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AUDIENCE CONTEXT GUIDE

AVENUE


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venue Q: An Introduction

Welcome, resident, to your new home on Avenue Q! Like our orange, felty protagonist, you are bright-eyed, bushy tailed, and eager to enter the next phase of your life: the real world. As you begin your downward spiral from excitement to disillusionment to unfathomable dispair, perhaps this little guide will help you see things a bit more clearly. True, you don’t need too much context to understand the world of Avenue Q—it sucks, in case you haven’t heard yet—but there’s a whole lot more to this little musical than meets the eye. As the interview with co-creators Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez reveals on pages 4 and 5, bringing this musical to life takes an incredible amount of juggling: there is the main theme of identity and self-discovery within a specific generation (see page 14 to learn about why this concept is so relevant today), the parodic spin on Jim Henson’s vibrant world (you can read about the history of Sesame Street and The Muppets on page 6), and then the physicality of the story, turning a group of actors into master puppeteers over a few short weeks of rehearsals (which you can read about in an interview with the artistic team on page 10). This context guide is here to pull you into the loud, silly, unapologetic world of Avenue Q, from the evolution of American puppetry through Olney Theatre Center’s 2014 production. For additional dramaturgical materials, including videos, cartoons, articles, and more, visit our blog at www.olneyavenueq.wordperss.com. If you want to interact even further, feel free to shoot us a message at education@olneytheatre.org with comments, questions, or ideas.

Table of Contents

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Avenue Q: An Introduction Background and History Chatting with the Creators Developing the Muppets Evolution of Puppetry Firsthand Accounts Generation “Why Now”

2 3 4 6 8 10 14


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ackground and History

Creators Jeff Marx and Robert Lopez shared a quest—to create a musical that spoke to people in their 20s and 30s—but it took a solid five years to bring Avenue Q from concept to performance. Both Marx and Lopez grew up surrounded by and passionate about music, comedy, performance, and the Muppets. Marx was even a former Sesame Street intern, although he was fired for pitching story ideas instead of making coffee runs. The two met at a BMI Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop in 1998. Lopez had just completed his BA in English at Yale and was seeking ways to integrate his passion for musical theater and comedy. Marx had just graduated law school; frustrated with his fledgling “real world” career, he joined the workshop in the hope of pursuing his earlier love for music and possibly

snagging a few new clients. After discovering how well they collaborated, Jeff and Marx decided to fuel their postcollegiate frustrations into a story that would appeal to a younger audience. They toyed with various comedic techniques, decided on Jim Henson-inspired muppets as their hook, and finally wrote and produced a Shakespeare-inspired musical television pilot entitled Kermit, Prince of Denmark. Memorable titles from the show’s eight-song track include “There’s More Than One Pig in the Sea” and “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Doing the Mambo.” Their concept won the won the 2000 Kleban Award, a $150,000 endowment to encourage musical theater writers. The show’s lack of “kid appeal” led to its rejection by the Henson Company, but it put the lyricists in touch with Sesame Street puppeteer and designer Rick Lyon.

The team proceeded to write a TV pilot called Avenue Q, and they asked Lyon to design all the puppets in addition to performing in the show. The pilot was noticed by the producers of RENT, who saw the potential BROADWAY RUNS: for a stage show. Lopez and 2,534 performances Marx developed their unique concept for the stage with TOURS: London, Australia, New book writer Jeff Whitty. Zealand, South Korea, among others Director Jason Moore was also onboard to TONY AWARDS: Best Original Score, help develop a more Best Book, Best Musical sustainable storyline.

FUN FACT: In the “school edition, Trekkie Monster’s “The Internet is For Porn” is replaced with “Social Life is Online.”

Five years later, in March 2003, Avenue Q opened Off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre, where it was extended four times. It began Broadway previews at the John Golden Theatre on July 11, 2003, with a July 31, 2003 opening.

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C

hatting With the Creators

The following interview with Marx and Lopez was conducted by Aaron Dobbs and Lily Oei in 2004: In your wildest dreams, did you ever think that puppets swearing, having sex, and singing about schadenfreude would actually appear on Broadway, let alone win the big three Tonys? All we knew was that we were kids writing a show about ourselves and how much it sucked to be us. Neither of us was making any money or really feeling like an adult yet. But we sort of had it good. Lots of our friends were worse off than us–at least we got to live in Manhattan and convince ourselves we were being productive. Our friends were living in

squalor out in Brooklyn or Queens, commuting, working all day long in entry-level jobs they hated, wondering how the hell they got there. So we decided to write a show about the situation. How did you realize that you would work well as partners?

