BWW Interviews: AVENUE Q Set to Open at Shepherd University
Some of the life lessons Sesame Street never quite taught us are "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" and "You Can Be as Loud as the Hell You Want (When You're Making Love)". But these lessons and songs, and many more, can be found in the Shepherd University Music Department production of Avenue Q, opening February 7.
Directed by Dr. Rob Tudor and musically directed by Barbara Irvine, Avenue Q is a modern, outrageous musical which tells the story of a group of college graduates and twenty-somethings struggling to begin their lives outside of college in New York City.
However, what makes the modern musical truly unique is that all of the human actors are operating puppets onstage and the puppets are the actual characters in the show. While the setting and Muppet-esque squeaky voices may seem reminiscent of a familiar children's television show program used to teach ABC's, Avenue Q definitely focuses on more mature life lessons.
"It's such a mature show with adult language and themes. It creates an ironic setting that these cute, happy puppets and people are singing "It Sucks to Be Me" and how "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist". It will definitely catch everybody off guard" said Matt Rothenberg, who plays Princeton.
"This show breaks so many boundaries. I mean, where else can you go and see a cute, fuzzy little puppet curse like a sailor or sing about things such as pornography, homosexuality, and sexual intimacy... and that's only in Act 1! For some reason, having puppets say [inappropriate] things makes them even funnier" said Shannen Banzhoff, who plays Kate Monster.
Yes, you did read that correctly. While human, student actors are seen onstage, the majority of the cast are operating puppets while performing. Not little sock puppets, these puppets are full size, similar to design and mobility to the famous Jim Henson Muppets or Sesame Street characters.
"The puppets have definitely been an interesting challenge. Learning to emote through the puppet has probably been the most difficult. The puppeteer can only control certain parts of the puppet while others remain unmoving, so your resources are definitely limited" said Banzhoff.
"My favorite and the most challenging part of the process is definitely the use of puppets. It's one thing to be acting yourself on stage, but when you have to act while also controlling a puppet, it is a definite challenge! But it has been so much fun" said Rothenberg.
The cast has been having a great time in rehearsal and all agree that the show is very funny and would be a hilarious evening of theater.
"This show is flat out hilarious! I guarantee they [audience members] will have never laughed at a show this hard before. The show is so modern and so relatable" said Rothenberg.
The Avenue Q cast also features Eduardo Rivera as Brian, Arielle Pizana as Christmas Eve, Yanira Diaz as Gary Coleman, Jordan Bushong Taylor as Lucy, Alora Ray as Mrs. T, Ross Tamaccio as Nicky, Patrick O'Grady as Rod, Nicholas Etheridge as Trekkie Monster and Emily Reinhardt and Mark Adelsberger as the Bad Idea Bears.
Avenue Q will run Feb. 7, 8, 14 and 15 at 8 pm with one Sunday matinee on Feb. 9 at 3 pm. Tickets are free for Shepherd students, $5 for faculty, Shepherd alumni and seniors and $10 for general admission. All performances are held in the Frank Center Theater on the campus of Shepherd University. Due to content, Avenue Q is recommended for mature audiences only.
Photo Credit: Shepherd University