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Risque puppet show coming to town
More like modern-day Muppets rather than weird 'Team America'
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Actress Taylor Priday poses for a portrait with the puppet Lucy from the play Avenue Q at the Hosch Theater in Gainesville, on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2018. - photo by David Barnes

Some regular theatergoers may not like some of the shows Gainesville Theatre Alliance has coming up, said Jim Hammond, artistic director of the alliance. 

“Avenue Q,” an award-winning musical that features puppets, will be on stage Feb. 13-24 at Brenau’s Hosch Theatre. And Hammond has been trying his best to make it clear the show is R-rated.

“If Sesame Street had been created for adults about adult issues, this is what it would look like,” Hammond said.

Avenue Q

When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 13-17, 20-24; 2:30 p.m. Feb. 18 and 24

Where: Brenau’s Hosch Theatre, 429 Academy St., Gainesville

How much: $24-$26 for adults, $22-$24 for seniors and $14-$16 for students

More info: 678-717-3624

The story centers around a recent college graduate who is trying to find his purpose in life while he’s living in New York. The show follows him throughout that journey as he meets friends of every kind. It will kick things off with a free sing-through rehearsal at Left Nut Brewing Co. at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 3.

The show navigates topics like racism and homosexuality, just to name a few.

“It deals with all of these controversial issues the way Sesame Street talks about numbers and colors,” Hammond said. “So there’s this very childlike, disarming sense of humor that kind of lowers the temperature on all of those issues.”

Although it may be a controversial show, it has been well received by the students from Brenau University and the University of North Georgia who make up the alliance.

They are always included in the season selection process, ensuring they are excited about the shows they will be auditioning for. While those auditions are typically mandatory for scholarship students, “Avenue Q” was optional, simply because of its content.

Hammond said the show brings a “fresh perspective” to these topics, though, and is careful to not be “mean-spirited.”

“Most of the problems with these topics is there’s not enough discussion about it,” said Taylor Priday, 19, who plays Lucy in the show. “I think the goal of the show is to really unify the audience and open up people of different backgrounds, different political views to start a conversation of topics that could be controversial.”

The major way Hammond said that happens is with the puppets, and the way they are handled. GTA brought in Luis Hernandez, a professional puppeteer from the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta, to help teach the students the nuances of handling a puppet.

One of the unique things about this show is the puppeteers are completely visible. They’re not hiding at all.

“Having the actor’s face right next to it, performing with the puppet, you see both of those faces at the same time and one is informing the other,” Hammond said.

While the topics are controversial, Priday said GTA is using the show to bring audiences together, creating a comfortable atmosphere for talking about these topics, much like it has already done within the cast.

“There’s such an awesome energy that we have since we are talking about all of these important conversations, it’s brought us, as a cast, to have those conversations,” Priday said. “We’re so excited to see how it’s going to unify audiences of 320 every night.”

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