Emotions were very real in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe Tuesday afternoon as actress Betty Aberlin taped her final appearance as Lady Aberlin on the long-running PBS series Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Fred Rogers, who is ending the genteel kid's series after three decades on the air, tapes his final segments next week (to air in 2001).

Aberlin, who joined the series in 1968, tells TV Guide Online that she was doing her best not to think of it as her swan song. "It would be too hard to bear, I think, if Lady Aberlin knew this would be the last time," she says. "I don't like to even think I won't be seeing the other neighbors — human and puppet — anymore."

Viewers shouldn't expect any big farewells in the Neighborhood of Make-Believe — home to such characters as King Friday, Queen Sara and Henrietta Pussycat. In one of the final scripts, Daniel Striped Tiger is sad because he's made an art project and is told by someone that it will never win a prize. "I think maybe he's missing a whisker or two by now," Aberlin says of the now-threadbare puppet. "But it's the spirit of those creations by Fred — that's the real constancy.

"There's a reverence about Fred, understandably, because we hoped and believed that we could have a positive effect," she continues. "It's amazing to think that some of the parents who have young kids now watched us when they were young."

Aberlin, who was starring in a Mad magazine-inspired musical comedy review called The Mad Show when she moved into the Neighborhood, says she's eager to tackle more varied acting roles. Last year, she got the ball rolling by playing a nun in Kevin Smith's Dogma. Notes Aberlin: "There are more facets to us than the last character we played."