Monday, March 14, 2011

Civic's 'Spelling Bee' advances to national finals

Posted on Mon, Mar 14, 2011 at 8:02 AM

Spokane Civic Theatre's production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee has won the Washington state community theater championship and is going to the national finals in Rochester, N.Y., in late June.  

Spelling Bee dominated at this weekend's Kaleidoscope theater festival, winning seven of 12 awards in all and, most importantly, the overall production award. Even better (from the Civic's point of view), none of the other three states in Region IX of the American Association of Community Theatre sent representatives -- which means that, in effect, Spelling Bee gets to skip right past regionals and go directly to the national competition. (Due to travel distances, Alaska has typically not been represented. Perhaps because of the economy — and somewhat surprisingly — Oregon didn't come up with any candidates this time, either. As for Idaho, Lake City Playhouse's production of Almost, Maine — the state's sole entrant — had to withdraw because, well, the old church in which LCP is housed needs a new roof. Kathie Doyle-Lipe, who directed the Civic's Spelling Bee and whose experience there goes back a couple of decades or more, says she can't ever remember an instance  in the every-other-year competition that nobody from the other three states even got to the starting line.)

ACT Richland (an auditioned group of high school students from the Tri-Cities) won the Excellence in Company Creativity award for its production of Don Zolidis' !Artistic Inspiration, about two hack writers trying to create a produceable and therefore awful play.

For its production of Doug Wright's creepy two-hander about a real estate agent showing a wealthy but sinister man around a huge mansion where recently some horrible things have happened, Wildwood Park, the Richland Players won for best sound, best lighting and best direction. Wildwood Park was also named the alternate production for advancing on to Rochester.

Bremerton Community Theatre won best set design and the Treasure Award for Arthur Miller's All My Sons.

Spokane Civic Theatre made the most of its home court advantage, winning for best costumes (Jan Wanless), best choreography (Kathie Doyle-Lipe), best design and production team, best ensemble, "Magic Moment" (an adjudicator-selected award for most compelling episode within a play, given to Lacey Bohnet for her lead singing in "The I Love You Song") and Outstanding Performance (Mark Pleasant as Leaf Coneybear, the hippie speller who goes into trances) — along with the all-important "Company Advancing to the National Festival" award.

Doyle-Lipe, who directed the show, reports that in the three months before the national competition, the Civic will probably schedule "a couple" of Spelling Bee performances — both to keep the performers sharp and to serve as fundraisers. After all, it will probably cost in excess of $30,000 to send two dozen people (cast, crew and band) to Rochester for a week.

Visit the Washington State Community Theatre Association blog for more information. Read a preview of the Kaleidoscope competition or visit the national festival's website.

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