YOKOSUKA, Japan (NNS) -- Yokosuka area children and parents attended a live performance by their favorite Sesame Street characters at the Benny Decker Theater at Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka (CFAY) in Yokosuka, Japan, Jan. 21.
The performance, called "The Sesame Street Experience," is part of a tour of U.S. military bases worldwide and is the result of a partnership between the Sesame Street Workshop and the United Service Organizations (USO).
"[The USO] came to us and said, 'We would love to bring this show to military families,'" said Glen Taylor, company manager for "The Sesame Street Experience." "We jumped on it as soon as we heard what was going to be happening."
"It's a fantastic partnership," added Lonnie Cooper, USO tour manager. "It's a natural thing; Sesame Street has an instant credibility with children and their families and the USO has credibility with the military. When you put those two things together for this kind of program for military families, it is just unprecedented and it's been a real success for us."
The program is geared specifically towards military families and is designed to help the children of military members dealing with the stresses of deployments.
"It's a way for kids to come to terms with their families being deployed," said Taylor. "Who better to discuss it with them than Elmo or Rosita or Zoe?"
While the USO has long been known for providing support and entertainment for military service members, Cooper said their partnership with Sesame Street Workshop is an example of increased focus on families in a changing military.
"From the days of Bob Hope forward, it was always about focusing on entertaining the troops, serving the troops in all of the other USO programs that we have. Now we've started to branch out a lot," said Cooper. "The military is not what it was even 10 years ago; now we're sending whole families to Germany and Japan and everywhere else around the world that we have bases. So there really was a need to be able to service families more than just the troops. It's a first-time thing, but it's worked out really well."
The tour, which began in 2008, has traveled to dozens of military installations throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. Cooper said the sheer scale of the tour is unlike typical USO shows.
"We created this show so that it could go out for extended amounts of time," said Cooper. "We can play a series of bases in Asia, a series of bases in Europe and a number of bases in America in one big swath of time so that it wasn't just that hit-and-run type of thing."
Taylor said the response has been overwhelmingly positive and is largely the result of networking among military families.
"Mothers who see the show on one base are e-mailing their friends on another base saying, 'Hey you've got to see the show, it's Elmo, it's all of the gang, there's one-on-one interaction with the kids,'" said Taylor. "It's been really amazing to see how interconnected the military really is."
"It was great," said Alysia Morrison, who attended the show with her daughter Gabrielle. "I grew up watching Sesame Street, so Cookie Monster was a treat for me. It's great to have the USO sponsor shows like these because it helps keep your family strong and together and it gives you chance to come out with your family and enjoy a show like this, especially Sesame Street, an educational show."
For more news from Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, visit www.navy.mil/local/cfay/.