Wednesday, 4 April 2012

My journey down Avenue Q: Could Puppetry Be My Purpose? - Part Four

A few rehearsals in, and the Brisbane Arts Theatre production of Broadway puppet musical, "Avenue Q" is shaping up to be a fantastic show! The first rehearsal was all about getting to know each other, and to go through a full script read. The cast sounded exactly like the original Broadway characters. It was unbelievable!

This is video #1 of what will become a small series of videos documenting the events which lead up to the opening night of the show:

My involvement in the show began as "Puppetry Consultant", where I was to simply teach the cast how to operate the puppets convincingly, and assist them throughout the rehearsals. 

Trekkie Monster and Nicky in Broadway's "Avenue Q"
However, to my delight, I was soon given the additional role of "2nd Hands Puppeteer". I will be assisting actor Kieran (seen in the video) with the puppetry of his two characters "Trekkie Monster" and "Nicky". For the most part, I will be operating the right hands of these characters while Kieran operates the mouth and left hand. In scenes where both characters are on stage at the same time, I will be puppeteering one or the other character wholly at various times throughout the show. I am also performing one of the singing postal boxes in one scene! Absolutely brilliant! I never imagined I'd ever get to be a stage puppeteer in Avenue Q someday!

In addition to that, I'm now a part of the singing ensemble. The harmonies in these songs sound amazing. It's really sounding spectacular!

Last week, I conducted my first ever puppet workshop, just teaching everybody the basics - lip sync, performing in tandem, eye focus, keeping the puppet at a fixed point (a sense of being grounded, of having weight), walking, hearing and reaction to sound, and "puppet vibrato" (a Jim Henson technique where a puppet is indulging in a moment of singing). The most important thing is to keep the puppets 'alive' at all times. Never must they flop to the side or float across the stage without a walking movement. 

I brought my own puppets, and the director brought some along too, as we haven't received the Avenue Q ones just yet. We went through some exercises and I showed some videos to demonstrate how these techniques are used in professional puppetry. 

One of the best examples I showed the cast was this Sesame Street parody of the show, "Glee". It has walking, it has great lip sync both in the talking and singing. The characters are very animated, with a lot of forward head movements to emphasise certain words. The "puppet vibrato" technique is used perfectly in this too. Watch as they sway their heads when singing, rather than simply open their mouths. It's a lot of fun for adults to watch while kids learn about the functions of the letter 'G'. The great thing about the Muppets is that they never talk down to kids. It's never too babyish. And there's always plenty of wit and humour for adults to enjoy.

This Easter long weekend, we'll be working with puppets further, and might even receive the Avenue Q characters! An exciting time for all involved! 

This production will feature a revolving set, a full band playing the music, video sequences throughout the show, and the cast will all have headset microphones, which is a first for the Brisbane Arts Theatre. Most shows don't have a full band playing, so this is necessary. And of course, most of the main cast are puppets! This will be the must-see show of the year in Brisbane! It's an honour to be a part of it!

There's a buzz about Avenue Q already. There's excitement in the air! Tickets are already selling, and fast! Here's where to book your seats! -- 
Ticket Request! AVENUE Q: June 2 - July 14 @ Brisbane Arts Theatre

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