Communications Graduate Brings New ‘Sesame Street’ Character to Life | UTSA today | UTSA

Bradley studied and taught puppetry for most of his life, falling in love first with Barney, the purple dinosaur, then with the hybrid model of “Blue’s Clues”, and later with Muppets like Elmo and Kermit. Her grandparents gave her the first season of “The Muppet Show,” a four-DVD set that at the time cost $ 40.

“I had an Elmo birthday party and I loved Elmo. I always do, ”Bradley said. “There’s something special about meeting Kermit – you know you can go up to him and shake his hand and have a conversation.” I think the magic is really there with Big Bird. He exists and he can walk with you. I’ll be working with him tomorrow, which is crazy.

Bradley put his love into practice, connecting a video camera to a television and practicing puppet expressiveness while playing with movement and scale. He became a puppeteer at the age of 5 and at 10 he knew he wanted to pursue puppetry for his career.

“I’ve been training myself since I was 10,” he said.

In 2018, he applied to participate in an international Sesame Workshop puppet workshop. He was one of 30 selected from hundreds of applicants. He spent three days in New York City, training and networking with his childhood heroes while uncovering potential talent for the future.

At the end of 2020, Bradley asked for comment on his demo showcasing his puppetry skills to his childhood hero, Martin robinson, the actor and puppeteer behind Telly Monster and Mr. Snuffleupagus. Robinson loved the reel and shared it with Matt vogel, the voice of Kermit and also of Big Bird.

Bradley was then invited to audition for the role of new Muppet, 5-year-old Wesley Walker. Wes and his father Elijah (also known as Eli the Weather Guy) are both black, and through father-son conversations they explore the race, modeling for viewers how to discuss difficult topics such as l appreciation of differences between people, melanin and skin color, and racism.

“I was like Donald Duck smelling a pie – like my legs were just floating in the air,” Bradley said, gesturing with his fingers to indicate he was walking in the air after hearing the invitation. “I thought at the time, man, when I didn’t figure that out, this was going to be such a great story to tell.

The story got even better when he got the job.

“I remember reading to Wes and connecting with him immediately,” recalls Bradley, who is Afro-Latino and grew up in a multigenerational family that included his mother, his now 12-year-old brother and his grandparents in Brownsville. “Wes is everything I wanted to be as a kid. I was very shy and calm when I was a kid, but he is able to talk to anyone.

Wes’s father Elijah reminds Bradley of his own grandfather – someone who was always there for him. “Sesame Street” was never afraid to push the boundaries, he said, and starting discussions about race with children at a young age is a good time to do so.

“The best way not to be racist is to be anti-racist,” Bradley said. “It is not a question of being silent. We have to teach the children the problem and we have to teach them the solution so that they can put it into practice. “

With graduation on the horizon, Bradley juggles a lot between monthly trips to New York to film the series, his virtual studies during a pandemic, and his second job as a performer at the San Antonio River Walk mainstay. Howl at the Moon, a place known for its dueling piano players.

Bradley said he enjoyed his time at UTSA where he felt like he got the ‘real’ college experience he wanted after spending two years at a community college where he also worked 9 at 5.

“I had some really good teachers. They didn’t really play a role in the puppetry, but they were reassuring and caring, and they cared about the education, ”Bradley said. One teacher in particular took an interest in Bradley and helped him navigate the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, which was a delicate transition as he preferred face-to-face lessons.

John milam, a Ph.D. English student, taught technical writing in the spring of 2020. Bradley said he learned some great lessons in the classroom, including character building, how to empathize and how to be relatable – all things he does. he now applies to Wes and his work on “Sesame Street.”

Milam said he approached teaching technical writing a little differently and tried to infuse a social justice lens into his course material with a strong emphasis on ethics and proficiency. Datas.

“I ask myself: how can I make sure that the students are not stressed, that they are not overworked?” Said Milam. “I went to great lengths to bring as much compassion as possible to my class.”

Milam said he remembered Bradley and encouraged his student to stick with what he liked.

“’Sesame Street’ has been in the field all this time teaching friendship and truth, compassion and love,” Milam said.

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About Gail Mena

Gail Mena

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