UA Alumna, 'Avenue Q' Member Trains Students

La Monica Everett-Haynes
Oct. 4, 2012

Exiting West Speedway Boulevard from Interstate 10 felt like a return home for Southern California native Michelle Lane.

Having graduated from the UA in 2000 with her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in musical theatre, Lane was returning to campus for the first time in more than one decade – not as a student, but as a teacher.

A member of the second cast of "Avenue Q," Lane was on campus helping to train School of Theatre Film & Television students for the upcoming production of the Tony Award-winning show, which premieres Oct. 7.

"I have done in three hours what I would do in three days," said Lane, who worked again with the students several times leading up to the performance. "I have been so floored by the students. They took to it so well. I wouldn't have moved on if I didn't feel they were ready to move on, but I have felt they've been ready to move on."

After graduating from the UA, Lane returned to Southern California for work in the Los Angeles area. After waking abruptly while sleeping on a friend's sofa, Lane decided to make the abrupt move to New York. One week after moving, she was auditioning for "Avenue Q." But Lane did not make the cut at the first audition and, instead, moved on to do other professional work.

Months later, she auditioned again, landing a part in the second company of "Avenue Q," taking the role of "Kate Monster." Lane made her Broadway debut by closing the show at the Golden Theatre.

"I can't even describe what an amazing experience it was. It was a dream come true," Lane said. "It was unlike anything I've ever experienced. I sobbed the entire time."

Over her career, Lane also performed the role of Dorey in the stage production of "Finding Nemo, the Musical." Her credits also include "A Christmas Carol," "Measure for Measure," "Ragtime," "Cabaret" and Swing!"

Along the way, Lane found another passion – teaching.

"How wonderful for me to give what I've learned and what I love about this show, because it is a show that touches my heart in a way that I cannot describe," said Lane, who worked with students at her own high school, Calabasas High School in California, on their first production of "Avenue Q."

Lane also has launched her own business, Workshop Lane, training youth in musical theatre, doing choreography and serving as a vocal director for productions at high schools. She also works with other university students.

For Lane, teaching "from inside out" is one of the most important lessons she tries to impart. She wants her students not merely to perform the material, but to connect emotionally and mentally in a way that becomes self evident. That, she said, benefits not only the actors, but the audience members as well.

"My goal is to touch one person in the audience and to bring something new," Lane said. "Puppeteering is such an extension of yourself. How cool is it to have this tool that sighs when you sighs, that rolls its eyes when you roll your eyes."

Also as part of her work, especially when working with youth, Lane informs on the importance of college and college preparation while helping to strengthen their stage presence and prepare them for auditions. 

"In my teaching, I am giving them the tools for the professional world, but also preparing them better for college," said Lane, also the mother of two.

"Teaching is so gratifying. It's brought me so much joy," Lane said, adding that while she always felt Broadway-bound, she made the decision to teach instead. "I do fee like teaching, in so many ways, is more gratifying than anything I can do selfishly for myself, because I am helping so many kids. It's thrown me a curve ball in my life, so I am very satisfied with this decision in my life."

And her work is well received. 

"Working with Michelle has been amazing. Welcoming back an Arizona Repertory Theatre alum is always exciting, and the opportunity to harness puppeteer skills is rare," said Hannah Meanger, a stage management senior with an emphasis in theatre production and design.

"The cast has been highly responsive in picking up both technique and more subtle gestures that are helping the show and puppets come alive," Meanger said. "Michelle has a large amount of experience and wonderful approach. We are lucky to have her aboard on this production." 

During the multiple times Lane visited the UA to work with students in recent months, she taught them the important processes and techniques for working with the puppets, extending rehearsal time and making herself available when unexpected.

"She's so involved," said Michael Calvoni, a UA musical theatre student who plays "Princeton," the major role. He was impressed that Lane also took the time to Skype with students. "She's very committed. I couldn't imagine doing this show without her."

Photos by Beatriz Verdugo/UANews


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