The award-winning Astoria Performing Arts Center (APAC) presents THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE, with music & lyrics by William Finn, book by Rachel Sheinkin, conceived by Rebecca Feldman, additional material by Jay Reiss, choreographed by Misha Shields, music directed by Michael Ferrara, directed by Artistic Director Dev Bondarin. The limited engagement will be at Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, 30-44 Crescent St (@ 30th Rd), in Astoria, Queens. Performances began on Thursday, May 5 and continue through Saturday, May 28. Tickets are available at www.apacny.org.
Each member of a lovable, eclectic group of middle schoolers is eager to win the spelling bee. During the proceedings, led by our fearless leaders Rona and Vice Principal Panch, we meet shy Olive, returning champ Chip, distractible Leaf, overachiever Marcy, activist Logainne, and self-assured William and his “magic foot.” Through spelling and hilarious song, the struggles and dreams of the participants are revealed and explored as we root for each one. With a tuneful score and lyrics by William Finn (Falsettos, A New Brain) and a heartfelt, funny book by Rachel Sheinkin, this show leaves us laughing as we are each able to see ourselves in the characters and remember a time when we too put everything on the line to win it all.
THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE is based on Rebecca Feldman’s improvisational play C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E and was first workshopped at Barrington Stage Company in 2004. Directed by James Lapine and choreographed by Dan Knetchges, the original New York production opened in 2005 at Second Stage. The production transferred to Broadway where it ran at the Circle in the Square for almost three years winning two Tony Awards–Best Book and Best Featured Actor. Since then the show has been performed across the country and all over the world.
The production stars Becca Andrews* (Grease; St. Louis MUNY, A Chorus Line; Maltz Jupiter) as Olive Ostrovsky, Emily Borromeo* (NBC’s “The Sing Off,” NYMF’s F***ing Hipsters) as Marcy Park, Heslens Estevez (Spring Awakening; Colony Theater-Miami) as Logainne Schwartzandgrubenierre, Patrick Halley* (The Misanthrope; The Pearl Theatre, Good People; Cleveland Playhouse) as William Barfee, Billy Lowrimore (Brother Brother; Abrams Art Center) as Mitch Mahoney, Stephen Mark (NYMF’s The Calico Buffalo, National Tour of Anything Goes) as Chip Tolentino, Lee Slobotkin* (National Tour of Wicked) as Leaf Conybear, Lindsie VanWinkle* (Nevermore; Off B’way @ New World Stages, National Tour of White Christmas) as Rona Lisa Peretti, and Matt Welsh* (APAC’s Merrily We Roll Along, The Full Monty; Human Race Theater) as Vice Principal Douglas Panch. *Performing courtesy of Actors’ Equity Association. AEA approved Showcase.
The production features scenic design by Tim McMath (B’way’s Fun Home (Associate), Magic Trick (Caps Lock Theatre), costume design by Jennifer Jacob (B’way’s She Loves Me (Assistant), APAC’s Merrily We Roll Along), and lighting design by Adam Honoré (Dancing With the Movies (National Tour). Arielle Edwards (APAC’s Merrily We Roll Along)is the sound designer, Kaye Blankenship is the props designer and Nicole Richards is the production stage manager.
THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE plays the following schedule: Thursday at 8pm, Friday at 8pm, and Saturday at 2pm and 8pm. Tickets are $18 and are now available online at www.apacny.org. Tickets may also be purchased in person at the box office ½ hour prior to performance. Running Time: 2 hours, with one intermission.
Dev Bondarin (Director) was named Artistic Director of Astoria Performing Arts Center in November of 2014. Last season, she directed In The Bones and Merrily We Roll Along, which were nominated for NY Innovative Theater Awards for Outstanding Premiere Production and Outstanding Musical Production as well as six other awards for the season. This season she directed and curated Astoria Stories, a workshop of new plays and musicals celebrating APAC’s neighborhood. Other credits: King Lear (American Bard Theater, two NYIT nominations), A Home Across The Ocean (MTWorks), Reefer Madness (NYIT nomination for Outstanding Musical), House of Blue Leaves (Gallery Players), and Raised by Lesbians (FringeNYC). As Associate Artistic Director of Prospect Theater Company, she curates and directs an annual musical theater lab that has produced over 60 new, short musicals. Dev is an SDC Observership recipient, a member of Lincoln Center Directors Lab, and an associate member of SDC and the League of Professional Theatre Women. She holds an MFA in Directing: Brooklyn College (CUNY) and a BA from Brandeis University. http://www.devbondarin.net
Rebecca Feldman (Conception) is the conceiver of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee for which she won a Lucille Lortel Award, Drama Desk and Tony Nomination for Best Musical. She directed its world premiere at Barrington Stage Company in the summer of 2004. Rebecca conceived, directed, and performed in C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E, the play upon which Spelling Bee is based, with her company The Farm. Previous projects with The Farminclude Super (Atlantic Theatre Studio), V-Ville (West End Theatre), the work-in-progress Jade Winds or Why I Hate Florida. She has directed and performed in New York and regionally for the past 10 years including: New York Fringe Festival, Soho Rep, Adobe Theatre, New Dramatists, Mabou Mines and various downtown venues. Rebecca is a Lincoln Center Director’s Lab alum.
