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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

‘Avenue Q’ Takes Puppetry to a Whole New Level

Story by Livia Hooson, Photo by Jonathan Helvoigt

‘Avenue Q’ Takes Puppetry to a Whole New Level

“Avenue Q” revolved around post-grad life in New York City, a life that may not always be comfortable or rational. The play alluded to jokes that only Durango locals would understand, said Cierra Taylor, a junior at Fort Lewis College and lead female role in the musical, said.

“We want it to be relatable to the Fort Lewis student body. I want people going into it to have fun. Don’t take it personally. Don’t be offended. Just enjoy it,” she said.

Some adult themes in the musical were racism, porn addiction, sexual and romantic relationships, which are all displayed by puppets, Taylor said.

“We give these puppets such mature themes, but they have such a childlike appearance, and it’s a really big theme of the two worlds colliding and how growing up is not what everyone thought it was,” Taylor said.

Kathryn Moller, a professor of theatre at FLC and the director of “Avenue Q”, said theater explores what it means to be human, and people may not be comfortable with that exploration.

A profound theme that “Avenue Q” explored was one’s purpose. It was written for the generation who grew up with Sesame Street. However, those kids are now adults, yet the approach is still the same to address these questions, Moller said.

“Some of the major themes are growing up, making decisions about life, what is one’s life purpose, career choices and how that can be tied into what you were told as a kid and college students. What’s my purpose? Where do I go from here? I find myself thinking these same things,” Evan West, a student at FLC and the set designer for “Avenue Q”, said.

Moller’s role as the director was to have the artistic vision both scenically and sonically and to educate the students through acting techniques, style and training in puppetry as well, Moller said.

This performance was chosen by a seasoned committee which included faculty, staff and students like West, who has been involved in theatre since high school, he said.  

“Avenue Q” brought its own set of challenges for the students. For many, it was their first time working with hand and rod puppets, Moller said.

“On top of focusing on the gaze of the puppet and putting the personality into it, you have to put all of your energy into it. So, you as an actor disappear, and you become the puppet. It is super fun, and once it takes on a life of its own, you can just go,” Taylor said.

“There are fewer challenges working with puppets than actors. They don’t talk back. They aren’t late for rehearsal, and they don’t bring their issues,” Moller said.

There was a group of professionals that contributed to this performance including Costume Designer Jane Gould, Puppet Maker Charles Ford, Vocal Director Paula Miller and many others who lended their talents to the piece, Moller said.

“It has definitely helped me think about what will happen after college, and I hope I can find a community after college like the one that is in the play once I leave. It holds that meaning that this can actually happen. This could be my life. I could be living on ‘Avenue Q’ in New York City,” Taylor said.


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