One of Bobby’s stage friends advised him to try collaborating with someone at least once so that he’d have the experience. Bobby asked Jeff to write a song with him since he admired a funny “charm” song Jeff presented in class called “People Suck.” Bobby also knew that Jeff liked his work since Jeff called him one day after class to tell him how much he admired one of his own songs, one sung by the lion in Androcles and the Lion called “Pretty Much Everybody Pretty Much Tastes Like Chicken.” So we started writing together a little and found that it was actually more fun than writing alone—that when we put our two heads together to come up with ideas, and especially to edit them (we only keep things we both like, so the work ends up being the highest common denominator rather than the lowest), the result was stronger than what either of us produced alone. What came first: the characters, the story, or the songs?

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Pictured: Jeff Marx (left) and Robert Lopez (right) with one of their Tony Awards.

The idea for the show came first. We wanted to write a musical that would appeal to everyday people—people who don’t necessarily already like musicals—and so we were


looking for a medium that would allow were mouthing along to what the puppets characters to sing but which wouldn’t be were saying. The performers were able to your typical Oklahoma! or Funny Girl type make it crystal clear that the puppets, not stage show. Our solution to overcome the the puppeteers, were the characters and modern bias against singing was to write the ones to watch, and the audience went a Muppet movie. We realized that for the along with it. most part, audiences have a tendency to How much of the story is autobisay “oh please” when a character breaks ographical? into song nowadays, but we didn’t think that puppets faced that same hurdle. It’s all autobiographical. Or biographiWhere the Muppets are concerned, they cal, anyway. It’s all based on us and our must sing, otherwise they seem kind of friends. It’s not as specific as “this charflat. Singing is just part of their vocabu- acter is me and this character’s him,” but lary. So we tried to find the most ludicrous they’re all amalgamations of things and plot we could find for it, and we settled feelings we’ve been going through peron Hamlet. [The Henson Company] sonally. Even the character of Gary wasn’t interested, and that Coleman has a journey in the was that. But we learned show that was personal something valuable from to us. When we were all “Puppets are the experience: we kids, our parents taught learned not to write a bit of a Trojan Horse. us we were special, for other people’s They’re our way in. Once that we could do characters because anything. Children’s you get the audience if they say no, all television echoed hooked, you can tell them your hard work is that. And apparently down the drain. It all kinds of truths and we’re not the only made us say, “To ones who felt that they’ll go along with you.” hell with the Mupway. A lot of peo—Robert Lopez pets. Let’s create our ple tell us that they’re own family of characPrinceton or they’re Kate ters.” Monster. What made you think Avenue Q would work on stage? We hadn’t ever thought of doing it on stage. But when we did this reading at the York, we were faced with a problem: What do we do with the puppeteers? How do we hide them? We decided the only practical solution was to just let the performers stay in plain view and hold the puppets, and not make any effort to hide the fact that they were there. And you know what? Our performers were so great that when they started breathing life into the puppets and giving them expressions, movements, and voices, they convinced the audience that the puppets were real! We could see that the they were there holding the puppets, but even though the puppeteers were moving their lips, it looked like they

Seriously, why puppets? Puppets have a certain permission to sing that humans don’t necessarily have nowadays. Also, because the puppets were so cute and friendly, they had a wider latitude to go further than humans could go without being distasteful. Sometimes thoughts and words that would probably be offensive in a human’s mouth are more acceptable—and even funnier—coming out of a puppet. Also, a lot of the songs in Avenue Q are sort of mock-educational songs. Like the songs we remember from the children’s television programming we grew up with, they try to “teach” you something. But the very idea that these puppets are teaching us lessons about porn and racism are part of the song. 5


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eveloping the Muppets Jim Henson

The award-winning director, writer, and puppeteer was drawn to the arts at a young age. His family encouraged his creative passions, and well before his teen years, Jim Henson (1936-1990) was performing puppetry for audiences, including his fellow Cub Scouts. He also fell in love with television as an artistic medium, particularly TV puppeteer Burr Tillstrom’s work on the show Kukla, Fran and Ollie. Henson had his first dalliance with televised puppetry while still in high school when he began performing with his puppets on a local Washington, D.C. Saturday morning program. By his freshman year at the University of Maryland, Henson had scored a bi-weekly bit on a local NBC affiliate, Sam and Friends. The program scored a local Emmy Award in 1958, the same year that Henson founded the Jim Henson Company. The Muppets, including an early

