Jennifer Barnhart (Zoe)

Jennifer Barnhart first joined Sesame Street in Season 32. Since Season 46, she has been performing Zoe, originated by the legendary Fran Brill.

Jennifer Barnhart first joined Sesame Street in Season 32. Since Season 46, she has been performing Zoe, originated by the legendary Fran Brill.

Barhart also plays Granny Bird, Gladys the Cow, Mama Bear, Frankie the Worm, and Maggie Cadabby, as well as the recurring human role of Charlie’s Mom. In 2021, she received an Emmy nomination for her Sesame Street work. 

Barnhart is part of the multicultural team of puppeteers who give voice and life to Raya, an international Sesame Workshop character whose focus is clean water, sanitation, and hygiene, as well as empowering girls and encouraging them to grow smarter, stronger, and kinder. She also served as Puppet Captain and the performer of Jackie for three seasons of the Sesame Workshop and Apple TV+ Emmy Award-winning series, Helpsters. 

In addition to performing, Barnhart has recently begun directing projects for Sesame Workshop including music videos and international PSAs about the importance of vaccinations for kids and families. 

Barnhart has performed on a host of other children’s television programs, including Johnny and the Sprites, Bear in the Big Blue House, Oobi, The Book of Pooh, and Lomax: The Hound of Music. She originated the role of Cleo on the multiple Emmy Award-winning show Between the Lions. Barnhart also originated the role of shy, tech-savvy Riley for Julie’s Greenroom, a Netflix co-production with Julie Andrews and The Jim Henson Company. 

Other Jim Henson Company-related credits include a stint with the live theatrical improv show Puppet Up! at the Union Square Theatre, and a dual human/puppeteer role as Ma Squirrel/Scatfish in the stage musical Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas at Goodspeed Opera House. 

Barnhart was part of the Original Broadway Company (Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Ensemble and Puppetry) of the Tony Award-winning musical Avenue Q, and she remained with the show for its entire six-year run on Broadway. She has been a puppet consultant/coach for regional and university productions of the show, and she directed an Adirondack Theatre Festival production. 

She finds working with students in educational settings to be particularly rewarding, and she has been a coach, guest artist and lecturer at several institutions, including The University of Utah, the University of South Dakota, Gateway Center for Performing Arts in St. Louis, and at the New England Theatre Conference (NETC). In 2018, Barnhart spent a semester teaching puppetry as an adjunct professor at Wagner College. 

As a ‘human’, some of Barnhart’s favorite regional work includes shows at Goodspeed Opera House (Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas), The Arden Theatre (Superior Donuts), and Alabama Shakespeare, where she has played such wonderful roles as Lady Macbeth, Goneril in King Lear, Mistress Quickly in The Merry Wives of Windsor, Veronica in God of Carnage, and Mrs. Cratchit in A Christmas Carol. She can also be seen as The Speaker of the House on Season 5 of House Of Cards, as well as on a couple of episodes of Law & Order: SVU (once playing a puppeteer!). 

In 2019, Barnhart made her cabaret debut at the Laurie Beechman Theatre with her one-woman show, “It’s About Time!”, directed by Sesame Street’s very own Alan Muraoka. Barnhart has lent her voice to documentaries, children’s audiobooks, and interactive educational apps, including work for Scholastic, Teachley, Tiggly, and Success for All. In 2018, she narrated her first full-length YA audiobook for Penguin Random House, “The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle,” and she recently narrated that book’s sequel, “A Few More Bicycles”. 

She holds a BFA in Acting with a Concentration in Puppet Arts from the University of Connecticut, where she was once named one of their Outstanding 40 Under 40 Alumni. Barnhart sits on the board of the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, a museum, performance space, and research center dedicated to preserving and promoting the art of puppetry.