Spelling Bee Thursday: Famous Last Words

1401418262000-A01-v2-NL-SPELLING-BEE-30-sJust a few more rounds of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee are left and for the final week, we are looking at some of the famous last words at the National Spelling Bee!

Would you be able to beat the national champion? Here is a list of the winning words from the final round, from the past 10 years:

  • appoggiatura (2005): an embellishing note or tone preceding an essential melodic note or tone and usually written as a note of smaller size.
  • Ursprache (2006) a parent language; especially one reconstructed from the evidence of later languages
  • serrefine (2007) a small forceps for clamping a blood vessel
  • guerdon (2008) reward
  • Laodicean (2009) lukewarm or indifferent in religion or politics
  • Stromuhr (2010) a rheometer designed to measure the amount and speed of blood flow through an artery
  • Cymotrichous (2011) having wavy hair
  • guetapens (2012) a trap
  • Knaidel (2013) matzo ball
  • Stichomythia (2014) dialogue in which two characters speak alternate lines of verse, used as a stylistic device in ancient Greek drama
  • feuilleton (2014) a part of a newspaper or magazine devoted to fiction, criticism, or light literature
  • Scherenschnitte (2015) meaning ‘scissor cuts’ in German, is the art of paper cutting design, often featuring elements of symmetry
  • nunatak (2015) an exposed, often rocky element of a ridge, mountain, or peak not covered with ice or snow within (or at the edge of) an ice field or glacier

(Source: International Business Times)

Don’t miss the highly acclaimed musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee before it ends this Sunday, Nov. 8– book your tickets by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or visit TheRep.org.

And don’t forget: we are offering $10 off all remaining tickets to the musical. Get yours now!

Spelling Bee Thursday: The Spelling Bee in Popular Culture

We are in the fifth week of our Spelling Bee Thursday blog series highlighting all-things The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

To get you in the spelling spirit, this week, we are taking a look at spelling bees in popular culture with a little help from our Dramaturg Robert Neblett.

Spelling bees have become one of the most recognizable symbols of American education and have infiltrated many aspects of popular culture throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. The bee represents hard work, ingenuity and even the democratic impulse of the American Dream. In addition to The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, many books, plays, TV programs and films have explored the quirky, cutthroat world of this academic competition.

CB Spelling Bee 2 Cropped In 1969, the Peanuts characters made their animated feature film debut in “A Boy Named Charlie Brown,” which followed everyone’s favorite blockhead as he becomes an unexpected local celebrity by qualifying for the National Spelling Bee. One of the most iconic aspects of this movie’s portrayal of the bee participants is the way the spellers’ heads “pop” and disappear when they are eliminated, expressing the deflation and disappointment that accompanies losing the contest. Another classic sequence features Charlie Brown, Linus and Snoopy learning basic spelling rules through the mnemonic song “I Before E Except After C,” accompanied by the country’s favorite beagle on a twangy jaw-harp.

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The documentary “Spellbound.”

Season 3 of “South Park” parodied the Peanuts in the episode “Hooked on Monkey Fonics,” in which Cartman loses the bee to a pair of home-schooled siblings. The female sibling, Rebecca, is based upon the winner of the 1997 National Spelling Bee, whose idiosyncrasies included shouting out each letter of her assigned words and whispering into her hands before answering.

In 2006, the film “Akeelah and the Bee” featured Keke Palmer as the title character, who competes in the National Spelling Bee. The film also stars Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett. The film has been embraced by the Scripps National Spelling Bee and is recommended in a number of spelling-related activities on the organization’s websites as a way of raising awareness of the love of spelling.

In 2002, writer and director Jeffrey Bilitz released an Academy Award-nominated documentary called “Spellbound” that viewed the 1999 National Spelling Bee through the eyes of eight of its young competitors. The film exposes many of the quirky techniques employed by young spellers, some of which were adapted by characters in the Spelling Bee musical.

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Jason Bateman in “Bad Words.”

In 2013, the dark comedy “Bad Words,” starring Jason Bateman, features an adult character who enters a fictionalized version of the Scripps National Spelling Bee due to a loophole in the rules which makes him able to compete because he dropped out of middle school and, therefore, never completed the eighth grade. During the course of the film, Bateman’s character befriends a young Indian-American competitor.

