The mom behind Julia, the new puppet with autism on "Sesame Street," hopes to take her puppet show on the road in Arizona. Stacey Gordon, who has been Julia's voice since 2017, said that she wants to mount a roadshow that would bring the community together.
In an interview with KrisTV, Gordon said that she wants to bring the puppets to children who have not experienced puppet shows in person. Apart from entertainment, she also plans on imparting lessons about perseverance and coming together as a community to her audience.
Since the pandemic, Gordon has been conducting virtual workshops for private groups and children's birthday parties. She realized that she could do more if she took her creative output on the road.
With the help of the Arizona Office of Arts and Culture grant, the mom invested in an old ice cream truck and turned this into a puppet theater for her street shows. Last month, she did a trial run of the theater truck and visited Valley streets near her Phoenix neighborhood.
Who is Stacey Gordon?
Gordon originally hailed from California and moved to Arizona in 2001 with her husband right out of high school. She became an active member of the Great Arizona Puppet Theater, an improv comedy group that performs family-friendly shows.
Her most successful show involved a duo called "Die Puppet Die," which has become a hit with the children. Nancy Smith, the CEO of the theater company, said that Gordon had shown her good rapport with the kids from the very beginning.
Her day job involves working with special needs kids for a behavioral health services company. When her son was born in 2003, Gordon immediately knew that he was on the spectrum.
While she has the skills as a puppeteer, she didn't think that landing a job on "Sesame Street" was in the cards as she was not tall enough as a TV puppeteer. Thus, she was surprised when the show called to ask her to audition as Sesame Workshop planned to bring a new character after ten years.
Julia, the puppet with autism, was already part of the "Sesame Street" brand for its online cartoon content. The producers thought that it was time for the character to be part of the TV show.
In April 2017, Julia was introduced to kids worldwide who love watching the long-running children's series. Sesame Workshop picked Gordon to handle the puppet because her voice and experience lent authenticity to the character as a mom with a child with autism.
Every Child with Autism is Different
"I have so much respect for 'Sesame Street' for seeking out a puppeteer who has experience with autism," Gordon said after landing her TV gig. "I want to see characters represented in a realistic way."
Gordon said that Julia doesn't represent everyone on the spectrum because autism is different for every child. However, having a character with special needs helps to "destigmatize" the condition and provide other people, especially kids with playmates who are "different," a better understanding of their friends' thought processes.
The mom's aim as the puppeteer behind Julia is to teach viewers not to feel awkward, annoyed, or afraid about behaviors associated with autism. Her work with "Sesame Street" doesn't take much of her time, though, as she retains the same lifestyle and routines in Phoenix.
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