Frances Joan "Fran" Brill (born September 30th, 1946) is an actress & Muppeteer who worked on SESAME STREET since 1970. She was the 1st female puppeteer hired by JIM HENSON, outside of his wife (later widow) JANE HENSON. She is best known for performing Zoe & PRAIRIE DAWN. 2 of her other SESAME STREET characters are Snow GROUCH, a parody of Snow White & OMAGROSSA, a parody of Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth. She also voiced the red GROUCH in "SCRAMalot", a spoof of Spamalot. Brill retired from SESAME STREET in 2014.
A Pennsylvania native, Brill began her performing career in community theater, & in 1968, while in Atlanta, she joined the cast of the play Red, White & Maddox, which ridiculed segregationist governor Lester Maddox. The show proved somewhat controversial due to its political subject matter , but transferred to Broadway in 1969, & Brill moved to New York City to join her fellow cast members, who included a young Christopher Lloyd. The show closed in less than 3 months, after only 41 performances. Out of a job, Brill was seeking work as a voice-over actress & in radio commercials, when she answered an ad from Muppets Inc., auditioning performers for what she initially assumed was a voice-over assignment. As the puppeteer recalled, "In those days, 1970, it was a small operation & if you called, you could get Jim directly on the phone.... They were training people to do a Christmas special for The Ed Sullivan Show." The special aired as The Great Santa Claus Switch, & after a 2 week puppetry workshop with Henson, she was subsequently askedto join "SESAME STREET".
SESAME STREET GirlsEdit
For SESAME STREET, Brill initially played a variety of minor roles, usually supplying little girl voices, but quickly established her first notable character, Prairie Dawn:"They had a little pink puppet, they put on a blond wig, a party dress & asked me to create a character - a very feminine, girly-girl in the '70s. I came up with an innocent, pretty sound. I developed the character by working with her."
Brill also coined the character's name: "I heard of an actress with a similar name [Prairie Dorn] & Jim loves unusual names." Other characters followed, but it wasn't until 1993 that Brill established her next major role, as Zoe. Brill observed children, boy & girl, when developing her performance, picking up the basis for the character's laugh as well as the initial catch phrase "Don’t joke me." Though Brill was initially uncertain of the character's longevity, Zoe was the only new character introduced that season who has endured & thrived. Most recently, she added a new girl to her resume, playing Kami, the HIV-positive Muppet from Takalani SESAME, for all public appearances in the U.S.. Outside of SESAME STREET, Brill has worked on The Muppet Showpilot, The Muppet Show: Sex & Violence, SNL, & Dog City, amongst many other Muppet projects.
While Muppetry kept her busy, Brill continued to pursue an acting career on stage & screen. On stage, concurrent w/ her Muppet work, Brill won 2 Drama Desk Awards for What Every Woman Knows (1976) & Knuckles (1981). She received considerable acclaim for her role as Fran Bachman on the soap opera How to Survive a Marriage (1974 - 1975), in particular for her dramatic scenes following the death of the character's husband. Her notable film credits include Being There (1979), Midnight Run (1988, as Charles Grodin's wife), & What About Bob? (1991, coincidentally, directed by BRILL’s fellow Muppeteer veteran FRANK OZ). TV work includes recurring stints on such soap operas as All My Children & As the World Turns as featured supporting characters & guest spots on Third Watch, Law & Order, & Kate & Allie. She has also made several cameos in Muppet productions.
Brill’s voice work includes the animated series Doug & Doug’s First Movie, Courage the Cowardly Dog, & several radio & TV commercials. As she noted in 1987, "I can pinch myself & say, 'I may not be a major motion picture star, but that’s OK. I’ve done all right."
- SESAME STREET: The Sugar Plum Fairy, Alice, Anne Phibian, Arlene Frantic, Baa Baa Walters, Betty Lou (occasionally, such as in "Amigo"), Birthday Cake, Camera, Countess Dahling von Dahling, Countess von Backwards (1994 - 1996), Det. Olivia Benson, "Dinner Theatre" mother, ElizaBLECCCCH Arden Fran, Frieda, GROUCH construction worker, Howie, I. C. DeForrest, Kuwa, Lavender J Friend, June Moon, Lady Two, "Let’s Go Driving" mother, Little Bird , Little Bo Peep (sometimes), Little Jerry (in a sketch where Grover & the Monotones demonstrate the word "Walk"), Little Red Riding Hood, Marylou, Miss Vicki, Ms. Carpenter, Mrs. Crustworthy (2006 - 2015), Nora Nicks, OMAGROSSA, Pipe Organ, Polly Darton, Prairie Dawn, Princess Cutie, Princess Geraldine, Rita Rucci, Roxie Marie, Sadie Schwartzbaum, Sandy, SCRAMalot GROUCH, the Small Bird,Snow GROUCH, 1 of the String Beans, Summer Squall, The Sun (from Elmo’s World Sky), Ursula, Vertigo, Vivian, Wanda Cousteau, Zoe
- SESAME Beginnings: Baby Prairie Dawn
- A New Baby in My House
- Play With Me SESAME
- The Great Santa Claus Switch: Snerf
- Muppet Meeting Films: Janice
- Saturday Night Live: Vazh
- The Muppet Show: Mary Louise, Dancers (2 episodes)
- The Muppet Show: Sex & Violence: Janice, Ohreally Bird, Receptionist, Leafy Green Vegetables, Pink Stalk, Whatnot, Miss Piggy
- The JIM HENSON Hour: Patina, Vicki, Merlin’s Assistant, Solid Foam Drummer, Zondra, Colleen Barker ("Dog City"), Maxine ("Monster Telethon")
- Billy Bunny’ss Animal Songs: The Porcupine, FROG
- Dog City: Colleen Barker, Terri Springer
- Let’s Eat!: Funny Food Songs: Little Miss Muffet
- Elmopalooza: Zoe & Prairie Dawn
- The Adventures of Elmo in GROUCHland: Pestie, Zoe
- Bert & Ernie’s Word Play: The Frosty Four
- Talk, Listen, Connect: Mae
- Panwapa: Athena the Owl (Muppetry only)
- Learning is Everywhere: Miss Fran
- The Producers: Pigeons
- ↑ "Viewers Praise Actress for Role in TV Serial." TV-Entertainment Review. Nov. 23rd-24th, 1974.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 Vadeboncouer, Joan E. "Voice of Prairie Dawn gives Fran Brill the freedom to choose her roles." Syracuse Herald American Stars Magazine. January 4th, 1987.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Perera, Srianthi. "Street cred: Kids' reaction rewarding to Muppet creator." The Arizona Republic. December 27th, 2007.
- ↑ Eckholm, Eric. "On the Set with Zoe: The Monster Is a Girl." The New York Times. August 9th, 1993.
- ↑ STEPHANIE D'BRUZZO's official site
- ↑ Photo 1 & Photo 2 on Facebook & Instagram
- FRAN BRILL on Internet Movie Database
- Muppet Performers
- Muppet Puppeteers
- Muppet Voice Actors
- FRAN BRILL Cameos
- FRAN BRILL on the Muppet Wiki
- FRAN BRILL on the Puppet Wiki
- FRAN BRILL on the OSCAR THE GROUCH Wiki
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