William Finn (Music & Lyrics) is the writer and composer of Falsettos, for which he received two Tony Awards, Best Book of a Musical (with James Lapine) and Best Original Score. He has also written and composed In Trousers, March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland (Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, two Los Angeles Drama Critic’s Awards, two Drama Desk Awards, the Lucille Lortel Award, and Guggenheim Fellowship in Musical Composition). Mr. Finn wrote the lyrics to Graciela Daniele’s Tango Apasionado (music by the great Astor Piazzolla) and, with Michael Starobin, the music to Lapine’s version of The Winter’s Tale. His musical, Romance in Hard Times, was presented at the Public Theater. Recently, he wrote Painting You for Love’s Fire, a piece commissioned and performed by the Acting Company, based on Shakepeare’s sonnets. For television, Mr. Finn provided the music and lyrics for the Ace Award-winning HBO cartoon “Ira Sleeps Over,” “Tom Thumb and Thumbelina,” “Pokey Little Puppy’s First Christmas,” and, with Ellen Fitzhugh, two “Brave little Toaster” cartoons. Mr. Finn has written for Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, and The New Yorker. A graduate of Williams College where he was awarded the Hutchinson Fellowship for Musical Composition, Finn now teaches a weekly master class at the NYU Tisch Graduate Program in Musical Theatre Writing. His most recent projects include Elegies, A Song Cycle (Lincoln Center) and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee which ran on Broadway and has been produced nationally and internationally, as well.
Jay Reiss (Additional Material) is playwright. He is a Juilliard graduate and provided additional material to the book for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Reiss appeared in the original workshops, Off-Broadway cast, and Broadway cast of the musical as Vice Principal Douglas Panch.
Rachel Sheinkin (Book) Broadway: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (Tony, Drama Desk awards); Off Broadway: Striking 12 (Lucille Lortel nomination), Off-Off: Serenade. Regional: Guthrie, Little House on the Prairie; Center Theater Group, Sleeping Beauty Wakes (Los Angeles Ovation Award); London: Blood Drive. Residencies, fellowships, commissions include: Eugene O’Neill National Theater Center, Baryshnikov Dance Foundation, MacDowell Colony, Manhattan Theatre Club, Deaf West, McCarter Theatre, Playwrights Horizons. Rachel is a volunteer mentor for TDF’s Open Doors program, a visiting instructor at Yale School of Drama, and adjunct faculty member of NYU’s Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program.
ASTORIA PERFORMING ARTS CENTER (APAC), The Astoria Performing Arts Center, Inc. (APAC), a not-for-profit organization, was founded in 2001 by Sue Scannell (Founding Executive Director, 2001-2005) and Brian J. Swasey (Founding Artistic Director, 2001-2008) and is currently led by Executive Director Jessica Bathurst and Artistic Director Dev Bondarin. APAC’s mission is to bring high quality theater to Astoria, Queens, and to support local youth and senior citizens.
On its mainstage, APAC produces revivals and premieres of plays and musicals, and develops new works through readings and workshops. Its flexible theater space changes with each production. To date, APAC has received 36 New York Innovative Theatre Award nominations and 9 awards (including wins for Merrily We Roll Along, Allegro, Children of Eden, and Ragtime), as well as an Off-Off Broadway Theatre Review Award for Outstanding Production of a Musical (Is There Life After High School?). APAC was the recipient of the 2012 Caffe Cino Fellowship Award, under the leadership of Taryn Sacramone (APAC Executive Director, 2005-2013) and Tom Wojtunik (APAC Artistic Director, 2008-2014).
APAC offers free annual community programs, including a summer performance camp for children ages 8-13, an after school playwriting program for middle school students, and a performance program for Queens residents over the age of 60. These programs deepen ties with the community, and develop new audiences for theater. Diverse programming and consistent quality attracts a loyal and growing audience that reflects the diversity of Western Queens and also draws from the other boroughs and beyond.
In addition to its theater space within the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, APAC’s offices are located within the historic Kaufman Astoria Studios.
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Examiner.com, Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.