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!

Closing Week of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee: Engage with Us!

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The cast of The Rep’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Photo by Stephen B. Thornton.

Just a few more rounds of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee are left and for the final week, there are a few things to look out for!

Here is this week’s lineup of fun happenings:

Tuesday, Nov. 3

Preshow pizza: Take a bite out of FREE Vino’s pizza before the 7 p.m. performance!

Thursday, Nov. 5

Beer Night with Arkansas Times and Lost 40: Get your evening started early with a preshow beer tasting. Sponsored by Arkansas Times and Golden Eagle.

Saturday, Nov. 7

The After-Party: Stick around after the performance of Spelling Bee for drinks and look for members of the cast to make an appearance in Foster’s.

Don’t miss the highly acclaimed musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee as it runs through 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: Meet the Spellers!

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

In the Opening Week, we would like to introduce who you will be seeing vying for the Spelling Bee championship in Putnam County.

Meet the spellers:

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Tommy Martinez as Chip Tolentino. Photo by John David Pittman.

Chip Tolentino
An athletic, social, boy scout and champion of the Twenty-Fourth Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, he returns to defend his title, but he finds puberty hitting at an inopportune moment.

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Tessa Faye as Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre (Schwarzy). Photo by John David Pittman.

Logainne Schwartzandgrunenierre (Schwartzy)

Logainne is the youngest and most politically aware speller, often making comments about current political figures. She is driven by internal and external pressure, but above all by a desire to win to make her two fathers proud. She is somewhat of a neat freak, speaks with a lisp, and will be back next year.

Ethan Paulini as Leaf Coneybear. Photo by John David Pittman.

Ethan Paulini as Leaf Coneybear. Photo by John David Pittman.

Leaf Coneybear

The second runner-up in his district, Leaf gets into the competition on a lark and finds everything about the bee incredibly amusing. He is home-schooled and comes from a large family of former hippies. He has severe Attention Deficit Disorder and spells words correctly while in a trance.
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Patrick Halley as William Morris Barfee. Photo by John David Pittman.

William Morris Barfee
A Putnam County Spelling Bee finalist last year, he was eliminated because of an allergic reaction to peanuts and is back for vindication. His famous “Magic Foot” method of spelling has boosted him to spelling glory, even though he only has one working nostril and a touchy, bullying personality. He develops a crush on Olive.
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Conly Basham as Olive Ostrovsky. Photo by John David Pittman.

Olive Ostrovsky
A young newcomer to competitive spelling. Her mother is in an ashram in India, and her father is working late, as usual, but he is trying to come sometime during the bee. Having found comfort in its words and vastness, Olive made friends with her dictionary at a very young age, helping her to make it to the competition. She starts enormously shy, and shyly blossoms.
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Laura Dadap as Marcy Park. Photo by John David Pittman.

Marcy Park
A recent transfer from Virginia, Marcy placed ninth in last year’s nationals. She speaks six languages, is a member of all-American hockey, a championship rugby player, plays Chopin and Mozart on multiple instruments, sleeps only three hours a night, hides in the bathroom cabinet, and is getting very tired of always winning. She is the poster child for the Over-Achieving Asian, and attends a Catholic school called “Our Lady of Intermittent Sorrows.” She is also not allowed to cry.
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.

Opening Week of Spelling Bee: Engage With Us!

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The cast of The Rep’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Photo by John David Pittman.

Can you believe it? It’s the Opening Week of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, the second production in The Rep’s landmark 40th MainStage Season!

Now that we are in our third week of October, we are excited to get our fall musical started and give our patrons engaging activities.

Here is this week’s lineup of fun events:

Wednesday, October 14:

  • Preshow Director Talk, 6:15-6:45 p.m.: Get exclusive insight into our production of Spelling Bee from Director Bob Hupp and the creative team before the start of the preview performances. FREE!
  • Pay What You Can Night, 7 p.m.: The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette presents The Rep’s “Pay What You Can Night” on Wednesday, Oct. 14. Patrons can pay any amount they wish for their ticket. Tickets must be purchased in person at the Box Office at 601 Main Street the day of the performance. The Box Office will be open from 9 a.m. until curtain. Tickets are limited to (2) two per person. Offer is based on seating availability.

