Friday, January 2, 2009

"Theater Talk" Talks Back with Barksdale

Posted by Bruce Miller
Theater Talk is an acclaimed PBS television series devoted to the world of the stage. To the best of my knowledge, it provides the nation’s preeminent in-depth, theatre-focused TV coverage. The show began on New York television in 1993, and continues to be co-hosted today by Michael Riedel (Broadway columnist for the New York Post) and the series producer Susan Haskins, pictured above and to the left.

Theater Talk is one of the few independent productions on PBS and now airs weekly on Thirteen/WNET in New York and WGBH in Boston. CUNY TV also rebroadcasts the show each week, offering NYC viewers additional opportunities to catch each new interview.

Thirty-five other PBS affiliate stations around the country pick up the program, including WHTJ in Charlottesville, WUNC in Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill, WUNE in Charlotte, and WHUT and WETA in Washington D. C. Alas, the show is not currently being aired on WCVE in Richmond, but that gives us (and John Porter?) something we can work on in 2009. If enough of us in the community begin to promote the same idea, our Community Ideas Station may respond positively by broadcasting the show.

For the time being, theatre aficionados in Greater Richmond can keep up with the show on line, by visiting the program’s website at You can watch streaming videos of current and/or archived programs, and subscribe to their podcast.

I bring all this up because I was delighted to receive a comment to our blog, on New Year’s Day no less, from Susan Haskins, producer and co-host of Theater Talk. She had recently read Billy Christopher Maupin’s article of Monday March 10, 2008 announcing an upcoming episode of Theater Talk during which Haskins and Riedel planned to interview the all black Broadway cast of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Apparently that show never took place, and she wrote in to the Barksdale Buzz to explain why.

She didn't have to write. The post was nearly nine months old, and her responsibilities to explain her program to theatre lovers in Richmond VA are minimal, seeing as how the show isn't even broadcast in this market. But write she did. I was mightily impressed.

More and more the national theatre scene is noticing what’s going on here at Barksdale and in Richmond, and this is all to the good. The more our theatre community connects with national institutions and artists, the stronger we become.

We appreciate Ms Haskins taking notice and corresponding with us. We hope to begin a friendly grassroots campaign to bring Theater Talk to WCVE on a regular basis.

--Bruce Miller

1 comment:

Thespis' Little Helper said...

I don't know if there are other options for theatre shows available to rally for (and this is not to devalue that Ms. Haskins commented on Barksdale's blog, which is great that that visibility is happening via the blog), but this is not the one I would rally for. I find Michael Riedel to be consistently rude (I would much rather use another word) and rather disrespectful toward the guests or other artists in general.

And judging from Ms. Haskins comment (which I find incredibly suspect for a variety of reasons) she joins the ranks of people who I wouldn't care to know.

If there is another theatre talk show available from PBS, I think that would be something well worth considering. If this is the only option, then perhaps it's better than none at all.

I'll refer back to that original blog post about the four people debating the relevance of an all African American cast of the CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF revival. Of the panel, not a single one of them had any ethnic diversity, at least from what I could tell.

Whether or not the cast was invited to separate show or not, it would still seem rather important to have at least one other ethnic group on the panel to discuss such a topic even if unrelated to the production (none of the four panel members were attached to that production).

But all publicity is good publicity they say, so perhaps even getting this show would be helpful for the local arts scene.

Just one small opinion to throw into the plate.