Sonia Manzano (born June 12, 1950) is a retired American actress, screenwriter, author, speaker and singer-songwriter. She is best known for playing Maria on Sesame Street from 1971 until her retirement in 2015. She is also best known for providing the voice-over narration in several animated segments in the English version of the Swedish television show Fem myror är fler än fyra elefanter. On Sesame Street VHS tapes and DVDs, she was the voice of "Visit Sesame Street on the web at www.sesamestreet.com." from 1998-2001.
Early life and education
Manzano was born in Linwood, New Jersey, and was raised in South Bronx. Her parents came from Puerto Rico. Manzano attended the High School of Performing Arts, where she began her acting career. She attended Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh on a scholarship.
In her junior year, she came to New York to star in the original production of the off-Broadway show Godspell. Manzano joined the production of Sesame Street in 1971, where she eventually began writing scripts for the series. On June 29, 2015, it was announced that Manzano would be retiring from the show after 44 years.
She has performed on the New York stage, in the critically acclaimed theatre pieces The Vagina Monologues and The Exonerated. 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 Outloud".
In 1979, the Supersisters trading card set was produced and distributed; one of the cards featured Manzano's name and picture.
Her children's book No Dogs Allowed, published by Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing in 2004, is one of five books selected by the General Mills initiative "Spoonfuls of Stories". As part of that effort, Manzano is working with General Mills and its nonprofit partner, First Book, to encourage children to read and to help children across the United States gain access to books. The book has been adapted as a stage play. She is also the author of The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano (2014).
She has served on the March of Dimes Board; the board of the George Foster Peabody Awards; and the board of a New York City theatrical institution, Symphony Space. She is a member of the board of advisors of the Project Sunshine Book Club. She was featured in the Learning Leaders (volunteers helping students succeed) poster, designed to encourage reading in NYC public schools.
Honors and awards
Manzano was nominated twice for an Emmy Award as Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series. As a writer for Sesame Street, Manzano won 15 Emmy Awards. In 2004, she was inducted into the Bronx Hall of Fame. On April 7, 2016, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences announced that Manzano will receive the Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award at the May 1 awards ceremony.
Manzano has received awards from the Association of Hispanic Arts, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Committee for Hispanic Children and Families, the Hispanic Heritage Award for Education in 2003, and the "Groundbreaking Latina Lifetime Achievement" award from the National Association of Latina Leaders in 2005. She received a Doctor of Fine Arts degree from University of Notre Dame in 2005. As in Ms. Manzano's case, a D.F.A. is typically an honorary degree conferred to someone who has made a significant contribution to society in the arts. The Dream Big Initiative of the Bronx Children's Museum honored Manzano in 2014.
Manzano resides in the Upper West Side of Manhattan with her husband Richard Reagan, whom she married in 1986, and their daughter Gabriella.