Shaping stars

September 8, 2010

By his late twenties, Eric Petersen had already reached the pinnacle of his career—he was headlining a Broadway show in New York City—and as he stood under the lights and looked out into the sea of high-price ticket holders, he knew that Bradley put him there.

“At Bradley, I got to play the lead in quite a few shows and I was a part of almost every show for four years. It taught me how to be a lead in a show, which is a skill in and of itself, how to be a leader of the cast and take responsibility for an entire company,” said Petersen.

His Broadway debut was such a success that now Petersen ’03 dons a 45-pound suit and gobs of green makeup almost daily, bringing the lovable ogre to stages across the nation as the title character of DreamWorks’ "Shrek the Musical." Between tour stops on his company’s 25-city schedule, Petersen and fellow cast member David F.M. Vaughn (Lord Farquaad) stopped in Peoria Tuesday to share their experiences and offer a little advice to Bradley’s rising stars.

During a workshop in the Hartmann Center lab theater, Petersen and Vaughn set the stage for mock musical auditions, playing judges as students came before them one by one, to deliver rehearsed monologues and snippets of show tunes.

Senior theater arts major Dominique Reid bounded onto stage with confidence befitting a seasoned starlet, delivered a passionate performance, and received a complimentary critique from Petersen and Vaughn. Coming off stage, though, Reid said talking with the Shrek stars has given her plenty to think about as she looks forward to graduation next May.

“They taught us that the biggest thing is knowing who you are as an actor and owning it. I don’t think I’ve completely figured it out yet, and their comments have given me something to work on, but I’m happy with what I’ve done so far,” said Reid.

Chair of the Department of Theater Arts George Brown said welcoming a successful alum back to campus is as meaningful for faculty as it for the students who hope to follow in Petersen’s footsteps.

“Everything that Eric says is echoing what we’re teaching these students. The level of professionalism, the level of commitment that it takes to be in the performing arts as a career – both he and David have shared those important lessons that we also share with our students every day, so his visit is very significant,” said Brown. 

From Peoria, Petersen and Vaughn will travel to St. Louis where "Shrek the Musical" will open this weekend for a three-week run.