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Our Current 2016-2017 Season:

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Shorter and Snideman Refuse to Act their Age as Spelling Bee “Grownups”

 
Cory Shorter (center) hams it up as Mitch Mahoney with Lloyd Platis (left) as Leaf during Spelling Bee.
SELFIE by Cory Shorter
 While The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee focuses on six middle school students (played by actors in their teens and twenties), the three adult characters are a testament to the fact that some people never really grow up.  In the Farmington Players production of Spelling Bee, the “grownups” are played by Cory Shorter as “comfort counselor” Mitch Mahoney, Jim Snideman as Vice Principal and word pronouncer Douglas Panch, and Jamee Perryman (previously featured in this blog) as Bee emcee Rona Lisa Peretti. 

Cory has developed his own back story for his character:  “Mitch grew up in a broken home and turned to the streets as a way to make money and support himself. He was arrested and instead of spending time in jail he needed to complete a community service project and that was being the comfort counselor at the spelling bee. When the spellers have been eliminated he was there to comfort them and reassure them that they were going to be okay.”  While Cory has never been arrested, he “can relate to Mitch by simply growing up in a neighborhood that was not the best. But I have grown up around people who have been, and are now, back on the right track. Just like Mitch!” 

Cory prepared for this show by “really getting in touch with my character!  I did not watch a lot of videos or try and mimic somebody else's character, but I took my own personal experiences and tried to create my own character.”  Although he has not been in a play since 2011, Cory is no stranger to the spotlight, having been crowned Mr. Gay USA in 2010 (!!!), which gave him the opportunity to travel the country performing and showcasing his talent.  Cory knows how to engage an audience, saying, “the fact that we incorporate the audience in the show so much makes me feel a part of it, and that is always a good feeling!”

Jim Snideman as ringer-happy Vice Principal Panch
Jim Snideman plays Vice Principal Panch, who not only pronounces the words for the spellers, but gets to “riff” his own improvisational ad-libs in response to spellers’ requests for definitions and sample sentences.  As Jim notes, “Because Panch uses index cards as props, why not actually use the cards as vehicles to carry the words of the bee? At that point, Spelling Bee also becomes a bit of ‘reader’s theatre’.  The opportunity to flex the ol’ improvisation muscles adds to the draw … so no two shows will be alike.” Like most of the spellers, Panch has his own foibles and quirks, and his responses are often unconventional and occasionally controversial.  Coloring outside the lines has always come naturally to Jim, who enjoys playing real “characters” realistically.   As he says, “I tend to take roles that present an opportunity to explore a different aspect of performance.  In Leading Ladies, it was playing a part, while not playing a ‘character’.  In Annie, it was playing multiple roles.  In Avenue Q, puppetry and voice characterization.”

Despite enjoying the role, Jim does not have fond memories of his own first spelling bee:  “I represented the elementary grades of Emerson, at the City of Detroit Spelling Bee.  I believe I was the fifth speller and the first to require a “comfort counselor”.  My nemesis:  ‘ab·hor·rence - noun - a feeling of repulsion; disgusted loathing.’  Indeed.”   Jim’s latest adventure was completing a season as the Events Coordinator for The Adventure Park at West Bloomfield.

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.  Your last chance to #BeeAtTheBarn for Spelling Bee is this weekend.  Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.


Friday, December 11, 2015

Maryanna Lauter Is No Wannabe; She’s the Real Deal as Olive in Spelling Bee

Like Olive Ostrovsky, Maryanna Lauter loves her dictionary!
PHOTO by Brigid Blaschak 
All good actors know that your character will be more believable if you can draw from your own real-life experiences.  So when Maryanna Lauter (age 12) was cast as Olive Ostrovsky in the youth cast of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, she decided to enter a spelling bee at Dunckel Middle School in Farmington Hills, where she is a 7th grader.  As Maryanna says, “I competed in a spelling bee at school, partly for character study but mainly to compete. I wasn't really expecting to win or anything, much like Olive. I got 9th place but I was just happy to be there. I closely watched everyone there to find inspiration for my character to watch how middle-schoolers at spelling bees act.”  But just like Olive, it turns out that Maryanna is a really good speller.  In fact, she entered another bee and got second runner up and qualified for a regional bee in Dearborn Heights in January!