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version of Kermit the Frog, were born from Sam and Friends. The puppet characters’ popularity continued to grow, and they were soon making appearances in TV commercials. One of Henson’s puppet characters, Wheel Stealer, who snatched a family’s snacks on a food commercial and later chomped on an IBM computer in a TV ad, was an early incarnation of the beloved blue Cookie Monster. The first Muppet to gain national exposure, Rowlf the Dog, went from making appearances in Purina commercials to playing a sidekick on The Jimmy Dean Show in 1963. Rowlf was brought to life with the assistance of puppet builder Don Sahlin and puppeteer Frank Oz, the latter of whom would become one of Henson’s closest friends and collaborators. Members of Henson’s growing puppeteering team also appeared on The Today Show and The Ed Sullivan Show.

Sesame Street The biggest juggernaut in children’s-television history sprang forth from mundane origins. At a Manhattan dinner party in 1966, a Carnegie Foundation executive named Lloyd Morrissett mentioned that his young daughter was so enthralled by television that she would park herself in front of the family’s set to gaze at early-morning test patterns. That story prompted public-television producer Joan Cooney to investigate how television could be used to package education as entertainment: “What if it went down more like ice cream than spinach?” They founded the Childrens Television Workshop, now called Sesame Workshop,


and their first creation—which taught kids everything from empathy to arithmetic under the tutelage of colorful creatures like an 8-foot-tall canary and a misanthropic garbage-can dweller—was greeted with acclaim by parents, teachers and even President Richard Nixon. Many of the Muppet characters were designed to represent a specific stage or element of early childhood, allowing the show to address not only the learning objectives of various age groups, but also the concerns, fears, and interests of children of different age levels. More than 43,000 episodes since its debut, the program has featured more than 400 celebrity guests and won more than 100 Emmy awards.

The Muppet Show Henson’s even bigger claim to TV fame had a slow start; he had a challenging time getting the show financed in the United States, but eventually found the support needed with London-based TV producer Lord Lew Grade. In 1975, at Grade’s ATV Studios, Henson and his crew created Miss Piggy, Fozzie, Animal, Gonzo, Scooter, and the rest of The Muppet Show ensemble. The hit series, with Kermit as the host, premiered in 1976. Soon after, superstar guest hosts came aboard, including Liza Minnelli, Elton John, Vincent Price, and Steve Martin. Henson’s show reached a staggering 235 million viewers in more than 100 countries, and earned three Emmy Awards. But Henson didn’t limit his TV puppetry to his original Muppets. In the 1980s, he developed the TV series Fraggle Rock, The Jim Henson Hour, and Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. Other major motion pictures followed too, including 1982’s The Dark Crystal, a a groundbreaking mix of puppetry and animatronics, and 1986’s Labyrinth.

Sesame Street Scandals 1969: Early episodes of Sesame Street showed Cookie Monster smoking a pipe and an early green incarnation of Grover partaking in civil disobedience with hippies. 1982: Following the death of actor Will Lee, who played Mr. Hooper, a special episode addressed the issue by having Big Bird’s friends outright explain death to him. The episode received criticism from some parents who believed children were too young to handle such information. 1993: Sesame Street producers finally put rumors to rest, saying Bert and Ernie “do not portray a gay couple...Bert and Ernie are characters who help demonstrate to children that despite their differences, they can be good friends.” 2005: After years of chanting “me want cookie,” Cookie Monster crooned that “A Cookie is a Sometime Food” to teach kids that cookies shouldn’t be eaten all the time. 2010: Producers announced that they would not air a music video duet of Elmo and Katy Perry. The music video, a parody of Perry’s hit “Hot ‘N Cold,” was released online, instantly sparking a controversy over the appropriateness of Perry’s cleavage-showing outfit. 2011: Sesame Street’s Youtube channel was hacked and replaced with porn; it was quickly fixed, but not before some of the page’s 148,000 subscribers viewed the offending material.

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E

volution of Puppetry: 20th Century — Present Day

Tony Sarg (1880-1942) Attributed for the burst in puppet popularity during the 1920s and ’30s, Guatamalan-born Sarg experimented in animatronics, illustrations, marionettes, and balloons.

Bil Baird (1904-1987) Arguably the 20th century’s seminal puppeteer, Baird was a performer on Broadway, in film, and on television, a teacher (of Jim Henson, among many other artists), and author of the classic The Art of the Puppet.

