DHS presents spring musical

Finally, Danville High School actors can do what they love to do — perform on stage for a live audience.

There will be three performances of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” at Gravely Hall on May 6, 7 and 8. It will be the first time in two years that a spring play will be performed on stage AT DHS. Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools to shut down and therefore canceled DHS’s spring performance of “Matilda.”

Being able to direct a live performance, on stage, “It’s like finding water in the desert. It’s an oasis,” explained director Frieda Gebert.

Having a live audience and watching how the young actors “grow” as they take on their roles, Gebert said she feels like “I can breathe. I can drink.”

Gebert describes the musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” like this: “I think it’s about learning to love yourself more than you do winning. Love is more important than winning … It’s a wonderful journey of self-discovery.” The characters, who are about 12-years-old, discover if they want to “intentionally lose” the spelling bee in order to strengthen friendships. “They’re deciding what’s the most important thing. Is it winning,” Gebert asked.

This is not the first musical that Gebert has directed. But it is the first time she’s directed Danville High School students. “Musicals are my specialty,” she said as she watched the actors talk about the play on stage after a recent dress rehearsal. She’s directed operas in the past, she explained.

Gebert may be a familiar name to some locals. She retired last year from Boyle County High School where she had been the drama instructor for seven years. She said her friend Jane Dewey, who is the director of arts education for the Danville Schools system, asked her if she wanted to be stage director, and she gladly accepted.

Senior, Ethan Scott, said this is the first musical — actually the first time he’s ever been on stage. Plus he plays the lead character, William Barfée. He said he may have been “type casted” because of his physique, he said with a grin.

Scott played offensive tackle for the DHS football team, and will be playing football when he attends Centre College next season.

He said he plays guitar and sings “as a private hobby.” But singing on stage, “out there and just belt out a song, that’s something that I learned to do,” Scott said.

What helped him was the support of the cast. “Everyone understands when you’re put in situations where we try new things.”

Julius Lane is a freshman, but unlike Scott, he is a seasoned actor and has performed in a few musical as a student at John W. Bate Middle School.

Being back on stage and looking forward to performing in front of a live audience, Lane said, “It feels good. I didn’t get to step foot on the stage,” for a year, he added. “It’s refreshing” to be performing again. “I have two solos.”

Jenna Haines, who is a DHS senior has acted all through elementary and middle school. Last year she was cast as Miss Honey in the DHS production of Matilda. “It was my dream roll,” Haines said. But the pandemic canceled the show.

Being on stage in the final days of her high school career, Haines said. “It’s wonderful. It’s like being home. Being on stage makes me feel some normalcy now.”

Julia Hunt, who is also a senor and experienced actor said, “Being on stage is like a second home.” She also enjoys working with the “welcoming and accepting and supportive group of people,” with the show.

THE CAST

(In order of appearance)

Rona Lisa Peretti — Julia Hunt

Chip Tolentino — Demani Bell

Logaine Schwarzengrubeniere — Sofia Sanders

Leaf Coneybear — Julius Lane

William Barfee — Ethan Scott

Marcy Park — Isabelle Kernen

Olive Ostrovsky — Jenna Haines

V.P. Douglas Panch — Britton Minks

Midge Mahoney — Eleanor Tubb

Carl Dad — Demani Bell

Dan Dad  — Ethan Scott

Marigold Coneybear — Ella McAllister

The Coneybear Family — Amaris Hamilton, Londyn Jackson, Anna Sparrow, Lilla Walter

Jesus — Darrel Rickmers

IF YOU GO

Advanced ticket sales for “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” begin Monday, May 3 at DHS from 8:15 a.m.-3:45 p.m. Tickets will also be available at the door starting at 7 p.m. before each performance.

Ticket prices are $5 for students and seniors; and $7 for adults. There will be a very limited number of tickets available (165 per show) since the theater is operating at only 25% capacity. Facial coverings must be worn at all times.