Updated: Aug 5, 2019
WICKED's Munchkinland Tour recently gained a new "Elphaba" in-the-making, Sarah Fernandez! In today's featured interview, she talks about being in the award-winning musical, and about college life! Read the interview below, and be sure to follow her on Instagram: @sarahanee17.
What was your first experience with theater?
The first show I ever saw was “Beauty and the Beast” on Broadway when I was about 3 years old, but the first show I ever did was “Grease” when I was in the 5th grade. I played Sandy opposite my friend Anthony as Danny, and he’s still my best friend to this day. That show made it so clear to me that I loved performing. A few years later I saw “Wicked” on Broadway for my 10th birthday and I knew then that the theater was where I belonged, and dreamed I’d someday play Elphaba. So it’s really amazing to be here, 11 years later, living out that ginormous dream.
Had you seen WICKED before joining the national tour?
Yes!! A whole bunch of times!! I’m from Long Island so Broadway was kind of like my backyard growing up. My first Elphaba was Eden Espinosa, who remains one of my favorites and was later my professor in college. I also was fortunate enough to see Jackie Burns, Mandy Gonzalez, Christine Dwyer and Rachel Tucker as Elphaba on Broadway, amongst many others. Each new Elphaba that I saw over the years taught me more and more about the strength and ferocity of the character, and I’m so lucky to have seen each of their iconic and unique performances of the green girl.
What was the audition process like for you? What did it involve?
The audition process for me was such a whirlwind. I just graduated from NYU Tisch in May of 2018, so I’d spent all my time after graduating auditioning like crazy. By November I started to get frustrated that I hadn’t landed the perfect job yet, which is silly looking back because I’d only been out of school for 5 months - but I’ve always been overly ambitious and can sometimes be really hard on myself. I had gotten the appointment to audition for the Elphaba Understudy/Ensemble track at the end of November, and I went in and sang “Defying Gravity” and “The Wizard and I” for the casting and creative teams and did a few scenes from the show. I got a callback a few weeks later where I did the same thing, and then the next day I had a dance callback. A few hours after the dance callback they called to tell me I got the part and maybe 3 weeks after that I was on a plane to Los Angeles to learn the show. It was wildly fast. I always thought it would take years of auditioning before I’d ever be considered for this kind of position, and I’m grateful every day that the team took a chance on the wide-eyed 22 year old that wanted the job more than her next breath. I never take each day at work for granted. I am so honored to be a part of this massive company and beautiful show... I sometimes still can’t even believe I’m here.
Have you had your put-in as “Elphaba” yet? If so, what was that like? If you haven’t, what are you most looking forward to about it?
I have my put-in next week! So by the time this is published it will probably have already happened. A put-in is essentially a final dress rehearsal where the whole company comes in and does the show with me as Elphaba. They don’t wear costumes or anything but I do the whole thing full out as if it were a performance (costumes, props, green makeup, all that) so that I can get a feel of what it’s like in the event that I go on. I’m really excited - I learned the show back in LA in January and have been waiting to do the show as Elphaba and be painted green with such excitement and anticipation. This company is so supportive and kind and I can’t wait to get to share this story with them as the green girl that I adore so much. It’s a bit terrifying because it’s such a huge role, but I’ve always been one who loves a challenge. And I’m really ready to take on the gorgeous challenge that is Elphaba Thropp.
What is touring like? Is it something you’d do again after WICKED, or would you want to stay in one place, maybe NYC?
Touring is such a crazy and awesome thing. Before this tour I’d never really traveled that much outside of the east coast, so this job has given me the opportunity to visit places that I honestly might have never seen, and get to know them really well. I’ve gotten really good at packing and hotel living very quickly, and even though it’s kind of a strange way to live when you really think about it you learn to make it feel normal. My whole family is based in New York, and we’re really close, so I talk to them and FaceTime them a whole bunch while on the road. And I’m really lucky they’ve been able to visit quite a few times while I’ve been out here and we’ve gotten to experience these cities together. As for the future - who knows!! I’m learning that none of us have any way of really knowing what the universe has in store for us and that that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Of course I’d love to do shows in NYC and be close to my family, and I really hope that that’s in my future! But as of right now I am a full time resident of Oz and I’m taking it all one day at a time.
As a college student in-the-making (I graduate this May from high school), I want to know what college is like! What advice do you have for me?
