Reported by Mel Edgar
Studio 58 grad Kayla Dunbar stars in the Arts Club’s latest rendition of Avenue Q, a play that promises to deliver full puppet nudity.
The Arts Club at Granville Island is bringing back Avenue Q for a second run. A uniquely adult-themed puppet romp that casts flesh and felt side by side in tale of romance and childhood stardom set in the slummy neighborhood for which the play is named.
“I’m in love with puppets now,” Dunbar said, who is starring in the play a second time.
Avenue Q’s famous sex scene
Dunbar, who gives voice and motion to two female puppets, also stars in Avenue Q’s famous sex scene.
Before mastering puppet sex, Dunbar first had to get a feel for puppetry.
She says working with puppets isn’t easy.
“We spent a lot of time in the mirror checking angles, because it’s really easy to have the puppets off looking somewhere else while the actor is talking to that puppet.”
After over 100 performances during the play’s last run, Dunbar is now more comfortable as a puppeteer.
“Once you get used to having that thing on your arm . . . it [feels] just like another limb,” Dunbar said.
Developing the avenues of musical puppetry
The Tony Award-winning Broadway musical is the brainchild of Robert Lopez, Jeff Marx and Jeff Whitty, who came together in the summer of 2002 to hash out their ideas.
“There’s always lots of puppets around here,” Preston Whiteway said, currently the executive director of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Connecticut where they met up.
The O’Neill, as it’s commonly known, is also home to a puppetry program set up as a legacy to Sesame Street Muppeteer Jim Henson.
Whiteway explained that Avenue Q was developed at the O’Neill because of their expertise in musical theatre creation and not because of the Henson connection.
Their music and lyrics were hilarious, said Paulette Haupt, artistic director at the O’Neill.
“There was a real buzz about [Avenue Q].”
The O’Neill is sometimes called the launchpad of American theatre said Haupt, who remembers all the hard work the creators put in to develop a story to go with all their songs.
Haupt said the creative process by which the play came together took only two weeks.
“By the time they left the O’Neill they really had a story,” she said.
Performances of Avenue Q begin at the Arts Club’s Granville Island stage on Nov. 20 and run into the New Year, tickets start at $29.