NEW YORK Emily Squires, who brought a flair to musical numbers as an Emmy Award-winning director and producer of “Sesame Street,” died Wednesday in Manhattan. She was 71.
The cause has not yet been determined, her husband, Len Belzer, said.
Squires was a member of a team of “Sesame Street” directors – among them Jon Stone, Lisa Simon and Ted May – that won six Daytime Emmys for outstanding directing of a children’s series between 1995 and 2007. Over her 25 years as a director, starting in 1982, Squires received 18 Emmy nominations.
“She would do the street pieces as well as the Muppet pieces,” said Dulcy Singer, who was executive producer of “Sesame Street” throughout the 1980s. “But in those days we were doing big musical numbers within the shows, and she had a terrific eye for that.”
Sonia Manzano, who played Maria, the co-owner of the “Sesame Street” fix-it shop, for nearly 40 years, recalled a 1984 segment in which Squires directed a takeoff of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in the 1935 movie “Top Hat.”
In an elaborate gown, Maria and her tuxedo-clad husband, Luis (Emilio Delgado), glide across the floor, dancing to a song titled “Hola” – a teaching device for the Spanish word for hello.
“It was a perfect balance between wide shots and close-ups,” Manzano said in an interview.
Squires was the first woman to be a director on “Sesame Street,” and she helped break other barriers.
“She wanted to work on the show because it was making changes in racial stereotypes in America, in addition to gender stereotypes,” Manzano said.
When “Sesame Street” celebrated its 25th anniversary on Nov. 22, 1993, a special show, “All-Star 25th Birthday: Stars and Streets Forever!,” was co-produced by Squires.
For several years, while directing “Sesame Street,” Squires was also a scriptwriter for soap operas such as “Guiding Light” and “As the World Turns.” In addition, she directed several documentaries, including “Visions of Perfect Worlds,” a conversation with the Dalai Lama.
Emily Hull Squires was born on Aug. 23, 1941, in Alexandria, Va., to David and Sara Cross Squires. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in English in 1962, and soon after moving to New York she found work as a secretary at CBS. She joined “Sesame Street” as a production assistant in 1969, its first year on the air.
Besides her husband, she is survived by a sister, Sara Erickson, and a stepsister, Carol Armstrong.
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