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Busy Bees

Shannon Baer (center) has become like the “Mother Bee” to her young cast members (left to right) Belinda Green, Jenna VanDuyne, Christina Duris, Brad Berry, Enzo Dreher and James Reinbacher in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” The musical opens today at the Coal City High School auditorium.
Shannon Baer (center) has become like the “Mother Bee” to her young cast members (left to right) Belinda Green, Jenna VanDuyne, Christina Duris, Brad Berry, Enzo Dreher and James Reinbacher in “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” The musical opens today at the Coal City High School auditorium.

COAL CITY — Jack Micetich remembers how summers can be for teenagers. Growing up in Coal City, he said, doesn’t give one many opportunities for summertime adventures.

That’s why he brainstormed “Small Town Theatrics,” a local drama group that allows kids, and adults, too, to exercise their creative muscles by producing a musical — one each summer.

Much like Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in the 1940’s, the kids are putting on a play. It’s a little more elaborate than just getting the neighborhood kids together in the barn, though. The group uses Coal City High School’s new auditorium for its plays. This summer, the musical is, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

Home for the summer from Illinois State University, Micetich, 19, said he remembers well some rather boring summers during his youth. This livens things up a bit, he said, and not just for the kids he directs — for him, too.

“I created this as a way for kids to become more involved in theatre,” he said, “and also as an outlet for me.”

Students who have an inclination for the theatre arts are sometimes limited to doing one play a year, he said, and this gives them the opportunity to be involved in one more and to stretch their creativity that much more. Plus, he said, it’s good for them to interact theatrically with kids from other schools.

“We’re drawing from all the different communities,” he said. “It’s cool to see so many kids from different communities coming together and creating something fantastic.”

Last year, for their first play, the group consisted of just Coal City students. This year, it includes kids from Minooka, Wilmington, Braidwood and Coal City. They range in age from eighth graders to recent high school graduates and one adult.

Shannon Baer is that adult. Micetich said she’s kind of like the cast mom.

“I’ve known Jack since he was a freshman at Coal City,” Baer said. “He lives like half a block from my house. ... He had approached me with this last year and asked me to audition. I actually had not seen it (the play), but I had heard about it.”

Baer’s husband, a Coal City teacher, knows Micetich from his involvement on the speech team and in the high school plays.

Baer said she was unsure at first if she would be able to make the time for a play with a 9-year-old and a 1-year-old at home, but after listening to a CD of the musical, she was hooked.

“I thought the show was an absolute riot,” she said, “and it gives me the opportunity to do something I’ve always loved to do.”

Baer said she thinks it was a great idea to make the play a summer option for kids.

“During the summer,” she said, “some kids just kind of get lost. There are really no activities for those who don’t have a sport that practices in the summer. This gives them a chance to really have something constructive to do.”

There is a core group of high school thespians, she said, that worked on last year’s production. This year, there are new kids coming in from other areas that add a lot to the fun.

“Them getting to meet some new people and really expanding, I think that’s really important,” Baer said. “As an adult, it’s really cool watching these kids all come together and solidify. They’ll all go out together after practice. It is really cool.”

It will help them in college and in life, she added, being from a small town, to meet new kids and learn to work with them and get out of the insulated bubble that can characterize a smaller community.

“We do have fun,” she added. “Sometimes, I think we have a little too much fun. It is also hard work. They have to learn their lines, learn the music, learn how to block their scenes, and learn how to work with and depend on other people.”

She said Micetich has been good at bringing everything together for the plays.

“He has a knack for this that is unbelievable,” she said. “I mean, this guy is going places. He has drive and is a very hard worker. That’s a good example for the other kids. And he really cares about them and about the show.”

Micetich describes this weekend’s play as, “Six young people in the throes of puberty, overseen by grown-ups who barely managed to escape childhood themselves, learn that winning isn’t everything and that losing doesn’t necessarily make you a loser.”

The cast includes Christina Duris (Minooka), Chip Batko (Braidwood), Baer (Coal City), Belinda Green (Coal City), Josh Rodgers (Coal City), Dan Knowles (Coal City), Jenna VanDuyne (Wilmington), Enzo Dreher (Coal City), Brad Berry (Coal City), James Reinbacher (Braidwood), William Padera (Braidwood), Matt Gubelman (Coal City), Carlos Shoemaker (Coal City), Kelsey Devine (Coal City) and Cassidy Johnson (Coal City).

The chorus consists of Stephanie Cherveny, Hope Connelly, Jake Scerine and Jackie McCollough. Tech crew members are Grace Golema, Abigail Cash, Meg Marlin and Hannah Zickefoose,

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” will run Friday and Saturday, July 22 and 23, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, July 24, at 2 p.m., at the Coal City High School auditorium. Tickets are $5 and can be purchased in advance at Mazon State Bank (Diamond and Braidwood Locations), Deb’s Floral Expressions and the Coal City Courant.

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Go & Do

• WHAT: Small Town Theatrics’ production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

• WHERE: New auditorium at Coal City High School

• WHEN: 7 p.m. on July 22 & 23; 2 p.m. on July 24

• TICKETS: Cost $5 and can be purchased in advance at the Diamond & Braidwood locations of Mazon State Bank, Deb’s Floral Expressions and the Coal City Courant

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