Imaginative Interviews: The Adults of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

In a fun new interview series entitled “Imaginative Interviews” TheatreBloom will be delving into the creative cast of Kensington Arts Theatre’s production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee from a whole different angle. In a rare exclusive the likes of which can’t be found anywhere else, readers of TheatreBloom get to meet the characters from the Bee as they gear up to throw down in an epic battle of spelling!

We’re kicking things off with a quick interview with the adults responsible for Putnam County’s 25th Annual Spelling Bee. We’ll be having a few words with Miss Rona Lisa Perretti, the master of ceremonies, Vice Principal Douglas Panch, the Bee’s word proctor, and Comfort Counselor Mitch Mahoney. In a whirlwind of excitement, let’s hear what they have to say.

Amanda: Thank all three of you for taking a moment just before this 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee kicks off to tell us why you’re all so excited to be here as a part of it. And I know you’re all very grateful that the Kensington Arts Theatre has provided this lovely space for you guys! Can you very quickly tell us who you are and what part you hold in the bee?

Rona Lisa Perretti: My name is Rona Lisa Perretti and I am a top realtor in Putnam County and I’m a previous Putnam County Spelling Bee Champion. The third annual to be exact.

Amanda: Wow, that was over two decades ago!

Teresa Danskey as Rona Lisa PerrettiPhotos by Ernie Achenbach © KAT
Teresa Danskey as Rona Lisa Perretti

Rona Lisa Perretti: That is correct. 22 years ago. And they have invited me back to host the bee, starting nine years ago, and I must be doing a pretty damn good— oh! I’m sorry! Darn good job! I must be doing a pretty darn good job at it since they keep inviting me back!

Amanda: You must love it because you keep coming back.

Rona Lisa Perretti: Yes. It fills a void.

Amanda: Excellent. And you, mister—

Vice Principal Douglas Panch: I am Vice Principal Douglas Panch. Panch. P-A-N-C-H. Panch. I am the proctor of the bee. I am the word pronouncer to the laymen.

Amanda: How did you get involved with the bee?

Matt Baughman as Vice Principal Douglas PanchPhotos by Ernie Achenbach © KAT
Matt Baughman as Vice Principal Douglas Panch

Vice Principal Douglas Panch: Well, I have a long history with the bee. My dad was the word pronouncer before me. Unfortunately, he— he did not pass away. He just moved to Boca Raton. So I was forced to take his place. I had a five-year hiatus and now I’m back doing the bee.

Amanda: Excellent. And our last adult, you are?

Carl Williams as Comfort Counselor Mitch MahoneyPhotos by Ernie Achenbach © KAT
Carl Williams as Comfort Counselor Mitch Mahoney

Mitch Mahoney: Mitch Mahoney. I’m the “comfort counselor” I believe that’s what they call it. I’m the one who, whenever the kids get a word wrong, I go up and let them know “hey, it’s ok, you didn’t fail that bad, here’s a juice box.” Then I show them off the stage.

Amanda: That’s awesome. How did you get involved with the bee?

Mitch Mahoney: It was court ordered.

Amanda: Court ordered?

Mitch Mahoney: Yeah.

Amanda: Okay! Well, that’s great! I am sure that both Miss Rona and Mister Panch are happy to have you here.

Vice Principal Douglas Panch: I’m happy that you remembered my name just now.

Amanda: I did. You spelled it out for me. No forgetting it once it’s spelled out.

Vice Principal Douglas Panch: Well that’s what I do. You know, this little recording device that you’re holding here for this interview? It looks like a taser.

Amanda: You are actually not the first person to say that. Sadly, it’s just a recorder.

Vice Principal Douglas Panch: That’s too bad. I got excited for a minute.

Amanda: Oh, wow. Okay! Let’s get back to our questions here. Miss Perretti, what is it like getting to be on this side of the table after winning one of the bees?

Rona Lisa Perretti: Well it is a joy every year. Otherwise I would not be coming back. It’s an opportunity for me to relive my childhood once in a while.

Amanda: Do you have a favorite moment from when you were in the bee?

Rona Lisa Perretti: From when I was in the bee? I remember it being between myself and one other speller and I remember that being my favorite moment. I remember feeling not at all okay if I somehow only won second place. I mean I already knew I was going to win first place. So that was my favorite, going up to the microphone and knowing that I was going to take the bee.

Vice Principal Douglas Panch: Fun fact. I was actually there in the audience. Me and Miss Perretti actually have a history together. We grew up together and I remember seeing her up there in the bee. And I want to tell everyone out there that she was fantastic. And may I say gorgeous at that young age as well!

Rona Lisa Perretti: I was nine. It’s difficult to be gorgeous at that age.

Vice Principal Douglas Panch: I was slightly older. I was nine and a half. And I thought you were gorgeous. And I think you’re gorgeous now.

Amanda: Now Mister Panch, do you have a history with competitive spelling the way Miss Perretti does?

Vice Principal Douglas Panch: I only go— well I only went when I was younger— you see, they wouldn’t let me in the bee because quite frankly I was not very good at it. I was illiterate up until I was 22 years old. That was a problem for me. But I went and I routed on Miss Perretti. We got free snacks too so that was nice.

Rona Lisa Perretti: I want to be clear that he routed for me and not on me. There was no touching.

Amanda: Okay that is definitely a point worth clarifying! Um, Mitch, do you have any experience with spelling bees?

Mitch Mahoney: Absolutely not. I’m just here because I have to be.

Amanda: Now we a lot of people who are going to be coming to see all these eager little children spelling their hearts out. What is it that you adults hope people will take away from seeing that?

Vice Principal Douglas Panch: Dramatic pause…

Amanda: It’s a difficult question, I know, especially for the two of you who do not have the panache that Miss Perretti has when it comes to spelling.

Vice Principal Douglas Panch: So true. She has panache in everything.

Rona Lisa Perretti: Maybe I’m hoping it will bring adults back to the spelling world. You know we’ve become so dependent on our spell checkers, so maybe it will challenge the audience members just a little more.

Amanda: That’s awesome. What do you think, Mitch?

Mitch Mahoney: Well, um, I know that one particular point of interest is seeing Miss Rona Lisa Perretti in that red dress. It’s rather form-fitting. And it keeps my attention.

Amanda: Alright, well I can see how you got here on court order. Um, Mister Panch, surely you don’t—

Vice Principal Douglas Panch: I am in agreement with the sentiment but I am not in agreement with why he said it. You are lucky that I’m a nice guy, sir.

Amanda: Oh, while that sounds fascinating; I’m so glad that Miss Perretti is here to keep the focus on the kids. Is there anything else that you’d like to tell the readers out there why this spelling bee is going to be awesome? Other than Miss Perretti’s red dress?

Mitch Mahoney: Well, I’m out.

Rona Lisa Perretti: Well we do have two returning spellers this year who competed at nationals and we have three additional returning spellers who competed last year in the Putnam County Bee. So there’s already some high competition.

Amanda: Excellent, and you Mister Panch?

Vice Principal Douglas Panch: Why come here? Well, like I said I am a proponent of the free snacks. So that’s pretty much it. I really don’t care too much about the bee, I’m just going to throw that out there.

Mitch Mahoney: I share your sentiments.

Rona Lisa Perretti: But there are plenty of people in Putnam County who do believe in the power of spelling! Like me. So come and support these wonderful students and get yourself involved in that awesome power.

The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee plays through March 1, 2015 at the Kensington Arts Theatre located in the Kensington Town Hall— 3710 Mitchell Street in Kensington, MD. For tickets call the box office at (206) 888-6642 or purchase them online.

To read the TheatreBloom review of Spelling Bee, click here.


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