Hamish Anderson (Leaf Coneybear) takes some time out from studying his dictionary to answer a few questions about Fab Nobs' upcoming production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
Theatre People: For those who are not aware, Fab Nobs was recently robbed and lost upwards of $20,000 worth of equipment and materials. How has this affected your preparations for Spelling Bee (if at all)?
Hamish Anderson: During the rehearsal period, we were unfortunately robbed, which did put somewhat of a strain on the preparation for the show, that opens this Friday, July 1st at 8pm. As well as putting on this fantastic show, we needed to organise, rehearse, and present the We Were Robbed concert, that was a huge success. It was the promotion of the We Were Robbed concert and the performance night itself that allowed us to make much-needed connections with the wonderful theatre industry who gave us so much in terms of lending us equipment and donations. As you know, "the show must go on" and we found ourselves in a place where we were able to rehearse in our unique theatre space with appropriate equipment to assist us to make Spelling Bee the success it is going to be. Once again we would like to thank those who came and supported us on the evening and to those who have been so kind to us, donating equipment etc.
TP: Spelling Bee is based on an improvised play by New York comedy troupe The Farm. Was improvisation an important part of your rehearsal process?
HA: It was orginally titled C-R-E-P-U-S-C-U-L-E, however later changed to The 25h Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, funnily enough a much longer, yet memorable title. It is wonderful to be able to research into processes like these to be able to know and understand that every rehearsal process is so unique, challenging and constantly evolving. In order for the actors to be able to workshop their particular character traits, improvisation certainly had to play a part. The show has such amazing characters, who are so cute and cheeky in their own right, that it allowed us as adults and human beings to be able to literally 'play' on stage as you would as an 8-13 year old. We still find ourselves walking a particular way, or saying something just in everyday conversation that fits just so perfectly in this show, we are truly loving 'playing' characters. It is also great because we all have associations with younger kids from whom we can score some classic mannerisms from.
TP: Spelling Bee beat Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Light in the Piazza, and Spamalot to the Best Book Tony in 2005. For those who aren't familiar with the story of Spelling Bee could you give us a brief description?
HA: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a musical comedy originally conceived by Rebecca Feldman with music and lyrics by William Finn. It tells the story of six young spellers who have made it to the finals of the County Spelling Bee. These children come to realise that they are not only attending the Spelling Bee, they are learning many things about life in the process, that later affects them in their future endeavors. One of the unique aspects to this musical is that four extra spellers are chosen from the audience who are also able to take part in the spelling competition. There are also adults roles played primarily by Lizzie Matjacic, Justin Cleaver and Karl McNamara, who, too, find themselves learning many things at this particular Spelling Bee.
TP: Who do you play in the show? What are they like?
HA: In this show I play a character called Leaf Coneybear who has grown up in a rather large family. Leaf is a very unique child who makes his own clothes and often gets distracted by the simple things in life. He was very lucky to be asked to participate in the Spelling Bee as the winner in his district (who should've been involved in the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee) had his Bat Mitzvah and the first runner-up had to attend the winner’s Bat Mitzvah. Leaf is a lovable character whose intention is not necessarily to win but to be a part of something that he believes is larger than the life he has been living.
TP: What has been the hardest aspect of the show for you and what has been the most enjoyable?
HA: It is always a win to work with such an amazing cast. There are so many experienced actors who are able to offer such valuable ideas and assist with developing the environment that is trying to be created. Personally, I have learnt so much from observing the processes that others go through in order to develop their own individual characters on the stage. I really enjoy being a part of a talented group of performers who support me and inspire me to work harder to be the best I can. Therefore, the creative process with the cast has just been amazing.
We can sugar coat things and say that the rehearsal process has been smooth sailing, but obviously each group of individuals have their own challenges, which they must go through in order come to the point where they are able to be proud of what they are presenting. We are certainly not the exception. However, as a new-comer to the amateur theatre world, I am just in awe of everyone and their uniqueness.
TP: What are you most excited about personally with this production?
HA: This show is SO MUCH FUN! I am so excited that people are going to come see yet another amazing Fab Nobs show! There is so much laughter and so much genuine growth that you see on the stage. I am excited for the cast because they get to play these adorable characters and especially for the return of Lizzie Matjacic to the Fab Nobs stage. I am excited for Phil Scanlon our Musical Director because he has been working hard putting together the amazing sounds that are coming from his band. I can't wait for you all to see it!
TP: Finally, what is your favourite word that someone has to spell in the show and could you give us its language of origin and use it in a sentence?
There are so many amazing and hilarious words that you will hear on the night! Sometimes I catch myself going "oh my goodness!?", because the word is either so completely ridiculous or "SO EASY!" Some of the words change every single night so I don't want to give those away! A good one is "Tittup"! You will have to come and see how and why this word is used in particular, (it is hilarious!!!) but it means to move, especially to walk, in an exaggerated prancing or bouncing way, as a spirited horse. I am laughing right now just thinking about it!!
Fab Nobs' Spelling Bee Pics
Fab Nobs' Spelling Bee Pi