It might seem incongruous for Mixed Blood Theatre, a nonprofit founded on the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King's dream, to produce a hit show as commercial as "Avenue Q." But director Jack Reuler has a relationship with the musical, which opens today at the Minneapolis playhouse. Jason Moore was directing "Vices" at Mixed Blood 10 years ago when he was tapped for a pre-Broadway production of "Q." Moore went on to direct the show on Broadway, where it opened in 2003 and won three Tony Awards. It ran on Broadway until 2009.
Even minus that link, Reuler viewed the irreverent show as a good fit at Mixed Blood.
"I didn't plan on having it as a commercial success story," he said. "Its humor, irreverence and message about different types of people coming together all fit our mission."
The show features a cast of nine who play the instruments, animate the puppet characters and move the sets. We spoke with three of the players about their puppets, and asked the puppets to tell us about the lives, secrets and annoyances of their human manipulators.
Bonni Allen on Kate Monster: "She's obviously a Monster, which, you know, evokes certain stereotypes. But she's an intelligent, sweet Monster. She's a kindergarten teaching assistant, which is not fulfilling. She gets all the scrub work. Kate's gotten to a point in her life where she realizes that the dreams you have as a young person don't come true for everyone. She feels pretty deflated and copes by taking it a day at a time. Growing up, she felt a lot of bias, but she's still optimistic about the future. She wants to provide a safe place where Monsters can go to become a part of the global community."
Kate Monster on Bonni: "She's very special because she's found her purpose, acting, and has something that we're all looking for, this joy and fulfillment. But it took a while and a divorce. Bonni is the daughter of a Baptist pastor who will probably not come see the show. There's swearing and sex and singing, the kind that is a sin, you know. When Bonni was in college [Pillsbury Baptist Bible College in Owatonna], the school did a production of 'The Music Man' that cut out most of the dancing, since that is a vertical expression of a horizontal desire. A boy and girl always had to have at least six inches between them. The school's closed now. Bonni's a great singer and is good at piano, and should be, since she has 10 fingers and two eyes. I only have six fingers and one eye. Bonni and I have a lot in common, though. She used to teach second grade. And we get drunk pretty regularly now, usually whiskey. But it's just friendly when we do. Nothing much happens."
Rose Le Tran on Bad Idea Bear: "She's the subconscious of Princeton the puppet, that inner voice. She's sweet and very manipulative. She gets him to do naughty things. She's really angry that she does not get to walk around the stage and do what she wants to do. She only appears in Princeton's mind."
Bad Idea Bear on Rose: "She's been dreaming about this show since it first opened on Broadway. She grew up in New Jersey, where she was born, and was working at this dance place in Times Square where they coached Broadway dancers. She coached all the girls in the Broadway production of 'Avenue Q.' She moved to Minnesota five years ago and has stayed. Rose has never wanted to play Christmas Eve [the Asian character] because she's always seen herself as urban as opposed to Asian. She would go into these auditions and people would want her to be demure, to play a peasant or have broken English. But what she really wanted to do was something sassy, saucy, naughty, like Lucy the Slut. Rose is a workaholic who's really uptight. I know because she has her hand up my butt."
Tom Reed on Princeton: "He just graduated from college with a B.A. in English. He has a naive, optimistic outlook that something big is coming his way. He believes all the stuff they taught him in college -- really -- until reality gives him a little kick in the pants."
Princeton on Tom: "He's very controlling. He thinks deep thoughts and expects me to manifest them. So, he thinks he's like a god with all power over one thing, me. He thinks that when he puts me down, I'm just a piece of foam and fabric. But I've got a life. And I know the draft version of him, the one with all the goof-ups. I know that he danced to Michael Jackson while his mother applauded back in Moorhead. He was 4. And that he played the Lone Ranger, that he did slam poetry and improv. And that he's pretty jaded. Not me: I really want to change the world."
Rohan Preston • 612-673-4390