• What: "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee."
• When: 7 p.m. Thursday and June 10, 16-17; 8 p.m. June 11 and 18; 2 p.m. June 12.
• Where: Dalton Little Theatre, 210 N. Pentz St., Dalton, Ga.
• Admission: $10.
• Phone: (706) 226-6618.
• Website: www.daltonlittletheatre.com.
Syzygy. S-Y-Z-Y-G-Y. Syzygy.
Do you know what this word means? More importantly, would you know how to spell it if you heard it?
Syzygy, the configuration of three celestial bodies, is the first word to be called into play during "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee," which opens Thursday at the Dalton Little Theatre.
Based upon the improvisational play "C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E," "Spelling Bee" is a "high-energy musical comedy," according to director Jerry Draper.
Six preadolescent outcasts vie for the chance to win the 25th annual Putnam County spelling bee, all the while under the care of adults who can barely function themselves. As the story progresses, each of the kids has a back story or quirk revealed.
"So it talks about how these children deal with things like being an overachiever or having overbearing parents or absentee parents, or being outcasts among their peers," said Draper. "The things the characters deal with - everyone can relate to one of the characters from when they were 10 or 11 years old, or even now."
Some might relate to Olive Ostrovsky, who arrived alone on the bus because her mother is seeking spiritual awaress in India and her father is working late. Others - in particular the males in the audience - might empathize with Chip Tolento, whose adolescent infatuation with another player's sister causes him an embarassing moment.
The roles of the children are played by adults.
"Spelling Bee" is set apart from most other musicals or stage plays with its strong focus on audience participation. Before the show starts, audience members are invited to be spellers. Three or four people will be brought up onstage to take part with the cast members.
Draper said he has learned a lot of words in the process of directing this play. "There are 30 or 40 words that are possible to be used with the audience spellers and the cast spellers."
But he said he was never part of a spelling bee himself.
"The closest I could come to that," he said, "was the Bible drills we did at church."
Contact Holly Leber at firstname.lastname@example.org or (423) 757-6391. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/hollyleber.