Take it from our Patrons

Silent Sky by Lauren Gunderson

photo by Peterson Creative Photography & Design

Take it from our Patrons…

Ollie Lepper & her daughter Sawyer recently attended the play Silent Sky together. I was curious about their experience. Here is a little bit about what they thought about this show.

Ollie, what was your impression of this show?

It was visually stunning, extremely informative about an amazing piece of history that I knew nothing about, and it was also quite funny!

What was your favorite part of this play?

I actually really loved the sequences that were effectively showing the passage of time! The women working round the clock in the lab interspersed with the “letters” home to Henrietta’s sister. The dedication these women had to their career was unbelievable. 

Did you have a favorite character?

Henrietta was such a modern woman! She knew what she wanted to do with her life and she made it happen. The measures she took to attain that life were extremely radical for the time period. I really loved all the women in the lab and thought the play did a great job of letting us grasp what they were up against in this time period but also let us see them as not just these serious, incredibly smart people. They were fun and funny too!

Now, Sawyer, you went to this play with your mom, so what about you, who was your favorite character?

Henrietta, because she’s funny and really smart and spoke out about what she wanted to do, which was not sit in a stuffy room and work for men!

This was your first time at the theatre, right? What did you think about going to a show there?

I was kind of nervous, but it’s a really cool place!

What part of the play did you like the best?

I liked the parts where they communicated in letters! It was really interesting but kinda funny at the same time!

What would you tell other kids your age about this play or about the theatre?

I actually did this! I told my friend Jentrey about the play and the theatre, and we made a plan for me and my dad to go with her and her dad to see Silent Sky!

Ollie, did any part of this play hit you in particular?

I am continually amazed by people who are obsessed with space. I personally find it overwhelming and kind of terrifying, haha! These women had a quest to discover and understand these stars that are an impossible distance away and they gave years of dedicated study, it’s just, WOW. 

Why did you want to bring your daughter to this play?

I thought it would be a great history lesson about a piece of history that we previously knew nothing about! I wasn’t expecting it to also be so funny and tender. The light show with the stars was truly a special treat! We loved it!

What do you hope she got out of it?

I think it is hard for kids to grasp life before any real technology existed. I hope she picked up on the dedication these women had to what amounts to truly monotonous and tedious work. Nothing about Henrietta’s discovery was easy! I also think it is important for us to keep our daughters informed about how far women have come. I think it’s confusing for them to understand that women were actually NOT ALLOWED to use a telescope?! To vote?! These things seem insane today but it really wasn’t that long ago. 

Would you recommend this play to other parents with their kids?

Yes! It is a great history lesson with enough laughs and light show effects to keep kids attention.

Spending time with your family at the Commonweal is one of the great things to do in Lanesboro, MN. Need another idea? Commonweal resident ensemble member Elizabeth Dunn thinks that breakfast at Gordy and Val’s Diner Car Cafe is not to be missed when in town. Honestly, best waffle for miles!
Silent Sky plays for another six weeks with the closing set for June 23rd. I’d love to know how it inspires you.
Get your tickets today by viewing the full performance calendar.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the theatre—Jeremy

Our New Apprentice Actor

Your Putnam County Spelling Bee Returning Champ

He’s the 24th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee Champ and he’s played by our newest apprentice class member Brandon Cayetano. You’ll have plenty of chances to meet Brandon in person over the course of his theatre apprenticeship this year but for now, here he is to introduce you to his character in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee—Chip Tolentino.

Hello Commonweal patrons! My name is Brandon Cayetano, and I’m a member of this year’s Commonweal Apprentice Class. I’m looking forward to spending a year both at the theatre and in the wonderful town of Lanesboro. I’m kicking off my season here with a role in the second show of the 30th Season, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee as Chip Tolentino! I’ve been a fan of the show for a long time, and Chip has been a dream role of mine, so it’s been surreal bringing this character to life. I was always drawn to Chip’s character because of his drive to win. He won last year’s Spelling Bee, and he’s back to reclaim the title of Spelling Champ! Once I knew I was going to play Chip, I delved into his backstory to find out what motivates and drives him. Here is a little bit of what I discovered.

Brandon Cayetano in rehearsal for The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee as Chip Tolentino

Brandon in rehearsal to create Chip Tolentino

During rehearsals, the director (Alan Bailey) and I found that the action of the play is sort of a redemption story for Chip. As last year’s winner, he’s already been to Nationals in Washington D.C, but he didn’t do as well as he would’ve liked. Chip has worked really hard to be where he is today and takes the Bee seriously, so when other kids seem to be able to get away with not working as hard, or don’t take things as seriously as him, you can see his blood boil. He’s the type of person who does things he knows he’s good at, so not doing well at Nationals really drove him to make his way back to D.C. this year. He’s athletic, he works hard at school, and you can just tell he wants to make it to a good college, so he has a lot riding on this competition. Not only is it his second chance to do well at the National Spelling Bee, but if he does well at Nationals, that’s his ticket to that good college! Chip exudes confidence in the Bee, but some may interpret it as cockiness. Chip is kind of like a poker player in that he doesn’t want the other kids in the bee to know what he’s thinking but his head is always in the game.

