PBS Announces Performing Arts Showcase Series

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New Children's, Public Affairs and Visual Art Series Also Unveiled

PASADENA, CA, January 8, 2000 - The performing arts will take center stage on PBS with the debut of PBS Showcase, a series of evenings linking arts and performance programs around specific themes, it was announced today at the Television Critics Association Press Tour. Thirteen/WNET New York's GREAT PERFORMANCES series has been chosen to create the first PBS Showcase, a night devoted to the religiously themed works of Andrew Lloyd Webber, on Wednesday, April 5. The primetime event will include the world-premiere broadcast of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." Subsequent PBS Showcase evenings, scheduled 3-4 times per year, will be presented by a variety of PBS member stations and producing organizations.

PBS also unveiled three other new programs: an animated children's series focusing on American history at the time of the Revolution; a public affairs series that probes the hopes and dreams of Americans in a fresh, unconventional way; and SISTER WENDY's latest adventures in the art world, which take her to six prominent American museums.

"PBS Showcase strengthens our leadership role as television's finest venue for the performing arts," said John Swope, president and chief executive officer, PBS. "Viewers throughout America can always rely on their local PBS station for the best of arts, public affairs, documentary and children's programming."

Primetime television's longest-running performing arts series, GREAT PERFORMANCES, will kick off PBS Showcase with an evening devoted to Andrew Lloyd Webber's four works inspired by the Bible, religious worship and spiritual passion. The presentation will open with a television adaptation of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" recently filmed at London's Pinewood Studios and starring Donny Osmond, Maria Friedman, Sir Richard Attenborough and Joan Collins.

Throughout the broadcast, viewers will visit with Lloyd Webber at his London home as he discusses how religion inspires and informs his work. Illustrating his comments will be scenes from a new television film of "Jesus Christ Superstar," offering PBS audiences a sneak preview of this future GREAT PERFORMANCES special. Also included will be highlights from the long-running West End production of "Whistle Down the Wind," a contemporary morality tale with a Christ-like central character. Lloyd Webber will then introduce the final piece of the PBS Showcase evening, an encore broadcast of his "Requiem," recorded at New York City's Saint Thomas Church. The performance features Placido Domingo and Sarah Brightman under the musical direction of Maestro Lorin Maazel.

GREAT PERFORMANCES is produced for PBS by Thirteen/WNET New York and is funded by The Chase Manhattan Corporation and Global Banking from The Chase Manhattan Bank, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, public television viewers, and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Executive Producer is Jac Venza, director of culture and arts programming for Thirteen/WNET New York.

The second PBS Showcase evening, produced by KCET/Hollywood, will feature the television debut of the acclaimed film "Buena Vista Social Club."

POOR RICHARD'S ALMANAC (w.t.) brings history and civics alive for school-age children with an innovative educational curriculum designed around stories from the time of the American Revolution. The animated series follows the adventures of two young apprentices in the print shop of Benjamin Franklin: an educated 15-year-old girl and a street-smart 14-year-old boy. Together, these two complete opposites set out to prove that they can get scoops for the newspaper as they sneak out to pursue leads.
With a clever mix of action, education, humor, tenderness and history, POOR RICHARD'S ALMANAC will illustrate how the roots of the first true democracy took hold and grew in America. Many of the most pressing issues of the time remain relevant to today's children. The reality-based events are designed to encourage children to relate history to current events. POOR RICHARD'S ALMANAC is produced by DIC Entertainment, L.P.

INSIDE THE BOX, part of PBS's Democracy Project Election 2000 programming, is an innovative series of half-hour programs and 90-second spots from KCTS/Seattle in which Americans from diverse backgrounds reflect on the issues most important to them. Similar to a take-your-own photo booth, INSIDE THE BOX provides an environment that brings out closely held, thoughtful responses from those who step inside and speak to a topic.

The Box will travel across the United States; each program will include the thoughts of a number of individuals on a single, broadly defined election-year topic, like educational reform or health care. To add context to the human adventures INSIDE THE BOX, each show also includes footage shot outside the Box reflecting the environment in which the Box was placed: in malls, union halls or PTA meetings -- anywhere Americans gather. The juxtaposition of "inside" and "outside," crossing ethnic, economic and social boundaries, creates a unique format for engaging in a personal dialogue about public-affairs issues. The series is a production of KCTS/Seattle, developed and produced by Peggy Case. Chris Conybeare and Jeff Gentes are the executive producers. Major funding is provided by the CPB/PBS Program Challenge Fund.

Sister Wendy Beckett, Britain's famous art historian, recently completed filming a new series in the United States, SISTER WENDY'S AMERICAN COLLECTION, which will premiere on PBS in spring 2001. When she originally toured the East Coast of America during SISTER WENDY'S STORY OF PAINTING, she had a brief glimpse at some of the finest art collections in the world. Now she returns for a longer look with six one-hour programs exploring six great American museums: the Art Institute of Chicago; the Cleveland Museum of Art; Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Once again, she will bring her unique observations and style to this personal guide. A companion book, published by HarperCollins, will be available to coincide with the broadcast premiere.

SISTER WENDY'S AMERICAN COLLECTION is a co-production of WGBH Boston and Spire Films. Executive Producers are Jill Janows for WGBH Boston and David Willcock for Spire Films. Funding is provided by public television viewers.

"This collaboration with AOL will bring many more visitors to PBS Online and many more viewers to PBS stations," said John Hollar, executive vice president, PBS Learning Ventures. "This alliance with the industry leader, AOL, advances the efforts of PBS stations and their Web sites to become major cross-platform content resources on television and in cyberspace."

PBS, headquartered in Alexandria, Va., is a private, nonprofit media enterprise owned and operated by the nation's 346 public television stations. A trusted community resource, PBS uses the power of noncommercial television, the Internet and other media to enrich the lives of all Americans through quality programs and education services that inform, inspire and delight. Available to 99 percent of American homes with televisions and to an increasing number of digital multimedia households, PBS serves nearly 100 million people each week. More information about PBS is available at pbs.org.

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Cathy Lehrfeld, PBS
Jan. 8: (626) 568-3900

Tad Roebuck, PBS
(212) 708-3004