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‘Avenue Q’ brings puppets to life


Photo by R Michael Ingraham

Nick Schommer and Chelsea Crevcoure play Princeton and Kate in the theater department’s upcoming event “Avenue Q.”

Jessica Prusow , Entertainment Writer
November 14, 2013
Filed under Entertainment, Top Stories

“Avenue Q,” is an American musical featuring life lessons and adult issues with 20-something year olds making their way in a big city. Puppets are friends and monsters are good.

“This musical is ‘Sesame Street’ all grown up,” said Stephanie Frank, senior musical theatre major playing the part of Lucy the Slut. It deals with racism, sex, finding a job after college and reminds us all that the internet really is for porn-but does it with a big heart.”

As children, the characters have been assured by their parents and children’s television shows, such as PBS’s “Sesame Street,” that they are special and can do anything. But now, as adults, they have discovered that in the real world, their options are limited and they are no more special than anyone else.

“Avenue Q is a wonderful example of contemporary musical theatre,” said Chelsea Crevcoure, senior musical theatre major playing the role of Kate Monster. “It’s unique, mainly because of the puppetry. At its core it’s a very sweet show even though it is very adult themed.”

According to Erin Zimmermann, theatre performance and music major playing the part of Gary Coleman, “Avenue Q” is about Princeton, a recent college graduate, who moves into a crappy New York apartment on Avenue Q, trying to find purpose to his life.

On Avenue Q, Princeton meets his neighbors who help him find his, as well as their own purpose in life, showing him that sometimes the difficult obstacles we face in life are only for now.

Puppeteers have to practice many hours in order to get the moves perfect. Zimmermann said it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to make the puppet come to life.

“Even though Avenue Q is a comedy and every rehearsal is full of laughter, it takes a great amount of focus and concentration to work through every scene,” Zimmerman said. “It’s also a weird experience to work with puppets on stage, as the human characters have to completely ignore the actors holding the puppets and connect with the puppet.”

Music rehearsals started in early September and then the cast had a week long intensive puppet training with a professional puppeteer, according to Crevcoure.

Denise Carlson-Gardner, who taught the cast choreography, said that, just as dance is a specific technique, there is also puppet movement technique.  She said it adds an additional layer of complexity to the actor’s role and to the play.

“It’s an incredibly talented cast and the actors are doing so well that the puppets are coming to life and I feel like they’re real people,” Crevcoure said.

Cast members hope students attending the event will be able to relate to the characters and learn a thing or two about what it means to become an adult.

“It’s a heartfelt coming of age story that may ring true to many members of the student audience,” said Courtney Sherman, assistant professor of voice and conductor and coach of the cast members for the show. “The themes are contemporary and relevant to the 20-somethings out there, yet relatable to adults of all ages.”

Other cast members agree with Sherman.

“Lucy the Slut wants the entire audience to leave feeling very, very special,” Frank said. “I hope the audience finds themselves relating to these outrageous characters and puppets. Some characters are flat out hilarious, but others are so lovable.”

Kristen Dunn Woodard, freshman education major playing the role of the right arm of Nicky and a box, said everything will unfold on stage.

“I want students to realize that this play isn’t meant to offend people,” Woodard said. “We aim to put a smile on your face as you laugh at how much the puppets’ lives suck. But we also want to make these puppets relatable so maybe there will be some tears.”

“Avenue Q” is rated R for strong language and adult themes. The event will take place Nov. 21-23 at 3 p.m. in the University Theatre.

Tickets can be purchased at the University Ticketing and Information Center in the University Union.