“A puppet must always be more than his live counterpart–simpler, sadder, more wicked, more supple. The puppet is an essence and an emphasis.”

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Edgar Bergen (1903-1978) Bergen’s partnership with puppet Charlie McCarthy moved from vaudeville to radio with their 20-year program, The Edgar Bergen–Charlie McCarthy Show. The success of a ventriloquist act over the radio bewildered many critics, but listeners loved Charlie’s nonstop jokes and jabs at other puppet characters.


“The arts are political, whether they like it or not. If they stay in their own realm, preoccupied with their proper problems, the arts support the status quo, which in itself is highly political.” —Peter Schumann

Howdy Doody (1946-1960) The Howdy Doody Show laid the groundwork for future children’s programming. Buffalo Bob Smith hosted the program along with his a freckle-faced marionette friend for a live audience of children.

Bread & Puppet Theater Company (1961—)

Sesame Street (1969—)

The Muppet Show (1976-1981)

First established by Peter Schumann as the New Dance Group, Bread & Puppet Theater protests issues such as governmental bureaucracy and American involvement in the Vietnam War. Employing puppets and masks of varying dimensions, the productions emphasize mime and movement rather than narrative.

The Lion King (1997)

Theatre artist Julie Taymor’s early education in mythology, puppetry, and masks makes an appearance in many of her works. The most famous of her productions is The Lion King, a theatrical reimagining of Disney’s animated film that integrates Indonesian-influenced puppets and artistry with the original story and songs.

Avenue Q (2003) 9


F

irsthand Accounts

with Director Jason Loewith, Choreographer Bobby Smith, and Music Director Chris Youstra

Sesame Street Bobby Smith, Choreographer: I grew up with Sesame Street. My parents had divorced and Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers and later on the Electric Company used to pretty much keep me company. They were my babysitting machines. When I think back, “Did it do anything for me? Did it teach me my ABC’s? Did it teach me how to spell?”—I don’t remember any of that. I just remenber being so entertained by it, and I think it was because of the quirkiness of it. There’s something that Mr. Rogers did that wasn’t as much of an interest for me, not that I didn’t watch it. He was just a little sweet for my taste. It wasn’t as edgy. I guess I didn’t understand where it was—I was in Virginia, I was in the mountains, I didn’t understand this strange little city street they were talking about, kids playing in the fire hydrants and stuff. Jason Loewith, Director: I remember watching it—it started the year after I was born—but I frankly don’t have a lot of memories about Sesame Street, except for Cookie Monster. I had a Cookie Monster puppet. It was part of the whole revolution in educational television. When you were dealing with a new generation where there were so many parents and families that were working, the television really did become the babysitter a lot of times because parents were so busy. And also, that revolution of the Children’s Television Workshop brought about kids shows being about teaching lessons and merging education and entertainment.

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Bobby: As opposed to Captain Kangaroo or Romper Room. Do you have any special connection with Sesame Street, Chris? Chris Youstra, Music Director: Yeah, it’s funny, because my parents were always very strict in terms of what we could watch, but Sesame Street was one of the shows we were allowed to see. I don’t think that I learned too much from it, because I was above grade level, but what connected it for me was the creativity of it. I connected with Jim Henson and the work that he was doing, so when The Muppet Show came on, that really blew me away. It really was extraordinarilly creative, what they did with this universe they created. If you look at Jim Henson’s early puppets they were just circles and ovals and different shapes, and they really went into a lot of detail later, they started giving each of the characters a personality and age.

Satire and Parody

Chris: I honestly think this musical is an homage. It’s satirical, but it’s also an homage to the creativity they had in creating these characters. What I like is the characters are kind of close to who they are based off of. I mean people have been talking about Ernie and Bert being gay for what, 20 or 30 years? Bobby: I think it’s also an homage to children’s programming, not just Sesame Street to a degree. I think yes, we are heavy on the Sesame Street aspect of it all, but I do think it pays an homage to the learning process. What would happen if we took adult situations and put it in this learning world?


Jason: So you look at Sesame Street, which was able to conquer issues of death and dying and race, 9/11, in a way that’s extremely simple for children. As adults, you suddenly realize the complexity of these things, so what’s charming about Avenue Q is how it simpifies, for example, racism: Everyone’s a little bit racist! Oh, fabulous, we’ve just solved it!

