Cory Doran will be directing Hart House Theatre’s upcoming musical comedy The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Doran, who is a trained voice actor, is also a graduate of UTM’s theatre and drama studies program and has previously performed at Hart House Theatre.
Doran has directed past Hart House productions such as Boeing Boeing, a French farce about mistaken identities, along with The Importance of Being Earnest.
When asked about how his directing style may have possibly changed during the production of these two plays, Doran admitted that his style did not remain static. After directing The Importance of Being Earnest in 2015, Doran stated that he learned to motivate his cast in different ways, such as by giving out “proper notes.” Additionally, he has found ways to establish characters earlier in the rehearsal process.
“Your style grows as an artist. You, hopefully, become more refined in what you put forward and how you want to tell the story. Whether you’re an actor, director, or painter, anything you do, you only get better through practice. So the time put in to actually producing and directing the show, you learn a lot,” Doran said.
Besides a natural growth in his style, Doran has taken workshops wherein he has learned from more experienced directors.
Currently, Doran is working on a one-act version of Spelling Bee. Doran, who has seen several productions of this play, pitched the idea to Doug Floyd, the artistic producer of Hart House, who liked the idea. The play will feature elements of improvisation as well as audience participation. Four audience members will be selected on a volunteer basis by the actors to grace the stage. The cast members have also received training in improv to prepare for their roles.
“We bring people up to be guest spellers in the spelling bee and that’s how it’s written,” said Doran.
Due to the liberal interpretation of the script, Hart House has chosen to present a contemporary rendition of the play. The play will be sprinkled with political and popular culture references.
“We touch base on the American government situation, so to speak,” Doran revealed, “Trump is brought up a few times.”
Spelling Bee, for Doran, is likeable given its special nature as a musical.
“There’s something about a musical that can really disarm someone,” Doran said.
He further explained that Spelling Bee will involve adult actors playing children characters. Doran described the effect as being “a kind of theatre of the absurd.” At first glance, the idea of adults playing kids, for Doran, is where the absurdity lies.
“Because you’re disarmed watching these adults playing these kids, you get to a point where you say, ‘They’re singing about stuff that really matter,’” Doran said.
Doran notes there are two types of productions of the play, wherein the director has either taken a “superficial” or “disarming” interpretation of the script. However, Doran’s approach is to emphasize a Broadway-like performance of the musical numbers. Doran explained that the musical numbers will be larger in context and that additional props will be used on-stage to accompany performances.
On the composition of the cast, Doran said that the casting process has been very selective. Actors have been prepared and informed in the audition process that their roles will require certain accents. One of the actors in the cast has a natural lisp, and this will be used in their role.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee will be premiering on November 10 at Hart House Theatre.