Sarah Peak as Teen Fiona, Haven Burton as Fiona and Scarlett Diaz as Young Fiona
in the PNC Broadway Across America presentation of Shrek, June 7–12, 2011
Whitney Hall, Kentucky Center for the Arts
Photo credit: Joan Marcus
The national tour of the musical Shrek comes to the Kentucky Center for the Arts in June as part of the PNC Broadway Across America series. Among those flocking to Whitney Hall will be friends and family of Sarah Peak, a 2002 graduate of South Oldham high school. I spoke with her by phone recently as she lounged by the pool in Orlando, Florida.
Sarah: There is one song in the show during which Princess Fiona kind of grows up. In that song Fiona appears as a young child, a teenager and as an adult.
Scott: But you play other roles as well.
Sarah: I’m in the ensemble and everyone in the ensemble plays several roles: I’m Teen Fiona, and I’m the Ugly Duckling in the Fairy Tale Creature scenes. So during that part of the show I’m in gigantic orange flippers and have big tail feathers to shake. There are also a few big production numbers that include tap dancing rats and plastic dolls and I’m in there too.
Scott: When did you join the cast?
Sarah: We started rehearsals last May so we just had our one-year anniversary. I didn’t do the Broadway production, but I’ve been with the national tour from the beginning.
Scott: What year did you graduate from South Oldham?
Sarah: I graduated high school in 2002 and went to Northern Kentucky University to earn a bachelor of fine arts in musical theatre. I had a fantastic college experience; I was in all sorts of productions with really great teachers. It was also great that it was so close to home. Any time I was in a show my family could drive up to see me, but I was still on my own and having he whole college experience.
Scott: How long ago did you move to New York City?
Sarah: Not long after graduation, October 2006.
Scott: Did you know anybody in New York?
Sarah: A couple of people I knew from college had already moved, or were in the process of moving there. I was really fortunate that one of my girlfriends was already living in New York and had an extra room in her apartment. That made the transition really easy for me.
Scott: It’s amazing that she even had two rooms in her apartment.
Sarah: I know, right? We weren’t even in bunk beds.
Scott: You have been on the road for the last year. What did you do, put everything in storage?
Sarah: I still have an apartment in New York that I was able to sublet. There is a nice actors community and people to take over your rent while you’re on the road working.
Scott: What has the past year been like for you?
Sarah: Well, we fly from city to city so I’ve been living out of two suitcases. You definitely learn not to be a pack rat. I don’t hang on to anything. But, I’m having a great time: this week I’ve been able to go to Disney World and last week I had a couple of days at the beach. I like to take advantage of whatever city I’m in and see what they have to offer.
Scott: What will you do while you’re home?
Sarah: I’ll get a break from hotels, which is cool. I’ll stay with my parents and I can’t wait to perform at the Kentucky Center for the Arts. I have family and friends coming through the week so I’m sure I’ll be insanely nervous every night. I never get nervous in other cities, but I’m anticipating them in Louisville.
Scott: Are your parents involved in the arts locally?
Sarah: My dad was always a singer and plays the guitar. He has always loved music, but I have four sisters and I think we got into it because my parents put us all in dance class when we were little. We all took to it and have danced ever since. That was our introduction to the performing arts, but I took it a little further with the singing and acting.
Scott: Do any of your sisters still perform?
Sarah: One of my sisters just graduated from Western Kentucky University and she is dancing in Italy right now. My oldest sister is a choreographer and teaches dance at a studio in Louisville. Dance is still a part of our lives; I’m glad there was a little studio up the road because I think that’s the only reason we signed up in the first place.
Scott: You have been in other shows, but have you done any in New York as yet?
Sarah: I haven’t gotten to be on Broadway yet. But, I have done some regional theatre in upstate New York. I did Gypsy at Westchester Broadway Theatre and I was in the first national tour of The Wedding Singer. But Shrek is definitely my biggest job so far.
Scott: How long will you stay with the show?
Sarah: Our tour goes through July 31, so we actually don’t have too much longer.
Scott: What will you do in August?
Sarah: It’s back to the city and back to auditions. Hoping something else will come my way.
Scott: Is that process as grueling as it’s portrayed?
Sarah: Yes. It really is. You have to have thick skin and a side job.
Scott: What do you do when you’re not acting?
Sarah: The stereotypical stuff. My side job was being a nanny. I would babysit and go to as many auditions as I could get myself to. The problem isn’t that the auditions are particularly difficult, it’s just that there are so many people there. I think the most important piece of advice I would give someone is to be persistent and wait it out. But, if you put the time in I think you can get some good jobs.
Scott: Do you think the audition sometimes turns on something other than talent?
Sarah: Like anywhere else connections help. The more you work the more people get to know you.
Scott: But, I mean sometimes you can just be too tall or too short.
Sarah: I’m just about five feet tall which really hurts me in some shows, but they needed a short person for my part in Shrek.
Scott: Do you have an agent helping you?
Sarah: I’ve been networking during this tour and I’m hoping to have one when I move back to the city. It’s not the “only” way to go, but I think it makes things a little easier because it can help get you in the door.
Scott: How many people are in Shrek?
Sarah: There are 25 cast members. But, that includes five off-stage swings; they know all the ensemble parts to that if somebody is sick, on vacation, or gets hurt in the middle of the show they can literally step right in to it. It’s pretty amazing to tell you the truth.
Scott: Do many people get injured in this show?
Sarah: There is a lot of dancing and, since it’s a cartoon brought to the stage, the costumes are huge and incredible. Knock-on-wood we haven’t had any bad injuries. But, we’ve had a couple of twisted ankles. I’ve gotten through okay thank goodness. When you’re on the road you get sick a lot. Through the winter I think we were passing flu back and forth. We are really fortunate to have those talented swings.
Scott: What will you do as soon as the tour is over? Will you take a vacation before you head back into the fray?
Sarah: The day after we close I’m going to Florida to vacation with my family. Then, I have about a month off and I’m getting married.
Sarah: Thank you. Yes, I’m getting married in Louisville. After the wedding we’ll go on a honeymoon and then back to New York.
Scott: Is your fiance an actor?
Scott: Did you meet him in the show?
Sarah: I met him in my first tour, The Wedding Singer.
Scott: That’s appropriate.
Sarah: I know, it’s really ironic. He’s on the tour of 9 to 5 right now. Our shows close on the exact same day so we get to go to Florida and get married and head back the City together.
Scott: What is that like, being on different tours?
Sarah: Both of tours have had a couple of layoffs here and there, so we’ve been very lucky in getting to visit each other. We take turns traveling to see each other. It’s a tricky schedule, but it’s exciting because we always have a new place to go on a date because we’re always in a different city. But, we are looking forward to being together in New York for a little bit.