Sonia Manzano (Maria) is a first generation Puerto Rican who has touched the lives of millions of parents and children as “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. Manzano joined Sesame Street in 1971, where she eventually began writing scripts for the series. Manzano has 15 Emmy Awards to date as part of the Sesame Street writing staff.
Manzano has performed on the New York stage in the critically acclaimed theater pieces The Vagina Monologues, The Exonerated and most recently Love, Loss and What I Wore. She has written for the Peabody Award-winning children’s series, Little Bill, and has written a parenting column for the Sesame Street parents website, Talking Out Loud. Her children’s book, No Dogs Allowed, published by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing in 2004, was selected by the General Mills initiative Spoonfuls of Stories. It has been turned into a children’s musical, with a production at the Actors’ Playhouse in Coral Gables, Florida and the Atlantic Theater Company in New York City. Her second book, A Box Full of Kittens, was published in 2007. Scholastic will publish Manzano’s first young adult novel The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, in the fall of 2012.
Manzano received The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Award in Washington, DC and the Hispanic Heritage Award for Education in 2003. She is proud to have been inducted into the Bronx Hall of Fame in 2004. She received an honorary doctorate in fine arts from Notre Dame University in 2005. She was voted one of the most influential Hispanics by People Magazine en Español (February 2007) and Ballet Hispanico awarded her their Inspiration Award in April 2011. Manzano was twice nominated for an Emmy Award as Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Series.
She has served on the March of Dimes board, the board of the George Foster Peabody Awards and the board of Symphony Space, a New York City theatrical institution. Manzano also volunteers for Learning Leaders, a non-profit organization who provides one-on-one and small group instructional support, and The Bronx River Alliance, an organization dedicated to cleaning up the Bronx River in the South Bronx.