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My Amazing night at the spelling bee! 
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Joined: Mon Dec 15, 2008 9:09 am
Posts: 541
Main Role: Performer
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I just wrote this up for another group of friends, but it's late, pardon any redundant explanation that this crowd's already aware of:

A friend of mine is planning on producing/directing "The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" in August. The rights are pending because there's a professional production going on right now at Pheasant Run down in St. Charles, IL. A friend had gotten her a ticket, and she suggested I should get one as well so we could watch for how they handle the audience interaction bits of the show, assuming she gets the rights. I really liked the soundtrack, and was planning on going out for the show anyway, plus it sounded like fun, so I got a ticket and went to the show tonight.

It was officially opening night (they've been in "previews" for a couple weeks) and the house was jam-packed. Before the show started, they had interns out in the lobby looking for audience volunteers. So I told one of them sure, I'd be interested. She asked me for my name, age, occupation, how I decided to come see the show (friend had a ticket and suggested I come along!) and hobbies, then gave me a little slip of paper to give to the assistant production coordinator (?) for further interviewing. I took my slip over to her, and she asked me if I'd seen the show before (no, I haven't), and something else that led to me telling her about an adult spelling bee I was in about 10 years ago.

Spelling bee aside: this was some charity spelling bee with teams, and I got pulled into it at the last minute. After a couple rounds, I took the word "incendiary" which I know how to spell cold, but lost my place a few letters in and went down in ignominy. I also then had to hear the razzing every time the word "incendiary" crossed my path for the next 10 years.

The only other question was if I could sit on a backless bleacher (no problem) and that was it. Be sure to be in my seat 10 minutes before the show starts in case I was selected.

So I took my seat, and at 10 minutes of, one of the interns came by, informed me I'd been selected, and led me to the back corner with the 3 other selectees to get our briefing. The other three were a 30-ish gent, a kid about 14, and a woman in her late 40s. The instructions were simple: They'd call us by name when it was time to go up. Sit in the bleachers with the "kids." Always ask for a definition and for the word to be used in a sentence. The cast may, at some point, take our hand to lead us somewhere, or whisper instructions: follow those. Otherwise, just enjoy. Spell to the best of your ability.

So we got called up after the first number, and led to our places. I was representing "Hixon Middle School" (Olive: "Are you twelve?!") The 30ish guy was the first of the volunteers to be called a little in and was given some absurd word, it may have been "kinnikinnick" or something that he missed, I'm sure according to plan. The woman volunteer a bit later was given "Jihad", a word she'd actually been clued into before the show (this was the only one they gave any of us, however). As each of us were called up, Rona would give "personal facts." Apparently, my favorite TV show is "Jersey Shore."

My first word was "Mexican."
[Cast reacts: WHAT? MEXICAN! THAT'S SO EASY! etc. etc.]
"Can I have a definition please?"
[laughter]
PANCH: "A person from Mexico." [pause for laugh] "Also a slang term for anyone from Puerto Rico, Guatemale, Costa Rica, or anywhere in South America."
"Can you use it in a sentence?"
I forget what it was, but obviously I spelled "Mexican" right and returned to the bench.
"Pff. Some word."

Then came the 13-year old who got "cow" which cues a song about how "life is random and unfair," during which we got pulled up to dance. I heard some hollers for me busting a move, I tell you that.

The bee went on... the lady went out on her 2nd or 3rd word with "putsch." I got "fandango" right, then the kid missed on something I don't recall, and I was left as the last audience speller. I knew generally what was going to happen next.

I got called up and was given my word: "catterjunes"
"Can I have a definition?"
PANCH: "There... is... no listed definition for this word. There is only one record of its usage, in a Nantucket whaling diary."
[laughter]
"Can you use it in a sentence?"
PANCH: "Arrr... me matey... 'tis a catterjunes out there o'er the sprig bow." (something like that)
"Catterjunes. C-A-T-T-E-R-J-U-N-E-S. Catterjunes."
PANCH: That... is correct.
[Cast is astonished I got it]

The trick is that there's no such word. Any reasonable spelling is called correct. It's a setup for the next bit. As soon as I return to my seat, I'm immediately named again. Panch then goes into a seperate box and pulls out a blue card, the word that they use to really get rid of the last audience speller, and one I didn't know what it would be.
PANCH: "Your word is lysergic acid diethylamide."
[MITCH stands up to comfort me.]
I ask for a definition and a sentence.

Then I spell it.

There is no ding.

The audience goes NUTS. I look over at the table. Panch has his head down, playing it off. Rona is, I can see, legitimately surprised. I'm never even told it was correct. Panch just goes back into his "special box" and pulls out a yellow card and gives me "Xerophthalmiology" or something like that. I give it a legitimate try but miss. I get a huuuuuuuge ovation. While Mitch is waiting for it to pass, he's just kind of standing there, subtly shaking his head and kind of giggling. I get my serenade send-off ("You're the best-looking dude we've had all day...") and go back to my seat to enjoy the rest of the show. As soon as I sit back down, the guy next to me asks, "are you _sure_ you're not a plant?"

After the show, I'm standing in the lobby talking with my friend, and a number of people come up to ask if I was given the word, congratulate me, etc. I tell anyone who asks how I knew it that my degree is in biochemistry. "OH!" says one woman to her friends. "He's a chemistry teacher! That explains it."

Close enough.

But I got a juice box to take home. And the show was great. I really, really hope the rights come through. What a blast.

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On deck:Innkeeper, _Man of La Mancha_, April-May


Sat May 01, 2010 10:11 pm
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