Our Current 2016-2017 Season:

Our Current 2016-2017 Season:

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Jonathon Stecevic Aces the Bee as Underdog Leaf Coneybear

Jonathon Stecevic (helmeted, center) as Leaf Coneybear with the youth cast of Spelling Bee
PHOTO courtesy of Brigid Blaschak
Of all the characters in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, I find myself rooting for Leaf Coneybear the most.  While all six students are quirky and each has his or her own challenges to overcome, Leaf is the squarest peg of them all.  Jonathon Stecevic plays Leaf in the youth cast of the Farmington Players production of Spelling Bee.   Jonathon describes Leaf Coneybear as “a home-schooled speller in Putnam County.  He has ADHD and is easily distracted.  His family thinks he is dumb.  He is very sensitive and gentle and loves animals.  He makes his own clothes (perhaps his big family can't afford to buy him clothes) and he is looked down upon by his family.” 

Unlike Leaf, Jonathon’s family is very supportive, but there are some comparisons that ring true. Jonathon said, “I really identify with Leaf Coneybear.  I have a little bit of ADHD and really love animals. I also understand what it's like to sometimes not fit in.”  Leaf is the biggest underdog in the Bee as all other students won their school tournaments to get there.  Though he is the least competitive speller, he has a knack of rising to the occasion and exceeding others’ low expectations for him.   Jonathon “wanted to be in this show because I love the music. I also love the strong youth characters that showcase what kids in junior high are experiencing.  I think audiences will love this show because it is funny and fast moving, but also addresses topics that other shows don't, like problems kids experience growing up and issues with parents.”

Jonathon (16) also enjoys working with the adult cast, which he finds “fun and very productive.  It's interesting to see the role from an adult's perspective.” He finds Lloyd Platis (age 20) – the "adult" Leaf – “very nice and easy to work with.”  Jonathon began acting when he was six years old and hopes to pursue musical theater in college. He lives in Farmington Hills and is a junior at Aim High School.

The Farmington Players production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is proudly sponsored by Mall, Malisow & Cooney, PC.  Four audience members (including some local celebrities) will be selected as spellers at each performance.  The show includes 12 performances (the three Saturday matinees feature 12-to-16 year-old spellers along with the regular adult cast.) from December 4 – 20.  Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Jamee Perryman Goes Back to School in Spelling Bee

Jamee Perryman plays Rona Lisa Peretti, emcee of the Bee
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee begins with Rona Lisa Peretti, local realtor and hostess of the Bee, proudly reminiscing about her own success at the same competition many years ago.  As Rona passes by the microphone, she has a flashback to the moment when she won the 3rd annual spelling bee by correctly spelling “syzygy.”  Jamee Perryman plays Rona in the Farmington Players production of Spelling Bee.  Jamee describes Rona as “a strong woman who has a soft spot for kids, which I can relate to, being a middle school choir teacher in St. Clair Shores. I literally talk just like I would in my classroom.  It's nice, because half the time it doesn't even feel like acting!  I just get to be myself.  Also, I deal with middle schoolers every day, so the youth/teen cast is easy for me to interact with.  I'm so just used to it.”

Jamee knows that “audiences will love this show because it is full of fun music and a ton of laughter.  We have a ton of talent in our cast, and it will be so fun!”  But beyond the fun factor, the show should resonate with audiences because it recalls the challenges we all face as teenagers trying to find ourselves as we navigate the path to adulthood.  As Jamee says, “I think everyone can relate to the show.  There are struggles so many of us went through as kids, and sometimes as adults.”  While singing comes easily to Jamee, whose vocal talents are featured in Rona’s theme song, "My Favorite Moment of the Bee," she is “most nervous about having to improv with the audience spellers!”

Jamee feels “so lucky to have developed some great relationships with people in this cast.  I love working at the Barn, and didn't know too much about the show when I auditioned, but it was a great reason to get back to the Barn!”  Jamee last appeared on the Barn stage in 2013 as Vivienne in Legally Blonde.  She has an 18 month-old daughter, Skylar, and loves to read. 

