Come May 1st not only will The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences be descending upon the Bonaventure Hotel for the purposes of ringing in a year of celebration via the 43rd Annual Daytime Emmy Awards, but one lucky and deserving performer will be bestowed an award of lifetime achievement as a product of all that revelry. This year’s choice in lifetime achievement: none other than a beloved actress many a kid my age might recognize-Sonia Manzano best and otherwise known as Maria from Sesame Street!
Joining the ranks of such personalities as Betty White, Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Walters, Merv Griffin, Dick Clark, Bob Barker, and Alex Trebek, Manzano will soon obtain such recognition for the incomparable endeavor of shaping young minds and assisting them in growing smarter, stronger and more compassionate!
“My children and just about every child in American has grown up learning their ABC’s from the iconic character of ‘Maria’ on Sesame Street played by Sonia Manzano,” proudly proclaims NATAS President Bob Mauro. “Sonia not only brought the life events of marriage, having a baby, and being a mother to viewers young and old, she also brought a seldom seen diversity, a Latin role model, unlike anything on television at the time. She is one of the most beloved female performers in the history of Sesame Street, and the National Academy is proud to be honoring her with our prestigious Emmy Award for Lifetime Achievement!”
“Honoring Sonia Manzano has a special meaning for me – as we both started our professional careers doing the play Godspell – though in different casts — when we were practically children,” discloses Senior Vice President of Daytime NATAS David Michaels. “Her talent both in front of the camera and as a writer, bringing the themes of diversity to a national audience on Sesame Street is an extraordinary achievement worthy of this well-earned recognition.”
Raised in the South Bronx, Ms. Manzano, a first generation Puerto Rican, was exposed to and encouraged in the arts at an early age by some very caring teachers. Commencing her stage career, at the urging of her instructors to audition, at the High School of performing Arts, she would then move on to Carnegie Mellon but swiftly thereafter would be called to New York to star in Broadway’s original production of Godspell!
Two years into Sesame Street’s illustrious run, Manzano would go on to join Luis, Big Bird, Mr. Hooper, (to speak nothing of that blue-skinned, blonde afroed Muppet with the googley eyes who was always harassing either Kermit or Grover with obnoxious jokes) and the remainder of the colorful/furry gang in the fall of ’71! While there, not only would she participate in the most goofy to gentle of Muppet-tastic vignettes (one of my favorite encompassing an imaginary plane flight with Bert whereafter the plane got turned upside down Bert called Maria a ‘fool’—quite the hilarious epithet in the ol’ vernacular to this day) but go on to garner 15 Emmy Awards for her child friendly sketch writing as well!
During the course of her run on Sesame Street, Manzano would not shy away from her roots in theatre and would appear in plays such as The Exonerated, Love Loss and What I Wore, and The (V is for) Vagina Monologues! Her writing would also continue outside the one-set-block Sesame Street realm combining her natural skill and her love of child development, commencing with The Peabody Award-Winning children’s series Little Bill. Her children’s book No Dogs Allowed, published in 2004 by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing was lauded by General Mills Initiative Spoonfuls of stories. Moving away from a dearth of dogs and on to a flood of fuzzy fur kids of the feline variety, her second book entitled A Box Full of Kittens arrived on the scene in 2007! Moving on in maturity, her next book catering unto young adults and published by Scholastic in 2012 was entitled The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano. It would go on to be selected as a Pura Belpre Honor Book! Thereafter it was on to some holiday fun as her Christmas Picture Book: Miracle on 133rd Street made its way to market in September of 2015. Her ultimate project: A memoir entitled Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx also made its debut in September 2015.
Aside from all her artistry, Manzano has been honored several times over starting in Washington DC with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Award and the Hispanic Heritage Award for Education in 2003. In 2004 she was privileged to be inducted into the Bronx Hall of Fame. In 2005 it was on to Notre Dame University where she was bestowed an honorary doctorate in fine arts. In 2007 she would go on to be voted one of the most influential Hispanics by People Magazine en Espanol after which Ballet Hispanico presented her with their very own inspiration Award in April 2011. In December 2013 she would go on to be granted the New York Women in Film and Television Muse award for outstanding vision and achievement. And coming back around to the thing for which she is best known, was nominated twice for an Emmy for Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Series.
Last but not least, Ms. Manzano’s charitable work is certainly something of note starting with her service to the March of Dimes bard, the board of the George Foster Peabody Awards and the board of New York City theatrical institution: Symphony Space. Never having forgotten her home town, Ms. Manzano is an avid volunteer for The Bronx River Alliance, an association devoted to cleaning up the Bronx River in the South Bronx, and lends her time in hopes of actualizing The Bronx Children’s Museum!
Certainly an era of many accomplishments which could be spread out over a multitude of lifetimes but Manzano has dedicated herself to completing them in a small but significant series of all manner of sunny days!
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