BY SARAH VASSELLO I The Daily Tar Heel
Throughout the spring semester, Canvas will follow UNC Pauper Players’s production of “Avenue Q” from the beginning to the end in its series “The Avenue Ahead.”
In the first installment of the series, staff writer Sarah Vassello talked to those who auditioned and those who were cast in the production.
Last weekend, hopeful thespians auditioned for their chance to be a part of something unique: “a magnum opus of felt.”
That’s how senior and director Clare Shaffer, who also writes reviews for The Daily Tar Heel, described the UNC Pauper Players’ production of “Avenue Q.”
“It’s my last show here at UNC, and my most challenging show so far,” she said.
Auditions were held Sunday and Monday for the long-time running Broadway musical, which features singing, raunchy comedy and Sesame Street-style puppets. Ten roles were available for the show.
The process of auditioning was unique: students showcased their acting skills through sock puppets. With their puppets in hand, students were required to sing a song of their choice using a character voice and match the puppet’s movements to those of their own. After that, the performers were asked to do vocal scales, also in character.
“This audition process is very different from most audition processes because we’re looking for puppetry skills and character voices instead of just straight singing ability and acting ability,” Shaffer said.
“So, in addition to regular stuff, which is just, ‘Can you sing well, do you fit some of the parts, can you act the part,’ we’re also looking for ‘Can you do all that, and have a sock puppet?’”
For the actors preparing for the audition, the manipulation of the puppet was hard to grasp. Some candidates practiced by watched YouTube clips, some by pretending their hand was a puppet and some used even more alternative techniques.
“Me and my roommate (Will Hawkins), who is playing ‘Rod’ now, came up with a way to condition our thumbs. We would kind of press our hands up against the wall and do thumb exercises,” said junior Blayne Telling, who was cast as “Lucy the Slut.”
“You kind of have to keep in mind that you are a vehicle for the puppet. It’s not you who’s performing, it’s the puppet. It’s a very strangely rewarding thing.”
Sophomore Matt Verner, now cast as Nicky, said he was anxious about his audition.
“There’s just something about auditioning,” he said. “Part of it is that this is just such a small show that I’m terrified I won’t get in, because it’s one of my favorite shows,” he said. “So the combination of it being one of my favorite shows, and it being so small makes me really nervous about this audition.”
Telling said that once inside of the audition room, the process became easier.
“Honestly, the most enjoyable part of auditioning is Clare runs such a relaxed audition room,” she said. “It’s a panel of friendly faces, everyone’s vying for you to do the best.”
The final cast was decided Monday night and is as follows:
Reviews, previews, and other coverage of Shaffer shows.