Dryden Dilts and Melissa Langdon get to know each other in Spelling 2-5-5 Playwright: Jennifer Overton Director: Erin McGrath Set and Lighting Designer: Adam Parboosingh Costume Designer: Joseph Abetria Sound Designer: Charlotte Friesen
Dryden Dilts and Melissa Langdon bring Spelling 2-5-5 to life Playwright: Jennifer Overton Director: Erin McGrath Set and Lighting Designer: Adam Parboosingh Costume Designer: Joseph Abetria Sound Designer: Charlotte Friesen

NOT READY FOR THE CURTAIN TO DROP

MTYP was halfway through a ten-week tour of Manitoba elementary schools with its new production of Spelling 2-5-5 when the pandemic forced the tour to stop. It was heartbreaking to end the tour this way, as well as to have to cancel the Winnipeg mainstage performances.

But the story didn’t quite end there. As MTYP Artistic Director Pablo Felices-Luna recently said. “It’s a great play. It’s toured throughout Canada and the U.S. and we just couldn’t bear it not playing in Manitoba.”

Pablo has decided to open MTYP’s next season with, you guessed it, Spelling 2-5-5. He has a decade-long relationship with the show, having originally directed it twice for Carousel Players in St. Catharines before programming MTYP’s brand new production.

Pablo worked with playwright Jennifer Overton for two years to create a play that would allow young audiences to take a peek into the life of an autistic child and his family. The result was Spelling 2-5-5, which premiered in 2012.

“It’s the story of two brothers, one autistic, one neurotypical, and their shared love of comic books and the different ways they approach an upcoming spelling bee,” says Felices-Luna. In the story, their mother expects Simon to be responsible for his younger brother Jake. When a spelling bee is announced, Simon sees his opportunity to shine. Soon though it is discovered that Jake is a great spelling in a unique way and Simon must decide what’s really important to him.

Spelling 2-5-5 promotes empathy and understanding in young audiences. The show examines the role that caregivers play in families along with some of the struggles they face. It’s also fast-paced, funny and easy to relate to.

Before the tour stopped, more than 10,000 students had seen the show. Educators told us they liked what they saw. Constance Finney School wrote, “MTYP is always the highlight of our year. The content of this particular production was also extremely relevant.” A teacher at Montrose School said, “They liked the message of the play. We need to accept all people and show them they belong. Different doesn’t mean wrong or bad.” And we had this comment from Sansome School, “A balance of story and learning. Many walked away from the Spelling 2-5-5 performance impacted by the supports and needs for families beyond the school.”

Spelling 2-5-5 is scheduled to tour to Manitoba high schools from November 9 to 29. We are heartened by the response from educators to date. If you know a school that may want this tour to come to their school, please contact Kerri Potter at kpotter@mtyp.ca. Spelling 2-5-5 will also play MTYP’s Mainstage from October 29 to November 8.