Deborah Craig (pictured), the self-described “Southern belle from South Korea,” was born in Seoul and grew up in Lakewind, Florida, with her adoptive family. A former child actress and academic whiz, Craig is currently appearing in the new William Finn musical, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, at Second Stage Theatre, as polyglot contestant Marcy Park.
1 How did you get this part? I got an e-mail saying they were looking for a young Asian woman with a high pop voice for a new musical. I didn’t follow up because I was busy. Then I got more e-mails from other people about it. . . . Finally I got a call from someone connected with the show, so I went.
2 What was the audition like? All improv—you have to make them laugh in the first 30 seconds or you’re off. We had to come with two characters prepared. One was a “Silent Viper.” I sang “Holding to the Ground” from Falsettoland [by Finn]. Which was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, because Bill Finn is my favorite composer. I think for an Asian American to be in one of his musicals is a really big deal, because his shows are primarily Jewish. And gay. Not that I couldn’t play Jewish or gay.
3 Marcy isn’t quite what she seems, no? A lot of Marcy is based on my childhood, so I know her inside and out—her drive, her need to be a winner. To a certain extent, I stick out in the show. I would in anything. And I don’t mind that we use this as something for the audience to buy into immediately. Because then we play around with their perceptions.
4 Were you ever in a spelling bee? I won my school’s spelling bee in sixth and seventh grades. But I don’t remember the final words. Isn’t that odd?
5 So you’ve seen Jeffrey Blitz’s spelling bee documentary, Spellbound. We had to watch it, after the workshop. But I tried not to pay too much attention to it.
Spelling Bee, directed by James Lapine, is currently in previews and opens February 7.