The 1992 play Eleemosynary by Lee Blessing features a character who was a spelling bee champion and struggles to aid her eidetic mother in caring for her grandmother, who has recently suffered a stroke.

In 1986, the ABC family movie “The Girl Who Spelled Freedom” tells the story of a young refugee from Cambodia who confronts the difficulties and prejudices of her new American home by competing in a local spelling bee.Simpsons Spelling Bee

Other television programs, such as “The Simpsons,” “My Name is Earl,” “The Proud Family,” “Family Guy” and “Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide have featured prominent characters and plotlines revolving around spelling bees as well.

Have you seen any of these movies or shows?

Don’t miss the highly acclaimed musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee when it takes center stage Oct. 16-Nov. 8– book your tickets by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or visit TheRep.org.

Spelling Bee Thursday: Bee Trivia

Photo of 1925 National Bee Finalists

The 1925 National Bee finalists

 We are in the fourth week of our Spelling Bee Thursday blog series highlighting all-things The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

To get you in the spelling spirit, this week, we thought it would be fun share a few fun facts about spelling bees and the Tony Award-winning musical with a little help from our Dramaturg Robert Neblett.

Here we go:

Why is it called a “bee”?

(Source: SpellingBee.Com, the official website of the Scripps National Spelling Bee)

The word bee, as used in spelling bee, is one of those language puzzles that has never been satisfactorily accounted for. A fairly old and widely-used word, it refers to a community social gathering at which friends and neighbors join together in a single activity (sewing, quilting, barn raising, etc.) usually to help one person or family. The earliest known example in print is a spinning bee in 1769. Other early occurrences are husking bee (1816), apple bee (1827) and logging bee (1836). Spelling bee is apparently an American term. It first appeared in print in 1875, but it seems certain that the word was used orally for several years before that.

Those who used the word, including most early students of language, assumed that it was the same word as referred to the insect. They thought that this particular meaning had probably been inspired by the obvious similarity between these human gatherings and the industrious, social nature of a beehive. But in recent years scholars have rejected this explanation, suggesting instead that this bee is a completely different word.

One possibility is that it comes from the Middle English word bene, which means “a prayer” or “a favor” (and is related to the more familiar word boon). In England, a dialect form of this word, been or bean, referred to “voluntary help given by neighbors toward the accomplishment of a particular task.”

Bee may simply be a shortened form of been, but no one is entirely certain.

Short History of the Musical

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee began as a heavily-improvised performance piece titled C-R-E-P-U-S-C-L-E, originally conceived by Rebecca Feldman and the members of her company The Farm, in 2002. After its initial success, the play was adapted as a musical in 2004 by Rachel Sheinkin and William Finn (the composer behind Falsettos and A New Brain). The musical originated at the Barrington Stage Company, then played off-Broadway at Second Stage Theatre in 2005, transferring to Broadway at Circle in the Square Theatre later that year. Spelling Bee won two Tony Awards in 2005, one for Best Book of a Musical by Rachel Sheinkin and Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical (Dan Fogler as William Barfée). Fogler is the only member of the original cast of C-R-E-P-U-S-C-L-E to remain with the show through the Broadway run.

40th Anniversary Season Connections

Did you know that Broadway’s original Olive Ostrovsky, played by Celia Keenan-Bolger, also played the female lead role of Molly in the original New York production of Peter and the Starcatcher?

2015 Spelling Bee Champs (2)Co-Winners

A tie can be declared if the national competition officials run out of words from the year’s approved list before one of the top two spellers are eliminated. In 2014 and 2015, the Scripps National Spelling Bee declared co-winners: Sriram Hathwar, an eighth-grader from New York, and Ansun Sujoe, a seventh-grader from Texas, in 2014; and Vanya Shivashankar (Kansas) and Gokul Venkatachalam (Missouri) in 2015. This has only happened five times in the history of the National Spelling Bee, and the last time co-winners were crowned prior to 2014 was 1962.

A-R-K-A-N-S-A-S

While the 1995 national champion was technically a resident of Arkansas at the time of his win, his official state affiliation was Tennessee. To date, no Arkansas resident has ever won the national spelling bee.

