Arts & Leisure

‘Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street’ premieres in Middlebury

A STILL FROM the documentary "Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street," which screens at Town Hall Theater on Sunday.

MNFF Selects, the monthly screening series presented by the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival, will host the Vermont premiere screening of the entertaining and revealing documentary “Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street,” on Sunday, Nov. 21, 2 p.m., at Town Hall Theater in Middlebury. 

The film invites viewers to go inside the hearts and minds of the Sesame Street creators, artists, and educators who established one of the most influential and enduring children’s series in television history. Directed with a sure hand by Marilyn Agrelo, and incorporating exclusive behind-the-scenes footage and over 20 original interviews, “Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street” introduces audiences to a gang of visionaries who set out to entertain and educate young minds by harnessing the power of television using furry characters, catchy songs and a diverse cast. The film is rated PG.

Now having reached its 52nd anniversary and maintained its status as a transformational program, Sesame Street, first seen on public television on Nov. 10, 1969, has a rich and singular history that the film lovingly explores. 

“Buoyed to a tremendous degree by the participation of series creators Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett, spry legends in the ’90s, Street Gang traces the earliest origins of the Children’s Television Workshop and the then-revolutionary aspirations to use television — and specifically the visual language of commercial television — as a teaching tool for kids,” reported Daniel Fienberg in the Hollywood Reporter. “But let’s be more precise than that, because the initial goal was touse this nascent show as a teaching tool for inner-city kids — and namely, minority kids. There was never a second in the history of the beloved show in which progressive values and diverse, ideological message-building weren’t the absolute core building blocks of its DNA.”

A STILL FROM the documentary “Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street,” which screens at Town Hall Theater on Sunday.

“‘Street Gang’ enlarges our view of the fabulous cultural phenomenon that was Sesame Street,” said MNFF Artistic Director Jay Craven. “Jim Henson and his collaborators transformed children’s television – and also puppetry, supporting troupes across America in a revival of this terrific art form. And Sesame Street endures — Big Bird made news just last week when the moment of Bird’s vaccination set off political reverberations across the country. What other ’60s TV star could do that?”

“MNFF Selects is delighted to present the Vermont premiere of this endearing, family-friendly film at the start of the Thanksgiving holiday season,” noted Lloyd Komesar, MNFF Producer. “We think it perfectly embraces this year’s Selects theme of illuminating the deep and lasting connections between human beings and animals whose lives are so intimately intertwined, even when the animals are colorful furry puppets.”

MNFF Selects Passes, covering the entire series of seven films, are still available for $105. Individual Adult tickets to each film are $16. Youth 12-17 tickets are $11. Children Under 12 tickets are $7. Both the passes and tickets can be purchased via middfilmfest.org or townhalltheater.org, by phone at 802-382-9222 or in person at the THT box office — open Monday-Friday, 12-5 p.m.

The MNFF Selects Series will be adhering to the following simple and safe Covid protocol: All attendees 12 and over must be vaccinated and all attendees, including children under 12, must wear masks while inside the theater.

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