November 23, 2014  

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Southern Miss to Present “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”

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From left, William Barfée (Chris Dixon), Olive Ostrovsky (Kira Lyon) and Vice Principal Douglas Panch (Elliot Yates) rehearse Southern Miss’ production of “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

The University of Southern Mississippi fall theatre season concludes with an upbeat, high energy musical when “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is presented in conjunction with the School of Music at the Martha R. Tatum Theatre main stage, beginning Thursday, Nov. 17.

“Spelling Bee,” the 2005 winner of a Tony Award for Best Book of a Musical, includes a storyline featuring six youth competing for the spelling championship of a lifetime while blending comedy with song to become an audience favorite.

Director Sean Boyd, an acting and movement professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance, said “Spelling Bee” is full of iconic characters that audience members will identify with or remind them of someone they know, as well as connect with through the ups and downs of relationships, the challenges of determining personal identity at a young age and finding validation while moving to the next stage of one’s life.

“It’s amazing how these actors have taken to this play,” Boyd said. “It’s a very challenging task in that most of the characters are on stage frequently, but they have treated it like professionals from day one.”

Kira Lyon, a senior from Petal, Miss. who plays Olive Ostrovsky, one of the lead characters said “Olive is a shy, reserved 12-year old who comes to the spelling bee with a love for words,” she said. “Words are a comfort to her, and a dictionary is her best friend.

“For her, the bee is a way to help her blossom, to transition from childhood into the young woman she wants to be.”

Audience members are incorporated into the musical without need for prior rehearsal, as they are portrayed as spellers along with the other cast members. Improvisation is also relied on heavily in the show, with no two performances ever alike.

Characters and cast members include:

·         Rona Lisa Peritti - Margaret Wild, a senior from New Orleans, La.

·         Vice Principal Douglas Panch - Elliot Yates, a music graduate student from Philadelphia, Miss.

·         Mitch Mahoney - Trequon Tate, a senior from Starkville, Miss.

·         Olive Ostrovsky - Kira Lyon, a senior from Petal, Miss.

·         William Barfée - Chris Dixon, a senior from Hattiesburg

·         Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre - Megan Poole, a junior from Pearl, Miss.

·         Marcy Park- Jennifer Diaz, a sophomore from Biloxi, Miss.

·         Leaf Coneybear- Charlie Davis, a senior from Oxford, Miss.

·         Chip Tolentino- Bennett Forrest, a sophomore from Tupelo, Miss.

·         Music Director: Jennifer Hart, a DMA candidate from the Department of Music

Performance dates and times for “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” are Nov. 17, 18, 19; Dec. 1, 2, 3, at 7:30 p.m.; and Nov. 20 and Dec. 4 at 2 p.m. Admission price is $12 for general public; $10 for faculty, staff, seniors and military; $6 students. The show contains mature themes. For more information about the Southern Miss theatre program, visit http://www.usm.edu/theatre