Natasha Lance Rogoff, "Muppets in Moscow: The Unexpected Crazy True Story of Making Sesame Street in Russia" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2022)

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After the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, the timing appeared perfect to bring Sesame Street to millions of children living in the former Soviet Union. With the Muppets envisioned as ideal ambassadors of Western values, no one anticipated just how challenging and dangerous this would prove to be.

In Muppets in Moscow: The Unexpected Crazy True Story of Making Sesame Street in Russia (Rowman & Littlefield, 2022), Natasha Lance Rogoff brings this gripping tale to life. Amidst bombings, assassinations, and a military takeover of the production office, Lance Rogoff and the talented Moscow team of artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, and puppeteers remained determined to bring laughter, learning, and a new way of seeing the world to children in Russia, Ukraine and across the former Soviet empire. With a sharp wit and compassion for her colleagues, Lance Rogoff observes how cultural clashes colored nearly every aspect of the production—from the show’s educational framework to writing comedy to the new Russian Muppets themselves—despite the team’s common goal.

Brimming with insight and nuance, Muppets in Moscow skillfully explores the post-Soviet societal tensions that continue to thwart the Russian people’s efforts to create a better future for their country. More than just a story of a children’s show, this book provides a valuable perspective of Russia’s people, their culture, and their complicated relationship with the West that remains relevant even today.

Natasha Lance Rogoff is an award-winning television director, producer and writer of more than 25 years. Her previous credits include executive producer of Ulitsa Sezam (Sesame Street in Russia) and producer of Plaza Sesamo (Sesame Street in Mexico.) After studying at the Leningrad State University, she wrote about Soviet underground culture, as well as one of the earliest exposé of Soviet government persecution of the Russian LGBTQ community in the San Francisco Chronicle. Her 1985 film, Rock Around the Kremlin, about underground rock artists, aired on ABC TV’s “20/20. Lance Rogoff embedded herself with hardline Russian communist fascists for two years, filming “Russia for Sale” which aired on ABC’s Nightline with Ted Koppel the night of the failed 1991 coup that ended the Soviet Union. She is now an Associate in the Art, Film and Visual Studies Department at Harvard University and lives between Cambridge, Massachusetts, and New York City. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter and follow the book on Facebook.

Rebekah Buchanan is a Professor of English and Director of English Education at Western Illinois University. Her research focuses on feminism, activism, and literacy practices in youth culture, specifically through zines and music.

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