Maryanna has a lot in common with Olive, who she describes as “a quiet, shy middle-schooler who is going through an awkward and tough time in her life. I love playing her because I relate to her because I'm an awkward middle-schooler who loves words and has weird interests like reading the dictionary for fun. So the acting comes pretty naturally.”  Maryanna knows that audiences will love this show “because it's so relatable, even if you're not in middle school or a speller, because it brings a new perspective to life and you learn a lesson from the show, that winning and competing isn't everything.”

Maryanna fell in love with Spelling Bee when she first saw it two years ago: “I connected to every single character. The whole show itself was hilarious and a pretty accurate portrayal of middle-schoolers. I started listening to the music a few months ago and became obsessed! I learned literally every song and every harmony and decided that it would be fun to be in the show.  I definitely want to break out of the standard of playing it the exact same way that everyone else plays it. I want to bring something different.”

Maryanna shares her role with Mackenzie McIlory, who plays Olive in the adult cast:  “Mackenzie is awesome! She never treats me as if I'm a child and I really admire that about her because she can recognize that the youth cast are a mature group of kids. I was a little nervous about that at first, wondering if the adults would look down at us, but they really haven't!”  Maryanna is in the Bravo Choir at Dunkel and aspires to be an actress one day.

The Farmington Players production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is proudly sponsored by Mall, Malisow & Cooney, PC.  To see the Bee at the Barn (#BeeAtTheBarn), order tickets online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Mackenzie McIlroy is 20 Going on 12 as Olive in Spelling Bee

Mackenzie McIlroy is the fastidious Olive Ostrovsky
PHOTO by Jan Cartwright
Remember when you were 12 years old?  You’re definitely not a child, and will scorn anyone who treats you like one, but you’re not quite ready yet to be a “grown-up.”  You have a hard enough time figuring yourself out, let alone navigating the perilous and hormonally charged waters of teenagehood.  The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee explores those not-so-Wonderous Years from the eyes of six middle school student spellers.  

In the Farmington Players production of Spelling Bee, Mackenzie McIlroy plays
Olive Ostrovsky, who struggles with being a lonely only child.  Mackenzie describes Olive as a “very timid girl who has never really made any friends in life. She starts to read her dictionary due to the absence of her parents throughout her childhood.”  Mackenzie is now 20, but she definitely remembers “just trying to fit in when you’re 12. Not knowing what to say to the boy next to you, or if you should go up to the cool girl in the class and say hello.”  Mackenzie says her “whole life” has prepared her for Spelling Bee: “Taking certain moments Olive has and seeing myself back in school with the same issue, maybe not in the exact way, but I can relate to maybe how she is feeling. I was in a spelling bee in the 5th grade and I got out in the second round.”

Mackenzie loves playing Olive because “she is a very determined and hopeful little girl. You can tell she is upset by her parents not being at the bee, but she still has this light of hope that maybe they will show up. Later she proves to herself she can do just about anything when she believes in herself.”  Like many of her cast mates, Mackenzie believes that “there is a character that every audience member can reflect on being when they were in middle school. I think they will be able to relate to the awkward middle schooler moments as well as enjoy themselves with laughter, heartbreak, and accomplishment. Also, four lucky audience members get to be in the show!”           

Mackenzie plays Olive in the adult cast, and her counterpart in the youth cast is 12 year-old Maryanna Lauter.  Mackenzie says, “Being paired with someone who is actually the same age as my character has really helped me to understand how 12 year olds feel now. Little things they say or do. Hearing about what happened at school and the drama of the day really takes me back to when I was in middle school and almost helps me get into character when I talk to the younger kids.”  Despite her youth, “Maryanna is by far the most professional 12 year-old I have ever met. She had her lines memorized the second week of rehearsal and knew all the songs. I was really blown away with how talented she is and she keeps me on my toes every rehearsal. It was very fun getting to know her and bond over this character together. She has so much potential and I can’t want to see where it all takes her.”

Mackenzie is from Commerce Township and is a junior at Oakland University, majoring in communications.  She hopes to start her career in communications in New York City or Washington DC, and to continue in theater.  Her hobbies include golfing with her dad and exploring new things.

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.  See the #BeeAtTheBarn,  Tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.


Friday, December 4, 2015

Jordan Gagnon Is Practically Perfect as Marcy Park in Spelling Bee

Jordan Gagnon as practically perfect Marcy Park
PHOTO by Jan Cartwright
The dictionary defines a “perfectionist” as “a person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection.”  While the pursuit of perfection may help you overachieve, it also leaves very little margin for error.  Anything short of 100 percent is, by definition, a failure.  Such is the conundrum faced by Marcy Park, a character in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

In the Farmington Players production, Jordan Gagnon plays Marcy in the adult cast.  Jordan has given a lot of thought to her character, saying, “She's such a fun character to play because she's someone that we've all known, or maybe even been, at some point our lives. She's the stereotypical overachiever who seems like she doesn't even have to try to be perfect at everything. I love playing Marcy because she makes it so hilariously obvious that she knows she's better than everyone, and doesn't want to waste her time with anything.”  

