Adults play the roles of children in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

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Sam Shepard(left) and Brad Pontius(right) in costume and character on the set of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Photo credit/Amanda Barnett
Sam Shepard(left) and Brad Pontius(right) in costume and character on the set of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Photo credit/Amanda Barnett

Staff Writer

The IU South Bend theatre department is buzzing with excitement as they prepare for the annual spring production.

This spring, the IU South Bend Theatre and Dance Company, under the direction of Assistant Professor of Theatre Justin Amellio, will present “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

Performances will be held at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 9 through Saturday, April 11 and at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 12 in the Campus Auditorium located in Northside Hall.

Tickets are free for students. The cost is $5 to $9 for everyone else. Pick up tickets in the Northside Hall box office or call 574-520-4203 to reserve tickets.

The play showcases college students playing the parts of children competing in a spelling bee. The lead character, William Barfée, is played by IUSB theatre student Brad Pontius.

“He is very nerdy and has every sort of health issue in the book,” Pontius said about Barfée. “He talks like he has a head cold the entire time and he has a magic foot that helps him spell.”

Pontius enjoys playing the role of the super nerd who is adorned in suspenders and always carrying a first aid kit. His favorite part about the play is the dancing.

“My dance song in the play is called ‘Magic Foot.’ It’s a funny dance, and I have a feeling it will really make the audience laugh,” he said.

“The Theatre and Dance Department decided on this play because it is a contemporary musical with a wonderful message: Be true to yourself whoever you are,” said Amellio, the director.

“This musical takes us back to a time in our lives of awkward adolescence, competitive glee, soaring hopes and dreams, and reminds us how important it is to celebrate the things that make each and every one of us unique,” said Amellio.

The “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is a unique musical because it includes audience participation.

“At the very beginning of the show, there will be four members of the audience who are pulled up on stage to participate in the spelling bee,” said Pontius.

“If you’d like to be considered as an audience volunteer, show up at least twenty minutes before curtain and let us know at the audience volunteer table. There are a limited number of spots,” said Amellio.

IUSB theatre student Samantha Shepard plays the role of Marcy Park who is the overachieving catholic school girl adorned in a plaid skirt, crisp white shirt and black mary janes.

“I believe the audience will enjoy the characters, because they’re over the top and they’re a lot of fun,” she said.

Yuri Cataldo, Indiana University South Bend visiting lecturer in scene design, designed the set for the play. The entire show has one set which is a gymnasium where the spelling bee takes place.

“There’s things that we’re trying that have never been done before. For instance you’re going to be able to see the band on stage and they’ll be the Putnam County School Band,” said Cataldo.

The show is intended for a mature audience. It includes light cussing and a song called “My Unfortunate Erection.”

Pontius, who is very passionate about his part and the play said, “This is, by far, the funniest musical I’ve ever been involved with. Come see us dance, sing and spell our way into Putnam County history, and maybe have the chance to get on stage and make some history with us!”

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