After 44 years of loyal service Sesame Street veteran Sonia Manzano has announced she is to retire. Manzano has played Maria since 1971. She even wrote for the show from 1981 to 2002, winning 15 Daytime Emmys in the process.
Manzano was born in New York City and was raised in the Bronx. Her parents migrated to New York from Puerto Rico. Manzano attended the High School of Performing Arts, where she began her acting career. She then progressed to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh on a scholarship.
During her junior year, she came to New York to star in the original production of the off-Broadway show Godspell. Following that she joined Sesame Street in 1971.
In 1979 Manzano made an unaccredited appearance in the film Deathwish as a grocery store clerk; she also appeared as Chattanooga in a number of episodes of B.J. and the Bear. In recent years Manzano has played Judge Gloria Pepitone on Law & Order: SVU.
As well as Sesame Street, Manzano perfromed on the New York stage in a variety of productions. This includes the critically acclaimed 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.
As well as her acting career, Manzano also found success as a children’s author. Her 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 also been successfully adapted as a stage play.