Archive for October, 2011

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My Audience: Divided

October 30, 2011

When everybody likes the same segment in an ON THE SCENE show and I hear nothing about the rest of the program, I know the show flopped.

But when the comments I receive are all over the place, everyone liking a different segment best, then I know that I’ve scored.

And so it is this time, too. A regular viewer emailed me to say, “kudos. Tyne Daly has never smiled so much, what a tremendous interview.”

And this morning when I stopped in to visit a friend she said, “I hate how Tyne Daly smiles. I have never liked her,  it’s a good thing she wasn’t the only thing in your show.”

Both views are equally valid. I do the work, put it out there, and when anyone didn’t tune out has an opinion of the finished product, it’s a sign of success.

On to the next one and we’ll see what they say…

 

 

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Reliving “The Day The Music Died”

October 28, 2011
“A surprise makes life worthwhile.”
The great playwright and director Arthur Laurents said that to me when I interviewed him a couple of years ago. I realize again and again how true it is.
A surprise last week led me down a few country roads that I never expected to travel, but what a worthwhile journey.
 On October 21st, I found myself in Clear Lake, Iowa, a town plopped between expansive farm fields along the aptly named Clear Lake. The area is home to some of the most fertile ground in America and to one of the great legends of Rock And Roll: Clear Lake was the last place Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson performed before the plane crash that took each of their lives.
The Surf Ballroom where the “Winter Dance Party Tour”  stopped that February night in 1959 is still in Clear Lake. In fact, it’s a thriving venue (ZZ Top will play to a sold out crowd of 2,100 tomorrow night). And it looks much as it did when the brightest stars in the rebellious new genre of Rock And Roll pulled into town more than 50 years ago. It’s unlikely beach club motif (this is north Iowa, not Miami) with ocean murals along the sides of the ballroom still welcomes dancers.
But the ballroom isn’t just for concert goers. Anyone who wants to relive “The Day The Music Died” is welcome to walk through at any time and as I did, sit down in a booth and imagine watching Buddy Holly performing “Peggy Sue,” or sit for a moment on the very stage where those pioneers of rock sang their hearts out for the last time.
I would never have made this trip if not for something that happened one week earlier in New York. I saw the reading of a promising new musical by Charles Messina, “The Wanderer,” based on the life of Dion DiMucci. He was the only headliner of the “Winter Dance Party Tour” not on the chartered plane leaving Clear Lake, and so the only one who survived.  Messina digs deep into the tensions, dreams, hurt, self destruction, soaring triumphs and unbearable losses that only a Rock And Roll life can provide.
And after seeing it, I had to get closer to the moment that crystalized all those feelings for Rock And Roll’s first generation.
A trip to Clear Lake and to the crash site memorial in a field  just five miles north of town gave me the education I was seeking. And,  a personal connection to an event that happened long before I was born yet is the most enduring and heartbreaking tale of “what might have been.”
As I drove down the gravel road leaving the crash memorial and thinking about what I had seen and learned that day, I started clicking through the radio.  At the fourth station, my heart skipped a beat. It was another little surprise to make the moment incredible. “Peggy Sue” was on.
You couldn’t script a better ending.
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Ready To Roll…Another ON THE SCENE Comes Your Way

October 19, 2011

Marathon. That’s how I describe edit sessions like the past two days. Just me and an editor tucked away in a dark suite where we focus like lasers on the job at hand. In this case editing three segments (interviews with Tyne Daly, David Hyde Pierce and a moving profile of stone sculptor Franco Minervini) and then putting it all together with my taped introductions to each piece.

But now it’s finished. It brings the audience closer to people and places they wouldn’t otherwise experience and closer to art and culture in our own community. That’s what I love most.

Again, if you’re local, check it out Saturday, October 22nd at 8:30 AM and 2 PM or Sunday, October 23rd at 8:30 AM, 11 AM and 2 PM.

 

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Hours Spent With Tyne Daly And David Hyde Pierce

October 15, 2011

I’ve been spending a tremendous amount of time with Tyne Daly and David Hyde Pierce lately.  They don’t know it, of course, because they aren’t actually there. But I’ve spent hours screening the interviews we did last week and watching footage of rehearsal and the performance of “It Shoulda Been You,” the musical she is starring in and he is directing.

My favorite part: watching Pierce direct a scene and seeing him thinking out loud, being there as works out an issue with the actors. A slice of the creative process is what I love showing the “ON THE SCENE” audience the most.

On Monday, we’ll edit each interview. And that’s not all. We’re also scheduled to put together the third segment for next weekend’s “ON THE SCENE,” the artist profile of stone carver, Franco Minervini.

Marathon Monday. It’s going to be a looooong day but we’re excited to bring another fresh episode to life. If you’re local, check us out Saturday, October 22nd at 8:30 AM and 2PM and Sunday, October 23rd at 8:30 AM, 11AM, and 2PM.

 

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Interviewing Tyne Daly, David Hyde Pierce

October 9, 2011

I have watched Tyne Daly and David Hyde Pierce on television for years, so it was interesting to interview each of them the other night. She is starring in a musical comedy being staged for the first time, “It Shoulda Been You” and Pierce is directing.  The show is having its initial run at George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Daly plays a pushy mother upset over her daughter’s marriage to a man she has just met and Daly’s character attempts to hijack the wedding. In the process family secrets are spilled, hurts are exposed, lives are questioned, and a few very hummable tunes are debuted.  At least in the first act. I’ve seen it twice, but didn’t have time to stay past intermission either time.

What is most interesting to me is my conversation with Daly about how she finds herself in a character…not finding the character in her…and Pierce describing how he learned from great directors like James Burrows of “Fraser” and how he brought what he absorbed being under their direction to “It Shoulda Been You,” which is his first time out as a director.

The interviews will air in just two weeks on the next ON THE SCENE and I’ll remind you about the scheduled times when we get closer.

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Helen M. Stummer “No Easy Walk”: Raw, Bold, Intimate

October 4, 2011

“No Easy Walk.”

It’s more than the title of an exhibit of photographs by Helen M. Stummer now open at Brookdale College’s Center for Visual Art. The name encompasses Stummer’s difficult journey as she documents the lives of the impoverished, dispossessed and isolated. A life’s work that has taken Stummer to places few else are willing to go either  geographically or emotionally.  And it speaks to the lives of struggle brought into focus through her lens.

The nearly 80 photographs comprising this exhibit, on view till November 5th, include Stummer’s very first work-an extensive series from East 6th Street in Lower Manhattan beginning in 1977.  It was a pre-gentrified era, when the New York Times called it the “meanest street in America.”  Stummer tells the story of being assigned to photograph on East 6th Street while taking courses at the International Center For Photography (ICP) and being terrified of the neighborhood. She didn’t understand why all of her pictures were coming out blurry until one day she looked down and saw her hands shaking as she held the camera.

That marked the beginning of overcoming her fear and capturing unforgettable images on three continents.

This exhibit also holds a special place for me. I worked with Helen putting it together. We met in 2005 when I interviewed her for the debut episode of ON THE SCENE and we became the greatest of friends.  She’s responsible for my curating debut four years ago when she asked me to curate what became a highly acclaimed retrospective.

And so, on four consecutive weekends this summer we laid out photograph after photograph in her studio and living room deciding which would go in this exhibit.   It was one of the most creatively satisfying experiences of my career.

For more on the photography of Helen M. Stummer visit http://www.hmstummer.com.