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ATU Theatre Plans Musical Comedy Production

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Arkansas Tech University Theatre will present four performances of the musical comedy “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” during the month of February.

Opening night is set for Thursday, Feb. 9, at the Techionery Theatre, 1502 N. El Paso Ave. in Russellville. The performance will begin at 8 p.m., with subsequent performances at the same time on Friday, Feb. 10, and Saturday, Feb. 11. The production will close with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, Feb. 12.

Tickets ($12 adults/$8 student or with ATU identification card) will be available at the door and will not be sold in advance.

Dr. Ardith Morris, professor of communication and theatre, will serve as director.

“This ensemble show is like the ‘Island of Misfit Toys’ for spellers,” says Morris. “It is always nice to sing about something fun before spring finally arrives.”

Dr. David Eshelman, director of the ATU Theatre program and associate professor of communication, explained that “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” tells the stories of a variety of quirky schoolchildren who vie for the prize of top speller through a narrative that he described as suitable for approximately a PG audience.

“It has been several years since we have done a musical comedy at Arkansas Tech,” said Eshelman, who will play the role of Vice Principal Panch, the official word pronouncer. “It is nice to be doing a musical again.”

Principal players in the production will include Jordan Cravens of Fort Smith, Gracie Folks of Harrison, Caroline Fredensborg of Roskilde, Denmark, Qassye Hall of Dardanelle, Jacob Smith of Little Rock, Robert Warner of Little Rock and Holly Willmon of Bauxite. Ben Stevens, an alumnus of the ATU music program, will also appear.

“This experience is fun because I love to sing and it gives me something funny to sing about,” said Cravens, a freshman music education major.

Lydia Gates of North Little Rock, Patricia Reece of Clarksville, Ashlin Trahan of Clarksville, Tanner Williams of Hot Springs, Lexi Wright of Clarksville and Nathan Yzaguirre of Hot Springs are also part of the cast.

Jenava Harris, ATU theatre arts technical supervisor, is designing sets and lights for the production while overseeing additional technical elements. Student designers and technicians include Summer Dantzler of Conway, Morgan Lunsford of Pine Bluff, Grant Mullins of Clarksville, Chelsea Rawls of Russellville, Jacob Singleton of Gravette and Caleb Ulrich of Russellville.

Cynthia Eisemann, visiting instructor of communication, is choreographer. The rehearsal pianist is Brian Conatser, visiting instructor of music.

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” features music and lyrics by William Finn, with book by Rachel Sheinkin. It was conceived by Rebecca Feldman, with additional material by Jay Reiss. It was originally directed on Broadway by James Lapine. The production at ATU is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre international (MTI). All authorized performance materials are also supplied by MTI.

For more information about the show, contact the ATU Department of Communication and Journalism at (479) 964-0890.