In this Tony award-winning, grown-up version of Sesame Street, songs titled ‘The Internet Is for Porn’ and ‘I’m Not Wearing Any Underwear Today’ ensure that these puppets are taking Kermit’s ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’ to the next level. Carla Guevarra-Laforteza, who brings two puppets to life – loveable girl-next-door Kate Monster, and her rival, the undeniably appealing Lucy the Slut – talks about competing for the limelight with an inanimate object.
You’ve been in Miss Saigon, South Pacific, Fiddler on the Roof, but I didn’t see any puppet experience in your bio…
No puppet experience at all. Just watching Sesame Street.
What is it like acting through a puppet? Do your arms get tired?
In the beginning, yes… My upper arm was sore, and especially my thumb. My thumb was very sore.
Why your thumb?
Imagine putting your hand in the position where you’re talking like a puppet. You’re just supposed to let the lower jaw of the puppet move. Not the upper head – it has to stay still. It’s very challenging.
What did you do? Did you have to do thumb exercises?
I had my puppet workshop two months before we started rehearsing because I had to fly to Europe with my family. My puppet master told me: ‘Okay, Carla, you have to keep practising, pretending that your hand is a puppet.’ My whole family basically thought I was insane, because the whole Europe trip, I was talking to them using my hand. But it worked pretty well.
I know that actors don’t like being upstaged. Do you ever resent sharing the spotlight with a puppet?
That was one of the reasons that I was very hesitant to do the role. I am such a proud person…Every time I would be given a role, I wouldn’t care if it was a chorus role or a janitor role, I would make it look like I was the star of the show. And at the same time, I would learn all the other female parts of the play…so that when something happens, I’m ready to step in.
So have you found it difficult playing second fiddle to the puppet? Or do you like it now?
My director told me you can’t upstage the puppet, and the puppet can’t upstage you. So, I have really worked with the puppet, and it has become a part of me.
Avenue Q has racked up an incredible amount of critical and popular acclaim. Why do you think that puppets singing about one-night stands and racism have struck a chord with so many people?
The topics that we deal with in the show are [those we deal with in] real life. There are gay people, there are people in the closet, there are prostitutes, there are nerds – the story itself, it’s real life. The puppets just add more originality to the play.
Tell me a little bit about your various roles on Avenue Q. Best of both worlds, right?
It’s actually very fun. If you ask my directors, they would tell you I’m very Lucy…not because I’m slutty! [Laughs] But because my personality is very strong – that’s Lucy. I don’t know if you can hear it in my voice, but this is my Kate voice. I really sound like this in real life; I sound like a kid. It was easy for me to transform.
I read a New York Times article about the performance on Broadway where the reviewer said he wanted to chase Lucy offstage while wolf-whistling. Since you work with the sexiest Avenue Q resident, I have to ask, do you think it’s possible to be turned on by a puppet?
Oh, I don’t know… I’m not Kermit [the Frog], but have you seen Lucy? She has her boobs coming out, she has the Angelina Jolie lips, and she has those really huge eyes. I think I made a very big mistake of making her too slutty. She is really sought-after by guys.
What about the puppet sex scenes? Do you ever find it a bit too weird?
It’s actually fun because it’s not Lucy doing the sex scenes. It’s Kate Monster. And the way I portray Kate Monster is that she’s very Charlotte from Sex and the City-slash-Drew Barrymore in her romantic comedies. She’s not really conservative, but I think she’s a normal girl. So when the sex scenes come out, she is still doing it the way a normal person would. But also, because she is so deprived because nobody really looks at her, she brings it all out during the sex scenes… It has to have some horniness in it – I’m sorry, excuse my French.
What’s the name of the song during the sex scene again?
‘You Can Be As Loud As the Hell You Want to When You’re Making Love’!
On that note, can I ask Lucy the Slut some questions now?
[In a deeper register, with a slight Southern drawl] Sure, what can I do for you?
Hi there, Lucy. Can you tell me a little about yourself?
Well, my name’s Lucy the Slut. And I live on Avenue Q and I am the headline performer at the Round the Clock Café.
What’s Avenue Q like?
Well, Avenue Q is this little, tiny avenue in New York. We got lots of different people there. There’s a really cute guy named Princeton. Oh, he is de-lish.
I heard there was something going on between you two – is that true?
Well, he thinks we’re together. But I just find him cute. I don’t really like clingy guys. So, I basically had a one-night stand with him. But he is so in love with me, you wouldn’t believe it. I just have to peel him off me all the time.
What about Kate Monster? How do you feel about her?
Well, she’s all right, but no competition there at all.
I’m sure you have a lot of male fans out there, and they’re curious, so I’ll go ahead and ask the question: do you have any nude scenes in the show?
I would love to have nude scenes. But I think I show enough of my boobs. So, they decided to give the nude scene to Kate Monster since she doesn’t got any [boobs].
Do you have any other favourite moments in the show?
Well, I do have a solo, where I exhibit my wonderful dancing skills. So, you watch out for that!
Oh, I will… If Princeton is too tame, what do you look for in a guy?
They gotta be rich, honey, filthy-rich, to buy me all the diamonds I can get.
Could you ever see yourself settling down if you met this rich Prince Charming?
Well, I don’t know, maybe. If he’s rich and if he has a job, then maybe. But if he’s just rich and ugly, I’ll probably keep somebody on the side.
Would you find it difficult to give up your one-night stands?
I’m just a simple a girl. I just want to have fun and make the most of my life. So, why deprive myself? If I want somebody, I just walk up to that person and tell him: ‘Listen, kid, I want you right now, right here.’
I understand that this is your first visit to Singapore. Are you excited?
Oh, I sure am. I am a great eater, men and the like.
You certainly don’t seem to have any trouble attracting men. Do you have any tips for single women here in Singapore?
Wear those Wonderbras, sweetie, they work wonders for you.