Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Prairie Dawn

WMW Prairie Dawn

Written by Ryan Dosier.


Performed by…Prairie
Fran Brill
First appearance…
Sesame Street Season 3 (1971)
Most recent appearance…
The Cookie Thief (2015)
Best known role…
Writer, director, producer, narrator, etc. for her own collection of pageants and plays presenting various subjects such as Love, How a Flower Grows, Vegetables, and more.
August 3
Delta Dawn (Mother)
Defining quote…
“We’ll all be in deep doo-doo if this finale isn’t great! So I want everybody in costume and ready to sing! Let’s do it!!” (from Elmopalooza)
Prairie Dawn is one of the more mature Muppets on Sesame Street. She’s seven years old, smart, hard-working, and dedicated. She has a passion for reporting, as can be seen in her appearances as lead anchor for “Fairy Tales Today” and “Fairy Tale News.” She also acted as director in Elmopalooza, bossing around Jon Stewart while they were locked in a dressing room.

Prairie is a precocious little girl with a love for the stage. Most of her roles lie in backstage dealings, such as director, writer, narrator, among other things. She produces her own plays and pageants on Sesame Street and recruits many of her friends (Bert, Ernie, Grover, Cookie Monster, Herry Monster, etc.) to perform in them. These pageants usually focus on a single subject, such as love.

Showing her multiple talents, Prairie has also starred in her own segments on the show called “The Adventures of Prairie Dawn.” These segments show Prairie’s easily-frustrated side as she grows overly exasperated as her incredibly excited announcer blows her minuscule acts entirely out of proportion.

More recently, Prairie has been teamed up with Cookie Monster to present the Letter of the Day. In most ever sketch, Prairie went to outrageous lengths to prevent the ravenous blue monster from eating the sponsor of that day’s show. Needless to say, she almost never succeeded in this venture.

Prairie Dawn has also been a featured star in two Sesame Street spin-off productions: Play With Me Sesame and Sesame Beginnings. In the former, Prairie joined Ernie, Bert, and Grover in a show geared specifically at a younger generation of preschoolers. Here they learned computer skills from Bert, played “Ernie Says” with Ernie, and sang and danced with Grover. Prairie’s featured role in the show revolved around her playing her small piano and singing a pageantesque song about pieces of artwork young viewers sent in.

In Sesame Beginnings, Baby Prairie and her mother are two of the main characters (along with Baby Big Bird, Baby Elmo, and Baby Cookie Monster, along with their respective caregivers). In this series, much like on Sesame Street, Prairie Dawn is the oldest of the four babies on the show. At two years old, she looks and acts older than the other babies. Prairie is still just as precocious at two as she is at seven.

Along with Zoe, Prairie Dawn is one of Fran Brill’s most popular and prominent characters on Sesame Street. Prairie Dawn was Fran’s first major character on Sesame Street, and the first, major female Muppet character. Very appropriate, since Fran Brill was the first female Muppeteer hired by Jim Henson.

Fran has been performing Prairie Dawn since she first debuted, and continues to do so.

When she isn’t directing or producing a show, Prairie Dawn is also a very talented performer. She has been a part of many songs on Sesame Street. Her most famous song is Joe Raposo’s ballad, “Little Things.” Prairie has performed this song in most of its many releases.

Prairie declared her independence in the song “All By Myself.” Here, she declares how easy it is for her to do things without the assistance of her mom, dad, or yucky big brother. The song was first performed in 1982 and then remade in 2001 with backup from The Oinker Sisters.

With Big Bird and Ziggy Marley, Prairie sang “Small People,” stating that it’s not a bad thing to be small (similar to her message in “Little Things”).

As a part of a group ensemble, Prairie sang the songs, “Girl of the World” with Rosita, Zoe, and Betty Lou, “I Think That it is Wonderful” with Cookie Monster, Herry Monster, Ernie, and Bert, “That’s the Letter O” with Queen Latifah and Merry Monster, and “Three” with Herry Monster and Elmo.

Sesame Street needs Prairie Dawn for many reasons. For starters, she was a popular, pink, female Muppet character before Sesame Workshop had to try so hard to market one. She is also Fran Brill’s original character. Prairie represents more than the “girly-girls,” as she is versatile and creative, not princessy and sparkly.

Prairie Dawn was a proud, hard-working girl before it was politically correct to include them. Prairie is a mature voice of wisdom (and freak outs) on Sesame Street, a child with determination and a hard-working attitude. Prairie Dawn knows what she wants, and she’s ready to grab it.

She may seem bossy at times, but all Prairie really wants is for her shows to be the best they can. She works hard to make her shows great, and she doesn’t want them to be ruined (even though they almost always are). She may overreact and have a short temper, but she’s only seven years old! She’s still learning–which is another reason she’s needed: she teaches kids about calm reactions instead of immediate freak-outs.

On top of all this, Prairie is also funny as heck. Her performances with Cookie Monster are highlights to older viewers of the show, like myself. Her attempts to prevent Cookie Monster from eating the Letter of the Day always end in hilarious shouting from Prairie. She tries so hard, just to have Cookie Monster eat the Letter of the Day anyway.

So why is Prairie needed? Because she’s smart, funny, and talented. A great role model for girls of the world without trying too hard to be one.

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

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