Get to Know the Cast of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”


Charlie Princing and Maddy Ostroff

Imagine this: You’re sitting front row to see your school’s latest production. Whether this happened to you in third grade, or even in your Senior and final year, it has never failed to be a moment to remember –  a moment of excitement, and a chance to get a glimpse of what the cast and crew have been working so hard on for the better half of the school year. You simply can’t help but wonder while watching: what could possibly be going on inside those actor’s heads? Are they ever nervous, do they ever mess up and we just don’t realize it?

Well, we journalists did the dirty work for you, and were able to uncover the answers to these often overlooked questions! Join us as we discuss the ins and outs of the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee’s cast members.

William Bollbach, Sarah Walsh, William Nienstedt, and Isabella Hassett are four of the leading characters in the school’s upcoming musical, and we were able to get a moment of respite out of their busy schedules to peer into the inner workings of their minds while putting on a performance.

William Morris Barfeé, performed ironically by William Bollbach, is one of the many quirky characters in the show, and is described by none other than Mr. Bollbach himself as “a science nerd who has a bunch of health conditions (mucus membrane disorder). He’s very nasty and wants to isolate himself from the rest of the competitors, and the show highlights his shift from this personality trait.”

You may be wondering, why would someone ever choose to play a character that sounds so miserable as William Barfeé? We thought the same thing ourselves, and questioned Billy (Mr. Bollbach) as to whether or not he had auditioned to get this role, and why.

“I did audition for this character. He is a very challenging character to play, and I wanted to try something outside of the box for me. I feel like I am a very self conscious person, which is probably not the best recipe for an actor. I tend to get embarrassed and overly critical of myself and what I do onstage, which prevents me from committing to what my role entails. However, I feel with a character that is this different and requires such stepping outside of the box, I am forced to expand my horizons. I hope that comes across in March.

This response ended up being quite common among several of the leads in the show, with William Nienstedt continuing that notion:

“Especially in this show, keeping in character for the entire runtime without any breaks is a tough task. However, it is a task that has been fun to overcome.

Whatever the cast member’s insecurities or worries during a performance, the highlight of all of their answers has always been that they are enjoying themselves, and are simply allowing themselves to have fun in the end. After all, why participate in something as time-consuming as theater if you can’t let yourself loose?

Coincidentally, that question seems to be equally as common on viewer’s minds: Why participate in something as time-consuming as theater? A lot of people harbor a sense of nervousness towards performing, and share the same insecurities that even professional actors admit to having. We asked the cast members what they think about this, and what words of advice they could give to a prospective actor, or even someone who hasn’t even considered theater as an outlet before.

Q: What’s one piece of advice you could give to someone considering participating in future musicals?

William Bollbach: Just have fun. The process really only works if you let loose, and forget who you are for a moment, because it isn’t about you. You are acting as someone else. It’s kind of refreshing when you can shed that layer of yourself, and I would recommend that you really lean into that if you want to enhance your experience.

William Nienstedt: Be prepared for the immense amount of work required for the show. Find a character that you really like and are prepared to commit to.

Sarah Walsh: Learn how to turn your fears or nervousness into excitement and motivation, and then you’ll have the most fun.

Isabella Hassett: Make sure that you want to stay dedicated to this, and that you will put in a lot of time outside of school to practice.

The cast, as well as Mr. Ullman himself, all agree on the idea that participating in theater- while it is a huge commitment to dedicate oneself to -makes itself worth it in the memories you create with your fellow actors, as well as the rush that performing after months of hard work brings.

“It’s different from any other hobbies I’ve tried, like sports. It kind of lets you be creative while using advice from directors and cast members. It’s also always changing, so nothing is ever permanent. It really lets you experiment with a lot of things.” – Sarah Walsh

Why hold yourself back from the potential that musical theater brings? Get to know a cast member, and maybe they’ll be able to help you see the hidden gems within tireless rehearsals culminating in just a few days of showcasing.