“‘Somebody Come and Play’: 45 Years of Sesame Street…” Review

Super Grover at LPA

Super Grover flies high above the “Somebody Come and Play…” exhibition.
Image courtesy of Jonathan Blanc/The New York Public Library.

What better way to celebrate the beginning of the 45th season of the most well-known and popular children’s show in television history, Sesame Street, than with a party? And what better place to host a party for this educational show than a library?  That’s exactly what The New York Public Library (NYPL), in collaboration with Sesame Workshop, have done in the form of an exhibition called  “Somebody Come and Play”: 45 Years of Sesame Street Helping Kids Grow Smarter, Stronger, and Kinder, which will be on display for one more week at NYPL’s Library for the Performing Arts (LPA). Press releases for the exhibition promise visitors will “discover things [they] never knew about everyone’s favorite street.” Through items such as behind-the-scenes materials, various interactive exhibits as well as a plethora of actual muppet characters from the show, they guarantee fun for Sesame Street fans of all-ages.

“Somebody Come and Play…” seeks to bring the history of Sesame Street to life by tracing its origins and evolution. Additionally, it intends to give fans an opportunity to experience what goes into an episode’s creation to ultimately show how “Sesame Street enhances early childhood education with the highest of production values.” The exhibition achieved these goals mainly through the creators’ excellent use of artifacts (e.g., actual muppets, costumes, set models) and other archival materials (e.g., photographs, music scores, drawings, animation cels) from the collections of Sesame Workshop and LPA. Furthermore, for the younger fans there was also a video wall for watching episode clips, a touch wall of various muppet furs, a children’s play area, and even a recreation of the iconic Sesame Street stoop to climb on.

To call the “Somebody Come and Play…” exhibition simply a success would be akin to calling Sesame Street merely “a pretty successful kid’s show.” During my brief visit, the gallery was packed with adults and children alike whose faces lit up as they engaged with the displays by taking pictures in front of Big Bird and Snuffleupagus, as they sang their favorite Sesame Street tunes and as they pointed out their favorite characters. After speaking to several staff members at LPA it was clear that my experience was not an anomaly and that the exhibition has been a zoo since it opened. This was also apparent given the number of tiny handprints on just about every glass barrier in the exhibition not to mention the condition of some of the interactive children’s exhibit items as well–after 3 months, the painted chalkboard wall seemed a little worse for the wear. Even the circulation area looked more like a gift shop than a library as it seemed as though there were more finger puppets and other plush toys of the classic Sesame Street characters being sold than books being checked out! Regardless, it is likely the exhibition brought thousands of new faces into LPA who otherwise never would have found their way there. “Somebody Come and Play…” is a great way to expose the unique offerings available at LPA to the general public as well as  a fun way to get countless numbers of children excited about the library from an early age.

Being there immediately put a smile on my face and a song in my heart, and I felt like a kid again. I also managed to snap a few pictures:

Actual Big Bird costume!

Actual Big Bird costume!

Snuffleupagus all dressed for "Swan Lake"

Snuffie’s all dressed for “Swan Lake.”

Bert & Ernie and their drums and bottlecap collection.

Bert & Ernie showing off their drums & bottle cap collection.

Johnny Cash singing a song with Oscar the Grouch.

Johnny Cash singing a song with Oscar the Grouch.

  • “Somebody Come and Play”: 45 Years of Sesame Street Helping Kids Grow Smarter, Stronger, and Kinder is on exhibition now through January 31, 2015 at the The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Donald and Mary Oenslager Gallery.

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