Photo by Jeremy Daniel
“Un-Block The Music” realized today would be the perfect day to run a story about Stacey Weingarten and her off-Broadway musical Rescue Rue. During this pandemic, there has been so much more talk of rescuing pets. And, today is the late Betty White’s birthday. She was such an advocate for animal rescue and as you may have heard, fans have been encouraged to donate to rescue shelters today in memory of her. That is also the ultimate mission of Rescue Rue, which in addition to being great entertainment aims to create awareness about rescue and to encourage pet adoption.
Despite the crazy COVID surge in the last month, Rescue Rue forges on! Playing at DR2 Theater in New York City, it was originally scheduled to conclude performances this past weekend, but the run has been extended to Sunday, January 30. The cast helping the colorful puppets tell Rue’s story are fully masked! (As will be the audience.)
Stacey said, “there’s no denying the moment we’re living through and that times are challenging enough for kids and families, so why not welcome the chance to return ready to share Rue’s story with additional safety measures.”
As you know, “Un-Block The Music” has been and continues to interview the many “Women Wonders” of theater. Stay tuned for my book. But, until then, here’s a little info I want to share now about Stacey and Rue!
This musical is about taking charge of our lives and finding a happy new beginning around each corner,” Stacey said. When a little dog named Rue wishes for a “Happily Ever After” from her Fairy Dogmother, she soon embarks on an emotional journey of self-discovery and belonging. Kicked out of her home, Rue meets new friends and enemies of the street and at the pound before finding her “Furever” home and realizing life is really about finding your happy beginnings, not endings. Stacey’s dog Rue, by the way, is at every show, so kids can meet her afterwards!
“Un-Block The Music” talked with Stacey about her love of music and puppetry and how that all lead her to the New York stage. As a writer/producer/director, she develops original projects for stage and screen that promote inclusivity and social awareness through entertainment. She is, by the way, and Emmy Award winner.
“In my puppet life, I’ve worked for the Jim Henson Co., Swazzle, and the Puppet Kitchen, and on shows that include Sesame Street (Sesame Workshop), Crank Yankers (Comedy Central), Kidding(Showtime), and Johnny and the Sprites (Playhouse Disney). I’ve even worked with The Muppets!” And, how does that lead to Off-Broadway? She served as Avenue Q‘s Puppet Wrangler/Wardrobe Head at New World Stages Off-Broadway for a few years.
If you read this blog regularly, you have learned about the many artists who have created careers combining their love of music and puppetry. Stacey took time to explain her unique journey to “Un-Block The Music.” As New Jersey dwellers, Stacey’s parents took her into NYC to see lots of musicals her whole life. She embraced the idea of theater as a career, not knowing exactly in what form she could actually do that.
Then it became clear. “At some point I saw a clip from Avenue Q, so my dad got tickets. It was a Hallmark moment for me. I saw it and all of a sudden, a lot of things clicked. I loved it. It was the first time I had ever seen puppeteers working alongside the puppets in that style. I knew it was something I really wanted to learn,” she said.
Flash forward, Sesame Street and Avenue Q famed puppeteer John Tartaglia was offering a 5-week workshop at Ripley Grier Studios in NYC. Despite the fact that it was sandwiched between PSAT and SAT tests, her mom called and asked if she could be part of the program even if she missed a couple of classes. They said, “sure.” And, the rest is history!
That explains how she created Rue, but what about lyric writing? You will see several lyricists credited on the show. In addition to Stacey, there is Joshua Zecher-Ross, Kate Steinberg, Dana Levinson and Angela Parrish. (All, but Stacey contributed to the music as well.) As the story goes these days, artists get involved with a show, the pandemic happens, things change, people come and go.
While Stacey didn’t feel comfortable as a lyricist when she orignally wrote Rue, time changed all of that. After attending workshops (one of which was taught by Dear Edwina’s Marcy Heisler) and doing musical improv, Stacey found her voice. You would think musical improv would scare the bejesus out of someone, but Stacey said, “it is great for someone like me. I am a thinker, and music improv is a way to unlock and trust your gut.” Just in case you don’t know about musical improv, it is the creative activity of immediate (“in the moment”) musical composition, which combines performance with communication of emotions and instrumental technique as well as spontaneous response to other musicians. It’s like what the cast does in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Freestyle Love Supreme. The good news is…. Stacey is now one of the lyricists not only on Rue but on some of her other projects.
And…while you are loving Rescue Rue for the sheer entertainment, you will gladly embrace the greater goal of educating kids and their parents about pet rescue. Stacey even has had some rescues come to the show and speak at the end. There has been Badass Animal Rescue and ACC of NYC for example. Stacey said, “if we have helped get one animal rescued, we have done our job.” You can’t help but feel animal love with this show. She said, that is, also in part due to the way our crew and cast was built; mostly all of us have rescues.
Intrigued I hope? For tickets to Resue Rue, go to https://www.telecharge.com/Off-Broadway/Rescue-Rue/Overview.
Today, “Un-Block The Music” will donate to Rock and Rescue where my daughtered adopted our beloved kitty Chekhoviia (named, of course, after Anton Chekhov https://rnrpets.org/)
A crew name you may recognize from this blog is Rue’s musical arranger, Lena Gabrielle. Read her story at:
And here are some other stories you might like”
Also, search Avenue Q and Sesame Street on the blog for more stories about puppetry and music!!!