SPELLING BEE's Krystal Brimner, Becca Coates Talk 'Finding Their Characters'

The Sandbox Collective kicks off its 10th-anniversary offerings with SPELLING BEE.

By: Feb. 29, 2024
SPELLING BEE's Krystal Brimner, Becca Coates Talk 'Finding Their Characters'
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Makati City, Philippines--Former cast members in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “The Sound of Music,” young actresses Krystal Brimner and Becca Coates reunite in the Tony Award-winning musical “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.”

A 10th-anniversary production of The Sandbox Collective, “Spelling Bee” runs until March 17, 2024, at the Power Mac Center Spotlight Blackbox Theatre, Circuit Makati.

Also, a TV-film actress, Brimner, shares what attracted her the most to act on stage: “I could sing, dance, and act, which intrigued me as I could do all of my favorite talents simultaneously.  When acting in film, you could do multiple takes (if you mess up a line or for a different camera shot or angle).  However, on stage, you only have one shot doing it.”

Meanwhile, Coates describes her experience in the theater, “I genuinely treasure every production I’m in for different reasons, especially since they’re so rare for me.”

Doing theater helps her perform under pressure, silence her inner critic, think out of the box, and step into other people’s shoes.

In “Spelling Bee,” Brimner plays the bright, humble word lover Olive Ostrovsky; Coates, Logainne “Schwartzy” SchwartzandGrubenierre. Both are prepubescent spelling bee contestants.

Preparing for their roles took much work.

Brimner recalls: “I found my character’s personality through endless rehearsals with our director, Missy Maramara. She’s been helpful and supportive of everyone in the cast—helping each find their character and defining their differences.

“I can say I’m not that similar to my character as she’s a neglected child by her parents. She’s a shy person, which is not me.”

Coates stresses, “Schwartzy is a seven—a particular age.  I had to look into the psychological stage that a seven-year-old would be in.”

“The cast members also watched many Spelling Bee videos.  It’s genuinely a unique, high-pressure sport,” she says.

“Schwartzy is under much pressure; I think she’s more observant than me, but the internal pressure is something we share.  I recently had to go to the doctor for vocal problems. The doctor said, ‘I wasn’t breathing enough while talking.’ That was very much like my character.”

Brimner, who idolizes Tony winner Lea Salonga, also dabbles in acting on TV and in films. She has appeared in “Honor Thy Father (2015), “Your Face Sounds Familiar Kids” (2018), and “ASAP Natin ‘To.”

When not on stage, Coates focuses on her education and career in speech and language pathology, where she works with children and adults.

In “Spelling Bee,” Brimner and Coates are joined by AC Bonifacio, Shanaia Gomez, Diego Aranda, Luis Marcelo, Angela Ken, Elian Dominguez, Shaun Ocrisma, Justine Narciso, Joshy Ramirez, Ron Balgos, Liesl Batucan-Del Rosario, Audie Gemora, Robbie Guevara, Nyoy Volante, and Jordan Andrews.

“’ Spelling Bee’ is about gifted children under the immense pressure of high-level competition, precision, and scrutiny. It’s a great lens to question the effect of social media on the younger generations, especially their mental health,” says Maramara, the show’s director.

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” which premiered on Broadway in 2005, features the music and lyrics by William Finn, a book by Rachel Sheinkin, and a story by Rebecca Felman, with additional materials by Jay Reiss.

Each performance asks several audience members to compete with the cast, making it an immersive theatrical experience.

In 2005, the musical was nominated for six Tony Awards, winning two: Best Book of a Musical for Sheinkin and Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical for Dan Fogler. –-additional reporting by Oliver Oliveros