SEASON 40 PRESS KIT:  BEHIND THE SCENES

PUPPETEER BIOS
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Fran BrillLeslie Carrara-RudolphKevin ClashEric Jacobson
Joseph MazzarinoJerryNelsonCarmen OsbahrFrank Oz
Martin RobinsonDavid RudmanCarroll SpinneyMatt Vogel
Steve Whitmire

Fran Brill was the first female Muppet™ performer hired by Jim Henson for Sesame Street.  Since joining the show, she has won numerous Emmy awards and created the characters of Zoe, Prairie Dawn, and many others.  Her other work with the Muppets™ includes The Muppet Show, Saturday Night Live, The Jim Henson Hour, Dog City, The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, CinderElmo, Zoe’s Dance Moves, Play with Me Sesame and many home videos. As an actress, Brill has appeared off-Broadway at the Roundabout Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club, Playwrights Horizons, Ensemble Studio Theatre and was twice nominated for the Drama Desk Award. She has also played leading roles at many regional theatres including the Long Wharf, Yale Rep., Arena Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, and the Mark Taper Forum. Her film credits include Midnight Run, City Hall, What About Bob? and Being There. She has guest-starred on many night time dramas including Law and Order, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Third Watch and Against the Law. She has also been heard on hundreds of commercials and the cartoon series Doug and Sheep in the Big City.

Fran served on the board of the Screen Actors Guild and currently serves as secretary on the board of directors of the Jim Henson Legacy. Visit Brill at www.franbrill.com.

Leslie Carrara-Rudolph is a multi-faceted performer and puppeteer with a wide variety of characters and talents. Carrara’s television work spans a variety of acclaimed children’s television programs, including Sesame Street, on which she currently performs the fairy-in-training, Abby Cadabby. She is also Ginger Sprite on the Disney Channel’s Johnny & the Sprites. Leslie got her start on Muppets Tonight for ABC and then worked on a number of productions including the DVD series Sesame Beginnings for Sesame Workshop, Animal Jam for the Learning Channel, and season two of The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss for Nickelodeon. Additionally, Leslie was a member of the PBS puppet tour that visited shelters in Louisiana and Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. 

Some of Leslie's stage credits include Sweeney Todd (Beggar woman), Little Shop of Horrors (Audrey) and Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. As a comedian she has done stand up at Caroline's comedy club in New York and performed with the Henson puppet improv group Puppet Up at the Aspen Comedy Festival and the Australian Comedy Festival. She designed, created and starred in an original, live, interactive musical stage show for the Walt Disney Company called The Wahoo Wagon which was performed at Hollywood's famous El Capitan Theatre. Leslie is currently touring with her new show "Entertaining A Thought", an interactive musical story designed to fire up the imaginations of the young and young at heart.

In her spare time, Leslie illustrates children's books, teaches workshops, and creates her own brand of magic and joy. You can find out more about her at www.lesliecarrara-rudolph.com

Kevin Clash, whose characters include Elmo, Hoots the Owl and Baby Natasha, is Sesame Street’s Senior Puppet Coordinator and Muppet Captain as well as Sesame Workshop’s Senior Creative Consultant. He began building puppets at the age of 10 and performed on Baltimore’s Harbor Front and local television as a teenager. Clash’s first television work was for the CBS affiliate in Baltimore. He came to Sesame Street after attracting the attention of Muppet designer Kermit Love. Clash’s film credits include Jim Henson’s 1986 fantasy film, Labyrinth, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I and II, Muppet Treasure Island, Muppets from Space, and Elmo in Grouchland. His television work includes The Great Space Coaster, Captain Kangaroo, Dinosaurs and Muppets Tonight. He also was Co-Executive Producer for Elmopalooza, CinderElmo, and Elmo’s World; Co-Producer for The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland; and also directs Sesame Street episodes and other projects. Clash directed and co-produced the DVD series Sesame Beginnings for Sesame Workshop. Moreover, he directed and was Co-Producer for Sesame Workshop’s outreach DVD: Talk, Listen, Connect II: Deployments, Homecomings and Changes. His most recent work includes directing and appearing in Phase III of Talk, Listen, Connect: Helping Children Cope with the Death of a Loved One. Clash won Emmy Awards for Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Series for his work as Elmo in Seasons 21, 35-37, and 39 and in 2001-2008 for his work as Co-Executive Producer for Outstanding Pre-School Children’s Series. In September 2006, Clash released his autobiography, My Life as a Furry Red Monster, What Elmo Has Taught Me About Life, Love, and Laughing Out Loud.

