Act 1 Theatre will kick off the new year by bringing its new play, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” to the Liberty Theater in Puyallup — and its performers hope to fill the larger space.
The theater, which is based out of Sumner, started performing at Liberty Theater in the fall, after its former warehouse was turned into an apartment complex.
“(The warehouse) was smaller than the Liberty and (there was) a small black box theater. Then the building sold and a lot of things happened,” said Deborah De Grosse, president of the board of directors for Act 1 Theatre.
For its mainstage performances, the acting group sought out Liberty Theater, which serves as an event center for weddings, holiday parties and other occasions.
The theater hosts a larger audience than Act 1’s previous performance space, which held around 40 people, De Grosse said.
“It’s a great space and bigger than the warehouse,” De Grosse said. “At the Liberty, it’s as many chairs as you can get out.”
It’s a great space and bigger than the warehouse. At the Liberty, it’s as many chairs as you can get out.
Deborah De Grosse, president of the board of directors for Act 1 Theatre
The group hopes to sell 200 tickets for the upcoming play, De Grosse added.
For cast members, performing at Liberty Theater provides a new challenge: They’re no longer rehearsing in the same place they’re performing.
“The Liberty feels more like performing in a traditional theater space — there’s distance,” said cast member Dan Lynse, adding that distance between the stage and an audience can affect the way performers act.
Lynse has acted in various performances with Act 1 Theatre over the course of three years. In “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” Lynse’s role is to offer comfort to the eliminated spellers.
“There are some moving scenes, but it’s a comedy at heart,” Lynse said.
The play follows six participants of a spelling bee, vying for the win. Along the way, they disclose anecdotes from their personal lives.
“There (are) a whole bunch of eclectic characters in the spelling bee for various reasons,” De Grosse said. “We find out all about these spellers through the course of the spelling bee. (The play) has some really rich and well-drawn characters.”
There (are) a whole bunch of eclectic characters in the spelling bee for various reasons. We find out all about these spellers through the course of the spelling bee. (The play) has some really rich and well-drawn characters.
Deborah De Grosse
Nine cast members perform in the play, not including a five-piece live orchestra. Auditions were held in December, with rehearsals beginning shortly after. Ages of cast members range from 12 to 50, said stage manager Stephanie Carlson.
“We have a great mix of people (who perform),” Carlson said. “It’s very much a community theater.”
Act 1 Theatre was founded by Chris and Petra Karr in 1995. Aside from mainstage productions, the theater runs theater history, improv and language classes.
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” premieres at 7 p.m. Friday (Feb. 3) at Liberty Theater at 116 W. Main in Puyallup. Performances continue at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 4), 7 p.m. Feb. 10, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Feb. 11. Tickets can be purchased online or at the door.
Those at Act 1 Theatre look forward to forging a relationship with Liberty Theater in the future.
“We’re looking long-term at the Liberty, but that’s still kind of a goal to get that kind of permanence in our address,” De Grosse said. “We’re hoping we can keep this association with the Liberty.”
“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”
When: Premieres at 7 p.m. Friday (Feb. 3). Performances continue at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 4), 7 p.m. Feb. 10, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Feb. 11.
Where: The Liberty Theater, 116 W. Main, Puyallup
Information: Tickets range from $15-$20 and can be purchased at act1theatre.org/shows and at door.