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I Met A Girl Named Maria

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Sonia Manzano, who plays Maria on Sesame Street, is retiring after forty-four years on the show. One of the most pressing questions Ophira Eisenberg had for Manzano on the Ask Me Another stage was this: "Where is Sesame Street?"

"Sesame Street is everywhere," Manzano replied. This specific magic — the kind that only a show like Sesame Street can impart on children and adults, seemed to punctuate much of the interview.

As a kid, Manzano was surrounded by instability, and to cope, she watched television. "This is the television of the '50s," she said. "Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver. Our life was absolutely the opposite of those shows, and when I got on Sesame Street I thought, 'There are kids watching... and I'm going to be for them what I needed to see. There's going to be calmness and beauty in recognizable places for the children."

More than forty years later, that calmness and beauty has touched many lives. Manzano says that sometimes her mere presence makes strangers and passersby cry. "It's an effect that I have on people. When they see me, I'm a catalyst, and all of a sudden they're thrown back onto their mothers' milky laps at four in the afternoon, watching letters and numbers. And I think that's what gets them right in the heart, and that's why they cry."

Later in the show, Emilio Delgado (Luis on the show) joined Manzano onstage for a special game all about the lesser-known puppets from Sesame Street's past. Then, accompanied by Jonathan Coulton, the on-screen couple sang Hola, which Manzano wrote the lyrics for over twenty years ago.

Highlights

On the relationships she creates with young viewers

Adults that I went to college with will say, "See that Maria? I knew her," and kids will say, "So? I know her too."

On early seasons' advisory warning

[There is a] disclaimer because Cookie Monster had a pipe. And after he watched Monsterpiece Theater, he would eat the pipe. So you have to be mindful that those 4-year-olds out there don't eat the pipe that they're smoking.

On what will happen to Maria after Manzano retires

Luis and Maria had this terrible fight over why the toaster hadn't been fixed in 44 years. Oscar heard about it, and he asked Maria to move in with him. The thing is, he didn't ask her to marry him. Just move in with him. So that's where things stand.

Heard in Sonia Manzano: These Are The Muppets In Your Neighborhood

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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