G-U-E-S-T S-P-E-L-L-E-R

28put Right before I watched Atlantis ProductionsThe 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, I was just telling a friend how tended to purposely screw up my participation in elementary bees. I’d place, but I rarely finished. Perhaps I’d rather “not live up to expectations”.

Funny thing was, in this particular spelling bee, I was determined to get up to a certain round, and I still P-H-A-I-L-E-D gloriously.

Spelling Bee unfolds in…well, a little county spelling bee! It’s one of the few stageplays I know that’s part improv, part hard script, as it tells the story of the bee’s contestants and the judges. They also get a few celebrity and audience volunteers, just to spice it up.


Spelling Bee performance at the Tony Awards, featuring highlights of the show and a very special guest speller!

While waiting for the house to open, I caught the sign at the front desk asking for volunteer guest spellers. I jumped at the chance! I wasn’t allowed to volunteer at the last local production as I was a member of the company that staged it (Ateneo Blue Repertory) , and this time I stood a fighting chance. As I signed up, I was warned that I would only be called in the event of an absent celebrity guest speller. Swell. It would have gone down as opportunities I nearly had a stab at, which also made for interesting stories.

“Have you had any theatre experience?” The stage manager in charge of guest spellers asked.

Ok, so I had. Mostly backstage! And some onstage. Ok, more than some onstage experience, but for that evening I’ll declare it null and void.

“Nope.” I said with a BIG smile on my face. I was given a little ‘Finalist’ button to wear, as a thanks and a little plug for the available merchandise.

Later, celebrity guest speller did not show up so I was pulled aside and briefed. Standard etiquette, really: don’t be noisy, sit where you’re supposed to, this is what’ll happen during the show, this is what you can ask when you spell, etc etc. “And no acting, be yourself!” The stage manager instructed. Dang, so much for my tribute to High School Musical.

Guest spellers do not stay on for the whole show, and are set-up to be kicked off the stage before the final round of the show. People familiar with the musical strive to be the last speller standing marked by ‘The Counsellor’s Song’, and I wasn’t even going for that. I just wanted to be a part of one my favorite musical number’s, Pandemonium (click for youtube, as I’m not allowed to embed it here).

And probably because one of the judges has known me since I was 11 years old and I couldn’t keep my big precocious mouth shut at the time, my first word was tricky, For my first word, I was asked to spell ‘markdeer’. The way I spelled it is apparently wrong, and I can’t remember how the actual word is spelled! Google is not helping either, as I get hits for ‘marcdeer’ too. All I know is that it’s some Southeast Asian animal, and I’m not sure how to spell it!

Sucks to be me! (Oops, wrong play…!)

I had only been onstage for about 10 minutes, and I was the first guest speller off that evening. I got a hug from the counselor, a tetra pack of Sunkist orange, and I got to keep my button. I whimpered at not having been in the Pandemonium number, but ah well, the show goes on!

Thank God my ESL clients are based out of Manila! That has got to be the lowest point of my teaching career, I joked.

I’ll take my short Spelling Bee lifespan as God’s punishment for fibbing. Nonetheless, it’s 10 minutes of onstage awesome and the rest of the show was all-around fun that even non-aficionados would enjoy. So while you can, book your tickets today! Do not miss out on this one!

Spelling Bee Manila!

‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ runs until April 4, 2008. For show information, visit or ring them up at 892-7078 or 840-1187. You can also visit Atlantis Productions‘ Website for individual show contacts and information on their current season.