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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 248-553-2955.