Marcy’s super serious demeanor is a source of great fun for Jordan:  “I pretty much get to straight-face everyone during the entire show, which is so fun! It's also been really interesting to explore her character and to discover how she really feels about her life, because she doesn't necessarily love the ‘perfect’ life she leads.”  Jordan can definitely relate to Marcy because “in elementary school I was that kid who didn't have to try to succeed, which is funny. In the same breath, I also remember how frustrated and down on myself I'd get when I couldn't do something right the first time, and I still deal with that a little bit even now. I understand Marcy's internal standards for perfection, and that's helped me to find her character a lot more. I also did spelling bees in elementary and middle school, and I remember how quickly they get super serious! It's intimidating!”

Jordan knows that audiences will enjoy Spelling Bee because “everyone can relate to at least one character in this show. Every time I watch this show, I find something new to love in each character. I also adore the fact that the audience gets to participate because that creates a different show every night, which I think the audience will really enjoy.”  Beyond its sheer entertainment value, Jordan believes that “this show also speaks to more than just a spelling bee. Everyone can walk away from this show having learned something about their awkward relationships with other people, and about how they look at the world. A lot can change when you look through the eyes of a 12-year-old for a while!”

Jordan is 16 years old, and currently a junior at North Farmington High School. She’s worked with Sky's the Limit Productions, North Farmington High School Theatre, Madonna University's Lyric Theatre, and Forever After Productions and plans on studying and pursuing a career in musical theatre. Her hobbies include reading, shopping, and spending time with her friends.

Jordan treasures her first time at the Barn, saying, “I'm so happy I've had the opportunity to work with this amazing team. Amy Lauter has been such a creative and open director, and all of my cast mates are now amazing friends of mine. I have no doubt that we will all stay in touch in the future.”

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.  If you want to #BeeAtTheBarn, tickets are available online at farmingtonplayers.org or by contacting the Barn box office at boxoffice@farmingtonplayers.org or 248-553-2955.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Yakob Engel Dares to be Different as William Barfee in Spelling Bee

Yakob Engel as the lugubrious William Barfee
PHOTO by Jan Cartwright
Fourteen year-old Yakob Engel knows what it’s like to be different – an outsider.  “I don't really have a hometown. I have never lived somewhere for more than 5 or 6 years at most. Over the past 6 years I have moved about 3 times.”   This sense of displacement or not belonging is something that helps Yakob relate to his character William Barfee in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.   As Yakob says, “the theme I can relate to most is the theme of being different. All the spellers are portrayed as weird and awkward each in their own way. And as a theater-loving kid who has been home schooled for several years, you can see why I can relate to not being the most normal kid out there.”

In the Farmington Players production of Spelling Bee, most roles are double-cast with teens in the youth cast and 20-somethings in the adult cast.  But despite being only 14, Yakob has both the stage presence and the physical stature to pull off playing Barfee in both casts.  He has embraced his character’s differences and turned them into a strength.   Yakob believes that Spelling Bee will resonate with audiences because it is so different from the typical musical:  “I think people will like this show because it is so original and unique. Everything feels new in it. From the concept to the style of humor to the music it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen.”

One of the unique aspects of Barfee is that he uses his “magic foot” to spell out words before he says them in the Bee. Yakob prepared for this role by learning beginner tap dancing, which “got me used to doing strange things with my feet.”   But his favorite aspect of playing William Barfee is “the singing. In my every day life I sing more than I talk and feel really blessed that I can go on stage with this role and sing so much. But at the same time the singing is probably the biggest challenge that comes with this role. Willam Barfee's singing rang is huge and it is usually accompanied by dancing which makes it challenging but fun at the same time.”

Yakob “wanted to be in Spelling Bee was because I thought it would be a good experience for me. The show is very wacky and zany and that is way easier for me to do than being serious.” Theatre and music are hobbies now, but he wants to pursue them as a career. Yakob says his fellow cast and crew members are “amazing to work with. The cast is insanely talented and they put so much energy into their roles.”

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.  Come see the Bee at the Barn (#BeeAtTheBarn)!  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.


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