arts + Culture
ALVA TEE ARTS + CULTURE EDITOR
PUPPETS FACING POST-COLLEGE LIFE IN AVENUE Q Alicia Neptune × Writer
× Contributed Despite being a musical comedy involving puppets, Avenue Q is decidedly not for kids. The Arts Club On Tour production comes with a warning: leave those under 14 at home. The musical tells the story of Princeton, an idealistic college graduate who comes to New York City to follow his dreams and discover his purpose in life. However, the only place he can afford is on Avenue Q, and once there, Princeton discovers the reality of post-college life. This reality includes financial trouble, excessive drinking, romantic woes and other serious adult issues — all of which seem less grim in the hands of the Muppet-like main characters.
More than half the lead characters are portrayed by puppets. And in the case of Avenue Q, where many of the actors are not trained puppeteers, working with puppets can be a challenge. Before any character can come to life, the actor has to learn the basics of the technique. "Once you learn the technique, your homework fades away,” says Kellie Haines, a professional ventriloquist and puppeteer for stage and TV. “You find yourself watching your puppet come alive as if they have their own energy." Jeny Cassady, a puppeteer in the Arts Club production of Avenue Q, is well versed in technique. With over 20 years of experience, it is unsurprising that she works with every puppet at some point during the show. “The challenge in this has not been working with a large number of puppets, but taking on the puppets’ personalities,” she explains. From reclusive porn addict Trekkie Monster to Kate Monster, the kindergarten teaching assistant who dreams of opening a school for monsters, each puppet has a unique presence, with their own personality and mannerisms. In addition to being a musical with puppet characters, the show takes place in a quasi-fantasy world where humans and monsters co-exist. Therefore, Avenue Q asks for more suspension of disbelief than most other shows. “The audience has been asked to accept obvious non-human characters as real, emotional and human-
istic,” says Cassady, “And we ask them to ignore the puppeteers, even though we’re completely visible next to the puppet. Usually, about five minutes into the show the audience has fully accepted this non-conventional theatre presentation, and has moved on to simply engaging in the story.” The audience’s willingness to go along with whatever the show throws at them allows Avenue Q to be bold and outrageous, which is part of what makes it so hysterically funny. It also keeps the tone lighthearted, even when dealing with mature subject matter. “Having that understanding gives us a lot of leeway when it comes to pushing boundaries,” Cassady notes, “And it doesn’t hurt that the characters attacking the hotbed issues like racism and porn are fuzzy and cute. How can you stay mad at that?” It also doesn’t hurt that the show has a musical heart. “The singing in Avenue Q is amazing,” says Haines. Having written several musical shows, she is familiar with the role songs play. “Music reels them in as I like to say. Music and singing is an incredible way to engage your audience. When a puppet sings, you listen!” Some of the songs are comedic, others heartfelt, but all tread familiar territory for young adults. Songs like “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist” are far from politically correct, but explicitly discuss certain facts of life that we might not acknowledge.
The show as a whole is bluntly honest about life, which is part of the appeal. “What I love about Avenue Q,” says Cassady, “is how it tackles reality head on and says okay, so you’re broke, in debt, out of work, not young anymore…There’s no bright side to this, it just really sucks. So deal with it and move on.” This mentality is especially refreshing to a generation that grew up being told by Sesame Street characters that they were “special”, only to find out that they were only as “special” as anyone else. Avenue Q dares to tell it like it is. In 2004, it took home the “Triple Crown” at the Tony Awards, winning Best Musical, Best Book and Best Score, and last year it won the 2013 Jessie Richardson Theatre Award for Outstanding Musical. A decade after the show premiered, it is still relevant and admired. Avenue Q somehow defies the form; it appeals to people who don’t like puppets and people who don’t like musicals, yet also thrills the people who do. Audiences can expect a show that is simultaneously hysterical and heartfelt. “Avenue Q is brilliant in the way it is written and put together,” says Haines, “And with the professional actor’s ensemble – it knocks it out of the ballpark.” Avenue Q is an Arts Club on Tour production and will be at the BlueShore Financial Centre for the Performing Arts on Oct. 4 and 5.
hear that bass drop EDM CULTURE MEETS FASHION Rozan Talebian
THE CAPILANO COURIER.
