Life Lessons From Vegas Puppets

Katie Young
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Wednesday - December 21, 2005

Who would’ve thought that puppets would know so much about life?

We meet Princeton, the lead character in the Tony Award-winning musical Avenue Q, as he wonders out loud, “What do you do with a B.A. in English?”

Hmmm ... I’ve often wondered that myself. In fact, I’ve had several people ask me over the years, “English major, huh? What are you qualified for?”

Apparently, mostly to write this column.

So anyway, back to the puppets in Avenue Q. I had the opportunity to watch the show at the Wynn Hotel and Casino on my last trip to Las Vegas. At first I thought, “Puppets? Not sure I want to see that.”

But it was non-stop entertainment. The music, created by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx, is witty, and the lyrics ring true in so many ways that it had the audience in stitches the whole time.

Avenue Q is the story of Princeton, a bright-eyed college graduate who comes to New York City with big dreams and a tiny bank account. He soon discovers that the only neighborhood in this price range is Avenue Q.

The musical is about finding a job, losing a job, getting an apartment, getting kicked out of your apartment, falling in love, avoiding commitment, dumping a sweetheart, wanting them back, having a party, fighting a hangover, hiding out and discovering the world.

Are you laughing because it sounds like your life? It sounds like a lot of people I know!

So I thought I’d let you all in on a little Avenue Q insight, something I think we can all relate to. Hopefully, you will get the chance to see the show live, but if not, here’s a little puppet wisdom to help you know you’re not alone.

Back to Princeton and his B.A. in English ... he sings, “What do you do with a B.A. in English? What’s my life going to be? Four years of college and plenty of knowledge have earned me this useless degree. I can’t pay the bills yet, ’ cause I have no skills yet ...”

I remember feeling like that when I came home from the Mainland after four years in college. All that money spent preparing me for the working world, and I came home and went right back to school at UH-Manoa and made some cash by waiting tables. I wasn’t out on my own, I wasn’t really using my degree - I felt like I was no further along in my life than when I graduated high school.

The characters in Avenue Q sing a song called “I Wish I Could Go Back To College” in one of the final scenes. The lyrics go, “I wish I could go back to college. Life was so simple back then. What would I give to go back and live in a dorm with a meal plan again!

“I wish I could go back to college. In college you know who you are. You sit in the quad and think, ‘Oh, my god!‘I am totally gonna go far! How do I go back to college? I don’t know who I am anymore! ... I need an academic advisor to point the way!”

Wouldn’t that be nice? To have an advisor for life who could tell us where we need to go, when we need to go and how we need to do things?

When the road forks, we wouldn’t have to agonize over which path to take. We wouldn’t have to be uncertain, we could just turn to our life guide and say, “Which way?”

It’s the main character, Princeton, however, who decides he needs to find his purpose in life. He feels as though everyone else around him has already found their purpose.

As he’s searching for the meaning in life, Princeton meets Kate Monster, a monster who already knows her purpose, but who can’t seem to find a boyfriend.

As the two get to know each other, Princeton makes her a mix tape - a surefire sign that he likes her, right?

These two puppets end up dating but Princeton starts to realize after a while that he has forgotten the important task of finding his purpose and he breaks up with Kate Monster.

Even in a puppet’s face, you can see the pain of heartbreak and the torment of wondering where that person is and whom they’re with.

Kate sings in sorrow, “There’s a fine, fine line, between a lover and a friend. And there’s a fine, fine line, between reality and pretend. And you never know ‘til you reach the top if it was worth the uphill climb ... There’s a fine, fine line between love and a waste of time.”

In the end, however, to make a long story short, Kate and Princeton find their way back to each other, and she agrees to give him another chance. Princeton finally realizes his purpose: to put on a show about struggling through your twenties.

His friends tell him it’s a bad idea, but console him that in life, everything both good and bad is only “For Now.”

” ... Everyone’s a little bit unsatisfied. Everyone goes ‘round a little empty inside. take a breath, look around, swallow your pride, for now ... nothing lasts, life goes on, full of surprises. You’ll be faced with problems of all shapes and sizes. You’re going to have to make a few compromises, for now ... but only for now! Only for now! Only for now!”

As for me, I finally figured out what to do with my B.A. in English, but the love thing ... it’s still a fine, fine line. And that’s OK because it’s only for now.

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