Collaborating

Jason: You couldn’t have better collaborators. This is the third time I’ve worked with Chris, whom I adore, and the first time I’ve worked with Bobby. There’s a lot of mutual respect among this trio. Bobby: It’s a learning process for me because I’ve come in to help [Jason] and to choreograph this show, and he works very differently than I do. I respect his work, and so to watch him work and then add to it—he’s actually teaching me to be a little more loose with how I approach something. He has us sketch it in, leave it to

marinate, then come back to it. The actual thing is, it’s working, which I didn’t believe the first three days was going to do. But it does marinate. It’s about trusting your performers and giving them adjustments. Chris: Jason asks to hear my ideas, and I’ll say, “Hey, isn’t this funny?” And sometimes he’ll tell me to go back to my seat, and sometimes he thinks it’s funny. Jason: We are all three funnier together than we are apart. Certainly I am, although I can’t speak for you, though. I think our strengths complement each other. On Saturday, when Bobby wasn’t here because he was doing two shows of Threepenny Opera at Signature Theatre, and we got to this song—this is a very songheavy show with very little book—but we got this point in the song, and all I could say was, “Bobby will fix that! Bobby will know what to do!” I froze up, even though we aren’t doing complicated steps.

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Pictured: Director Jason Loewith and Choreographer Bobby Smith

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Jason: Bobby and I have both done productions of The Long Christmas Ride Home by Paula Vogel, which uses bunraku puppets. You have to learn the basics Bobby: The movement is difficult in gen- of puppeteering, of breath, posture, and eral—music and blocking and everything gesture. And I don’t know if an object maelse. nipulator would agree with me, but I think those techniques are the same Chris: Well, they have no feet. for whatever object you’re talking about, whether I’m Jason: It’s complicated trying to animate this because you’ve got bottle of ginger ale, already perform“Sometimes, your or I’m trying to aniers who’ve got mate a giant pupto worry about imagination falls much more pet by Bread & singing, dancquickly and deeply and Puppet Theater ing, and acting; Company. they already significantly into an object have to split that is being manipulated their focus in three different Chris: For me, with great artistry and skill ways. Adding a I didn’t think this than a person.” completely forshow would be all eign element to that different than —Jason Loewith that is just very usual; I’d be teachtime consuming. ing the cast, putting I feel like we’re an ethic of music in just now getting into the stride i t . But what’s interesting is I’m of seeing it all come together in having to pay more and more attencertain places, because it just takes a lot tion to watching the puppet mouths during of time. Imagine trying to scratch your the ensemble moments. The ensemble head and rub your belly and sing on a singing has to be relatively precise, but certain beat and dance at the same time. now it’s making sure that not only are they precise, but the puppets are, too. Bobby: And move the puppet’s mouth.

Movement

Puppetry

Chris: It’s one of those things that we have to be super sensitive to and ask what the cast needs, because it’s physically taxing. Jason: In a usual rehearsal process, you work an hour and 20 minutes and take a ten minute break, but we can’t do that. We have to work the shorter 55 minutes and then a five minute break for everyone to stretch their hands. Bobby: Because their hands are constantly in the air. Or on top of each other for the double handed puppets. It’s like hugging somebody for 55 minutes.

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Jason: Your imagination falls much more quickly and deeply and significantly into an object that is being manipulated with great artistry and skill sometimes than a person. A person has so many very specific features and twists and tics, so that’s one of the reasons I just told Rachel [Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut], “don’t go so far with the nasal in your voice, because I’m starting to pay attention to you instead of the puppet.” But that’s the phenomenology of the puppet; that’s why a puppet is able to say things that a human can’t, do things a human can’t. And I’m not just talking about the satire, saying swear words, I don’t find that to be the magic of the puppet.


It’s funny, on the first day of rehearsal, when everybody was moving with puppets, their first impulse was to do everything the same way they would as human beings—talk and move and do everything at once—and our brains are all trianed to follow a multiplicity of movements and small hand signals and eye movements and all of that stuff; we’ve been conditioned over years and years. But a puppet is an unfamiliar thing, and a puppet needs very few gestures to a communicate a tremendous amount of meaning. So the actors wanted to walk and talk with the puppets on that first day, but I told them, “No, just walk, and let’s watch you walk.” How interesting it is to watch a puppet, a piece of felt and plastic and cardboard and whatever else, become something that can actually walk. Chris: What’s also interesting about the use of puppets in this musical is if you watch Sesame Street, the straight characters are the people. No one talks about

Gordon or Susan or any of those; it’s always puppets, and the humans are always the straight people. We’ve carried that over from Sesame Street, not only the parody of using songs to solve problems and focusing on certain letters and ideas and commercials, but also using people as the straight characters, and the lessons more conveyed through the animated characters.