Will Chip win for the second year in a row and reclaim the championship? I guess you’ll have to see The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee live onstage at the Commonweal to find out!

A ticket to one of the professional, live theatre offerings at the Commonweal is only one of the many great things to do Lanesboro, MN. What’s another? How about biking or hiking along some, or all, of the 60-mile Root River State Bike Trail. The paved trail veers directly through downtown Lanesboro and is a great way to spend the day before heading to the theatre for the evening.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee opens this Saturday, May 12 with a gala celebration with the entire cast and Commonweal company following the performance. You can make a reservation and purchase your ticket right here on this website by visiting the full season performance calendar.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the theatre! — Jeremy

Where Are They Now: Scripps National Spelling Bee Winners…And Then Some

A Look at Where Kid Geniuses are Now

Spelling Bee Champ meets US President

2002 Champ Pratyush Buddiga

2002 Scripps National Spelling Bee champion Pratyush Buddiga won on the correct spelling of the word “prospicience,” a noun which means “the act of looking forward.” In the decade-and-a-half since winning, Buddiga has moved on to an altogether different competitive circuit as a professional poker player. He picked up the sport while a student at Duke University, where he applied his adept memory and pattern recognition skills to excel at the card game.

In her second-grade spelling bee, Commonweal Company Manager Megan Pence got 5th place which was pretty damn good since she was sent home from school that very afternoon with strep throat and a double ear infection. Megan missed the word shrub (doubled the “b”). Jane Kim won. Of course.

Daniel Greenblatt, the 1984 champion whose winning word was “luge,” prefers to work behind the scenes nowadays. While his victory lap included a spell-off with Johnny Carson, it ultimately made him wary of the limelight. “It’s a wake-up call for people who think, ‘When I become rich and famous, my life will change, and it’s all going to be wonderful, and I’ll live like Kim Kardashian,’” he told Time Magazine. He is currently a software engineer who moonlights as a voice actor, where he does work for radio ads and video games.

Alan Bailey, director of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee at the Commonweal, wishes he had a better story. All the times he did spelling bees, nothing remarkable happened. Words were pronounced and spelled and that was pretty much it.

The character of Mitch Mahoney, “comfort counselor,” is played by Eric Lee. Eric still has the Encyclopedia Britannica Atlas, his prize for 2nd place in the Iowa State Fair spelling bee. Why 2nd? In spelling “forehead,” he left out the first “e.”

Scripps two-time 3rd place speller

Srinivas Ayyagari

He’s not a champion, but Srinivas Ayyagari placed third twice at the spelling bee. The second instance occurred in 1994 which also happened to be the first year ESPN broadcast the contest. In terms of mental athletics, however, Ayyagaris wasn’t quite finished. While in law school he would go on to win $27,400 in a Jeopardy! Teen Tournament in 2008. (“This will be a better highlight for you,” Alex Trebek supposedly told him.)

In our spelling bee, Hal Cropp plays Vice Principal Douglas Panch. Hal’s bee experience is as a parent watching his second grader bow out in the final round by spelling pancake, “P-A-N-K-A-K-E.

Abbie Cathcart plays the role of Marcy Park in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and was in the 3rd or 4th grade when she was in a spelling bee. She forgot it was happening, definitely didn’t study at all, and incorrectly spelled “fiercely.” It was not her best moment. And she definitely knows how to spell the word now.

Scripps 1973 champion speller

1973 Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion                                    Barrie Trinkle

“Vouchsafe” was Barrie Trinkle’s winning word in 1973, and while winners cannot compete in future competitive spelling bees, that doesn’t mean their enthusiasm for the sport diminishes. After the bee, Trinkle attended MIT, spent over a decade at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, worked as an editor at Amazon, and currently spends her time volunteering and freelance writing. Busy as she is, Trinkle still finds the time to watch — and live tweet — the National Spelling Bee.

Elizabeth Dunn is filling the role of Olive Ostrovsky in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. She was a kid who frequently made it to school forgetting to put her shoes on…needless to say, she was never in a spelling bee.

Philip Muehe portrays Leaf Coneybear in Putnam County and competed in a spelling bee in 6th or 7th grade. English had always been a strong subject of Philip’s so he thought he had a pretty good chance, but the pressure of doing it in front of other people was different than doing school plays. He bombed out during the 2nd round but did manage to spell “Dystopia” correctly. Later, he got to miss class to watch the winners from all the classrooms compete to see who would represent his middle school and his best friend got in the top 3. So that was fun to watch!

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is production number two of our 30th Season of producing live professional theatre in Lanesboro. The musical romp begins previews on May 4th and officially opens May 12th. To purchase your tickets, look no further than this website. 
Click here for the full season performance calendar.
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you at the theatre!—Jeremy