The man who put Bert and Ernie onstage

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The man who put Bert and Ernie onstage

One sunny day, the clouds swept away, I went to see “Sesame Street Live.” While the air in Seoul wasn’t too sweet, the live show was filled with friendly neighbors, like orange-and-red monsters and big birds with yellow feathers.
When the cast took their final bows, a couple of kids clambered onstage to chase down the stars. If children are our future, “Sesame Street” is part of our future’s education. The live show has been around for 23 years, the TV program for 35 years.
The creator of “Sesame Street Live,” Vincent Egan of VEE Corp., attended opening day. Last Friday, Mr. Egan, 60, watched the show unfold from the second floor of the Seoul Arts Center’s Opera House. Tall and distinguished in a black suit, he inched his way past the audience of more than 2,000 pouring through the front doors.
Bringing smiles to 2,000 people ― at least 15,000 if you consider that VEE has eight shows worldwide ― and talking to fans is all in a day’s work for Mr. Egan, of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mr. Egan spoke with the JoongAng Daily about the “Sesame Street Live” philosophy and what he considers the greatest job in the world: his.

Did you grow up with Sesame Street?
Yes and no. Sesame started in 1968. I guess I’ll put it this way: I didn’t get married until my mid 20s, and I was married in 1968.
What about your children?
I have no children. Well, wait a minute. Maybe I do. Maybe I have four million of them.
Are all of your company’s shows live educational children’s shows?
I call it a family show, I don’t call it a kids’ show. Senior citizens watch this with their wives. The shows are written on two different levels; parents really have as much fun as the kids do. In Japan, where the show has been broadcast for 35 years, people use it to learn English. A lot of people here (Korea) watch Sesame Street to learn how to speak English, too.
Have you ever had problems with stolen costumes?
About five years ago, in Hawaii, someone broke into a car and stole some puppets. The puppets were anonymously returned two days later. Whoever did it would probably never do it again.
You’ve only got one Big Bird, and that Big Bird is extremely expensive. It costs anywhere from 10 to 15 thousands dollars to make. Those feathers have to be dyed and then sewn on one at a time to a mesh. It takes six months to make that costume. What would you do with it?
The show is about making friends with different people, and the power of friendship. What’s the philosophy at VEE?
The message is about being able to work with anybody, anyplace. We’ve got to get along, we’ve got to understand other people. This is especially true in today’s international workplace.
I think children have the ability, with their imagination, to do many, many things. Let me deal with the character Elmo. Elmo wants to be a fireman, a policeman, an airplane pilot and a doctor. And he wants to do it all the same day and all right now. That’s really the philosophy I’m talking about with children. Let your imagination grow and wander, because you can be what you want to be.
Growing up, what did you want to be?
As a little boy, I wanted to be in the circus business, or the entertainment business. I wanted to provide entertainment and, okay, bad cliche, good feelings for people to have a great time.
When you began, did you think it would be this big?
I was with an ice show for about seven years, but it was sold. I was out of a job and couldn’t find a new one. My belief was, there wasn’t enough family entertainment out there. I needed the job really bad. I worked really hard to get the job, and I’m working just as hard today to keep the job.

by Joe Yong-hee

“Sesame Street Live” continues until Sunday. Call (02) 764-0599 for tickets.
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