Labels Off debuts “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”

Libby Brown and Isabelle Pala

The new Wilson theater group Labels Off will put on their first play, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” this April. The show follows the lives of students competing in a local spelling bee competition.

Labels Off is a student-run group with limited supervision from Wilson teachers and faculty. These students collaborate to produce unique shows that erase stigmas and stereotypes and give students an equal opportunity to be a part of a musical community. “Anyone can play any character. There isn’t a specific race, you don’t have to look like this or like that, and anyone who is the best fit for the role can have that role,” explained Labels Off co-founder and junior Aline Contreras, who is directing the show.

Freshman Eliza Leibovich, who plays a character named Rona, says she joined Labels Off because of “the welcoming environment and how nice everyone is.” Eleanor Gallay, another ninth-grade cast member, added that her favorite songs in the musical are “Prayer of the Comfort Counselor” and “I Speak Six Languages,” two numbers filled with humor and irony.

Despite what may seem like a dull subject for a musical, this show takes on a comedic twist to bring an interesting and flavorful performance. Contreras describes the show as “a bunch of sixth-graders who are going through puberty, who are going through huge life changes, coming together because they love spelling, singing about their lives, and telling their story on stage.”

The show is the first Labels Off production, and the fact that it’s a musical has presented an extra challenge. “It’s more difficult to put on a musical than a play because you have to add in choreography, and you have to make sure everyone knows the music really well,” said Contreras.

This is Contreras’ first time directing, and she says the experience has been stressful but valuable. “I wasn’t really aware of all the things that came with it. But even though it’s been stressful I’ve found out that it’s something I’ve loved doing,” said Contreras.

Performances will take place on April 3, 4, and 5 at 7:30 p.m. in the Black Box.