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Meet the Cast of Avenue Q

Erin Rebar

Erin Rebar

By Erin Rebar, A&E and Features Editor

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“Avenue Q” is more than just a puppet show. Billed as an adult version of Sesame Street, it is full of humor and lightheartedness but also tackles a multitude of more adult themes.

“I love the tagline for the show, ‘It’s like your life, only funnier,’” said Scott Worley, an EWU junior who plays Princeton in the show. “People say it’s like Sesame Street for adults and it is, but it’s like puppets and stuff dealing with real life issues like paying your bills and the economy, which you wouldn’t think would be in a musical.”

Though they admit working with puppets can be challenging, the actors and actresses of Avenue Q are excited to bring it to the EWU main stage later this quarter.

“I love this show! It doesn’t matter where you’re at in your life,” said Hannah McLaughlin, an EWU sophomore who plays Kate Monster.  “There’s a character for everyone.”

McLaughlin is currently studying both theater and english and, like her character, hopes to one day become a teacher.

“I’m a lot like Kate,” said McLaughlin. “Or at least I like to think that I am. She’s a kindergarten teaching assistant. She has big plans to make her own school, basically. And she’s kind of stuck as a kindergarten teaching assistant, which isn’t a very glorious job. Which, if you’ve ever been a kindergarten teaching assistant, you’d know. She’s very kind and very sweet and very strong. A lot of times with this character she can be played off as very weak and willy-nilly, but she isn’t.”

McLaughlin said they have been playing with the puppets since the very start of rehearsals. Her puppet, Kate, has two rods that connect to either hand for use in directing Kate’s gestures. This, McLaughlin said, is challenging because using the rods feels almost like a backwards pair of chopsticks. They’ve tried other methods, including velcro, to make puppet manipulation easier.

It is also extremely important for the student puppeteers to focus on their own facial expressions and movements. This is because both a slack face and an over-exaggerated one can be distracting for the audience.

“It’s easier for the audience if you are a good reflection of your puppet, like a mirror,” McLaughlin said.

Though McLaughlin and some of her cast mates cite puppeteering as being among the most challenging aspects of the show, Worley said he enjoys the challenge and appreciates how rewarding the process can be.

“The puppets are so much fun,” said Worley. “They’re temperamental. They have a mind of their own. We watched a video that was like a backstage Ave. Q broadway thing, and they said in their puppet bootcamp people cried. We were all like oh, whatever, but then when we started working with them. I remember leaving rehearsal so stressed out because you have to think about so much. You’re talking and you have to match the words to the mouth and you have to match the eye direction. It’s a lot more challenging than I thought it was going to be.”

Like Sesame Street, Avenue Q is a mixture of puppet and human actors. Mallory Ware, an EWU alumni who plays the character Christmas Eve, does not play a puppet in the show, but she still finds working with them to be challenging.

“You have to be able to look the puppet in the eye,” said Ware. “And Kate Monster right now, the practice puppet, her eyes are off set a little. It’s a little jarring because you try to find the eye to look at.”

Though not currently employed in the theater world, Ware has acted and directed in numerous plays. Acting gives her a creative break from real life, Ware said.

“You don’t get recess anymore as an adult,” said Ware. “This is like having recess at the end of the day.”

Worley echoed this sentiment, but Denny Pham, a newly graduated EWU alum who plays Avenue Q’s iconic role of Trekkie, had a different reason for being a part of the theater world.

“Sometimes, I kind of like being someone else on stage rather than being myself,” Pham said.

He also went on to say that being in theater — whether backstage, in the audience, or in the cast — is a moment of connection. Everyone who is part of theatre experiences moments when they are all connected and experiencing the same moment, together, Pham said.

“Everyone who’s there is forgetting their problems or whatever is going on in their life, and we are all here together,” Pham said.

All of the cast are hopeful that EWU students will come out and see the show when it opens in March.

“There’s nothing better than coming with a group of friends and seeing a show,” said Ware. “I think that’s a great night out. Or Netflix. That too.”

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Meet the Cast of Avenue Q