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MANCHESTER >> Cast members of Burr and Burton Academy's spring musical "Avenue Q: School Edition," being presented May 10, 11, 12, 13 14, 2016 at 6:30 p.m. in the Riley Center for the Arts, got schooled in the art of puppetry. During a three day intensive workshop with Rick Lyon, an award winning puppeteer, puppet designer and original cast member of Avenue Q, the TONY® "TRIPLE CROWN" for BEST MUSICAL, BEST SCORE and BEST BOOK, the cast was introduced to the intricacies of creating a living, breathing character out of an inanimate object of foam, rods and felt.

Jim Raposa, Director of Theater at BBA collaborated with Rick Lyon on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, when Jim was cast as Donatello and Rick as the puppeteer in 1992. Raposa worked inside a 60 pound foam rubber suit, with a large computer hidden in the shell, along with multiple servos inches from his face, which were being manipulated by Rick using a complicated hands on device. They communicated through a two way system, and at times when Jim was unable to see due to a closeup, Lyon supplied directions for his movement. In one case, he kept Raposa from walking off a wall, 20 feet above the ground. It is no wonder a close working relationship blossomed into a life long friendship. In Raposa's words, "It was a no brainer to reach out to Rick and see if he would come up.


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Lyon did indeed come up. The cast started their puppet bootcamp by getting a rare glimpse into Avenue Q's genesis and the process of creating the show puppets "which cost about $10,000 each," said designer and builder Lyon. The students then worked on wrist, arm and body warmups, were introduced to puppet lip sync techniques and body and puppet placement. Each day's workshop built upon the previous day's techniques and soon it became evident that the students were experiencing a new form of movement, a dance so to speak, entirely new to them. Shepherded by Lyon's intimate knowledge of the show, as he was part of the original concept team, students delved into not only more advanced puppetry techniques but a deeper understanding and meaning of the show and their characters back story.

Originally conceived as a TV show in 2002, Avenue Q found its way to the Broadway stage in June 2003. It is a timeless story about young adults searching for their purpose in life and dealing with the uncertainty that faces them. Drawing its inspiration from Sesame Street, many adults in the audience will find direct and recognizable parodies of the popular characters they grew up with. Director Jim Raposa, chose this piece because he found the theme of the musical inspiring and wanted to challenge his young cast to acquire new skills.

"Puppets and puppeteering have been around since 1000 years BC," Raposa said. "Various cultures from India, to Japan, to Europe have used puppets to act out morality plays and comment upon society, in ways that actors could not."

BBA is presenting "Avenue Q: School Edition," which differs slightly from the original Broadway version, so that it is more accessible to everyone in the community. Don't miss this hilariously funny new breed of musical. Tickets go on sale on 4/22/16 at: bbatickets.com