Narratives and Proposals

I was a newspaper reporter before career-shifting to public television and then the museum field. As a reporter, I explained complicated subjects, introduced readers to interesting people, and took them to places they didn’t know. My work for television and museums helped bring science and the arts to people who have little access to them. California and Kentucky, where I’ve mainly worked, differ in every conceivable way; but both are places of great educational need.

Here are a few samples drawn from a lot of work:

The Kentucky Stories proposal to the National Endowment for the Humanities made the case for a multimedia resource about the rich and often crazed history of the state. This abridged narrative may tell you more than you want to know about Kentucky, but it was worth a half-million dollars to my station.

Mountain Born: The Jean Ritchie Story, a documentary on the Kentucky folksinger, was  my favorite KET project. In this excerpt, Ritchie talks about how songs were passed down through the generations.

Watch Excerpt

I only got two modest grants for Mountain Born, but it was a labor of love for producers Russ Farmer and Guy Mendes and their talented crew.  Nancy Carpenter was executive producer. The shoestring production made the national primetime schedule and aired on stations across the country, a total of 201 broadcasts. It was the first of seven programs I worked on that made the national schedule.

American Shorts was a drama series based on new short plays premiered by Actors Theatre of Louisville, Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and other non-profit regional theaters, which are the country’s main source of new plays and playwrights. I created the project; Guy Mendes produced the series, and Nancy Carpenter served as executive producer.

Our successful proposal argued that the hundreds of new plays in the libraries of regional theaters were a great, untapped resource for public TV. I also made the case that the use of HD technology pioneered by American Shorts could lead to a new kind of dramatic medium that combines the detail of cinema with the intimacy of television.  Here’s the written proposal for American Shorts.

Signature was a series of six documentaries on living writers from the Upper South, arguably the most marginalized and denigrated part of the country, home to the Beverly Hillbillies and the Dukes of Hazzard (sic). Thinking of our immediate, border-state audience—especially kids in isolated schools—we saw the featured writers as models of literacy.

In the proposals, I wrote that we wanted the programs to “demystify and humanize the creative process” by showing “writers in mid-career drawing inspiration from everyday surroundings.” Producer Guy Mendes originated the series, which featured such writers as Bobbie Ann Mason, Marsha Norman, George C. Wolfe, and Barbara Kingsolver.

Here’s a short excerpt from the award-winning Signature on playwright-director George C. Wolfe, directed by Paul Wagner.

Watch Excerpt

In this excerpt, Sir Patrick Stewart discusses how Wolfe directed him in a production of The Tempest.