No cookies were left unscathed Thursday night as Cookie Monster took center stage during Denison’s annual Opening Convocation. The panel discussion focused on this year’s Spectrum Series theme, “Creativity & Courage,” and featured three members of the Sesame Workshop and the Jim Henson Company.
Taking questions from Professor of Education Lyn Robertson ’70, Henson puppet designer Rollie Krewson ’74, Sesame performer David Rudman, and Sesame content director Autumn Zitani all talked about the careful balance required to make Sesame Street a success. The educational program often confronts timely cultural and social issues, making them accessible to children.
“It started out as an experimental show. It hasn’t really lost that experimental feel to it,” said Rudman. “After 43 years, every year it’s another experimental year. We tackle a new subject or curriculum.”
Midway through the discussion, it was time to get silly. Rudman pulled out Cookie Monster and the Swasey audience roared with laughter and applause. Cookie took questions from Robertson and the audience, and even led the crowd in a rousing rendition of “C is for Cookie.”
The Sesame Street trio also made the rounds to several classes for more intimate conversations on Friday. While in a joint session with professor Reba Rosenberg’s “Infant and Child Development” class and professor Stafford Berry’s “Dance: Productions” class, the group talked about the ways in which children learn, the show’s constant need to adapt to the times (the Muppets occasionally use cell phones and laptops these days), and how, sometimes, it’s more interesting to see the puppeteers below the stage than the Muppets themselves. “We’re all pretzeled together—a tangled mess of arms and legs,” explained Rudman.
Krewson says she and her design team often tease the puppeteers, “If it doesn’t hurt, they’re doing it wrong.”
The next Spectrum Series event is a museum exhibition titled “Opening Receptions: Heart of Haiti and Resistance & Resiliency in Haitian Art.” The opening is Friday, September 14, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. and the exhibit runs through December 8.