CORRECTION: A previous version of the article used incorrect pronouns for Xiao-Ming Porter. They use they/them pronouns. The article has been update to reflect the change. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error.
UNC Pauper Players’ spring show tells a story of friendship, growth and the small challenges and triumphs that define us.
Pauper Players will perform The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro from Feb. 20 to 23. General admission costs $10 and student tickets cost $8.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee tells the story of six middle school students on the day of the county spelling bee, as well as the adults who host the event.
Director Emma Scaggs said that the show depicts life’s small, defining moments — all through the eyes of these sixth graders.
“The musical is really about the importance of these small events,” Scaggs said. “Because when you’re a kid, everything that you face is the biggest challenge you’ve faced.”
Logan Kelly is a first-year who plays the role of Olive, one of the six spellers.
“It’s a really beautiful story about growth and figuring out who loves you — for Olive, at least — and figuring out that you are still are capable and still worthy even though you don’t come in first in something,” Kelly said.
This is the second time she has performed in a production of this show, and Olive is one of her dream roles. She also said she loves this show because she relates to Olive’s character and her journey of self-discovery.
Scaggs said that self-discovery is a prominent theme for all of the characters. The spelling bee can only have one winner, and as spellers are eliminated, they learn things about themselves and make new friends.
“Losing was something that probably taught them something and allowed them to grow,” Scaggs said.
Xiao-Ming Porter, who plays a speller named Marcy, said that they also appreciate the coming-of-age aspect of the story.
“All of the characters learn something about themselves,” Porter said. “All of them have some sort of realization.”
The show has a nine-person cast, but it will also involve various forms of audience participation. Scaggs said this adds to the show’s comedy and keeps the audience engaged.
“I think too often we go to theater, and we sit back and daydream,” Scaggs said. “I think that good theater keeps the audience on its toes.”
There are six spellers in the cast, and audience volunteers will also come on stage to participate in the spelling bee. Anyone interested in being a volunteer speller can fill out a form on the Pauper Players’ Facebook page or in person before the show.
Kelly said that this audience participation also helps audience members connect with the children on stage.
“I think it’s just so beautiful how these children can experience something so dynamically,” she said. “It means the world to them.”
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