PBS' "Character Studies" Series to Feature Interviews with Sondheim, Peters, Buckley, McDonald, Stritch, Cook and More
By Andrew Gans
Eli Wallach, Eric Stoltz and Phylicia Rashad will host a new documentary series for PBS that launches next month.
Entitled "Character Studies," the monthly series will examine the most significant characters from the worlds of dramatic and musical theatre. The half-hour program kicks off April 6 on WNET/Thirteen with an exploration of the character Amanda from Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie and will feature interviews with Julie Harris, Olympia Dukakis, Ruby Dee, James Naughton, Martha Plimpton and Sam Waterston. "Character Studies" is set to air at 10:30 PM ET with a repeat broadcast April 10 at 2:30 PM; check local listings.
Executive producer Tony Vellela said in a statement, "'Character Studies' is a biography show about these great characters, from Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Edmund in Long Day's Journey Into Night, to Rose in Gypsy and Mark in Rent. We treat them like real people, and look at their stories, their relationships, where they came from and how they have had a lasting impact on all our lives. To do that, we're interviewing at least three actors who have all played the same role, and in addition, we hear from directors who have created these plays, choreographers and designers, and when possible, the creators — playwrights, librettists and composers. And we've been fortunate enough to talk with many of the actors who originated these roles."
The series will continue in May with an examination of the character of Rose in the classic musical Gypsy; A Raisin in the Sun's Ruth will be explored in June. Among the artists who have already been interviewed for the fledgling documentary series are Tyne Daly, Bernadette Peters, Ethan Hawke, Joan Allen, Audra McDonald, Elaine Stritch, Edward Albee, Joey Fatone, Arthur Laurents, Arthur Miller, Robert Sean Leonard, Barbara Cook, Shirley Jones, Mark Brokaw, Estelle Parsons, Anthony LaPaglia, Judith Ivey, Betty Buckley, Wendy Wasserstein, Chita Rivera, Jerry Mitchell, Ruby Dee, Uta Hagen and Stephen Sondheim.
Future episodes will profile West Side Story's Anita, The Heidi Chronicles' Heidi, Fences' Troy, M. Butterfly's Song, Our Town's George, Rent's Mark, A Streetcar Named Desire's Blanche, The Music Man's Prof. Harold Hill and Marian and Carousel's Julie. How the role of mothers have changed will be examined in a one-hour special in May, "Stage Mothers—Mother Stages."
Producer Vellela adds, "Our primary objective is to create a program that is entertaining. These unique, classic characters, who span the last 75 years, have fascinating stories to tell."
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