Sonia Manzano is a first-generation American of Latino descent who has affected the lives of millions of parents and children since the early 1970s, when she was offered an opportunity to play “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. Within a year, Manzano joined the production of Sesame Street, where she eventually began writing scripts for the series. She was thrilled to help write the story line for “Maria’s” marriage and birth of “Maria’s” baby, played for a while by Manzano’s real-life daughter Gabriela.
Manzano has performed on the New York stage in the critically acclaimed theater pieces such as The Vagina Monologues, The Exonerated, Love Loss, and What I Wore. Movies include Deathwish, Follow That Bird, and Elmo in Grouchland. Guest appearances include The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, Dinner Impossible (2009), interviewed on NBC Nightly News and by Jeffrey Brown for PBS Newshour website in connection with Sesame Street’s 40 Anniversary.
Manzano was hired as a spokesperson for Cohn & Wolfe for their child vaccination campaign in 2008.
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 Out Loud. Manzano contributed poem Chessybreadville to Marlo Thomas and Friends, Thanks and Giving book and CD. She is an advisor for literary NY institution Symphony Space and is often a reader for Selected Shorts. She regularly reads for their adult literacy program All-Write.
Her children’s book, No Dogs Allowed! published by Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing in 2004. In 2005 General Mills selected No Dogs Allowed! for their Spoonfuls of Stories series. Over one million copies of No Dogs Allowed! were given away in cereal boxes courtesy of General Mills. No Dogs Allowed! has been turned into a children’s musical, with a productions at the Actor’s Playhouse, in Coral Gables, Florida and the Atlantic Theater in New York. Productions included Ridgefield Theater Barn and Theaterworks at the Milford Playhouse, both in CT. Theatrical Rights Worldwide has licensed No Dogs Allowed!
Her second book, A Box Full of Kittens, was published in 2007. Her first young adult novel entitled The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano, published by Scholastic was a Pura Belpre Honor. Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx, is a memoir published by Scholastic, 8/25/2015. Miracle on 133rd Street is a picture book published by Simon and Schuster, 9/25/2015.
Manzano also donated her services to the Bronx Children’s Museum by writing picture book, The Lowdown on the Highbridge. Sale of the book proceeds will go to the operations and efforts of an actual museum for the children of the Bronx. Volunteers for the Bronx River Alliance.