UW-Green Bay’s ‘Avenue Q’ a hit at regional theatre ‘playoffs’
UW-Green Bay Theatre and Dance and UW-Green Bay Music took their smash fall hit Avenue Q, The Musical to the next level in mid-January, performing at the American College Theatre Festival’s regional competition.
Cast, crew and directorial team fought frigid temps during the play’s Green Bay sendoff performance and “Snowmageddon” at the festival site to perform the edgy, R-rated musical to rave reviews at Saginaw’s downtown Temple Theatre, said show Director and UW-Green Bay Theatre and Dance Prof. Laura Riddle. About 1,300 audience members saw the performance, thoroughly enjoying the UW-Green Bay production and offering a rousing standing ovation as the play concluded.
For UW-Green Bay Assistant Prof. Courtney Sherman, Music Director for Avenue Q, the competition offered the chance to watch her students shine.
“I’m so thrilled that we had the opportunity to take a musical to the festival, and that it was received with such enthusiasm,” Sherman said. “It was very much worth all of the extra hard work. I’m delighted our students had this opportunity — they did wonderfully, and it is an experience I’ll not soon forget.”
UW-Green Bay’s production of Avenue Q was one of six shows selected to perform at the festival, where the University has competed nearly a dozen times. As it has the last five times it’s taken a show to the regional competition, UW-Green Bay earned the festival’s Golden Handtruck award for excellence in technical execution of the production. In addition, senior Theatre and Music major Erin Zimmermann and partner Tyler Miles advanced to the semifinal round of the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship, representing the top 10 percent out of hundreds of nominees.
Winner of the Tony “Triple Crown” for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book, Avenue Q is a gut-bustingly hilarious modern musical focusing on a group of unique 20-somethings making their way in the big city, seeking their purpose in life. Although the show addresses humorous adult issues, it is similar to a beloved children’s show; a place where puppets are friends, monsters are good and life lessons are learned.
“The play has a big heart — sincere and sometimes naïve characters look for their purpose in life,” Riddle said. “The puppets invite us into a playful world where they negotiate real issues faced in life after college. Avenue Q has a very diverse population and the residents learn to be compassionate and inclusive but it’s not always easy — or ‘politically correct.’ But just like some of the great children’s programming we grew up with, you can learn and have fun at the same time.”
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ACTF is a national theatre organization affiliated with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Wisconsin is part of region three, which also includes Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and part of Ohio. Bids for the regional competition are awarded after independent judges travel to plays that are entered for consideration.
The annual regional festivals double as conferences with workshops for students and faculty, as well as individual competitions in acting, design, playwriting, directing, dramaturgy, theatre criticism and technical fields.
In the past, ACTF has selected shows from the regional competition to perform at the national festival at the Kennedy Center. But budget cuts to the arts have meant the Kennedy Center has not invited performances during the last three years, Riddle said.
“We will receive additional feedback from the Kennedy center, but there will be no further tours of Avenue Q for UW-Green Bay,” she said. “The puppets have been packed up and are returning to sunny California.”
A video preview of the UW-Green Bay production of Avenue Q, The Musical is available online. Visit the UW-Green Bay Theatre and Dance website for more information about the program, including current season schedule.