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. 7

It’s been a week of celebration at the Day School, and this edition features highlights from Chinese New Year, Balloon Day, Valentine’s parties and the Ice Festival. This post’s featured image was taken by senior Cristian T. It’s a tight shot of artwork made for the Chinese New Year Festival, and Cristian is responsible for all the striking images from that event included here. Photos from the Ice Festival and additional contributions to the Balloon Day coverage courtesy of Lauren. N. ’19 and Carly C. ’19.

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Katie Warfel ’13

“The teachers that you’d seen your entire life growing up … really knew you as a well-rounded individual,” said Katie Warfel ’13. The summer before Katie began her doctorate at Northwestern University, she shared her memories of Country Day. “There was always a friendly face,” she said.

MUN: Forging A Unique Kind of International Bond

By Clare J. ’18
Photos by Calvin B.’18 and Mrs. Woodbridge

Model United Nations at LCDS is an integral part of the school’s culture. We all know that every year, for 10 days, a handful of seniors will depart, leaving classes feeling sparse and practices missing a few players. This year, 10 students, joined by Head of Upper School Jenny Gabriel and Director of Global Programs Heather Woodbridge, traveled to the Netherlands and Belgium for the 2018 THIMUN Conference.


The Hague International Model United Nations (THIMUN) Conference boasts attendance of more than 3,200 students from 200 schools across the globe. Students from Afghanistan, Ireland, Egypt, the United States and elsewhere join together for a five-day conference in which they discuss topics from nuclear disarmament on a global scale to measures to assist Syrian refugees. Most assemblies hold around 150 delegations, all made up of students who have spent months preparing to represent their country’s policy.

This year, LCDS students represented the Kingdom of Bahrain, a small archipelago off the coast of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf. With a 94 percent literacy rate and a high number of employed and educated women, Bahrain is somewhat progressive compared to other Middle Eastern countries. Their official policies when on social issues, such as LGBT and women’s rights, are more in line with those of the U.S. than those of neighboring Saudi Arabia. As the only post-oil economy in the Gulf, Bahrain has a unique economic situation. Their private sector continues to expand, unlike Middle Eastern states that continue to solely rely on revenue from gas and oil production and purification.

Changing from our Western mindset to that of a Middle Eastern country came with its challenges, but our months of class prepared us well to do so. For example, Bahrain’s policy on assisting Syrian refugees leans toward monetary assistance rather than offering asylum. Rather than jumping to our instinct of signing resolutions offering asylum to refugees, we had to carefully consider the position of our delegation and act on it, no matter how reluctant we were to do so.

In the weeks leading up to our departure, the class buzzed with thoughts of what the conference would be like. We wondered if we would be prepared, if our resolutions would get passed, and most of all what it would really be like.

The day before the conference officially began, our class decided to take a quick tour of the World Forum. We walked through the grand hallways and found where each of our assemblies would be meeting. Soon enough our group crossed paths with another delegation from London. Within mere seconds of introductions, our teams had merged and looked like one large group that had known each other for years.

On Monday, the first day of the conference, I met a 17-year-old from Cairo. We exchanged names, ages and where we were from. As soon as I told her I was from the U.S., I was inundated with questions about my life in Pennsylvania. She asked about the election, what Amish people are like, and if I had ever seen a protest. We talked about our day to day lives, both of us amazed at the other’s stories. At the end of our first conversation, she said something to me that will not be soon forgotten.

“Isn’t it great that we live such different lives, but it feels like we’re just two old friends?”

It wasn’t only me who bonded with another student at the conference. Approach any one of the students that took part in the trip, I’m sure that each one would tell you about a unique friendship they formed.

THIMUN was unlike any other experience I’ve had. After bonding with not only our class but students from other schools and countries, I can say with confidence that any future MUNers will feel the same.

A Week in the Life — Vol. 6


LCDS 8th Graders Advance to LNP Bee

With strong performances over two days and against a dozen competitors, Hana H. and Gavin W. finished first and second respectively in Lancaster Country Day School’s Middle School Spelling Bee. With their top showings, both Hana and Gavin advance to the semifinals of the 60th LNP Spelling Bee, working toward a spot in the 91st Scripps National Spelling Bee May 29 in Washington, D.C.

The semis consist of a 100-word written test. Those sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders who prevail move on to the finals, where the best spellers in Lancaster County will spell their hearts out for a spot on the big stage, Feb. 21 at Gerald G. Huesken Middle School in Conestoga Valley. In the final round at Country Day Feb. 2, Gavin put an “a” after the “e” in “celiac,” while Hana sealed the deal by nailing “tuberculosis.”

A Week in the Life

Featuring construction of a giant dragon for the Chinese New Year celebration, highlights from the STEM Showcase and prolific children’s musician Steven Courtney serenading Lower School audiences, this edition of A Week in the Life is guaranteed delightful or double your money back.

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