VOLUME 48 I SSUE N O . 04
The feeling of intense euphoria at any event or music festival is inevitable. There is just something about the natural movement of the human body from melodic rhythms that makes people unite. Some call it a culture, a practice or even a religion. However, the stereotype of “ravers” as drug-addled and underdressed fanatics contributes toward a less-than-sterling reputation. A few bad apples have dictated the electronic dance party scene and have supposedly set a bad title for these events, the greater majority leave with pleasurable memories, long-lasting friends and a lot of burned calories. This October, an electric dance music (EDM) Culture Charity Fashion show will be hosted in Vancouver. This event will combine three of the most popular pleasures humans can endure: music, fashion and giving to charity. “A lot of people have a negative image of EDM,” says Shawna Dhillon, the mastermind and producer of the event, “They think it is all about doing drugs, and getting fucked up.” Dhillon and many others believe that this negative reputation is unfair and overlooks many positive sides to the EDM scene. “I have experienced this culture in a very different way," she explains, “It has impacted my life for the better.” Dhillon was able to meet Above & Beyond, three collaborative artists who are now one of the biggest electronic musicians in the industry, and they were the initial source of inspiration behind this idea. In meeting them, her passion grew into reality. “They said ‘we have been watching you dance all night, and we have been watching you cry all night, and you deserve to come backstage!’” shares
Dhillon, "And I started to cry even more. I began to share my dreams, goals, and ideas to them.” “My heart opened up when they said ‘do it, follow your dreams,’” she continues, “And ever since then, I have been so enlightened and inspired to continue these dreams, which is fashion and music.” Although her original ideas seemed dubious to those who were around her, she continued to reach for her dream. Above & Beyond shared a powerful message to the crowd that night, “Dream on, little [dreamers,].” Dhillon’s passion and drive is what keeps her going,.
The upcoming EDM Culture Charity Fashion Show is guaranteed to be a departure from the typical fashion runway. “It's going to be much different than what you have seen in the past,” Dhillon says. The fashion show will consist of the daily apparel of women and men, as well as stunning nightly rave outfits. Many presenters will be displaying these fashions in a fun and exciting way. Glow body painters, go-go dancers, and mesmerizing light shows will also be taking place. Another vital part to this event is the donation that will be made to different charities. Instead of
making a single payout to one organization, Dhillon has opted to use a continuum method instead. “Every three months, we choose a different choice of charity where a portion of the proceeds we received in that time goes to that certain charity,” she says, “This also includes all of the proceeds from my online store, where you will find all of the apparel presented on stage.” Featured designs will include those from Whiskey Teacup, Cotton Tail Couture, Protagonist Menswear, and Designs by Amroe & Peggy. Local ravers have come together to choose their favourite rave outfit designs, calling themselves Vancouver Community Collection. The event will educate the crowd about the rituals of an everyday raver as well as provide education and safety tips for those choosing to partake in the use of narcotics. Dhillon has partnered with Karmik, a non-profit organization of drugsafe instructors who teach about the effects and side-effects of drugs, what is contained, and how to inject safely. On their Facebook page, Karmik stated, “None of these programs serve to endorse drug use, but they do send clear messages to young people that society actually cares about their wellbeing.” Karmik will have their own booth at the show to encourage EDM fans to enjoy the scene in a responsible manner. The EDM Culture Charity Fashion show will take place on Oct. 18 at 560. There will be loud music, enthusiastic dancing, tons of entertainment, and distinct performances. Tickets are $20 in advance, available at Ticketzone.com, or $25 at the door. Doors will open at 5 pm and the show is slated to run until 9 pm. For more information, visit Facebook.com/ sbonanaproject.