“Your word is, IMPROVISE.”
“May I have a definition, please?”
“To create and perform without preparation, on the spur of the moment. It means to make something up on the spot, or figure it out as you go.”
“May I hear it in a sentence, please?”
“When the kids asked, what’s for dinner, Mom? Mom realized, nothing—so she had to improvise with what she found in the pantry.”
“Improvise. I-M-P-R-O-V-I-S-E. Improvise.”
“That is correct!”
I’m thinking back to fifth grade. Miss Gilmer is ready to give me my final word in the Holy Angels School Spelling Bee. If I nail it, I am crowned “School Champ” and move on to the city spelling bee. If I bomb, I go back to my seat, silently cursing my luck and apparent lack of preparation.
Fast-forward 43 years to Weathervane Playhouse’s production of the Tony Award-winning musical, ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.’ Only this time the roles are reversed. Oh, there are still “12-year-olds” spelling impossible words, but this time I’m in the driver’s seat as the Putnam’s long-time spelling bee hostess and past champion— the Queen Bee, as it were, Miss Rona Lisa Perretti.
As Miss Perretti, it is my duty to make sure the bee runs as smoothly as possible. And that’s where that word improvise comes in.
Improv isn’t easy. ‘Spelling Bee’ uses audience volunteer spellers, so no two shows are exactly alike. Using audience members can be downright frightening, so having a sense of humor and a bit of patience is crucial to making this show work. As an actor, in order to keep the pace moving, balancing the scripted with the unscripted, I have to be on my toes at all times.
I love improv because it challenges me to figure out how to make all the elements of the show work best together, keeping the audience engaged and having a great time, all the
while staying in character and trying not to laugh out loud!
Our ‘Spelling Bee’ cast is very talented; it is a pleasure to work with all of them. One of the things I love about Weathervane Playhouse is the sense of family that is created at the theater. When you spend five nights a week (for six-plus weeks) with a cast and crew, you become emotionally bonded to each other, and often these friendships last for years. I have met my best friends in shows at Weathervane. And that’s why I continue to audition, to work on sets, to work backstage. My Weathervane family is very important to me. It has been since my first production there almost fifteen years ago.
In the grand scheme of things, it didn’t matter that I bombed in that spelling bee 43 years ago, because in the Bee of Life, it’s not about what you have in your pantry; it’s about what you can make with it when you improvise.
- Thursday, Dec. 3 at 7:30 p.m.
- Friday, Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m.
- Saturday, Dec. 5 at 7:30 p.m.
- Sunday, Dec. 6 at 1:30 p.m.
- Wednesday, Dec. 9 at 7:30 p.m.
- Friday, Dec. 11 at 7:30 p.m.
- Saturday, Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m.
- Sunday, Dec. 13 at 1:30 p.m.
- Wednesday, Dec. 16 at 7:30 p.m.
- Thursday, Dec. 17 at 7:30 p.m.
- Saturday, Dec. 19 at 7:30 p.m.
For tickets, please visit www.weathervaneplayhouse.com or call 330.836.2626.