Drama program more than musicals

From competitions to coffeehouses to spelling bees, theater students flex more than acting muscles


Isabella Canizares

Sophomores Aubrey Odom, Judy Boza and senior Nicole Ehrlich preform the opening number of ’25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’ at the dress rehearsal.

While most students who wake up early in the morning for school reach for their morning caffeine boost, theater kids reach for their cup of throat coat tea to keep them going. They can be normally seen in one of their cast shirts from past shows they have participated in, often in a crowd of other theater kids outside classroom 425, the drama room. On top of homework, study sessions and their ordinary school work, these students also have to worry about rehearsals, voice lessons and learning choreography. This season includes two musicals, multiple coffeehouses, showcases and more to come.

One of the events drama club puts on is a seasonal evening coffeehouse in the drama room. The forum serves as a talent show where students can perform songs, dances and slam poetry. There is an audition process, though very informal, about two weeks prior. 

Sophomore Aubrey Odom performed “Your Song” by Elton John at the Sept. 19 event. 

“My favorite part of performing was hearing everyone clap afterwards because I was so nervous,” he said.

Drama teacher and club sponsor Oliver Black was particularly excited for the Dec. 12 coffeehouse.

“I love the holidays. Everyone is supposed to be happy and cheerful so that’s why the December coffeehouse is always my favorite event of the year,” Black said.

Beyond smaller events, drama club and corresponding classes also put on major productions each semester. In October, the group performed the musical “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” a musical comedy that revolves around a group of young students vying for the honor of first place in a county spelling bee and their various trials and tribulations. 

Senior Julia Pihokken played Marcy Parks, who is one of the spellers in the show and said it was a challenge to portray her. 

“It was really fun to play a type of character I usually don’t get to portray because it was a challenging role. Marcy is such a mean-spirited character at first, and is very out of my typecast [of lighthearted, kinder characters], which made it really fun to play her. She was definitely my favorite character I have played so far,” Pihokken said.

Performed in two acts, the show consists of a small cast of nine people. The characters must learn that winning and losing is not everything and there is more to life than first place. A unique component of the show is that the cast calls audience members up to the stage to participate as spellers. One of the most memorable guests, according to the cast, was teacher Carlos Velasquez, known as Mr. V to most.

Senior Aidan Havens played comfort counselor Mitch Magoney.  

“He [Mr. Velasquez] was into [the song] and actually [spelled] the words right. He pretended to cry when he got eliminated from misspelling a long, hard word. If we had the opportunity to choose anyone else, we still wouldn’t change having Mr. V,” Havens said.

November 14 was home to a showcase, a combination of performances from different musicals ranging from group class performances to solo acts.

Junior Nick Stein ran tech for the show.

“Tech makes you see the different aspects of the show like the nervous freakouts before and the wave of relief afterwards. It is all about perspective,” Stein said.

One of the biggest accomplishments the thespian troupe has accomplished this year is at the local district festival, which is a competition where students put together a variety of pieces, including solos, duets and even tech pieces. These are rated by judges on a scale from poor to  superior. The highest honor is “Critics’ Choice,” which means that the student(s) are eligible to be a district representative at the State competition in Tampa later that year. This year the program took home 18 superiors, 13 excellents, two honorable mentions and a critics choice for the first time in five years. It was a duet musical “Too Late to Turn Back Now” from “Bonnie and Clyde” performed by seniors Ishani Kamalani and Adian Havens.

Kamalani knew their piece was superior worthy but did not expect the critics choice distinction.

“[Aidan and I] were dropping off our trophies in senior Marco Massari’s trunk and we kept on refreshing the page to see the critics choice winners were and the only room that wasn’t out yet was our duet room. When Aidan refreshed it, he just screamed and the minute he screamed I knew we had gotten it and I started crying,” Kamalani said.

 The spring musical “Hairspray” will close the season this spring , and show preparations began in mid-December. Junior Brianna Petrus auditioned for “Hairspray” and will be part of the ensemble, which will be her first show with the drama department.

 “At first I didn’t think I would like it, but the soundtrack is amazing. When I listened to ‘Good Morning Baltimore’ and ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat.’ I really liked them because it’s so lively and bubbly,” Petrus said.

The musical is the Cappie show of the season, or the production considered for nominations across South Florida. January 9 was their first official rehearsal. The show runs March 12-14.