A Portland theater company is tackling Avenue Q, the raunchy, Sesame Street-inspired musical about existential twentysomethings. The show's popularity promises high expectations for Triangle Productions, but the real challenge is the show's signature: puppets, a novelty to most theater performers. The puppets were supplied by designer and former Portland resident Darrin Pufall, now a professor of costume design at Boise State University. Pufall first made the puppets for the 2010 regional premiere of the play in Forestburgh, N.Y.
The Portland show will be the puppets' fourth. Pufall told WW what it's like to see Avenue Q over and over.
WW: Does it ever suck to be you?
Darrin Pufall: Absolutely not. I find joy in all of my projects and all of my life. I think everyone should find joy in what they do.
How did you go about designing the puppets? The script doesn't dictate exactly what they should look like.
My designs definitely reflect the original Broadway designs, but they are not replicas of them. I wanted the audience to recognize these characters from Broadway productions but know that this is a new spin on them.
I noticed Kate Monster looks very different.
I felt that the Broadway Kate Monster didn't look much like a monster, so I gave her a little bit fluffier fur and made it green instead of brown. I wanted her to look more monsterlike.
Which puppet is your favorite?
I really like Rod. I think he has a lot of personality that reflects who we all are. We all have insecurities in our life, so I think he's great.
Most of these actors are singers and dancers but have never worked with puppets. How is that different for them?
They really have to keep in mind that the puppet is the focus, and because in Avenue Q you see the performers right alongside the puppets, it's important that the performers project all of their energy to the puppet so that you see more and more of the puppet and less and less of the performer.
What's so hard about using a puppet?
Stamina. The repetitive motion of your hand. You're in a six-hour rehearsal doing it over and over again. There's an exhaustion that happens with the performers.
How will we know Triangle got it right?
You'll just know. If you're enjoying the show with a smile on your face, you're loving it.
SEE IT: Avenue Q opens Thursday, Sept. 6, at the Sanctuary at Sandy Plaza, 1785 NE Sandy Blvd., 239-5919, tripro.org. 7:30 pm Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 pm Sundays through Sept. 30 (no show Sunday, Sept. 9). $15-$35. No one under age 17 admitted without an adult 21 or older.