I did not win the 2000 South Carolina State Spelling Bee. I lost to a home schooled kid who asked for a definition and a use-it-in-a-sentence-please for every single word. He went to Washington D.C. and I went back to my fifth grade classroom, where I kept my eyes firmly focused on the grainy gray carpet as a bunch of catty ten-year-old voices asked, “Why didn’t you win?”
“Exonerate” is the word I spelled wrong to lose the 2000 South Carolina State Spelling Bee. I still hate it & I will never, ever use it in a sentence.
I haven’t thought about spelling bees in a long time. But when I wrote a preview of Appalachian’s production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” I knew I was going. The whole spelling bee thing is crazy, honestly. It’s a bunch of adults putting a bunch of kids onstage and telling them that if they miss one letter they lose. Try dealing with that in an emotionally stable way at 10 years old.
I wanted to see if “Putnam County” got it right. And in a lot of ways, it did. Here are five things the production – a Tony winner described by The Washington Post as “a letter-perfect sendup” – understood about spelling bees (and life). Continue reading →