CA Drama: Working as a T-E-A-M

May 6, 2024 4 min read

Calgary Academy’s drama students and staff are in the final days of preparation for this year’s musical. The Black Box Theatre has transformed again for a CA production—double-sided stairs, a blue and yellow coloured snack station, and a single microphone at centre stage are the backdrop for the school’s talented cast to delight audiences.

A banner hanging above the stage with the show’s title—The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee—overlooks everything. The lights are currently off, but they’ll shine bright when CA students take the stage to perform on May 8.

While the show’s fictional characters are larger than life, their stories teach valuable lessons applicable to the actors playing them. The cast and crew have worked together to prepare for a show unlike any they’ve experienced before.

A One-of-a-Kind Show

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a Tony award-winning musical about a group of students competing in a spelling bee. However, the competition is only the reason for the story happening—the most compelling aspect of the show is the character arcs.

Every actor has their moment in the spotlight as their eccentric characters go through adolescent challenges, learn to find themselves, and grow as people.

Creative Director Leeanne McLim and Director Andrea Page see the musical as a “celebration of uniqueness.” Ms. Page’s previous experience acting in this production helped identify it as a good fit for the students, and Ms. McLim hopes they can see themselves in their characters.

“We identified the show as the perfect play for the students because we were hoping they would empathize with these characters… They’re working on finding themselves and figuring out where they fit.”  – Ms. McLim

Another unique aspect of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is its audience participation—a first for Calgary Academy. Audience members can sign up to participate in the spelling bee and try to win the grand prize.

Almost anything can happen on stage, and Ms. Page has reminded students of the importance of going with the flow and using improv where needed.

“It creates a more interactive experience for the audience to actually be on stage, and for a couple of the audience members, they’ll be on stage for all of act one… Students have to practice so they can work with the audience on the fly.”

The Power of the Community

As directors, Ms. McLim and Page never assume a show will go as planned. While this has been true, they’ve been impressed with the cast’s resilience and teamwork when the road to opening night gets bumpy.

With an essential crew member away from the production, everyone wants to ensure the show goes on. Ms. McLim commends the students for supporting each other throughout the final weeks of rehearsal.

“The cast and crew have gone, ‘we got it. It’s okay. We can cover each other.’ There’s a lot of mutual respect and patience while everybody is learning their roles.”

While blocking, music, and choreography rehearsals run separately throughout the year, everyone is together for tech week—connecting the puzzle pieces of the show into one smooth performance. The process has been memorable for everyone, with technical challenges, thrown M&Ms, and first-time costume fittings.

Ms. Page has loved seeing the camaraderie in the cast, including the six other teachers helping with music, directing, choreography, and set and prop design. In her first year at CA, she has enjoyed working in such a helpful group.

“I think it’s been wonderful having such a supportive team here at the school… I think we have a really caring community, and that’s been nice to be a part of.” – Ms. Page

As opening night approaches, the cast and crew of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee look forward to putting on an unforgettable show. Sit down, laugh, tear up, and be entertained when CA students take the stage on May 8.