December 02, 2013

By Jennifer Wysong

How She Got to Sesame Street: A Live Performer Tells Her Story

Jennifer Wysong performs as Jenny the music teacher and Rosita in the Sesame Street Live production “Elmo Makes Music.” Sesame Street Live is produced in collaboration with the VEE Corporation.

I grew up in West Palm Beach, Florida, and began performing when I was nine years old. My third grade teacher gave me a brochure for an acting camp, thinking it would be a good outlet for my extra energy. I attended the camp and never looked back; I knew I wanted to perform. I trained hard and performed in as many shows as I could in those early years. I studied Theater Arts at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, and then made the inevitable move to New York City.

One of my college roommates and best friends joined the cast of Sesame Street Live, and he encouraged me to audition when the show visited New York in February. I auditioned a year earlier, but didn’t get the part. I was a little nervous about trying again, but I still wanted the part of Jenny, the live performer and music teacher in Sesame Street Live production “Elmo Makes Music.” My voice felt strong, but my dance skills were just a little rusty. I needed to hone my skills before the next audition, so I put on my headphones. As I heard the first notes of “Sunny Days,” I was immediately transported to my childhood and years of enjoying Sesame Street on television. I remembered the life lessons learned, the fun songs, and the many Muppet friends I came to know and love. Who could have known that years later I would become part of the Sesame Street family? 

I had my voice audition first, which went well. I returned the next day for the dance call. I tried not to get my hopes up too much, so I was thrilled to get a call three months later. I was offered the roles of Jenny and Rosita – one human, one a furry friend! I was so excited to share the good news with my friends and family! Rehearsals began in September, and I arrived full of hope and energy.

We have been on tour for several months now and have visited a variety of cities in the U.S. and Canada. Our schedule is incredibly busy, but it has been so much fun. The cast and crew members who have toured before make it an even better experience; they help orient me to life on the road. I am learning so much!

I share the role of Jenny/Rosita with another performer. We each alternate into either the live role or the costume character. Jenny has been a very fun role. It can be challenging to time my lines just right, to match the Sesame Street characters’ prerecorded lines, but I enjoy defining Jenny’s personality and what works for this character. I love singing live in front of the audience – even if the audience doesn’t know Jenny yet. My job is to help the audience connect with her, so the kids want to join the Sesame Street characters in helping her.

Performing as Rosita is incredibly special; she’s someone the audience already knows and loves, and going into the audience is the best part of the performance. I love hugging and playing with all of the young fans in the audience. They are so amazed to see Rosita up-close, and they get so excited when Rosita and others leave the stage to play with them. It makes every performance feel magical – and I am continuously improving my stamina and dance skills by playing Rosita – an extra bonus! Being able to connect with so many families is the most rewarding part of the job, and Rosita has that connection instantly. People ask me which role I like better, and that’s a tough question to answer. I think my dual role gives me the best of both worlds.

As the tour season progresses, I am excited about the travel schedule. I have always loved visiting new places, and making new friends, and what better way to travel than with Sesame Street Live?

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