WATSONVILLE — On a rainy Monday afternoon, just after the final bell had rung at Watsonville High School, a small group of students gathered in the school’s drama classroom and eagerly waited for rehearsals to begin.
The students are the cast of this year’s spring musical production, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”
Drama teacher and director David Scott pointed out how engaged they were with each other — without any sort of distraction.
“I don’t know if you notice, but there’s not a cell phone in sight,” Scott said. “I didn’t even tell them anything. They just don’t need it.”
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” opens on April 17. The cast and crew will be hard at work for the next 10 weeks rehearsing lines, building sets and learning cues.
Scott said that there are many factors when deciding on a production.
“We look for something we can pull off with what and who we have,” Scott said. “But also something that has meaning, with a positive message.”
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is a musical comedy that first arrived on Broadway in 2005. It follows the story of six young students competing in a spelling bee at the fictional Putnam Valley Middle School.
Scott praised the play’s musical numbers and the fact that the main cast was evenly balanced between girls and boys.
“The story is about being unique and working hard,” he said. “It sends the message that it’s worth it to try your best.”
ABOVE: Watsonville High’s drama instructor David Scott oversees a recent rehearsal. (Photo by Tarmo Hannula)
Cast member Jacqueline Ortiz will play Olive Ostravski, a shy newcomer to the spelling bee scene.
“It’s been a challenge,” Ortiz said. “Olive is so different from me. I think that’s good, though. I’m really excited to bring her to life.”
To Ortiz, drama is a creative way for people to experience new topics and point of views.
“Being part of a play can help you blossom and come out of your shell,” she said.
Bowen Hayes, who portrays Vice Principal Douglass Panch in “Spelling Bee,” also spoke about how working in theater can give people new kinds of skills.
“Plus, you get to make people laugh,” he said. “That’s probably the most important part for me.”
Unfortunately, Scott explained, Watsonville High’s drama department is currently struggling and in need of more support. Not as many people have come to see the shows in recent years and costs continue to rise.
“It takes thousands of dollars to put on these plays,” he said. “And with a ticket price of $5, it’s difficult to just break even.”
Scott said the success of this year’s musical is crucial to the department. They are hoping for a larger turnout, and ask the Watsonville community to spread the word about the show.
“These kids are willing to sacrifice their time after school,” Scott said. “They work hard for weeks to put on these shows. That takes real dedication.”
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” will open on April 17 and runs until April 28 at the Henry J. Mello Center for the Performing Arts, 250 East Beach St. in Watsonville. WHS students with valid school IDs can attend for free. Visit the WHS Drama Facebook page for showtimes.