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Spelling Bee is F-U-N and More
Rachelle Garbarine

S-Y-Z-Y-G-Y.
Definition, please - A pair of connected or corresponding things; or in astronomy, a conjunction or opposition, especially of the moon with the sun.
Used in a sentence: The planets were aligned in perfect syzygy.


Syzygy is the first spelling word introduced in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, the musical comedy Gibbons Drama is presenting in the Studio Theater through next Sunday. It also defines, in many ways, why Gibbons Drama Artistic Director Kevin Ferguson decided to stage not only Spelling Bee but each of the plays this season – from Almost Maine to Hairspray - all firsts for the program.

main characters in Spelling Bee.

Explaining his rationale for staging a season of firsts Ferguson, the program’s director for 13 years, said: “We have a pretty deep bench of unselfish, talented, and committed student-actors; and we are in a school that enables us to present works that are more sophisticated and challenging in content and material.”

Spelling Bee,” noted Ferguson, who is also chair of the arts department, “not only has a wicked sense of humor, a huge heart, and something to say, it is also a lovely play for Gibbons because we love kids and if you love kids this show is right in your wheelhouse.” It is also full of surprises for the audience that are engaging, involves student-musicians, and incorporates unique elements of theater “we never presented before in a show,” he added.

Essentially, it is the right show, with the right students, at the right time, for the right community, he said. “It is ‘a perfect moment of syzygy,’” he said, quoting a lyric from the play.

Students in Spelling Bee

The play also has two casts – syzygy and pandemonium – ensuring that as many students as possible are given the opportunity to perform in the play, which is being presented 12 times over three weekends. Both underscore the continued growth of the arts at Gibbons, which bucks the national trend of budget cuts in the arts.

Matthew Bland ’19, who plays Vice Principal Doug Panch in the pandemonium cast, said being part of an ensemble is what he has enjoyed most about being in Spelling Bee. “Everyone cares about one another,” he said, adding that, “having such encouraging people beside me to take on this role was extraordinary.”

For Caity Ferguson ’19, it has been performing alongside some of her best friends. She plays Olive Ostrovsky, one of the six middle school spellers, in the syzygy cast. While having two casts has challenges, she said “she learned a lot about loving and supporting my castmates and those in the opposite cast … and how to appreciate those who care about me and love me.”

Student in Spelling Bee

While the play is witty and fun, it also sends the message that winning isn’t everything and that everyone has a back story. Asked what he wants audience members to learn from the play Kevin Ferguson said he hopes they see it “as a celebration of the hopes…  of humanity and the risks we all take in building relationships.”

 He added, “this play is proof that art constantly surprises us.”

So, if you would like to be surprised there is still time to see The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Also, check out the upcoming productions.

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