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Durant native, Aaron Umsted has returned this summer to direct the Young Actors Studio’s production of THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE.

Aaron Umsted has a variety of professional theatre accolades and awards. After receiving his Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts in Musical Theatre from the University of Oklahoma, Aaron earned a Master’s in Theatre Pedagogy from Southeastern Oklahoma State University. In 2018, Aaron was nominated for a Joseph Jefferson award for his role as Will Parker in OKLAHOMA!. A member of the Actor's Equity Association, Aaron has performed in the First National Tours of A CHORUS LINE, DISNEY’S MARY POPPINS and the Tony Award-winning revival of ANYTHING GOES. As a teacher, he has taught musical theatre classes at Roosevelt University, Chicago Academy for the Arts, as well as in India when he partnered with the organization Artists Striving to End Poverty.

Aaron’s passion for theatre is monumental and inspiring. When asked what sparked him to pursue theatrical performance, he spoke of the Summer of 1993, when at just five years old he reluctantly auditioned for OSF’s children’s theatre production of the JUNGLE BOOK. Riley Coker and Ruby Quinn, the directors of that show, gave him his first taste of what theatre could offer him. Though, at first, he did not want to be there, he immediately felt welcomed through the ability and encouragement to finally be himself. Aaron stated, “I had the best summer of my life. I felt like I could be me and I loved the magic of performing.” Knowing what that felt like for the first time gave him the desire to contribute that feeling back to someone else. While he loved performing, he felt something was missing. When he heard about the group, Artists Striving to End Poverty, he joined up with them to teach children in India about theatre. Not only was he able to view another side of the world, but he worked with children that, despite being impoverished and attending a school primarily focused on mathematics and science, the joy they had when dancing, improv acting, or drawing was unmatched. Aaron had found his calling. “That’s the time I realized that I want to be a teacher.”

Once Aaron realized his passion for children’s theatre, he gave it his all. He has worked at many children’s theatre programs and after-school programs. He currently directs at the Children’s Theatre of Winnetka in Illinois. Aaron is directing THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE for this the 43rd season of OSF. When discussing with Aaron Umsted why he was so elated to direct this show, he said, “Every Summer I see the (Oklahoma Shakespearean Festival) social media and have super big FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). I wanted to be a part of this family again and be close to my family. It’s basically the best of both worlds.”

THE 25TH ANNUAL PUTNAM COUNTY SPELLING BEE displays Aaron’s directing wizardry at its finest. You can see for yourself by coming to see this hilarious and heartfelt production. We wouldn’t want you to experience any FOMO. After all, it features the best young acting talent in Durant and is a humorous tale of young teens and their battle to win the once-in-a-lifetime spelling bee.

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