Chris Thomas Hayes ’06
Chris Hayes ’06 is an actor and puppeteer currently performing on Sesame Street, where he first debuted in 2016. As a child, Hayes’ home was filled with creative energy as his mother fully embraced the creative outlets available to her children in their Hartford, Conn., community. Hayes took his love for the arts with him into his first year of college at the University of Hartford. After some financial struggles and taking a gap year, Hayes found Berea College where he majored in Theatre, met his wife, Greta Hayes ’10 and honed the passion for acting and puppetry that drove his career pursuits.
After graduating, Hayes toured with the Madcap Puppets theatre company out of Cincinnati. After a couple of seasons there, he moved to Atlanta to pursue puppet and non-puppet acting, and he auditioned for dozens of commercials, TV shows and films. Hayes also began performing improv professionally and working at the Center for Puppetry Arts.
After several year of acting and creating, Hayes was invited to attend a three-day Sesame Street puppeteer workshop in New York and learn the Muppetstyle of performing. Afterward, he was invited to assist and perform background characters on the show.
By 2019, Hayes was cast as Hoots the Owl for the show’s 50th anniversary. Through this role, Hayes performed live on the Today Show, did Sesame Street TV specials and performed at other large venues.
In 2021, a new Sesame Street character was created—Elijah, a Black meteorologist, husband and father who discusses skin color and its meanings with his son, Wes, and his pal, Elmo. The series, Coming Together, teaches children about race in an age-appropriate manner.
As a Black husband and father himself, Hayes embraced this role and its connection back to Berea College’s Great Commitment to the kinship of all people and interracial education.