Thursday, October 15:

  • Clinton School Speaker Series, 12-1 p.m. Clinton School Join Producing Artistic Director Bob Hupp and members of the cast and creative team for a panel discussion on this musical. RSVP by emailing the Clinton School of Public Service. FREE!
  • Preshow Director Talk, 6:15-6:45 p.m.: Get exclusive insight into our production of Spelling Bee from Director Bob Hupp and the creative team before the start of the preview performances. FREE!

Friday, October 16:

  • Opening Night performance and post-show party, 8 p.m.: Opening Night for Spelling Bee will include a post-show reception with the cast immediately following the show. Complimentary champagne and light hors d’oeuvres will be provided.

Sunday, October 18:

  • Pay Your Age Night, 7 p.m.: Little Rock Soiree presents The Rep’s “Pay Your Age Night” on Sunday, Oct. 18. Are you age 22 – 40? Pay Your Age at The Rep! Top off your weekend with great theatre at a great price. Plus, enjoy a complimentary wine tasting provided by Colonial Wine and Spirits. Tickets are limited to four per household, Proof of age for each member of the party is required at time of pick-up.

Check out our full lineup of surround events during the show’s run from October 14-November 8 here and book your tickets by calling (501) 378-0405 or visiting 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.

From Script to Stage: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Costume Design

21218014154_a9b054655a_kIn addition to props, costumes are a major thread in the storytelling of any show.

For The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Costume Designer Shelly Hall created the costumes with children in mind.

We have launched a new video series From Script to Stage this season and for the fourth in the series, we had a chance to talk to Hall about the  inspiration of the costumes and how she was able to transform the adult actors into kid characters, plus more. Check it out below!

See all of the fun costumes firsthand by booking your tickets when the musical takes center stage Oct. 16-Nov. 8– call the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or visit TheRep.org.

Spelling Bee Thursday: Q&A with Ethan Paulini

Ethan Paulini as Leaf Coneybear. Photo by John David Pittman.

Ethan Paulini as Leaf Coneybear. Photo by John David Pittman.

Can you spell F-U-N?

To highlight all of the cool (and funny) things about our upcoming show The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, we have launched a week blog series called Spelling Bee Thursday!

Our dramaturg, Robert Neblett, had a chance to talk with Ethan Paulini on his role as the cute and socially awkward Leaf Coneybear, his incredible involvement with Arkansas Repertory Theatre, what patrons can expect from the interactive show and tons more.

Here is what he had to say!

Q: You’ve had a busy year with The Rep. Can you talk to us about your growing relationship with the company and your activities in Little Rock over the past few months?

A: I started working at the Rep in 2007 and The Bee will mark my seventh production. Recently, I have come even more frequently because I directed the SMTI Select program in a production of Carole King’s musical Really Rosie in the brand new Education Annex. As an artist, beyond looking for a community, you also really seek an artistic home. I have found that here. To watch this organization grow and evolve and for me to be able to go on that ride to some extent is so rewarding. I am so grateful to Bob, Nicole, Mike and everyone at The Rep for their continued support and trust. From being able to play incredible roles like Buddy in Elf to becoming a staff member of SMTI, I take great responsibility and pride in the challenges The Rep presents to me. In addition, the patrons and community of Little Rock has been so welcoming that central Arkansas has really become my second home. I strive to do the best work here because both the supportive staff and the astute patrons deserve that. I look forward to watching the organization continue to thrive and hope to continue to be a part of that.

Q: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a unique work of musical theatre, combining improvisation and audience participation with a wickedly funny script and score. What can Rep audiences expect when they walk into the theatre?

A: At the risk of sounding cliche, audiences should expect the unexpected. The fun of this show is that it is never the same twice. We, as actors, are at the mercy of what the audience gives us. Their experience is almost entirely up to them and how they participate. While the improv is very structured and well thought out, it is impossible to know who and what will be joining us onstage. The results are deliciously unpredictable. If we as actors really respond to that, it is quite clear to the audience that it is not planned. The shared experience between us and the audience is indescribable. That is ultimately the thrill of live theatre– that sense that anything can happen. This is a show that takes that idea, turns it on it’s head and multiples it by a thousand.EthanPauliniPutnamHeadshot

Q: Tell us about your character, Leaf Coneybear, and his journey in the show.

