From seductive songstress to perky puppet, she can do it all.
Carolyn Schmitz of Wells, Minn. has had a significant role lighting up the MSUM stage during her four years as theater major. When she’s not spending hours on end in Hansen Theater, she is showing off MSUM as a Dragon Ambassador.
With a voice that can soothe any musical theater patron or rile up a country western hoedown, Schmitz turns to music as a way to inspire and entertain.
Schmitz sat down to discuss her experiences, dreams, and her puppet pal in the upcoming musical “Avenue Q.”
What has your involvement been with the MSUM theater program?
I feel like I’ve been pretty involved over the last four years. I have been a part of seven main stage productions, performing. And then if I wasn’t cast or decided not to be on stage, I was in the shop, building sets, or in the costume shop, sewing. All of our students have to do practicum hours every semester, which basically means you build the set or you make the costumes. I’m glad I have those skills, and sometimes it’s really fun.
Did you know how to sew or was it something you picked up here?
I knew how to sew the basics because of Home Ec. in high school. I learned a lot more working down in the costume shop.
Is theater something you knew you always wanted to do?
No, it wasn’t. I’ve always been a singer, performing in talent shows and at church when I was a little girl. I didn’t really decide to do a theater major until when I got to college here. I originally came as an elementary education.
In your time here, what has been your favorite role that you’ve had?
My all-time favorite was playing Sally Bowles in “Cabaret” last year. It was so much fun and I feel like that production really helped me grow as a musical theater performer. It was out of my comfort zone. Also, there was a lot more acting than I’ve done before because normally I’m cast as a character that was mostly singing. And in “Cabaret,” Sally’s songs weren’t involved in the story line; they were her performing at the Cabaret, which gave me a chance to grow as an actor.
What is “Avenue Q” all about?
Basically, there is a group of people living on Avenue Q in an apartment. And Princeton comes along and stumbles upon the apartment. And it follows the whole group that lives there. My character, Kate Monster, ends up falling in love with Princeton. She ends up losing her job, but she’s always had this dream of opening up a monster school because she was always made fun of when she was little. I won’t give away the ending, but it’s a fairly happy and realistic ending.
Do you act and use the puppet?
I am the puppet the entire time, so yes I am acting as a puppet. You’ll be able to see all the puppeteers, we’ll all be wearing black and we all have our different kinds of puppets. So basically you’re kind of acting as one unit, you and your puppet.
What are some characteristics of Kate Monster?
She’s very sweet and positive. But she also has a sassy side because she is a Kindergarten teaching assistant, so she’s kind of got to have authority in a very nice way. She’s very romantic. Her biggest dreams are to open a monster school and to find a boyfriend. She’s also very confident as well.
Have you had difficulties learning puppetry?
Oh yeah. We had a woman from the Twin Cities come in. She’s got a company that puts on shows with puppets. She came in a few weeks after the show was cast and we had an eight-hour workshop just learning how to manipulate the puppets. It was a lot more challenging than I thought. You watch Sesame Street as a kid and its like, “Oh this is so easy!” but there is so much that goes into it. During that workshop we were doing puppets for twenty minutes and my arm was numb.
Did you have to get fit to help survive the show?
I’ve been toning my arms more because I don’t want to die halfway through the performance.
What should the audience anticipate when they come see “Avenue Q” at MSUM?
They will get a ton of laughs and they should be ready for some scandalous action as well. Full frontal puppet nudity.
What are your plans after graduation?
I’m working on that right now. I’ve done a few auditions for some summer stock companies in St. Louis and in the Badlands. I’m doing some auditions in the cities as well; I’m planning on moving there unless I get some other opportunities.
Why should people come see “Avenue Q”?
They’ll have an amazingly fun time. The story line is so relatable to everyone’s life. They are very down to earth and realistic. Its not some fanciful dream play, it’s real. Even though they’re puppets and monsters, they have real life issues.
“Avenue Q” runs Wed Feb 27 through Sat March 2. Shows start at 7:30, house opens at 7:00. Tickets can be purchased online, at the box office in the CA, or by calling 218-477-2271.
Dream role: There are so many roles that I would love to play. I would love to be in the musical “Hair.” Its about the 60’s sexual revolution, breaking away from the typical housewife-husband stereotype.
Favorite musical: Hair
Favorite playwright: Carol Churchill, the writer of “Top Girls” and “Far Away.” I first read her play in a drama class here and I just fell in love with her.
Dream job: I would love to be an actor on Broadway. I’d also love to be a voice actor. If I could be the voice of the Little Mermaid or something like that, it would be so awesome.
Actress you most admire: Barbra Streisand
Actor crush: Vince Vaughn. He’s so cute and so attractive.
Movie role you’d love to do: Will Ferrell kind of comedy, like Veronica Corningstone from “Anchorman” would be awesome.
Favorite genre of music: Musicals or country
Favorite country singer: Miranda Lambert or Patsy Cline
BY BRIAN ASHBURN