Students Spell Out Compassion in Summer Play


Photo by Madison Horne

Students take part in the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee in order to raise money for Best Buddies.

July 13 was a magical night at Toquet Hall. Laughs soared to the rafters, applause thundered aggressively. The whole event closed out with a tear-fi lled crowd watching on as a large check was given out to the rightful winner. It was the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

Only, it really wasn’t a spelling bee. For starters, the winner was Best Buddies.

On the weekend of July 12 and July 13, a cast and crew of over 10 students performed The “25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” a musical which takes place at a spelling bee competition, where six quirky students ages 8-12 compete to spell their way to the championship.

“It’s more about each of the spellers learning new things about themselves and gaining knowledge that won’t necessarily help them in a spelling bee, but will help them for life,” says Alexandra Rappaport, who was assistant director for the show.

The show was done in an effort to raise money for Best Buddies, Staples’s largest club, which creates one-on-one friendships between students and other students who have developmental or intellectual disabilities.

The show raised $2510.80, enough to send three Best Buddies members to the International Leadership Conference at Indiana University. Jack Bowman ‘15, who played Leaf Coneybear, recounted giving the check as “magical.”

Gregg Bonti ‘12, who directed, and Sami Schwaeber ‘12, who both co-produced and acted in the show, are both studying at University of Vermont and were both former leaders of Best Buddies. While away at school, they had begun to miss their organization.

“During our freshman year, Sami and I were looking for a club similar to Best Buddies that could keep us busy during the year, but unfortunately we couldn’t find anything similar. Throughout the year we both really missed Best Buddies and couldn’t wait to visit the club and the buddies on our school breaks,” Bonti says.

After learning that the Best Buddies budget was “rocky,” Sami and Gregg felt compelled to give back to the organization, and so decided to put on Spelling Bee. Bonti, who formerly acted in the show, had fallen in love with the musical, which he and Sami agreed was perfect for their cause.

The show operated on a shoestring budget. The lighting equipment was provided by Staples High School and Bedford Middle School, while the costumes and props came from donations by Guilford High School, and even just objects found around the house.

The cast consisted of student actors who were simply asked if they wanted to perform. Bryan Gannon ‘14 jumped at the opportunity.

“I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make people laugh for a good cause,” said Gannon.

Although the show has ended, Rappaport insists that the memories and experience have taught her a lot.

“I’d say the biggest thing is that it’s so easy to give back and to make a difference. It hardly ever felt like we were working; we were just putting on a piece of theatre and were able to make such a huge difference doing so,” said Rappaport.