Sondheim Meets Saturday Morning Cartoons in ‘Putnam County’

Of Director Kristin Wolanin’s myriad strengths, enthusiasm containment doesn’t rank toward the top.

“We’ve never done anything like this before, where the show is literally different every time, so the people who come to the Thursday night performance can come to the Friday night performance and come away with two unique experiences.

“It’s just such a fun show to do!” Wolanin said.

The curtain rises on the spring musical, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” at 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, with a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday. Tickets are $7 in advance and available here, or $10 at the door.

“Putnam County” tells the story of six Middle Schoolers negotiating the minefield of adolescence and home-life baggage while keeping their eyes on the spelling bee prize. Running the bee are two adults whose shared history doesn’t stay in the past and one who hands out juice boxes to losing spellers in his role as “Official Comfort Counselor.” And, making a brief but meaningful cameo, is Jesus Christ.

“This has been freeing for the cast to go back to their Middle School roots,” said Wolanin. “There’s been a lot of self-discovery, a lot of personal growth and a lot of coming out of shells.”

The pushing themselves that Wolanin described happened both on and off the stage. Senior Clare J.had never sung on stage before. In the booth, Alex A. ’17 and Justin K. ’20 are in charge of sound and lights, respectively, both for the first time.

Like the troupe’s last play, “Almost, Maine,” this show features an ensemble of major characters rather than a protagonist or co-leads. This time around, there are nine principals and they all sing.

The New York Times described the songs as suggesting “a Saturday morning television cartoon set to music by Stephen Sondheim,” a characterization Wolanin agreed with.

“What these songs have in common with Sondheim’s is that from the outside, on first listen, they sound simple, but once you go in and spend some time with them you recognize how difficult they actually are.”

For this show, Heather Woodbridge is reprising her role as music director and Wolanin’s consigliere.

“Working with Heather is just so awesome,” Wolanin said. “There’s a mutual respect there and we balance each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I’m so grateful to work with her.”

“The show is a glimpse into Middle School life,” Wolanin said. “For how funny it is, it’s also serious and real.”

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” at 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, with a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday. Tickets are $7 in advance and available here, or $10 at the door. Music and lyrics by William Finn, book by Rachel Sheinkin.

A Week in the Life — Vol. 4

In addition to the usual day-in-the-life series of photos, this edition features Middle School overnight trips, as well as the Montreal and Quebec City voyage. Meanwhile back here at home, the head of school played a little impromptu squash on our newly opened courts. Finally, we present the striking photographs of German international student Max K. ’19. They are images of the school as you’ve never seen it.

(I Love The Sound Of) Breaking Glass 2
(I Love The Sound Of) Breaking Glass 3
Steve Squash
Bookfair 2017-5
Bookfair 2017-8
Candy Portrait Group
Slide Rules
PS Gym
PS Gym-2
' Pastels
MS Recess
MS Recess-2
MS Recess-3
US Study Hall

‘Almost, Maine’ Almost Here

“People in the audience will go, ‘Oh my God, that’s my life.’ Part of the reason I love this play so much is that it’s just real life. These scenes can happen and people will be able to relate to it.”

For her latest production, director Kristin Wolanin chose John Cariani’s “Almost, Maine,” a play that has resonated deeply with her from the first time she saw it.

“It was just a story of love. The difference with this one, what sets it apart for me, is that what happens in the play can actually happen in real life.”

Wolanin isn’t the only one bitten by the “Almost, Maine” bug. According to Playbill, it’s been the most produced play in North American high schools twice since its 2004 debut.

Showtimes are 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 2-4, as well as a 2 p.m. matinee Saturday. Tickets are $5 in advance and $7 at the door.


“Of everything we’ve done since I started, this play has been the most challenging one for the actors,” Wolanin said. “There’s nothing for them to hide behind. Other shows had lots of farce or iambic pentameter or something else that interposed itself between the actors’ real lives and their performances and allowed them to do a great show without necessarily revealing all of themselves.

“This is asking them to just be real. That’s the greatest challenge for any actor and it’s been hard for them,” Wolanin said. “I approach directing from an actor’s perspective. I’ve walked in their shoes. I can talk to them as an actor and I don’t ask them to do anything I couldn’t do myself.”

“Almost, Maine” is a romantic comedy that consists of 11 short scenes that all take place the same night in Maine, under the Northern Lights. One consequence of eschewing the traditional three act structure for 11 scenes that are both interconnected yet discrete, is that the play features more than a dozen “main” characters.

To meet this challenge — while meeting and exceeding the company’s own high standards — Wolanin called upon the largest cast and crew in recent Country Day history, if not ever: 47 students, from sixth-12th grade. This group includes 14 actors, five of whom have never appeared in one of the large, semiannual theater productions, and a sixth who’ll be speaking his first lines in front of an audience at Thursday’s premiere.

