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Release: April 24, 2000

Lecture by 'Sesame Street' star 'Maria' rescheduled to May 1

(Editor's Note: Sonia Manzano's originally scheduled lecture at the UI on Monday, April 24 at 7:30 p.m. at the IMU Main Lounge has been rescheduled for 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 1. Manzano had to cancel in order to attend a White House ceremony where she was presented with an award for her work on Sesame Street.)

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- In real life she's Sonia Manzano. But to an untold number of "Sesame Street" viewers she's "Maria," pal to Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, and a television teacher of early childhood lessons in citizenship, the ABCs and 1, 2, 3s on the educational program produced by the Children's Television Workshop.

Manzano will give a free and public talk about the need for developing one's personality and character at 7:30 p.m., May 1 at the Iowa Memorial Union Second Floor Ballroom. Manzano's visit to the UI was organized by the University of Iowa Lecture Committee.

Manzano's role on the "Sesame Street" program extends behind the screen where she's a contributing writer. In 1986 she was awarded an Emmy for her writing talents. Sesame Street has earned nearly 30 Emmys and is seen in more 60 countries over six continents making it one of the most widely watched children's television shows in the world.

Fourth grade students who are participants in the Pen Pal Program through the UI's Opportunity at Iowa outreach program will meet Manzano at the West Liberty Middle School, located at 111 West 7th Street. Teachers Nancy Ekwall and Belita Kruse are coordinators for the school's Pen Pal Program, says Adele Rodriguez, program assistant, Opportunity at Iowa. A meeting time will be announced on Monday, Rodriguez says.

The seven-year-old letter writing program matches fourth graders from that and three other schools: the Grant Wood Elementary School, Cedar Rapids; Lincoln Elementary School in Waterloo; and third and eighth graders at The Sac and Fox School in Tama, with UI students, faculty, and staff. The program's intent is to orient the students to thinking about college and to allow their correspondents to serve as role models, says Rodriguez.

A brief look back at Manzano's two-decade history on the program shows she began playing Maria the character when she was a teen-ager and a role character who has matured through a hippie phase, exploration with radical feminism, to life as a married parent.

Manzano has seemingly always loved the stage. As a third-year drama student at Carnegie-Mellon University, she appeared in the original production of the musical comedy "Godspell" and the drama "The Living Room."

And she has appeared in "Happy New Year," and in films, "Death Wish," "Firepower," and "Night Flowers."

Her other credits include director and star of "Appearing in Person Tonight: Your Mother." She is a member of the Ensemble Studio Theatre, a professional organization dedicated to the realization of new works for theatre.

Manzano says she enjoys doing voice-overs for "Sesame Street" divisions and plans to expand her experimental work in the theatre.