Congrats!! That’s so exciting! I don’t know how “normal” my college experience really was. I went to NYU Tisch for musical theater and studied in the New Studio on Broadway, which was essentially a conservatory program mixed with academics. I also double majored in English Education. I essentially lived in the Tisch Building on Broadway and Waverly for 4 years, spending all hours of the day working, rehearsing, and being in class. And I wouldn’t trade it for the world. It was intense as hell but it taught me how to work well and how to be an actor and an artist in this industry. I had some of the most incredible teachers and I really really loved my time at NYU. My advice to anyone going to college - for theater or otherwise - is to really soak up everything you’re being taught. My professors had so much knowledge to share and I felt so lucky every time I got to receive it. College is going to be hard no matter what you major in, but you have to remember that if you’re doing what you love it’s all worth it. Education is a true gift and if it were up to me I’d be a student forever because I love to learn. So I guess my advice is never stop being hungry for knowledge. Never just be content, always keep seeking out more and more. And call your parents!!
What advice do you have for aspiring actors, or students who want to major in theater?
Never ever give up. It is so easy to give up, especially in this industry. It is so hard - auditioning and networking in and of itself is a beast, but doing the job itself 8 times a week is really taxing too. We lead crazy lives as actors and theater makers. It’s intense. But it is also one of the most beautiful and rewarding professions in the world. I love theater because I love knowing that I have the ability to make even the tiniest change in the lives of others - that with the stories I tell I can make an audience member laugh, make them cry, make them think, take them away from their world for just a few hours. As artists, we have the power to heal the world. Never doubt your ability to heal, and never give up on your dream. Put in the work - work as hard as you possibly can and then when you think you can’t work any harder, do it anyway - but also know that dreams do come true. I am living proof that if you work hard and you are persistent that anything you set your mind to can happen. And when it does it is the most magical thing in the world.
In this tour, all of the women who play “Elphaba” are strong and fierce Latina women! What is that experience like?
Yes yes yes!! We’ve got some brujas on this tour! It’s been really amazing. I’m a little bit obsessed with our current Elphaba, Mariand Torres, but honestly who isn’t? She brings such fire to the role and her voice is sick. It’s inspiring to watch. I could say the same about Cecelia Ticktin, our Elphaba standby. It’s been an honor to learn from them and see their takes on Elphie as I form my own. Our Nessarose, Mili Diaz, is also Latina, so the Thropps are clearly a Latin family. We definitely get some telenovela action going when we’re all on stage together hahaha. Mili, Mariand and I all have matching stickers that say “Bruja” on them (which means “witch” in Spanish) and I love them. It seems right to me to have Latina Elphie’s - we’ve certainly all got a lot of fire and strength within us and that’s exactly what she needs. I’m also half Italian so the combination makes my Elphie VERY loud and fiery and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s also really incredible to see such a huge show like “Wicked” represent so many Latinas on stage. Makes me even prouder to be a part of this legacy.
What are some vocal warm-ups that you do before a show?
I stand on the shoulders of vocal goddess Karen Parks. She’s been my voice teacher since college and she taught me so much about my voice and how to sing healthily. I have recordings from our lessons in college of our warm ups and I do them before each show. It also makes me smile because I get to hear my sweet Karen in my ears encouraging me before each show, supporting me even while I’m thousands of miles away. I also owe so much to my other college voice teacher, Tyley Ross, who keeps my voice so healthy and whose vocal warm up series can get me out of any rut (because I’m learning that singing and high altitude/desert conditions do not mix). I am so lucky to have the support of both of these incredible teachers. They’re always a text or phone call away and have been my biggest cheerleaders since I met them. I would be lost without them and think of them each time I sing on stage.
How do you spend your day off? In your current city, what have you seen?
We do 8 shows a week (sometimes 9) and travel a whole bunch, so on Monday’s I definitely sleep. A lot. More than I’d like to admit. And then there’s also things that have to be done like laundry and grocery shopping. But I really try and make my way out of my bed and explore the city I’m in because there are so many amazing sights to be seen everywhere we’ve been. We’re currently in Fresno, CA and I haven’t had a day off yet but I’m looking forward to exploring the city on Monday when I finally have the time to! I’m also looking forward to sleeping in. It’s a balance. :)