The Farmington Players production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is proudly sponsored by Mall, Malisow & Cooney, PC.  Four audience members (including some local celebrities) will be selected as spellers at each performance.  The show includes 12 performances (the three Saturday matinees feature 12-to-16 year-old spellers along with the regular adult cast.) from December 4 – 20.  Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Matthew Baker-Grunza is Chip Off the Old Block

Matthew Baker-Grunza as Boy Scout Chip Tollentino
You could say that acting is in Matthew Baker-Grunza’s blood.  The twelve-year old plays Chip Tollentino in the Farmington Players production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.  Matthew is in the youth cast, featured in three Saturday matinees, and shares the role with Daniel Murray (age 24) who plays Chip in the adult cast.  

Matthew credits his grandmother Jane Macfarlane for his love of acting.  As he says, “I’ve been in ten productions before this and I’m a straight A student and participate in multiple sports, but out of all of those things I love theatre the most.  The reason why I got into acting was because of my grandmother.  She is truly an inspiration!”  Matthew’s grandmother Jane is a Maryland native who moved to Michigan "for the theater” and won the 2013 Wilde Award for "Best Performance, Actress – Drama" in her first professional appearance as the vindictive matriarch in The Ringwald's August: Osage County.

For his part, Matthew loves playing Chip because he is “a very fun character to play. The real challenge with him is that he is a emotionally confused teenager with many different sides and this is challenging because I can not pin him down.”  Matthew decided to audition for Spelling Bee because “I heard about the Barn from a friend and the show sounded fun so I auditioned. That’s what I love about the theatre community: you hear about shows and audition, then make new friends. The whole cast is awesome.”

I asked Matthew whether anything in his real life had helped prepared him for this role.  He answered, “the horror and the gift called puberty … and that’s all I have to say about that.”  (You’ll have to come see the show to know what he’s talking about!)  Matthew loves being paired with Daniel, who plays Chip in the adult cast.  As he says, “having an older counterpart is great because I can talk to him about our character and I can talk to someone about my life outside of the Barn.”


The Farmington Players production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is proudly sponsored by Mall, Malisow & Cooney, PC.  Four audience members (including some local celebrities) will be selected as spellers at each performance.  The show includes 12 performances (the three Saturday matinees feature 12-to-16 year-old spellers along with the regular adult cast) from December 4 – 20.  Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Paige Osgood is “Super Intense” as Marcy Park in Spelling Bee

Paige Osgood (speller #7) plays overachiever Marcy Park in the youth cast of Spelling Bee
Overachievers often internalize the pressure they put on themselves.  They hide their emotions behind a tough exterior and overcompensate for their own insecurities by projecting a false bravado to others.  Such is the life of Marcy Park, one of the six teenage characters portrayed in the Farmington Players production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.  Marcy is played by Paige Osgood (14) in the youth cast and Jordan Gagnon (16) in the adult cast.  (Jordan will be featured in a future edition of Playing the Barn.)

Paige describes Marcy as “a super intense girl with overbearing parents.”  In Marcy’s signature song “I Speak Six Languages,” we also learn that Marcy plays Mozart and hockey, and when she stretches, she “stretches without getting sore.”  Paige says, “Marcy has been one of my dream characters, so every single thing from dancing, to singing and acting is so enjoyable for me.  Marcy is a quite demanding role and it's been hard to force myself to stretch everyday (for the splits) and to maintain a straight face throughout the funniest of lines.  Spelling Bee has got humor in it for everyone. Occasionally, I'll tell my parents and friends lines from the show and we'll spend five minutes cracking up over it.”

But life is not all laughter for Marcy, or Paige. As she says, “Marcy struggles with what makes her happy and what her parents want from her. I feel that in a similar sense as I put so much pressure on myself to excel in school and at theatre. The way Marcy acts is a lot like how I act so I've basically grown up as the character. I have huge social anxiety when it comes to public presentations, so anything from book talks to debates makes me feel sick to my stomach.”  Despite this occasional anxiety, Paige projects confidence on stage, and gave a standout performance as teenage mother America in The Amish Project, the Barn’s AACTFest entry this year.

