Blackfriars Theatre in Rochester will present the Tony Award winning “Avenue Q” May 11-27.
Artistic Director Danny Hoskins and cast member Jonathan Ntheketha discussed the show Tuesday during News 8 at Noon.
“When we picked this show last season I didn’t realize how popular it was,” said Hoskins. “We have practically sold out already the entire run, so much so that we’ve had to add a couple of shows to the end of the run. So it’s been really exciting for us and really exciting to see so many people so excited about the show.”
Hoskins said ‘Avenue Q’ offers a unique theater experience. “The conceit of the show really is what if ‘Sesame Street’ grew up? What if they had to deal with bills, they had to deal with dating, they had to deal with renting apartments, they had to go to college and deal with all of these adult things? So I think the appeal is both nostalgic for everyone who grew up with ‘Sesame Street’ but it’s also exciting and new because we’ve never seen these puppets, these characters dealt with in this way and have to deal with real world situations that we are dealing with as we grow up, so we can also relate to what’s going on with them.”
Rick Lyon, who is a Rochester native, came in with the actual Broadway puppets that will be used in this production. Ntheketha and others had the opportunity to work with the Broadway veteran. “Rick was incredibly gracious with his time and his experiences,” said Ntheketha. “The workshop was for the entire cast and members of the company who wanted to participate, learning about how he created the puppets, learning the intricacies of the care that he takes to maintain these puppets for over a decade, and also the craft of connecting with a piece of felt and plastic instead of a human being.”
Ntheketha is one of three human characters in the play. “So we have humans, we have monster puppets and we have human puppets,” he said. “And so what’s unique about the experience of learning how to puppet, learning the stress and strain the actual puppeteers are going through to create this world, as an actor who’s usually connecting with another actor, I now have to connect to the puppet’s eyes. And so it’s this shift of we want to make sure that the world we are creating is believable, that we’re not ignoring the talented individuals who are puppeting and singing in many cases multiple characters at the same time, but also for us to be able to create a world where these type of characters can exist in a reality that feels comfortable and feels warm.”
The intimacy of Blackfriars will enable audiences to get up close the the Broadway puppets. “I think it’s going to be a really unique experience for people,” Hoskins said. “If you’ve seen the show before, you’ve likely seen it in a big proscenium house. At Blackfriars you’re five feet away from the stage and no more than fifteen feet away and to see the puppets that close, as close as you and I are, and those are the Broadway puppets. You’re sitting there going, that’s the original cast right there in front of me. It’s really exciting and it still really exciting to us. We’re a little awestruck at seeing them every night. It’s really cool.”
To get your tickets for ‘Avenue Q,’ call (585) 454-1260 or click here.