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Sesame Street at LPA: About That Tomato...

Sesame Street Tomato

I love collaborative exhibitions because I learn so much about our partners. Working with Susie Tofte, the archivist of the Sesame Workshop and curator of the exhibition, I learned about the Workshop’s outreach programs for families dealing with the challenges of military service and incarceration. Now that the exhibition is available for viewing, I see that section’s impact on visitors who expected only fun, children’s content.

The program that I thought I knew dealt with healthy lifestyles—foods, exercise, and care for the environment. This season, Michelle Obama has an encounter with Grover over the importance of eating a healthy breakfast. But, like everything else on Sesame Street, it is a complex creation of research on learning made performative with the best available writing, songwriting and design. Thanks to our friends at Sesame Workshop and The Henson Company, we are hosting a Cookie Monster, hanging out in the gallery, emerging from a pile of hundreds of chocolate chip cookies. But, amazingly, Sesame Street’s writers have created hundreds of episodes in which Cookie discovers that his world is more than the immediate gratification of his desire for cookies. Their Les Miz parody rivals Forbidden Broadway in its expert skewering of the show and film. We are all waiting for the 2015 broadcast of the upcoming “Jurassic Cookie” segment featured in the exhibition. Spoiler alert! that pivotal piece of amber contains… a cookie crumb.

Some of my fondest Sesame Street memories are of the parody songs on healthy foods over the latest decades. Do you remember the Madonna take-off “Cereal Girl?” Or the Super-hero operatta aria “It is I, Captain Vegetable!”? I am very fond of Hoots’s swinging advice to Cookie, based on the Gershwins’ “A Woman is a Sometimes Thing” (Jake’s Lullaby from Porgy & Bess): “(Fruit is an Anytime Food), but a Cookie is a Sometime Thing.” Everybody remembers Cookie’s Run-D.M.C. anthem “Healthy Dudes love Healthy Foods.” The full body version of Cookie personified early rap , but he wasn't alone on the screen. It isn’t just Cookie entertaining us, but also the chorus line of fruits and vegetables.

So, we wanted to include at least one Muppetized piece of healthy food. The tomato has an expressive face, dancer’s arms, and looks good enough to eat. So visit the gallery! Come to the public programs on script and song writing for Sesame Street! Watch the show on PBS or visit the Sesame Street website (sesamestreet.org) to watch videos. And, instead of that chocolate chip cookie, have some fruit.

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