Only For Now?

Today I was made aware of a particularly poignant anniversary. It’s not what you might expect. It involves puppets. But stick with me.

Two years ago, the premiere Canadian cast of Avenue Q had their opening night at the Lower Ossington Theatre. By “their”, of course, I mean “our”. By some lucky turn of fate, I was cast as Kate Monster/Lucy the Slut.

I had auditioned with my friend’s Kermit the Frog puppet, which inspired some strong reactions when I made him sing “Special”. The musical director asked me to belt, and somehow I did. I had the most fun callback I’ve ever had. And, at the end, I got a dream role.

As I bounced onstage with our rented Kate Monster on my hand that night, I had no idea of what a game-changer Avenue Q would prove to be.

Adam Proulx as Princeton, myself as Kate Monster, Jazz Testolini as Gary Coleman

Adam Proulx as Princeton, myself as Kate Monster, Jazz Testolini as Gary Coleman. Picture by Seanna Kennedy Photography.

It blew up. I’ve never been in a show that successful. Reviews rolled in with exceptionally positive comments. The critics loved it. More importantly, the audiences loved it. That was my favourite part: catching glimpses of the audience, who had expressions of utter joy on their face. The show was extended for a handful of performances. I received my first ever paycheque for acting from Avenue Q. I experienced the trauma of putting away a puppet you’ve imbued with a character for the first time. Lucy was more fun to let loose with than Kate onstage, but when it was time to put Kate away, I realized how much of me was in her. It was really hard to put her in a New York-bound black box.

Also, I cried. Pic by Mike Petersen.

Also, I cried. Pic by Mike Petersen.

But it was far from the end. The LOT wanted to bring the show back in the summer. Obviously I was onboard. We got beautiful new puppets made by the incredible builder and puppeteer Andy Hayward. Forever in my mind, that Kate and that Lucy will be “my” Kate and Lucy.

The adventure continued beautifully. There were some changes to the cast as the show went through not just a second run, but a third as well. People recognized us on the street. One guy stopped on his bike to ask if I was Kate, and a group of guys stopped us at Pride to snap pictures. I had a full summer of acting work. It was thrilling.

My favourite thing was that we got more interactive with the audience. Lucy the Slut started coming out in the second act and flirting with the audience (a compendium of her top sluttery is posted on my other blog, but I am for sure going to move that post over here at some point). Nicky grabbed a few cell phones and credit cards from audience members during “The Money Song”. And the audience still applauded when we sang “Rob Ford! Is only for now!”

The show was so successful, the LOT decided to keep it going. In October 2012, after my third run with the show, I decided it was time to step away from my role and give someone else a shot.

My final Avenue Q cast. Photo by Seanna Kennedy.

My final Avenue Q cast. Clockwise from top left: Michael Donnelly, Shannon Dickens, Evangelia Kambites, Phil Skala, me (Kira Hall), Ryan Kerr, Mark Willett, Amelia Hironaka, Stephen Amon. Photo by Seanna Kennedy.

The show had been an unmatched experience. Through that show, I made so many great friends and colleagues with whom I have continued to work and commiserate on a regular basis. It connected me with the agency that now represents me. It introduced me to the wonderful world of puppetry, which has kept me working more than anything else. It helped me gain new confidence in my voice and acting abilities. Avenue Q got my picture in NOW Magazine, for pete’s sake.

This picture, specifically. By Seanna Kennedy Photography.

This picture, specifically. By Seanna Kennedy Photography.

Avenue Q basically kick-started my theatrical career in Toronto. I’m so grateful for that show.

And it’s still going. Today, it celebrates two years of its run at the Lower Ossington Theatre. I hear the current production is super. You should go.

Congratulations to the LOT, to all members of the cast past and present, to the stellar creative team (insane, INSANE props to Seanna Kennedy, director and swing extraordinaire), for the continued success of this wonderful show. I’m so proud.

And you know, under the felt, the swearing, and the sex, the number one lesson I managed to take away from the show was something simple, explained to a child in a brief Sesame-Street-style video:

What's a purpose?

“A purpose is a direction to your life. It could be a job, a family… it could be the pursuit of knowledge or wealth. Everybody’s purpose is different. The best thing about a purpose is that it gives your life meaning.”
“I want a purpose!”

I think, during my time on Avenue Q, I found my purpose.

My last picture with Kate Monster, October 2012. Til we meet again. Oh, and we will.

My last picture with Kate Monster, October 2012. Til we meet again. Oh, and we will.


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