Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday Feature: Cassie Muise Inside Avenue Q

Sucks to be us, but not when we’re together…
Behind the scenes with a monster and a slut
by Cassie Muise 
(photos via Facebook)

Editor's Note: Due to an unintentionally misleading price point, it should be noted that the average price of the ticket is actually significantly lower than what was listed in this article ($60). While intended to highlight the difficult position of artists in the city, its inaccuracy should be noted so as to not compromise the reader's opinion of the Lower Ossington Theatre.

When CharPo offered me the opportunity to write about life on Avenue Q, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to. I came late to this production, opening this re-mount with the cast on December 13, 2012. The show, however, has been running for over a year (although not throughout), and to this date has had over 120 shows, to full houses. Even with snowmaggedon  (which, let’s be honest, wasn’t that bad), the house was still about half full. It is currently the longest running production in Toronto. 

So what’s it like, living with puppets? The simple answer is, it’s a joy. In Avenue Q, I play Kate Monster – the sweet, hardworking, feisty muppet-esque character – and Lucy the Slut. Her name says it all, really. Rarely in a show do you get to play the good girl and the bad girl. Switching back and forth between the characters, occasionally in the same scene, has been as rewarding as it is challenging. Avenue Q has offered me the opportunity to work with an amazing cast and creative team (all of whom are young, emerging artists), to dabble in puppetry (an incredible medium whose complexity is undervalued), and be in front of wonderful, welcoming audiences (getting recognized around Toronto is nice, even when it’s at hot yoga and my shins are sweating).

I won’t tell you how much, because that’s not classy.

The remarkable thing about Avenue Q is that so many people connect to it on such different levels. And for those of us who grew up watching Sesame Street, it’s a clever, layered and hilarious look at what the show would be like if it were for adults. Being a musical theatre geek, myself, I knew most of the songs when I started rehearsals, especially the famous ones such as What do you do with a BA in English?, Sucks to be Me, The Internet is for Porn, and Fine, Fine, Line. When we finally got out of rehearsals and onto the stage, it was somewhat jarring to hear the audience laugh uproariously at jokes I had heard a thousand times. Turns out, people who aren’t musical theatre geeks haven’t seen or don’t know the show! They may have heard about it, but most don’t know the show. Or they absolutely adore it, and have saved up the 60$ to be in the second row. Yes, you heard me right. 60$ for premium seats at the Lower Ossington Theatre. And aye, there’s the rub! I was asked just this week at an audition, “So, what’s the deal with that show? Are you guys getting paid or not?” (cont'd)

And yes, we are. I won’t tell you how much, because that’s not classy. And I’m sure that I would be breaching something that I signed. But I will say this; in addition to my five shows a week, I have to have two additional jobs to keep myself afloat. 
The problem with writing an article like this, an “insider” article, is that it’s hard to separate the two realities: the artistic one, and the financial one. 

Reality #1: I love my cast. I love this show. And to be honest, I hadn’t been hired in a musical in almost two years. I am incredibly happy to be on stage. I get recognized walking down the street, on the bus, yelled at across subway platforms, and have even had people ask for my autograph and to have my picture taken with them. We had a favourable review and our houses are usually pretty full. It’s a gift. 

Reality #2: I couldn’t afford to do this run much past the March 3 closing, even if I wanted to. And with people paying the prices they might to see a Mirvish show, it’s hard to understand. Because we are non-union, there is little to say or do. And getting employed in a union show? It is hard enough to get an audition for those things, let alone book one if you are non-union.  Chicken, meet egg. 

I’m not out to pick a fight. I hope you come see me in Avenue Q. And I hope you laugh like you have never laughed before.  I merely think it essential to highlight the challenges of the artistic lifestyle.  In a city full of talented artists, it isn’t easy.  Success is a malleable term, talent doesn’t always get you the job, and opportunity is almost never as simple as you would hope.

At the same time, I can hear my inner Kate Monster, whispering in my ear:

“You think your life sucks? Your problems aren’t so bad…” 

1 comment:

  1. What does that editor's note even mean, GC?


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