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Local arts community offers aid to student production of 'Spelling Bee'

(:26) Some people see the Roaring Fork Valley towns as distinctly different groups that can function on their own without the help of their neighbors. Though it may be true in some cases, in others cooperation and camaraderie is deeply valuable. So when the education coordinators for Theatre Aspen were faced with a dilemma for their production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”, they turned to the arts collective for help. For KDNK News, Hattison Rensberry has more.

"Rensberry: Vanessa Strahan, the Director of Secondary Education for Theater Aspen, describes the problems the production was facing in detail.

Strahan: There's the immediate story and then there's sort of the longer term story of the construction in Aspen School District. Because of that construction we've been at the Colorado Mountain College campus. But we were supposed to be able to move into the black box at Aspen High School originally and had got delayed.
And we've known that, we had known that for a little while, but then got some communication from them that there had been something really unexpected, in their replacement of some sort of like mechanism that they weren't anticipating.

So it was sort of a sudden scramble for a place for the kids to perform. But for performance space, we were really in a bind, um, because there's a lot of restrictions on where you can really be for a theatrical performance, to have all the tech elements that you need to make happen to fit in the audience members, to have the space for the kids to perform on stage. So we sort of sent out an all-call to, to the valley arts organizations. It's been like so, incredibly heartwarming and touching to see how quickly and enthusiastically everyone responded about doing everything they could to help us find an alternate space.
Basalt Middle School was super generous in quickly offering us the use of their auditorium space, which obviously, would've in terms of facility been a fantastic second option just in terms of location, it certainly would've been a little bit tougher logistically. Like I said, we're just so appreciative of like how quickly everyone came together and all of the work folks put into trying to find a backup option for the kids and that Aspen High School and the construction team there put into trying to get things back as much on track as they could, as quickly as they possibly could.

Rensberry: Strahan then reflected on the attitude she wants to continue to foster within her students and her program's, relationships with other local arts organizations.

Strahan: Sure there's a place in the world for competition in sport, but that in the arts or when it comes to community, you know, our eyes should really always be towards collaboration, community, and supporting one another.
Just a reminder that, that in theater and, and in life, you gotta expect the unexpected, you know? And I think it's just another reminder for us of how lucky we are to be part of this community and how much we wanna, you know, give that energy back to everyone else as much as they gave it to us.

Rensberry: Like the help offered, the teens come from several towns along Highway 82. I'll let them introduce themselves, and their characters.

I'm Katherine and I play Rona.
My name's Daisy and I play Speller number one and Olive's Mom.
I'm Eliza and I'm playing Mitch Mahoney, the comfort counselor.
Iggy, I'm playing Leaf Coneybear.

Rensberry: The young performers detailed how problematic a full location change would've been for their creative and technical teams.

Kathy: It does cause a lot of problems for not just the actors. It's like a lot more for the tech people that have to fix the lights, the mics, all of the stuff that involves everything in there. With our amazing cast and our amazing team, I know it's gonna, we're gonna be fine.

Daisy: It's, it's a big impact on you know, the tech. But we just have to adapt, it's life.

Iggy: There's gonna be a whole thing. I mean, we already got delayed one week, and I'm glad that we finally get to be.

Rensberry: Program coordinators took measures to not share the details of the issue with the students before they had a surefire plan, but the teens had this to say.

Elisa: I think that's really amazing and it shows how much our community not only cares about the arts, but how tight-knit our community is. How I think it's really amazing how people are ready to help everybody and, um, make this show possible. And I'm. Very thankful that we're able to do it in the black box, but I'm also very thankful for everybody who offered up a space.

Iggy: It's, it's pretty lovely. The whole community that we have here in the valley is like very welcoming. It's very great. I moved here about two years ago and I already feel so much at home here.

Rensberry: With all of their worries now by the wayside, the teens and instructors can get back to their show preparations for opening night on Friday, each excited for the audience to experience their favorite part.

Kathy: I feel like just like doing another one for me. 'Cause like I thought my last show was my last show and I'm here I am doing another one and I'm just so happy to be doing another one.

Daisy: It's very exciting. Just, yeah, that's all I have to say.

Elisa: It's a really fun show and I think I'm really excited for the audience participation, I think it's, Really important. We have like two audience members who get to sit on stage with the actors and I think it's just, it's so much fun and I feel like the show isn't what most people would expect. 'Cause it's very different from other shows Theater Aspen has done in other shows that I've done.

Iggy: I have like my own song in this number. I've never had like a personal song. So that, I think that's gonna be pretty fun. Really though I just enjoy getting to watch everyone do their thing.

Rensberry: For KDNK news, I'm Hattison Rensberry. "
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” premieres on Friday, August 4th at 2pm and 7pm, plus there are three more shows on August 5th and 6th.
More information on the show is at

Hattison Rensberry has a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design and Drawing, but has worked for newsrooms in various capacities since 2019.
She also provides Editorial Design for the Sopris Sun.