Pittsburgh puppet maker brings talents to ‘Avenue Q’

Updated 1 hour ago

These puppets have real-life inspirations.

They are reflective of the actors and actresses who will play them in the Alumni Theater Company’s presentation of the Tony-award winning musical production of “Avenue Q,” which runs July 28 to 30 at the New Hazlett Theater on Pittsburgh’s North Side

This laugh-out-loud musical tells the story of a bright-eyed college grad named Princeton, who arrives in New York City with big dreams and a tiny bank account. He has to move into a shabby apartment all the way out on Avenue Q. Still, the neighbors seem nice.

There, he meets Kate (the girl next door), the promiscuous Lucy, Rod (the Republican), Trekkie (the Internet entrepreneur), superintendent Gary Coleman (yes, that Gary Coleman) and other new friends. Together, they struggle to find jobs, dates and their ever-elusive purpose in life.

The musical, which debuted in 2003 on Broadway, is most known for its usage of hand-operated puppets alongside human actors, as well as its satire of the popular children’s cartoon “Sesame Street.” But it’s not be appropriate for young children, because it addresses issues like sex, drinking, and surfing the web for porn.

The performance here will feature 11 one-of-a-kind puppets, created by artist Cheryl Capezzuti of Brighton Heights. These hand-held puppets were made from scratch using silicone and polyfoam fabrication. Although Capezzuti is well-known for her puppets, she has not used this medium before. She attended a silicone and polyfoam workshop at a puppetry festival with Tom McLaughlin, an expert in rubber and foam puppets, who was latex foam supervisor on “The Dark Crystal,” a 1982 movie about alien puppets directed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz.

Capezzuti says McLaughlin taught her the technique and his expertise in this work is one-of-a-kind. It helped her to explore and develop a new dimension to her work.

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