Eric Jacobson began his career with The Jim Henson Company in 1994 as a puppeteer on Sesame Street. Since then he has become known as the man who performs Bert and Grover in the absence of legendary puppeteer and acclaimed director, Frank Oz. In addition to these Sesame Street characters, Jacobson now also performs other characters Oz made famous, including Miss Piggy and Fozzie Bear. Jacobson’s long list of film and television credits includes Bear in the Big Blue House, The Puzzle Place, Jack’s Big Music Show, Bunnytown, and performing another well-known pig, Piglet, on Disney’s The Book of Pooh. Jacobson has been honored for his work on several occasions and holds the distinction of being the first puppeteer to work on multiple film and television productions cited for excellence by UNIMA (the international organization dedicated to the art of puppetry) in the same year. However, Jacobson has not limited himself exclusively to TV and film, having appeared in many theatrical shows, including the original run of Basil Twist’s Symphonie Fantastique, an underwater puppet show that played to rave reviews at the HERE art space in New York. Jacobson has also performed live puppet theater in New York City with The Puppet Company, The Cosmic Bicycle Theatre and The Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater in Central Park.

Joseph Mazzarino began working with the Muppets™ in 1989 and has been performing and writing for Sesame Street since 1990. He performs a number of characters on the show, including Murray, Stinky the Stinkweed, the Two-Headed Monster, Papa Bear and Horatio the Elephant. Mazzarino’s writing credits also include The Upside Down Show, Sheep in the Big City and Bear in the Big Blue House. He has co-written screenplays including Muppets in Space and The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, and wrote and performed on the first ever Henson direct-to-video feature, Kermit’s Swamp Years.

Jerry Nelson began working on Sesame Street in 1970 and over the years has been involved in the development of dozens of Muppet characters, including Count von Count, Sherlock Hemlock and Herry Monster. Starting in the business as a film, stage and television actor, he was a member of the Bil Baird Puppet Company and The Jim Henson Company before joining Sesame Street in its second season. Since then, Nelson has worked on most of the Muppet television and film projects. He also plays the guitar, writes songs and performs with several bands.





Carmen Osbahr, who performs Rosita, Ovejita and other characters, began her relationship with Sesame Street as a teenager in 1985, when she attended a puppetry workshop sponsored by The Jim Henson Company in her native Mexico City. She appeared on various television shows for Televisa (Mexico City), including The Treasure of Knowledge, and worked on The Songs of Cri-Cri, a special starring Placido Domingo. Osbahr was a member of the Plaza Sésamo cast before moving to New York, where she maintained ties to the show while pursuing her college education. In 1989, she officially became a Jim Henson Muppet™ performer, working for Sesame Street, City Kids, Dog City, Aliens in the Family, Between the Lions and Bear in the Big Blue House. Osbahr is extremely proud to be part of Sesame Workshop’s Talk Listen Connect program for military families. Her other credits include Kiki in The Puzzle Place, a role in The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland and as Lily in Johnny and the Sprites for the Disney Channel. Osbahr lives in Connecticut with her husband and son.

Frank Oz has been a major creative force behind the Muppets since 1963. Oz performed Bert, Cookie Monster, and Grover for more than 30 years. While Eric Jacobson and David Rudman have taken over the bulk of his character work, Oz still occasionally comes by Sesame Street to perform.

Martin Robinson has been on staff at The Jim Henson Company since 1981. Originally hired to play Aloysius Snuffleupagus, he has also lent his talents to Telly Monster, Slimey the Worm and many other characters. He has played an active role in hiring and training puppeteers for international Sesame Street co-productions in Mexico, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Russia, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, and Ireland. Robinson’s stage credits include designing, building and performing Audrey II in the Off Broadway and Broadway productions of Little Shop of Horrors, and designing puppets for the Lincoln Center Production of Frogs. He played the Cat in the Hat on the television show The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss, performed the animatronics for Leonardo in the movie Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and was a featured performer on four seasons of the popular British satire Spitting Image. Recent projects include Allegra’s Window on Nickelodeon, for which he coordinated the construction of the puppets and plays several characters, and designing/directing Night on Bald Mountain and Firebird in concert at Carnegie Hall. He has been on staff at the O’Neill National Puppetry Conference since its beginning in 1991. Robinson got into the business as a member of Bil Baird’s Marionettes.

