Ecker has had a love affair with puppetry since she was a little girl. She began working with puppets when she was about 8 and continued through college at the University of Oklahoma. She was on a competitive team in middle school.
“They actually have puppet competitions and tournaments,” she said. “Most people don't believe me that they exist, but they do.”
Ecker said she is a big fan of “Avenue Q” and has wanted to perform in it for years.
“I saw the play on Broadway in 2008 or 2009, and ever since, it has been my dream show,” she said. “As soon as I heard they got the rights, I pulled out my puppets at home and started practicing.”
She performs with all 32 puppets during the course of the show, a feat that has earned her the title of “puppet captain” from the cast.
Stevenson said everyone has been learning from Ecker, including him.
The puppets in “Avenue Q” might look like Bert and Ernie, but this is no show for kids.
“If a show can offend you, this one will,” Stevenson said. “But if suggestive situations don't bother you and language doesn't bother you, then you're going to have a great time.”
The story focuses on 20-somethings living in New York City, and throughout the show the characters sing their way through the topics of racism, sexuality and pornography.
“There are many moments where the audience will say, ‘I can't believe the puppets are saying that or doing that,'” Stevenson said. “But at its core, shock value will never be enough.”
What the show does, he said, is try to connect with experiences most adults have, such as tough breakups, finding a job after college and wishing one could be a kid again.
“At its heart, that's what good storytelling is. It's being able to put a mirror up and say, ‘Remember this?'” he said.