“Parent/Teacher Nights

Beginning with the original Broadway production, companies of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee often schedule adults-only performances of the musical, featuring risqué vocabulary words and blush-worthy definitions and sentence usage examples, provided by the character of Vice Principal Panch.

Sharpton Tony Awards (2)

Al Sharpton was one of the volunteer participants during a scene from The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the Tony Awards.

Audience Participation

More than 4,500 audience members joined the Broadway cast onstage as volunteer spellers during its original New York run. This aspect of the show adds an element of unpredictability to the evening’s festivities. One audience volunteer was a National Spelling Bee champion, and she lasted 14 rounds onstage before being eliminated. Another memorable audience moment involved a spectator who angrily accused the actor playing Barfée of misspelling words during the performance. A celebrity audience sighting saved one performance when an actor became ill onstage and Panch noticed TV star David Hasselhoff in the crowd and brought him onstage while the sick actor’s understudy was prepped to go on in her place.

The Cast is a Modern Family

The actor who originated the role of home-schooled speller Leaf Coneybear in the New York production is acclaimed stage and screen actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson, best known as Mitchell on ABC’s popular comedy Modern Family.

Home-Schooled Champions

The winners of the 1997 and 2000 National Spelling Bees were home-schooled students like the musical’s Leaf Coneybear. It is unknown, however, if they were cape-wearing dinosaur enthusiasts.

Don’t miss the highly acclaimed musical when it takes center stage Oct. 16-Nov. 8– book your tickets by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or visit TheRep.org.

Spelling Bee Thursday: An Introduction

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The original Broadway cast of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee in 2005.

We are in the second week of our Spelling Bee Thursday blog series highlighting all-things The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

This week, we are breaking things down a bit and offering a look at what exactly the show is about, a little history and more.

Here we go:

Synopsis

From William Finn, the composer of Falsettos, A New Brain and Little Miss Sunshine, comes a Tony Award-winning look at the all-too-familiar world of adolescence, told with hilarity, catchy tunes and surprising poignancy.

The gloves are off in the take-no-prisoners, cold-blooded, dog-eat-dog world of competitive spelling as a menagerie of pre-pubescent misfits vies to d-e-c-i-m-a-t-e their young rivals on the cutthroat path to the national spelling bee championship.

Hormones rage and pulses pound as our awkward adversaries engage in feats of o-r-t-h-o-g-r-a-p-h-i-c prowess. The winner will receive a shining trophy and a luxurious DC hotel room with a big screen TV. The loser – nothing but a broken heart, a pat on the back and a juice box.

History

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, first conceived by Rebecca Feldman with music/lyrics by William Finn and a book by Rachel Sheinkin, began development at the Barrington Stage Company of Pittsfield, Mass. in two different stages, according to the Musical Theatre International website.

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Patrick Halley as William Morris Barfee in The Rep’s The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

After developing into full-scale musical, Spelling Bee then moved Off-Broadway to the Second Stage Theatre under the direction of James Lapine. Opening for previews on Jan. 11, 2005, and officially on Feb. 7, 2005, Spelling Bee received great reviews, sold out its limited engagement, broke box office records at Second Stage and extended its run. The musical concluded its short but successful Off-Broadway stint on March 20, 2005.

One month later, on April 15, 2005, Spelling Bee transferred to Broadway at the Circle in the Square Theatre, again receiving outstanding critical and box-office achievement. The show closed on January 20, 2008 after 1,136 performances and has since lived on with major success in two national tours, numerous international productions and numerous regional productions at theatres across the country.

Awards

This laugh-out-loud musical comedy has won numerous major awards since taking Broadway by storm, including:

  • Drama Desk Awards for Book of a Musical (Rachel Sheinkin), Director of a Musical (James Lapine) and Ensemble Performance
  • Outer Critics Circle Award for Featured Actor in a Musical (Dan Fogler)
  • Tony Awards for Book of a Musical (Rachel Sheinkin) and Featured Actor in a Musical (Dan Fogler)

Learn more about the fun (and youthful) costumes in our From Script to Stage video series here!

Don’t miss the highly acclaimed musical when it takes center stage Oct. 16-Nov. 8– book your tickets by calling the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or visit TheRep.org.