A: Leaf marches to the beat of his own drum. He didn’t actually win his qualifying bee and instead is here as an alternate. He is just thrilled to be there and is probably the least competitive and most surprised by whatever success he achieves. He is the product of homeschooling and has many brothers and sisters who he feels inferior to in the intelligence department. The biggest thing Leaf gains is real confidence that while he may have issues learning from a book, he in fact is and always has been quite smart. Because of his inability to connect with people, he could be called a bit misunderstood but this experience really helps him come out of his own shell.

Q: How did you prepare for this role?

A: I played this role previously in Northern Stage’s production. It has been a few years, so I had to revisit his storyline, his mannerisms and his relationships to the world of this play. Of course as I have already mentioned, this show is never the same twice, even when doing the same production. So to prepare for this go-around, I really am just approaching this with an openness toward what these new actors and creative team will bring to it. The advantage is that many of these actors and creative team are near and dear and frequent collaborators. If ever there was a show that called for a sense of playfulness, this is it, so I just am gearing up for a few weeks of playing with friends new and old in pursuit of an authentic and earnest production.

Q: Do you feel Leaf exists along the autism spectrum or is just socially awkward? How does this impact your portrayal of the character?

A: I do think he probably exists on the spectrum but that’s just one more clue I gather about this character. Whether clues exist in the text or you infer them based on your own human experience, they all come together to create a vivid and alive character. When I was growing up, Autism was not as common a diagnosis, so I am sure I have had many peers who have existed on the spectrum. For me, the decision as an actor to accept that information is no different than information that exists such as his relationship to his family, or that he likes apple juice, or tosses his hair. It is just one more piece of the portrait you hope to put together when creating an alive, vivid character.

Q: You also play another role in the show. Tell us about this character and how you alternate between roles in the course of the performance.

A: I also play Carl Grubinierre, one of Logan’s adoptive fathers. He appears twice. Once during Logan’s song “Woe is Me” and then again in a very pivotal scene toward the end. Carl is educated, a bit fussy, mature and fiercely competitive. I think he is kind of the opposite of Leaf’s go-with-the-flow attitude. A lot of the work I get to do is about creating very broad but distinct characters, so I really relish the opportunity to find the differences between the characters but also not shy away from the parts of my own personality that can act as a sort of through line. It hopefully allows for some cohesion in the performance for the audience.

Q: The characters in the musical are misfits and outsiders, but in the competitive world of the spelling bee, they have found a place in which they excel, in which they belong. What does this aspect of the show have to say about our lives and a search for community?

A: Ultimately, I think as humans we strive to be a part of something. It validates us, bears witness to our lives and allows us to share experiences. This is easier said than done sometimes. I think this show really celebrates that idea of embracing who you are and accepting everyone. There is also comfort in realizing that everyone has insecurities and personal struggles. Despite the competition that these kids face from each other, ultimately they find support and a place to belong and be themselves at the Bee.

Q: What advice would you give to students in the Little Rock area who are interested in building a career in musical theatre?

A: It’s the same advice I would give to anyone hoping to pursue a career as an artist: STUDY, STUDY, STUDY. To be a successful artist, you have to be willing to constantly evolve. The advantage an aspiring artist in Little Rock possesses is access to professionals and resources. The Rep and the resident artists here are as good as anyone I have worked with anywhere. Learn from them and take advantage of their expertise. The SMTI program is so wonderful and unique. No matter how serious a student may be about pursuing this as a career, there is an immeasurable amount of benefit that can come from participating in that program.

Q: Did you ever participate in spelling bees as a child? Do you have any anecdotes that you would like to share.

A: I’ve never been in a Spelling Bee, but in seventh grade, I was the Massachusetts State Geography Bee Champion and I went to nationals in Washington, D.C. The Bee was hosted by Alex Trebek. I didn’t get too terribly far. I think I came in 40th or 41st out of 52.

Q: Spelling Bee is a hilarious show, yet I am always surprised by how moved I am by this show and its characters. Can you talk about the emotional impact of the musical? Is there a particular moment in the play that speaks to you?

A: Well, ‘The I Love You Song’ breaks my heart every time. But I think when the audience catches their breath from laughing, they realize these are earnest, sweet and unique characters who all face both struggles and triumphs equally. I also think watching characters have personal discoveries and change is what makes for a great musical and these characters do that. Not one person in this show is the same at the beginning as they are at the end. It’s a snapshot of the growing process and I think that can be very poignant.

See Ethan in action by booking your tickets when the musical takes center stage Oct. 16-Nov. 8– call the Box Office at (501) 378-0405 or visit TheRep.org.