THEATER TALK to Welcome Ben Yagoda & Margot Harley This Week
On an all-new THEATER TALK, journalist Ben Yagoda discusses the history of the record industry in his new book, The B Side: The Death of Tin Pan Alley and the Rebirth of Great American Song (Riverhead Books), and Margot Harley, Co-Founder and Producing Director of The Acting Company, shares rich stories of the company's history upon her retirement after 43 years of inspired artistic leadership.
In the 1940s and 50s, the "B side" was what was on the reverse side of the best-selling song the public bought on 78rpm and 45rpm records. Yagoda uses the term to describe the decline of songwriting and the record business when novelty songs like How Much Is That Doggie in the Window (Patti Page) and The Roving Kind (Guy Mitchell) became best sellers in the 1950s, eventually yielding to rock n' roll with the advent of Elvis Presley. Yagoda maintains that 90 percent of the great songs we revere today were written between the 1920s and the 1950s. Mitch Miller, an influential record producer - ironically with classical training and an excellent oboe player himself - was a key player in this overall dumbing-down of American popular song. Yagoda's research and anecdotes create a compelling portrait of a colorful "villain" and an entertaining overview of a particularly bad time for American music.
Up next, Margot Harley recounts details from her Decades with The Acting Company, including a pivotal 1972 job interview with John Houseman, then the head of the new drama division of The Juilliard School, who hired her on the spot to work with him on the new company. The challenge was to develop American classical actors, and Harley believed that the best way for graduating students' talents to mature was to keep them together as a touring company at a time when there were few regional theaters. The company would go on to feature such talents as Patti Lupone, Kevin Kline, David Ogden Stiers and Harriet Harris, to name a few. Harley also shares details of her early career, and provides insights into the character and personality of Houseman, a talented producer who worked with Orson Welles, spawning The Mercury Theater; produced films like The Bad and The Beautiful; and became an Academy Award-winning actor with The Paper Chase.
This THEATER TALK episode, co-hosted by Michael Riedel of the New York Post and Susan Haskins, premieres in the New York metropolitan area Friday, July 31 (2015) at 1 AM (Saturday morning) on Thirteen/PBS, and continues on CUNY TV* Saturday 8/1 at 8:30 PM, Sunday 8/2 at 12:30 PM, and Monday 8/3 at 7:30 AM, 1:30 PM, and 7:30 PM.
THEATER TALK is jointly produced by the not-for-profits Theater Talk Productions and CUNY TV. The program is taped in the Himan Brown TV and Radio Studios at The City University of New York (CUNY) TV in Manhattan, and is distributed to 100+ participating public television stations nationwide. THEATER TALK is made possible in part by The New York State Council on the Arts, The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, The CUNY TV Foundation and The Friends of THEATER TALK.