David Rudman’s relationship with The Jim Henson Company dates back to 1981, when he came to work for the Muppet Workshop as a summer intern. He has been a Sesame Street performer since 1985 bringing to life Cookie Monster, Baby Bear and Two-Headed Monster. Rudman was recently nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Series for his work on Sesame Street as Baby Bear and Cookie Monster. He has performed in numerous television shows, specials and films including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppets Take Manhattan, Labyrinth and Elmo in Grouchland. Rudman has written and directed several live-action and animated films for Sesame Street, MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central. Television viewers may recognize his “digital” performance as Fingerman in the popular Ziploc storage bag spots. Currently, Rudman is co-creator, co-executive producer and director of Jack’s Big Music Show on Noggin, Curious Buddies for Nick Jr. and Bunnytown for Playhouse Disney.

Carroll Spinney has been the heart and soul of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since Sesame Street’s premiere episode on November 10, 1969. He has loved working on “the Street.” Big Bird hit the road to China with Bob Hope in 1979 and has danced with the Rocketts and with Prima Ballerina, Cynthia Gregory. Sesame Street specials have taken Spinney to China, Japan, Australia, France, Germany, Canada and the United Kingdom, and he has performed on various television shows, including 146 episodes of Hollywood Squares. Spinney also conducted symphony orchestras throughout the United States, Australia and Canada. En route, Big Bird has been feted with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, celebrated with his likeness on a U.S. postage stamp and as Big Bird, Spinney was named a “Living Legend” in 2000 by the Library of Congress. Spinney enjoys being a lecturer and has earned four honorary doctorates. He is also an accomplished author and artist and co-authored his autobiography, The Wisdom of Big Bird. Spinney takes great pride in his 2006 Lifetime Achievement Emmy Award, his five Emmys, two Gold Records and two Grammy honors. He is the 2003 recipient of the “Legacy for Children Award” and The Christopher’s James Keller Award in 2004. Spinney starred in the much-loved feature film, Follow That Bird.

Matt Vogel has been performing various pigs, chickens, monsters and a range of other characters on Sesame Street since 1996. He is the understudy for Carroll Spinney’s Big Bird and performs Baby Big Bird in the Sesame Beginnings DVD series. He has worked as a puppeteer on 30 Rock, The Muppets: Letters to Santa, Jack’s Big Music Show, Oobi, Blue’s Room, Studio DC: Almost Live!, Bear in the Big Blue House, Between the Lions, The Puzzle Place, Big Bag, MATHmatazz, OZ, GORILLAZ Live at The Apollo and the Columbia Pictures’ film The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland. Matt has a BFA in Theatre and appeared regionally as an actor in productions including Six Degrees of Separation, The Foreigner, The Deputy and The Sum of Us. He appeared in the Broadway production of Little Shop of Horrors as a member of the puppeteering team for Audrey II (along with Martin Robinson). He has directed episodes of Sesame Street and segments of “Murray Had a Little Lamb. His production company, Pratfall Productions (with Joseph Mazzarino), produced the award-winning short film Murder, He Squeaked, as well as short films for Sesame Street, Sesame Street Home Video and Nick Jr.’s Curious Buddies. Matt’s band, The Mighty Weaklings, is featured on Noggin’s Jack’s Big Music Show with their song “Rocket Ship” from their CD “You Can’t Rock Sittin’ Down”. He lives in the New York area with his wife, Kelly, and their four children Jack, Hunter, Lyla and Keaton.

Steve Whitmire became interested in being a puppeteer while watching the Muppets™ on Sesame Street as a teenager. He began working as a puppeteer at an Atlanta theme park, which led to invaluable experience on local television. After meeting Caroll Spinney at a puppetry festival, he auditioned for Jim Henson and began his Muppet career in London working on The Muppet Show. Whitmire has been a principal Muppet™ performer since 1978 and has worked on every major project since. He has performed Ernie and Kermit the Frog since Jim Henson’s death in 1990 as well as Beaker and Statler who were originally performed by Richard Hunt. Whitmire’s other notable characters include Rizzo the Rat, Bean Bunny, Wembley Fraggle and Sprocket the Dog.