Megan Piphus Peace made history by becoming the first Black female puppeteer on Sesame Street. An alumna of Vanderbilt University, the ventriloquist talked with her alma mater about her journey to achieving one of her biggest dreams.
Like many, Peace watched Sesame Street on PBS as a child, and one of her lifelong dreams was to train as a puppeteer on the show. According to the show’s puppet captain, who performs as Kermit the Frog and Big Bird, Matt Vogel, the hiring process is quite thorough.
“It takes time to go through video submissions, but once we do, we earmark people that we’d like to invite to a workshop where we see their skills as a puppeteer and actor in person,” Vogel said. “Zoom is not an ideal way to conduct a workshop, but we made the best of it, and Megan was game to learn.”
The Vanderbilt graduate submitted her audition tape to the show in 2017 and connected with Leslie Carrara-Rudulph, a puppeteer who played Abby Cabby. In March 2020, during the pandemic, Peace received an email from Vogel asking her if she was interested in learning the show’s online workshop to learn their Muppet-style puppetry.
Vogel said that the show was completing their The Power of We special, a racial injustice initiative that would include Gabrielle.
“Megan was our choice from the beginning,” Vogel said. “She already had lip sync skills from her abilities as a ventriloquist, but she did not know the monitor work, which is harder than it looks.”
In September 2021, Peace filmed her first episode, playing the role of 6-year-old Black Muppet Gabrielle.
“I would have cried like a baby on the 123 steps if they had told me beforehand [that she made history],” Peace said. “The sets of Sesame Street are like walking into a fantasy. To be there is really something.”
Before Sesame Street, Peace made a name for herself by performing in front of the nation on shows like The Tonight Show, America’s Got Talent and Showtime at the Apollo. She was also featured on The Oprah Winfrey’s Show at 15.