Everyone in Wolanin’s theater gang has to pull double duty: Every actor takes a turn bringing a show to life from backstage or the lighting booth and every crew member eventually struts and frets his hour upon the stage at least once. (Hopefully with minimal fretting.)

“If you’re in the company, you’re in the cast and the crew. Everything we do is about always presenting audiences with quality work, and I think it makes actors better if they have an appreciation for what’s going on offstage. I also love having a big enough company to give every student a chance to be on stage,” Wolanin said.

“Almost, Maine” Cast & Crew


PETE — Tristan H.
GLORY — Kendall K.
JIMMY — Alex A.
STEVE — Theo Z.
LENDALL — Thomas W.
CHAD, DAVE — David W.
PHIL — Christopher M.
MARCI — Courtney C.


Director: Kristin Wolanin
Production Stage Manager: Kylie D.
Deck Carpenter and RUN: Tessa B.
Sound Designer and RUN: Justin K.
Props Master and RUN: Linnea W.
Props Crew: Mira H., Ryan M., Noah S., Larry L. and Lora S.
Props Run Crew: Mira H. and Noah S.
Set Crew/Stage Crew: Sophia H., Tessa B., Maria H., Janani I., and Laurel M.
Publicity Chief: Danny K.-B.
Publicity Crew: Piper S., Ben K., Jay N., and Gaby N.
Costume Mistresses and RUN: Katrina F.
Costume Crew: Julia N., Sophie M., Julia B., Paityn N., Adrian W. and Sarah H.
Costume Run: Julia B., Adrian W. and Julia N.
Master Electrician and RUN: Hayden F.
Box Office Managers: Amelia L. and Mae B.
Box Office Assistant: Tess M. and Maddie B.
House Manager: William H.
Ushers: Ryan M., Paityn N., Tess M., Piper S., Lora S., Ben K., Larry L. and Jay N.

Spring Arts Festival & Empty Bowls

Photos by Mrs. Wilcox and David W. ’19

During the Spring Arts Festival, more than 200 guests took in hallway galleries full of student artwork, as well as music, dance and theater performances from a variety of MS and US ensembles. In addition, attendees raised more than $2,000 for the art-charity-awareness event, Empty Bowls. Students in grades 6-12 created the art on display through the last few week of school.

Art Show (13 of 15)
Art Show (14 of 15)
Art Show (7 of 15)
Art Show (12 of 15)
Art Show (5 of 15)
Art Show (6 of 15)
Art Show (15 of 15)
Art Show (9 of 15)
Art Show (11 of 15)
Art Show (4 of 15)
Art Show (1 of 15)
Art Show (3 of 15)

‘Love Is Love Is Love Is Love’

With “Romeo and Juliet,” Shakespeare gave us the archetypal tragic love story that’s been rending audience hearts since the late 16th century. The play was a hit in Shakespeare’s day and its popularity seems destined to endure because the “star-cross’d lovers’” doomed trajectory strikes a basic yet profound chord that resonates across cultures and ages.

Next month, Director Kristin Wolanin and her Country Day troupe will bring the perennial fan favorite to the Steinman Theatre stage for four performances. All four will present a timeless tale of ill-fated love. But, besides featuring sets and costumes evoking the 1950s, two of those performances will tell the story from a less familiar perspective.

For those shows, at 7 p.m. Saturday April 8 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Madison B. ’17 will take the stage as Romeo and the love she and Juliet (Lily D-L. ’17) share will be fervid. It will also be homosexual. The first two performances, at 7 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday, will feature Cole S. ’17 in the Romeo role, with Lily continuing as Juliet.

“Cole and Madison each have their own journey to take, and both explore their own path toward love. I’m proud of the intensity and dedication and thought that both actors have brought to the roles and I think this casting decision will essentially give audiences two plays for the price of one, so to speak,” said Wolanin.

“‘Romeo and Juliet’ is such a great story of teaching people to appreciate the individual,” she continued. “Being open to showcasing two star-crossed love stories speaks volumes about the school and the values it embraces. This production is more than a show of support for the LGBT community at LCDS. The students do a good job of advocating for themselves and one another, but this is the first time they’ve had a project with this kind of substance and reach.”

The spirit that embodies the production was eloquently captured by “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda in a sonnet, and this quatrain in particular: “We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger / We rise and fall and light from dying embers / Remembrances that hope and love last longer / And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love.” Wolanin said that portions of Miranda’s poem will be incorporated into the set itself.

Just as important as what the play is, is what it’s not, Wolanin said.

“Other than changing the pronouns for the Saturday evening and Sunday matinee shows, we’ve stuck to the letter of the text. This production isn’t a cover for some moralistic exhibition,” she said. “We’re just trying to raise awareness and, to the extent that there’s a message we want to convey, it’s simply that people are people and we should love them for who they are.”

“Romeo and Juliet” opens at 7 p.m. Friday, April 7 and runs for three days, with performances at 7 p.m. Saturday, as well as 2 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $15 at the door, or $10 online.