordinary competition amongst a group of middle-schoolers, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is about more than just getting the words correct. It's about the slightly strange world the contestants inhabit, and their own dreams and fears as they approach the contest. It also allows the adult performers to get to be kids for awhile, so they can let loose and be a bit silly. There's a reason it's called a "play", after all....


Kidding Around

Katie Dorrell plays one of the young contestants, Marcy Park. "Marcy is probably one of the more 'normal' spellers," says Katie. "She doesn't have any spelling quirks like the others do. She is just confident and KNOWS she is right. I am trying to come off as a little girl who seems 'cute and innocent' whom you wouldn't expect to be as confident or aggressive as she is. Then when she spells the words BOOM! She's a force to be reckoned with."


"Being of smaller stature and young in appearance, these are the types of roles I often play. I'd say I've gotten really good at 'adults playing kids-roles.' I love playing kids, as you get to build from experiences and observations you have made throughout your life to pull from."


Img 0885Alison Buechler plays another contestant, Olive Ostrovsky. Like many of the "kids" in the show, they are adolescents... but that doesn't mean all the problems are childish. And to kids, problems can be all-encompassing. "My character of Olive has a lot of underlying issues that she keeps a lot to herself throughout the show. She's very independent for her age with a lot thrown at her."


"Each character brings their own life to the table and it's so interesting and challenging to make that character as authentic as possible. So yes, it's freeing not having to play an adult, but it doesn't come without its challenges."


Adult Supervision

Of course, there are a few others in Putnam County, such as the adults who are putting on the competition (and dealing with everything from encouraging the winners to being a "comfort counselor" for those eliminated). Some also get to wrangle a few extra competitors....


Img 0884"My character (Vice Principal Douglas Panch) deals directly with the audience volunteers," says actor Greg Romans. "So I am hoping certain people come see the show so I can put them on the spot!" Yes, there is some audience participation in Spelling Bee, so you might want to brush up on your spelling skills... you never know!!!


Adults include parents of some of the contestants, a former champion, and the aforementioned "comfort counselor" (who is performing his court-mandated community service sentence!) It's not just the kids who are quirky at this Spelling Bee!


County Community

While Ankeny Community Theatre as an organization has been around for decades, many of the cast for 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee are relatively new to the group. And yet, like the relatively "small" feel of a county spelling bee, they've found a new home here with ACT. 


This is Alison Buechler's first time in an ACT production, and she's found that welcoming feeling. "The vibes I get at ACT really remind me of the community theatre I was involved with in high school," Alison says. "Only ACT is in a bigger city. I really like the close-knit feel that ACT brings - not only in the space, but with the people. I've already made great relationships with the cast in this show - and I don't think you can get that at every community theatre."


Img 0886"Sometimes casts can get so large that you have a hard time really getting to know people. I think with the size of the cast being so small in this show, it really allows the cast to bond more, and have those relations that makes the show even more authentic."


"People should just come see this show - period. There's so much talent in this cast, and I think it's going to be a fantastic show. Audiences will be laughing, crying, and maybe will relate to one of the characters on things they maybe did when they were in elementary school. Or maybe some of them have done spelling bees before and it will bring back memories."


So, P-E-R-E-G-R-I-N-A-T-E (go) to D-E-S-C-R-Y (see) The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Performances run from October 6th through the 15th at the Ankeny Community Theatre. Tickets are available through their website at

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Ankeny Community Theatre The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Katie Dorrell Alison Buechler Greg Romans