Introducing Nitya Vidyasagar

Jan/12/2023 / by Team Seema
Nitya Vidyasagar
Image credits: Anya Garrett via Flickr

Imagine a time when you were watching Sesame Street as a child. Remember Mr. Hoover’s old grocery store? If you noticed, there was a laundromat right next door to that store that was owned and operated by a friendly young woman with long dark hair.

And if you felt you knew her as a child, you weren’t the only one. Millions of children across the United States who were fortunate enough to have known Leela knew her friendly persona on television.

But as you get older, you start to know who the actress is. Meet Nitya Vidyasagar, the woman who played Leela. She was the first Indian American actress ever hires for Sesame Street, and for her, that role was iconic enough to give her a good start in acting.

The Early Years

Nitya Vidyasagar was born on July 11, 1985 in Muscat, a Port capital in Oman. Her parents were of Indian origin. Her home city boasts a healthy balance of classic antiquity and bold modernism. Mountains and deserts live side by side with 20th century high rises like friendly neighbors from different eras.

Perhaps it was this vast divergence that inspired Nitya’s early interest in the performing arts. At the age of 10, she relocated with her parents and settled in the United States, where she attended St. Andrew’s Episcopal School. She graduated from there in 2001 and soon applied for college.

Nitya was accepted into New York University. While there, she attended the Tisch School of the Arts, and that’s where she discovered her passion for the performing arts. She majored in acting with a minor in music from the College of Arts and Sciences and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with honors.

Career

After college, Nitya went on to star in several roles. Although her role as Leela in Sesame Street was highly iconic, it wasn’t her only one. Nitya went on to star in several features, including Blue Bloods, The Good Wife, and Sita Sings the Blues. These roles allowed her to expand herself gradually from animation and children’s entertainment into something more in depth.

Life on the Stage

Nitya Vidyasagar soon took an interest in stage acting. Her various roles were in plays such as Serendib, Cecilis’s Last Tea Party, and NINJA: The Musical.

One of her best known roles was in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where she plays the impish Puck. Her character is known for his many pranks. He is called to serve the might King Oberon, whose orders he carries out using a flower. Puck uses the juice from that flower as a love potion, which Oberon orders him to give to Demetrius. But Puck makes a mistake and ends up giving it to the wrong man. Puck attempts to correct his error in a dream in order to get back into Oberon’s good graces again.

Summary

Every actor has an iconic role. For Nitya Vidyasagar, it was Sesame Street’s Leela. At first, the producers didn’t see it that way. They didn’t intend to hire an Indian American actress for that role, but once they did, things changed. She grew into her role and saw it as an opportunity to embrace her heritage. And once she did, she opened many doors for herself and for her audience.

Seema

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