Blackfriars Theatre, 795 E. Main St., Rochester, will kick off its 70th anniversary season with the summer intensive production, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” on July 12-21.
Following an eclectic group of six mid-pubescents vying for the spelling championship of a lifetime, the Tony Award-winning musical was penned by Rachel Sheinkin from a concept by Rebecca Feldman, and music by composer and lyricist William Finn.
While candidly disclosing hilarious and touching stories from their home lives, the tweens spell their way through a series of potentially made-up words, hoping never to hear the soul-crushing, pout-inducing, life un-affirming “ding” of the bell that signals a spelling mistake.
“Each summer, our goal is to raise the bar to challenge and train the next generation of theater artists,” said Danny Hoskins, artistic and managing director. “We work with a diverse range of theater students — actors, designers, stage managers, directors — who are studying to pursue a career in theater.
“The Blackfriars Theatre Summer Intensive program is designed to push them, in a professional setting, to raise the expectations in their own work, and to arm them with new tools to broaden and strengthen their skills as an actor, stage manager or designer. This summer’s ‘The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ is a perfect vehicle to stretch these young artists, both in their acting and vocal technique, and their technical and design skills, and offers all of them equal opportunity to grow as student artists.”
BTSI launched in 2016 to provide professional-level actor training to the next generation of artists. Focused on rising juniors in high school through newly graduated seniors in college, BTSI offers continued training for students who are interested in or are studying to pursue a career in the field. Participating students undergo a six-week program culminating in a musical theater performance. Over the course of the intensive, students focus on ensemble building, actor training and performance process.
Blackfriars will celebrate its anniversary with a birthday bash in August, pair of retrospective concerts and play reading series highlighting favorites from past years. The 2019-20 season consists of “Guys & Dolls” on Aug. 30-Sept. 15, “Detroit ‘67” on Oct. 18-Nov. 3, “Peter and the Starcatcher” on Dec. 13-31, “Next to Normal” on Feb. 7-23, “Silent Sky” on March 27-April 11, and “Calendar Girls” on May 15-31.
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” cast includes Joseph Buck (Vice Principal Douglas Panch), Alexander Christie (Chip Tolentino), Savannah Devlin (Logainne Schwartzandgrubeniere), Alec Ewing (Leaf Coneybear), Joseph Greenan (Mitch Mahoney), Garrison Hunt (William Barfee), Melanie McBride (Rona Lisa Peretti), Chloe Phelps (Marcy Park) and Bridget Welch (Olive Ostrovsky). The production is directed by Hoskins, with musical direction by Andy Pratt and choreography by Lani Toyama Hoskins.
The show will run at 8 p.m. on July 12-13 and 19-20, 2 p.m. on July 14 and 21, and 7:30 p.m. on July 16-18. An artistic talkback will follow the July 14 performance.
Tickets cost $34.50, and are available at blackfriars.org or (585) 454-1260. Senior and student discounts are available.