The Ann Arbor Civic Theater is kicking off its 2011-2012 season September 15-18 with the triple Tony award winning musical, Avenue Q. Current recently talked with Director Wendy Sielaff, who has directed ten shows for AACT over the years.
Current: Tell us about Avenue Q.
Sielaff: It is Sesame Street for adults. It is definitely not for children. It has adult language and adult situations. (For example, Cookie Monster has become Trekkie Monster who is addicted to Internet porn.) This will take the adults who grew up on Sesame Street and the Muppets and make them see their characters in a whole new different way. It’s a very fun, very light show.
And it has the puppets?
Yes, we rent them along with the script and score. We only get the puppets about six weeks before the show, which has posed some interesting rehearsal issues. I’m done blocking it, and now the actors will spend four weeks going to puppet boot camp. (Laughter) It’s been easy so far, but I know once the puppets arrive, it’s going to be a real challenge for our cast. I have a great puppeteer, Kyle Farr. Avenue Q was released to one community theater, Kalamazoo Community Theater, a couple of years ago, to see how it worked, and Kyle was fortunate to have been cast in it. Kyle and I have been friends, and when I found out he’d been in Avenue Q, I got him on board as director of puppets. You absolutely need a puppeteer.
What about the music?
The music is light hearted, the lyrics are screamingly funny. It’s not complicated music. It’s not Sondheim. We are one of the first community theaters to be awarded the rights, which is an honor. We are really keeping it true to the script and we’re not going to deviate from it. Sometimes directors just like to get their own take on things, they might put a different spin on some of it. We’re not, because we know that people who have never seen Avenue Q are going to come to see it. (This will be the Ann Arbor premiere of the play.) Other community theaters are going to come see how we do it, how we present it, so we’re going to keep it clean and green.