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Around the World with Sesame Street

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UMD Student Tours with Elmo

Millions of children dream to sing and dance with the Muppet characters in Sesame Street's world. Faith Engen is reliving her childhood memories by performing with Elmo, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, and Ernie. She uses music and education to tell children about friendship, diversity, and basic educational skills. Those who can, use their talents to teach.

Faith Engen and Elmo on stage in the Sesame Street Live: Elmo Makes Music production.  

Sesame Street is broadcast in the United States and in more than 140 countries, Since 1969, children all over the world have grown up watching the program. Only a very few get the opportunity to be a part of the show.

Faith Engen is a Bachelor of Fine Arts musical theatre performance major with a dance minor. Engen is currently part of Sesame Street Live, a live touring show, based on the children’s television show Sesame Street. It is produced by the Minneapolis-based VEE Corporation.

The 2012 Sesame Street Live tour, called "Elmo Makes Music," started in Rockford, Ill., and it will travel all over the country until July 2013. It stops in Texas, Kentucky, Alabama, Tennessee, New Mexico, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, as well as Istanbul, Turkey and Bogotá, Colombia. Engen will be a senior when she comes back to finish her coursework at UMD in the fall of 2013.

Engen learned about the opportunity through her teachers at UMD. She submitted a video audition of her dances, two contrasting songs, and an up-beat monologue. After about a week, she was asked to produce a second video. That time, the casting staff asked Engen to sing two songs from two different tours. “When I finally found out that I was on the 'Elmo Makes Music' tour, I was thrilled!” she said.

A typical day for Engen during the tour is doing things as a group, sightseeing, and exploring. “It is really awesome to go out and experience new cultures,” she said. “We spend a lot of time together so my cast mates are not only co-workers, but they have also become my family.”

Her favorite part about the job is traveling. She also likes to see children enjoy live performances and their reactions when they see their favorite Sesame Street characters on stage. “It is awesome to see their faces light up,” Engen said. Sesame Street Live provides a unique musical opportunity for children.

Engen said she came to UMD because she did not want to be just a number and knew that she would get one-on-one attention. UMD prepared her as a performer and a professional. “My training gave me confidence in my audition," she said. "I knew exactly what to do for the video audition to show the casting director the best of my abilities.”

Throughout the tour, Engen realized how much UMD taught her about applying her skills to her job. “Every job I take is going to be different," she said. “But the theater at UMD is so collaborative and it has taught me so much.”

After graduation, Engen plans to move to New York to pursue theatre. She hopes to be able to support herself performing and teaching, either dance or voice lessons. “I love both aspects, performing and working with children,” she said. “That is one of the awesome things about this job."

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Faith Engen performs live with Sesame Street muppets: Ernie, Elmo, Abby Cadabby, and Oscar the Grouch. Big Bird is in the back.

Cookie Monster and Ernie with Faith Engen.

Those Who Can, Duluth

Written by Madiha Mirza. November, 2012

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