Paige loves sharing the role of Marcy with Jordan Gagnon, saying “Jordan is so amazing at what she does and she has completely inspired me to take the challenge of harmonizing (which I've never had to do before). I'm so grateful for being cast with someone as amazing as her.”  Paige lives with her family in Brighton, Michigan and is a 9th grader at Brighton High School. She describes her hobbies as “flute, piano, tennis, and eating.”  Paige also mentors elementary school children under the B.I.T.E program at her high school and participates in Model UN.

The Farmington Players production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is proudly sponsored by Mall, Malisow & Cooney, PC.  Four audience members (including some local celebrities) will be selected as spellers at each performance.  The show includes 12 performances (the three Saturday matinees feature 12-to-16 year-old spellers along with the regular adult cast) from December 4 – 20.  Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

Lindsey Brenz Lives Her Dream as Schwartzy in Spelling Bee

Lindsey Brenz as Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre
Remember middle school?  Do you recall those carefree days of your youth when kids were friendly and helpful and nobody made fun of you and everyone just accepted you for who you are?   Yeah … neither do I.  In fact, our teenage years can be among the most dramatic, traumatic and angst-ridden times of our lives.   Such is the backdrop for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, a musical comedy that centers on a fictional spelling bee at Putnam Valley Middle School.  Six quirky adolescents compete in the bee, which is run by three “grown-ups,” although I use that term loosely.   The “kids” are played by adults in nine performances; the three Saturday matinees feature 12-to-16 year-old spellers along with the regular adult cast.  Another interesting twist is that four audience members (including some local celebrities) will be spellers at each performance and actually compete in the bee!

If you think spelling challenging words in front of a live audience is tough, you’ll get little sympathy from Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre (aka “Schwartzy”), whose last name alone would knock most spellers from the competition.  In the Farmington Players production, Schwartzy is played by Lindsey Brenz (age 24) in the main cast and Hallie Fox (age 15) in the youth cast.  For her part, Lindsey describes her character Schwartzy as “extremely intelligent, strong-willed, yet innocent, and hilarious! I adore everything about this girl.  This role is particularly challenging for me because Schwartzy speaks with a lisp and that’s something I don’t have a lot of experience with.”   Lindsey says that being in Spelling Bee has “always been a dream show of mine. My cast mates joke that I am the ‘Spelling Bee expert,’ which is true in a way. I have loved and followed this show for many years. Schwartzy in particular is the main reason why I fell in love with the show.”

Lindsey knows that “audiences will admire the charm of this show. Each character is very relatable and has moments of vulnerability which will either pull at your heart or make you smile.”  So how does Lindsey relate to her character’s challenges?  As she says, “Schwartzy has two very strict and controlling fathers. She struggles and tries so hard to make them proud. I think this is something we can all relate to. Everyone has that one person in their life that they want to please. Personally, I always strive to make my mom proud. She shares similar qualities with Schwartzy’s dads. No, she is not strict or controlling like the dads, but she has been a ‘coach’ for me throughout my acting career.”

Lindsey has enjoyed bonding with her castmates, saying, “I have never been in a show where a cast bonds as fast as we did! We truly have become a family in a very short period of time. I feel like this will transfer to the stage very well and can only benefit our show!  Lindsey calls Hallie – her Schwartzy counterpart – “an extremely talented and gifted young lady! Although she and I play the same character, we have some different character choices and that is fun to see her develop as time goes on.”  Lindsey currently lives in Troy and went to Grand Valley State University where she studied psychology and theatre. She works at Rochester Center for Behavioral Medicine and does psychological testing. Besides theatre, she enjoys spending time with her family, watching Netflix/Bravo/Food Network, and going to the gym.

The Farmington Players production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is proudly sponsored by Mall, Malisow & Cooney, PC.  The show includes 12 performances (with six matinees) from December 4 – 20.  Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.


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