On the Tube
Theatre productions and the artists who create them have been spotlighted in several recent television and video projects. Actor training and women directors are among the subiects being investigated on television, documentary-style; among the productions transferred to the small screen have been the Mark Taper Forum’s Tell Them I’m a Mermaid, a musical featuring seven women with physical disabilities, and the Roadside Theater of Kentucky’s Appalachian tale Red Fox/Second Hangin’.
Conservatory: The Training of an Actor, a 30-minute television special, offers a behind-the-scenes view of the of American Conservatory Theatre’s actor training program in San Francisco. The documentary, produced by Bruce Franchini, was shown in May in the Bay Area and is under consideration for national public television airing. It features commentary by such ACT alumni as Harry Hamlin, Ellis Rabb and Sada Thompson, and follows student training sessions under ACT general director William Ball.
On the east coast, New Jersey cable television has launched a series titled “West of Broadway,” which will focus on the state’s professional theatre companies and performers. The 30-minute interview-format program, aired twice each month, has so far dealt with the careers of women directors and the work of veteran actor Charles White.
Tell Them I’m a Mermaid, co-produced by the Taper and KTTV/Metromedia Television and Embassy Television, has been aired nationally and nominated for a Los Angeles area Emmy Award in the category of Public Affairs Special. The show was also recently honored with awards from American Women in Radio and Television and by the Houston International Film Festival. The material for the show was originally developed by Victoria Ann-Lewis as part of a Forum workshop for disabled actors.
Roadside Theater’s Red Fox/Second Hangin’, a widely traveled performance piece based on an episode from Virginia folk history, was adapted for videotape thanks to funding from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Virginia and Kentucky arts commissions. Roadside artistic director Dudley Cocke served as producer, working with a crew including Emmy winner Pat Scott as producing consultant, BBC cameraman Michael Davis as director of photography and co-directors Don Baker (who appears in the produc-tion) and Paul Congo, Jr. Cocke says the video is expected to be widely seen on cable, PBS and elsewhere.
Soldier’s Story, the film adaptation of Charles Fuller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning A Soldier’s Play, will be release this fall by Columbia Pictures. It is the first of four plays scheduled to be transferred to the screen by co-producers Norman Jewison and Patrick Palmer, under the auspices of their company Yorktown Productions.
Work has also begun on Automatic Pilot, a play produced in Toronto about a woman comic written by Erika Ritter; Agnes of God by John Pielmeier; and Jazz Babies, Larry Gelbart’s comedy about an all-girl band.
Fuller adapted his own play for the film version, and playwrights Ritter and Pielmeier have also been engaged to author screenplays based on their scripts. Both Automatic Pilot and Agnes of God will be filmed in Canada.
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