Edited by: Odleen
NEW YORK: There’s something circular about Matt Vogel’s career, which is perfectly appropriate for the star of an educational children’s show.
As a boy, he watched Big Bird on TV. As an adult, he worked alongside Big Bird. Now he is Big Bird.
Vogel inherited the feathered yellow suit and voice last year after two decades of understudying master puppeteer Caroll Spinney, and he says nowadays he tries to channel how he felt watching Big Bird as a child.
“I felt like he knew how I felt, and he understood me,” Vogel said. “And that’s kind of what I try to bring to him now, thinking that maybe some child at home is looking at Big Bird and thinking, ‘That’s how I feel. That’s exactly what I think.’”
That sense of empathy and kindness seems to float over the main set at “Sesame Street.” A visit to the busy lot by The Associated Press earlier this year in the borough of Queens found monsters and humans creating a special alchemy. There was exacting precision as well as childlike glee.
The main brownstone house and welcoming stoop — with the No. 123 address, naturally — is in one corner, with a subway entrance and newsstand facing it, and Mr. Hooper’s well-stocked grocery store and a laundromat between them. Around the corner is Big Bird’s massive nest.
A sly playfulness is on show at the newsstand, where stacks of tabloid newspapers that closely resemble the New York Post scream “Dial ‘G’ for Grouch.”
“The show never talks down. We’re not a baby show. We’re made for preschoolers, but we like to think the entertainment value is good enough to reach adults,” said Benjamin Lehmann, executive producer.
While some rod puppets like Elmo require one puppeteer, it takes two to manipulate Ernie, Rosita, The Count, Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, Telly Monster and Snuffleupagus. (The Snuffleupagus suit is so massive it hangs from the rafters when not being used).
According to AP News, it takes a lot of work to create a season’s worth of 35 zesty episodes, each 26 minutes long. On this day, the cast and staff are recording segments for a star-studded prime-time special in honor of the show’s 50th anniversary hosted by actor Joseph Gordon Levitt.
In one segment, Levitt walks across the set surrounded by around 10 or so animals, monsters and Grover. Puppeteers perform holding their puppets high in the air while sitting on little round scooters on wheels — they call them “rollies” — and watching monitors on the ground to make sure they’re keeping their creatures in the frame.
-Associated Press News-