GUTHRIE — Minutes before rehearsal begins, cast members of “Avenue Q” crowd around their puppets, as giddy as children opening a new toy.
The puppets just arrived from Dallas, and it's time to start rehearsing with the real thing. On Friday, the troupe will open its run of the award-winning play known for its puppetry and crude humor.
The mood is light at Guthrie's Pollard Theatre. Even the director, W. Jerome Stevenson, can't help but crack up when one of the actors improvises with his puppet.
But make no mistake: This is a serious production. Although most of the actors have no puppetry experience, Stevenson said, cast members have spent hours and hours of their own time working to make the puppets come to life.
The show will wrap up the 26th season at The Pollard, which has become known for exceptional talent in an unusual setting.
Actor Jared Blount lived in Guthrie for seven years without knowing the theater existed until he saw “Legally Blonde: The Musical” last year.
“I was really impressed and went to their next auditions,” he said.
The Pollard is no amateur theater, but it's not Broadway, either. Stevenson said it exists somewhere in between.
Unlike other professional theaters, he said, The Pollard isn't a place where local people just play in the background while professionals take the spotlight.
“That kind of enforces the idea that all the talented people are from somewhere else … and our people just aren't up to the challenge, and that's just not true,” he said. “We have a myriad of talented people from Oklahoma who are doing things on Broadway and beyond, and there are plenty of them who haven't gone to New York and like doing theater near home.”
Fan of puppets
One of those performers, Crystal Ecker, has been at The Pollard since 2006 and is just now getting to showcase one of her favorite aspects of acting.