PAC to stage 'Avenue Q'

The Performing Arts Center at 32 Below in New Milford will present its Stage 2 production of the musical comedy “Avenue Q,” the street where puppets and people face very adult problems, Aug. 10-12.

Performances will be held Aug. 10 at 7 p.m., Aug. 11 at 2 and 7 p.m. and Aug. 12 at 2 p.m. at the Brookfield Theatre for the Arts, 184 Whisconier Road, Brookfield, under the direction of Beth Bonnabeau.

The show features mature themes and language and is not for very young children.

“Puppets are incredibly difficult no matter what your age,” Bonnabeau said. “We spend about an hour a day working on puppet skills, learning to connect the characters we’re creating with our bodies and voices to the inanimate characters on our hands and arms.”

The Stage 2 program is unique because it is for older teens. Bonnabeau has been directing this teens in more challenging productions for about seven years, starting with the show “Rent.”

“I found that in most programs the teens aged out at about 16,” Bonnebeau said.

This meant that the only other opportunities to perform were in the high school musicals, which attract many students for a limited number of leading roles.

“With Stage 2, older teens are able to continue doing the thing they love and I want them to keep having opportunities to take on challenging roles,” she said.

Younger teens start as supporting players and work their way up to leading roles.

The age range of the Stage 2 performers is 13-21, so although most of the actors are in high school, some are in college.

As an independent program, the PAC at 32 Below, “can take bigger chances with the material, and do an edgier show like ‘Avenue Q,’ or ‘Rent,’ or ‘Spring Awakening,’ ” she said.

“Why are we pretending the teens don’t talk about friends who take pills or who are bulimic?” Bonnebeau said. “We choose shows teens can connect with, ones they can’t do at schools.”

Bonnbeau acknowledges that she and assistant director Jackie Decho Holm are careful not to cross a line into inappropriate.

“I will tone down a scene if I think it does not advance the plot,” she said.

The PAC at 32 Below offers productions throughout the year for both its PAC Kids and Stage 2 programs. The PAC Kids just ended its run of “Legally Blonde Jr.” and will be working on “Once on this Island Jr.” for the fall and a musical revue in the spring.

Stage 2 will take on “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” and William Shakespeare in the spring.

Tickets to “Avenue Q” are $15 for adults and $12 for students and seniors, and will be sold at the door by cash or check only.