Harrison makes history with first student-directed musical


The cast of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee take the stage during tech week to refine their performance. “The cast has been incredible and I’m so excited for the show; everyone has been really dedicated,” Harrison said. Shows run Sept. 15-16 at 7.pm.


For senior Jonah Harrison, directing his own musical will be the culmination of his high school theater career. This weekend Harrison will debut St. Paul Academy and Summit School’s first student-directed full-length production: The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The journey to the week of production started in summer 2016. Harrison knew that he wanted to try and direct his own musical and not just the One Acts seniors have the opportunity to direct in the winter. After spending a year developing proposals and gaining partners in his pursuit, Harrison received permission to cast, rehearse, and launch the show.

But those were the early days of the challenges and learning experiences.

Harrison first faced issues with balancing his role as a director and his status as a peer to his actors: “When we started out it was confusing, balancing being the director to them, but after the play, I would be their peer again, so I couldn’t be too harsh. I had to figure out the line between peer and director,” Harrison said.

There have also been growing challenges as the show got closer to performances.  Harrison ran into roadblocks including having to paint much of the setting and scenery with Assistant Director Maya Shrestha to get it all done.

Alongside Harrison and Shrestha, senior JJ Gisselquist took on the task of Music Director and plays the piano.

“There is a lot of tough music to sing in this musical, and the piano part is especially hard. JJ is doing amazing work on both,” Harrison said.

Harrison believes that these challenges shouldn’t hurt the play and, in fact, may cause the actors to come together even more.

“The cast has been incredible and I’m so excited for the show; everyone has been really dedicated,” Harrison said.

Harrison’s Musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee will be performed Friday and Saturday at 7 pm on the Huss Center stage. Admission is free.