What: "Avenue Q"
When: 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Jan. 11-12, 18-19 and 25-26; 2:30 p.m. Sundays, Jan. 13, 20 and 27
Where: Ensemble Theatre of Chattanooga, 5600 Brainerd Road (Eastgate Town Center)
Admission: $20 adults, $15 students
Why are we here?
It's a question many people may ask themselves daily but especially when they're trying to claw their way into adulthood.
The situation is no different for the characters on "Avenue Q," a two-act musical that opens Friday, Jan. 11, at the Ensemble Theatre of Chattanooga's new space at Eastgate Town Center.
"One of the themes is 'what is my purpose,'" says artistic director and cast member Garry Lee Posey. "Every character is trying to find why it is they exist on this avenue, why they exist in this world."
The production uses puppets alongside human actors. Their fictional Avenue Q, set in a brownstone in lower Manhattan, is a microcosm for the world, Posey says.
"'Avenue Q' is basically 'Sesame Street' for adults," adds cast member Kyle Dagnan. "It's an altered reality."
Before the first rehearsals, the cast worked with former Kids on the Block puppeteer Emma Wiseman, who's also a cast member, to learn techniques of the bunraku style of Japanese puppetry.
"It's an interesting method," Posey says.
Dagnan says he's done a little work with puppets, but timing his voice with the much wider mouth movements of his characters on every syllable has taken some time to master.
"It's a new challenge," he says, "but it's an enjoyable challenge."
While "Avenue Q" includes puppetry, it also has adult language and adult themes and should not be considered in any way for children, according to Posey.
Some theatergoers have considered some of the material gratuitous, he says. While that can be "all in how it's handled," ETC has converted the gratuitousness into more real life, he says. "We've made it more natural instead of [seeming to be] something offensive for the sake of being offensive."
The theater relocated to its larger home inside Eastgate Town Center from St. Andrews Center.
"We're not quite moved in," Posey says. "The audiences will watch us grow in the space. We're excited about the move. It gives us a lot more visibility and some amenities that we were missing."
Contact Clint Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at Facebook.com/ClintCooperCTFP.