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Friday, July 03, 2015

Thanks For The Sesame Street Memories,, er...Sonia Manzano!

When you are a little kid, sometimes it's hard to distinguish the difference between an actor or actress and the character they play. 

I suppose on some children's shows, the hosts of the programs go by their real names anyway, so there's not an issue at all.  Case in point, "The Polka Dot Door", where all of the cast members went by their real names.

On shows in which people played a character, it is much different.  I have to wonder how many times Nerene Virgin was called Jodie on the streets of Toronto for her role on "Today's Special", and I imagine that Alyson Court probably had to endure her share of "Yo, Loonette" calls from her work on "The Big Comfy Couch".

I know that this was the case when I watched Sesame Street as a kid.  Sure, I knew all of the adult characters of the show.  I knew that Gordon and Susan lived at 123 Sesame Street.  I knew that Mr. Hooper ran Hooper's Store until he passed away, and then David and Gina took over.  I know that Luis and Maria ran the Fix-it-Shop for many years before they both apparently started working at a post office (when did Sesame Street get a post office, anyway).  And of course, Bob was the music teacher who over the years had everyone singing about sunny days keeping the clouds away.

Of course, the people playing these characters weren't really named those.  They were just actors playing the parts.

(Well, okay.  Bob was actually played by a Bob.  And one of the Gordons was really a Gordon.  But for the most part, most of the characters were actors who had different names.)

When I was watching Sesame Street, there were a lot of human faces that came and went (much like the furry Muppets that would be passing through Sesame Street over the years), but one constant was Maria.  She was always my favourite character on the whole street.  She started off on the show as a young woman in her early twenties in 1971 and over the years she became a wife, a mother, and a respected figure in the Sesame Street neighbourhood.  But she was also considered to be a motherly figure to young Muppets like Big Bird and Elmo, was one of the few who could still smile in the face of Oscar the Grouch's bad attitude, and who helped generations of youngsters learn about how to count to twenty, their alphabet, and how to say hello, goodbye, and many other words in Spanish.

It was thanks to Maria and Luis that I became fluent in Sesame Street Spanish, after all.  Might not help me much if I were stranded in the middle of Puerto Rico, but hey, at least I know some basic Spanish vocabulary.

For 44 years, Maria was a huge part of Sesame Street history.  And just a few days ago, we learned that Maria would be leaving the very street that she called "home" for all those years.

Yes, Sonia Manzano, the woman who played Maria for nearly four and a half decades has now announced her retirement from Sesame Street, and will be departing the series later this year.

There's no word yet on how Maria will be departing the series, and there's also no word on whether her on-screen husband Luis (Emilio Delgado) will be staying on the show or whether he too will be leaving.  But one thing that we do know for sure...she will be greatly missed.

I mean, let's face it.  Manzano was essentially one of the most recognizable people in "Sesame Street" history.  Just have a look at some of the clips of her in action.

She certainly has a great singing voice, not to mention her having chemistry with almost every single person she worked with.  One thing I will say about classic Sesame Street...the casting was top notch.

But did you know that Sonia did so much more than just sing and dance and act on the show?  She also did a lot of behind the scenes work on the show as well, writing scripts for segments and episodes.  And because of her contributions to the writing staff, she won quite a number of awards.  Hmm...I wonder how many Emmy Awards she has won in her career?

Oh, yes!  Quince!  Oh, ahem...fifteen.  And in addition to those fifteen awards that she won as a writer, she was also nominated for two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series.  She even wrote a children's book in 2004 entitled "No Dogs Allowed", which began a partnership with General Mills and First Book to help encourage children to read and to fight illiteracy.

I'll be the first to admit...I am really going to miss seeing Maria on "Sesame Street".  Even though I haven't seen the show in like twenty-five years or so, it was a comfort to know that she was always there.  And now that she's leaving, it seems like just one more piece of my childhood is fading away.  But, the memories of seeing her on Sesame Street will remain, and I wish Sonia Manzano all the best in her retirement from the show.

After all...she did help me learn basic Spanish.  So, if I ever find myself trapped in an underwater house, I can yell for help in Spanish!  CASA AGUA!  PELIGRO!

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