The Story

Jason: I think audiences need to know that it’s a really big hearted story about growing up when you’re in your 20’s and you’re not sure what the heck to do. The other stuff brialliantly packages that story to make you want to see it again. Bobby: I think there’s truth that’s spoken in a way that’s contemporary, without any apologies. But there are moments in the show that are quite touching and lovely, and we can’t forget about that.

Pictured: Music Director Chris Youstra and Choreographer Bobby Smith.

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G

eneration “Why Bother”

In the following Harvard Business Review article, Millenial Cal Newport offers a response to the varied criticisms with which he and his peers have been harangued:

clear: we’re entitled. I don’t deny these behaviors, but having recently finished researching and writing a book on career advice, I have a different explanation. The problem is not that we’re intrinsically selfish or entitled. It’s that we’ve been misinformed.

Generation Y, of which I’m a member, is entering the job market in record numbers, and according to many commentators things are not going well.

Generation Y was raised during the period when “follow your passion” became pervasive career advice. A chart generated using Google’s N-Gram Viewer was made to show the occurrences of this phrase in printed English over time. The chart demonstrates that the phrase began its rise in the 1990s and skyrocketed in the 2000s: the period when Generation Y was in its formative schooling years.

The New York Post called us “The Worst Generation,” while USA Today noted that we are “pampered” and “high maintenance.” Earlier this year, a New York Times op-ed called us “Generation Why Bother,” noting that we’re “perhaps… too happy at home checking Facebook,” when we could be out aggressively seeking new jobs and helping the economy recover. The fact that up to a third of 25 to 34-year-olds now live with their parents only supports these gripes. To many, the core problem of this generation is Pictured: Illustrations depicting the expectations and reality of Millenial life, from Why Generation Y Yuppies are Unhappy, published on waitbutwhy.com. The article follows Lucy, a college graduate raised to believe she was special and destined for “a shiny unicorn on top of the flowery lawn” (left)—until the harsh realities of life left her downtrodden and disillusioned (right).

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Why is this a problem? This simple phrase, “follow your passion,” turns out to be surprisingly pernicious. It’s hard to argue, of course, against the general idea that you should aim for a fulfilling working life. But this phrase requires something more. The verb “follow” implies that you


start by identifying a passion and then match this preexisting calling to a job. Because the passion precedes the job, it stands to reason that you should love your work from the very first day. It’s this final implication that causes damage. When I studied people who love what they do for a living, I found that in most cases their passion developed slowly, often over unexpected and complicated paths. It’s rare to find someone who loves their career before they’ve become very good at it—expertise generates different engaging traits, such as respect, impact, autonomy—and the process of becoming good can be frustrating and take years. The early stages of a fantastic career might not feel fantastic at all, a reality that clashes with the fantasy world implied by the advice to “follow your passion”—an alternate universe where there’s a perfect job waiting for you, one you’ll love right away once you discover it. It shouldn’t be surprising that members of Generation Y demand a lot from their working life right away and are frequently disappointed about what they experience instead. The good news is that this explanation

yields a clear solution: we need a more nuanced conversation surrounding the quest for a compelling career. We currently lack, for example, a good phrase for describing those tough first years on a job where you grind away at building up skills while being shoveled less-than-inspiring entry-level work. This tough skill-building phase can provide the foundation for a wonderful career, but in this common scenario the “follow your passion” dogma would tell you that this work is not immediately enjoyable and therefore is not your passion. We need a deeper way to discuss the value of this early period in a long working life. We also lack a sophisticated way to discuss the role of serendipity in building a passionate pursuit. Steve Jobs, for example, in his oft-cited Stanford Commencement address, told the crowd to not “settle” for anything less than work they loved. Jobs clearly loved building Apple, but as his biographers reveal, he stumbled into this career path at a time when he was more concerned with issues of philosophy and Eastern mysticism. This is a more complicated story than him simply following a clear preexisting passion, but it’s a story we need to tell more.”

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Still curious? Read, watch, and listen more at www.olneyavenueq.wordpress.com This context guide was created by Maegan Clearwood, Dramaturgy Apprentice, and edited by Jason King Jones, Associate Artistic Director and Director of Education, 2014.

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