PBS News


-- American Drama in Development Includes Eudora Welty's "The Ponder Heart," Anna Deavere Smith's "Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992," Second Edition of "Foto-Novelas" --

-- World History Programs in Development Examine Empires of the Romans, Genghis Khan, And the British --

PASADENA, CA, January 18, 1999 - PBS today unveiled several new works in development for its American drama and "World of History" program strands, along with upcoming specials on Ernest Hemingway as seen through the eyes of Michael Palin and the extraordinary life and career of conductor Zubin Mehta.

"We are delighted that the drama and history initiatives we announced just a few months ago are quickly shaping up with diverse and engaging programs," said Kathy Quattrone, executive vice president, PBS Programming Services. "We are also excited to have such viewer favorites as Michael Palin and Zubin Mehta back in the PBS schedule."

American Drama

In July, PBS announced a major new American drama initiative, led by MOBIL MASTERPIECE THEATRE's American Collection, a new series of dramatic works by American authors presented by WGBH Boston. PBS, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and Mobil are joining forces with WGBH Boston and A.L.T. Films on nine specials airing over three years, as well as significant educational resources to accompany the works.

In addition to the titles previously announced ("The American," "The Song of the Lark," "Mark and Livy," and "Cora Unashamed"), American Collection will produce "The Ponder Heart," based on the 1954 short novel by Eudora Welty. The light-hearted story, set in Clay, Miss., revolves around Uncle Daniel Ponder, whose fortune is exceeded only by his desire to give it away. His largesse is a source of vexation for his niece, Edna Earle, whose determined efforts to thwart his generosity prove inadequate. Uncle Daniel marries Bonnie Dee Peacock, a young girl from the country who becomes the object of his gift giving, but soon, she disappears. His trial for the alleged murder of his 17-year-old bride is acknowledged as a comic masterpiece.

STAGE ON SCREEN, originated by Thirteen/WNET in New York, continues to take shape. The series, supported by PBS and CPB, will showcase new and classic works from the nation's leading theater companies. Among the productions in development is a film adaptation of Anna Deavere Smith's "Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992," the critically acclaimed one-woman drama based on the events surrounding the Los Angeles riots in 1992. The first season of STAGE ON SCREEN will also launch "Treasures from the PBS Archive" in response to the ongoing public demand for re-broadcast of memorable works. Such celebrated American playwrights as Thornton Wilder, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Edward Albee, and Wendy Wasserstein are under consideration. Jac Venza, director of culture and arts programming for Thirteen/WNET, will serve as executive producer of STAGE ON SCREEN.

Following the success of FOTO-NOVELAS, which aired in October 1997, PBS and CPB have commissioned FOTO-NOVELAS II, a new series of four original, half-hour dramas inspired by the fantastic elements of the Mexican- and Latin-American pulp novel tradition. This innovative series, steeped in mood and charm, will again be produced, directed, written and performed by established and emerging talents from across the spectrum of the Chicano and Latino artistic community. Fotonovelas - serialized paperbacks where everyday reality is woven with surrealism - are a highly successful form of entertainment throughout the United States, Mexico and Latin America.

FOTO-NOVELAS II, presented in two hour-long blocks, will again be produced by Carlos Avila for the Independent Television Service (ITVS).

Under a development grant from PBS and CPB, KCET/Hollywood continues to move forward in both their fundraising and development strategies for the new series PBS HOLLYWOOD TELEVISION. These specials will present character-driven drama and comedy shot on film on KCET's sound stages. Prominent creative talents such as Marlon Brando, James Woods, Melanie Griffith, Steven Bochco, and John Frankenheimer have generously donated their time to appear on camera endorsing this concept in KCET fundraising materials. Specific titles for PBS HOLLYWOOD TELEVISION are being finalized. Mare Mazur, vice president, program development for KCET/Hollywood, is the executive producer for PBS HOLLYWOOD TELEVISION.

"A World of History"

"A World of History," a showcase for international history programs announced by PBS in July, is developing three new productions in collaboration with Devillier Donegan Enterprises (DDE):

These three development projects are the latest fruits of PBS's continuing collaboration with DDE. Developing more history programs about empires of the world is a top priority for PBS and DDE.

New Program Commitments

Peripatetic actor/comedian Michael Palin turns his wandering eye to the life and locales of Ernest Hemingway in the three-part HEMINGWAY'S TRAVELS. The program is inspired by Palin's extensive reading on the subject for his best-selling novel "Hemingway's Chair." His interest was stimulated by Hemingway's appetite for travel (which matched his own) and the powerful way in which the author evoked the places where he lived and worked.

The program will move in and out of past and present to the places that meant so much to Hemingway: Chicago, his birthplace; Italy, scene of his injuries in World War I and setting of "A Farewell to Arms"; Paris; Pamplona and the running of the bulls; Havana, where he wrote "For Whom the Bell Tolls"; Key West, where his presence is still felt today; Uganda, where he went on safari; and Ketchum, Idaho, where he committed suicide. The quirky, eccentric and less well-known areas of Hemingway's life will also be given due prominence. For instance, he was extraordinarily accident-prone, a syndrome that began in childhood and culminated in two air crashes, during the same trip, at age 53.

HEMINGWAY'S TRAVELS will be written and presented by Michael Palin and shot by Nigel Meakin, prize-winning cameraman on AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS, POLE TO POLE and FULL CIRCLE, all shown on PBS. David F. Turnbull is director/producer and Martha Wailes is producer/researcher.

ZUBIN MEHTA: A WORLD FULL OF MUSIC looks at the inspired life and 40-year career of one of the great conductors of our time. Mehta recounts how he left Bombay at the age of 18, already steeped in classical music from his forceful Parsi father, a great violinist who until very recently ran an American youth orchestra. The film follows his story through his studies in Vienna, his tenure as music director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic (1962-78) and New York Philharmonic (1978-91), and his work in the '90s as a freelance conductor with the world's leading orchestras and opera companies, including service as Music Director for Life of the Israel Philharmonic.

The one-hour program shows Mehta conducting orchestral and operatic performances by composers ranging from Brahms to Bartok and Bizet. Highlights include footage with the Maggio Musicale for his recent production of Puccini's "Turandot" in Beijing's Forbidden City and an unforgettable excerpt from Christopher Nupen's film "The Trout," showing the young Mehta performing with his friends Daniel Barenboim, Pinchas Zukerman, Itzhak Perlman and Jacqueline du Pré.

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