WKAR's Fall Preview celebrated the past and looked into the future
Thursday, Aug. 25 — TV from around the world — and foods from around the country — were served up at WKAR’s Fall Preview 2011 Wednesday evening.
“We’re here to celebrate the arts and WKAR, and to honor one of the area’s leading arts advocates,” said master of ceremonies Bob Hoffman, public relations director for the Wharton Center. He was referring to Kenneth C. Beachler, who has been a familiar force in Lansing’s theater, radio, music and television scenes for 50 years, and was welcomed to the stage with a standing ovation.
Beachler, a 1963 Michigan State University graduate who became WKAR-FM’s first fine arts program director and later served as the first executive director of the Wharton Center, spoke about his career in a largely lighthearted tone, spicing up his speech with humorous anecdotes. When Hoffman noted that Beachler received the Navy’s Good Conduct Medal during his service, Beachler cracked, “They never knew!”
He said he was selected for an announcing position on WKAR-FM during his student days, “mostly because I could pronounce Bach, Brahms and Beethoven.” Recalling his first appearance in an MSU theater production in 1961, he claimed, “It was based on a French play called ‘The Rehearsal’ — and I remember the comments were that a few more rehearsals wouldn’t have hurt.”
Beachler was more serious when he discussed the importance of the arts in the community. “They are the fiber and being of my own body,” he said.
Although he recently stepped down as the director of the Lansing Civic Players’ “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Beachler will act in the Lansing Community College production of “The Shrike” in November and is slated to direct “Follies” at Riverwalk Theatre next spring.
The mood of the evening was upbeat, even though MSU dean of Communications Arts and Sciences Pamela Whitten acknowledged in her brief speech that “public broadcasting has faced some challenges nationwide – and mid-Michigan is no exception.” But Whitten expressed enthusiasm about WKAR’s recent move into her college, and Gary Reid, the station’s acting director of broadcasting, promised WKAR would be developing a “hyper-local focus on our community” in the coming months.
“We are honored, excited and completely committed to the arts,” Reid said.
The audience was shown a brief retrospective video of WKAR’s history, which led into a glimpse at some future programming, including a documentary called “Reworking Michigan,” which examines the state’s changing industries, and a glimpse of Brian Greene's "Fabric of the Cosmos," which toys with the theories of physics. Also showcased: an installment of PBS’ “Nature” series titled “My Life as a Turkey,” about a man who bonded with just-hatched baby turkeys; Ken Burns’ latest epic, “Prohibition,” which looks back at the anti-alcohol movement of the 1920s and 1930s; and “American Primetime,” a portrait of TV comedy through the decades.
The PBS schedule includes a “Fall Arts Festival,” featuring shows produced in nine cities or regions across the country. That inspired Morton’s Fine Catering to cook up representative dishes from each locale, such as a shrimp ceviche from Miami (which contributed "Miami City Ballet Dances Balanchine and Tharp" to the schedule), mini hot dogs from Chicago (which produced "Bill T. Jones: A Good Man"), coffee pana cotta from Seattle (where the "Pearl Jam Twenty" documentary was produced), a cioppino seafood stew from San Francisco ("The Little Mermaid from the San Francisco Ballet"), a tater tot dish similar to a Shepherd’s Pie from Minnesota ("Gilbert and Sullivan's 'H.M.S. Pinafore'"), and spoon bread with ham gravy from Tennessee’s Blue Ridge Mountains ("Give Me the Banjo," a documentary narrated by comedian-actor — and accomplished banjo player — Steve Martin).