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Sonia Manzano      

Actress, Author, Script Writer Known for Playing "Maria" on "Sesame Street"

Sonia Manzano is a first-generation American of Latino descent who has affected the lives of millions of parents and children since the early 1970s, when she was offered an opportunity to play “Maria” on "Sesame Street".

Manzano was raised in the South Bronx where her involvement in the arts was inspired by teachers who encouraged her to audition for the High School of Performing Arts. She was accepted there and began her career as an actress. A scholarship took her to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and in her junior year, she came to New York to star in the original production of the off-Broadway show "Godspell". Within a year, Manzano joined the production of "Sesame Street", where she eventually began writing scripts for the series. She was thrilled to help write the story line for “Maria’s” marriage and birth of “Maria’s” baby, played for a while by Manzano’s real-life daughter Gabriela.

Manzano has performed on the New York stage in the critically acclaimed theater pieces "The Vagina Monologues", "The Exonerated", and "Love Loss and What I Wore". Movies include Deathwish, Follow That Bird and Elmo in Grouchland.

She has written for the Peabody Award-winning children’s series, Little Bill, and has written a parenting column for the Sesame Workshop web site called Talking Out Loud. Her children’s book, No Dogs Allowed! published by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing in 2004. In 2005 General Mills selected No Dogs Allowed! for their Spoonfuls of Stories series. Over one million copies of No Dogs Allowed! were given away in cereal boxes courtesy of General Mills.

No Dogs Allowed! has been turned into a children’s musical, with a productions at the Actor’s Playhouse, in Coral Gables, Florida and the Atlantic Theater in New York. Productions included Ridgefield Theater Barn and Theaterworks at the Milford Playhouse, both in CT. Theatrical Rights Worldwide has licensed No Dogs Allowed! Her second book, A Box Full Of Kittens, was published in 2007.

Her first young adult novel entitled "The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano" was a Pura Belpre Honor. "Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx", is her memoir. "Miracle on 133rd Street" is a picture book she published in 2015.

Speech Topics

Building Resilient Children the Sesame Street Way

1,2 3, Who Let Latinos on TV

From the South Bronx to Sesame Street

Would Elmo Make a Good Board Member?

Can Muppets Read?

Coping with Alzheimers

Latinos & The Civil Rights Movement

In this presentation based on her new book, The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, speaker Sonia Manzano explores the impact that the Civil Rights Movement had on the Hispanic community. She examines how growing feelings of self worth in both the African American and Latino communities gave rise to social programs like Head Start and the United Farm Workers, as well as educational TV programs like Sesame Street. Manzano gives her personal take on how the whole movement made Latinos examine racial prejudices in their own groups and sadly, in their own families.

From the South Bronx to Sesame Street (A Puerto Rican Story)

In this presentation based on her new book, The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, speaker Sonia A personal tale of the struggles Manzano faced coming from a poor Puerto Rican family to eventually becoming one of the most influential Latinas in television. Based on her memoir, this poignant and inspirational story is told with Manzano’s signature humor and wit, making this a memorable presentation for parents and children alike.

Writing For Children

A television writer as well as a children’s and young adult’s book writer, Manzano faced many challenges writing across all mediums. From writing for Sesame Street and Pulitzer Prize winning show Little Bill to writing the books No Dogs Allowed, a Box Full of Kittens, and the inspirational The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, Manzano shares her experience and insight on how to inspire and excite children through the written word.

Children and Television

Manzano’s over forty years on Sesame Street has afforded her a unique look at how the landscape of children’s television has changed. She will share thoughts from the way children are taught cognitive skills, to the way Latinos are depicted, to how 9/11 has affected children’s educational curriculum on Sesame Street. This informative presentation gives audiences a rare opportunity to learn from one of the most knowledgeable people in children’s television.


'Sesame Street' losing Sonia Manzano -

It's the end of an era on Sesame Street. Sonia Manzano, who has played shop owner Maria on the PBS series, has announced that she is retiring.

'Sesame Street': After 45 Years, Sonia Manzano to Leave Show ...

Actress Sonia Manzano, who plays Maria Rodriquez on the children's television show "Sesame Street," and the muppet Grover launch the new "Super Grover" ...

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