Remembering Beth Deare

Friends and former colleagues of Beth Deare gathered at WGBH over the weekend to celebrate the life of the award-winning producer who died in a fire at her home in Newton in February.

Deare was remembered at the event by more than 400 people including her friend (and former “Chronicle’’ producer ) Joyce Ferriabough, her sister Lynn DuVal Luse, City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, WGBH’s Eric Jackson and Karen Holmes Ward, and Mary Fifield, president of Bunker Hill Community College, where Deare was an instructor.

Deare’s family has set up the Beth Deare Memorial Fund to help children follow in her footsteps in the arts.

‘GBH alumni invited to memorial service for Aloyce Beth DuVal Deare

WGBH alumni are invited to A Celebration of Life in memory of Aloyce Beth DuVal Deare, hosted by Beth’s family, on Sat, 3/26, at 6pm in Calderwood Studio (1 South) at WGBH.

Beth, the former producer of SAY BROTHER (now BASIC BLACK) and several award-winning documentaries, died Mon, 2/21, in a fire at her home in Newton.

“Thank you to the many ‘GBHers who have donated their time and services to make the family’s tribute to Beth possible,” says VP for Radio and Television Marita Rivero. “Beth touched so many lives during her time here at WGBH. We join with the community in mourning her loss.”

A reception in Yawkey Atrium will follow the proceedings.

Beth’s family asks that employees interested in attending RSVP to jay.collier@thecompass.com.

A. Beth DuVal Deare, 63, “Say Brother” producer

Beth Deare

The WGBH community mourns the loss of A. Beth DuVal Deare, the former producer of Say Brother (now Basic Black) and several award-winning documentaries, who died Mon, 2/21, in a fire at her home in Newton.

Beth, who was battling brain cancer at the time of her death, worked on Say Brother from 1978 to 1988, and won an Emmy Award for In the Matter of Levi Heart, a documentary about a Boston Police shooting  — one of 13 Emmys and a Peabody Award she earned during her tenure at WGBH).

“WGBH is saddened by this loss. Beth was a very talented producer and someone who helped connect WGBH with others in the community,” says VP for Communications and Government Relations Jeanne Hopkins.

Folk shows its love for Dick Pleasants

Shortly after stepping up to the microphone, nearly every performer peered into the crowd, staring down at the edge of the stage. Some of them winked, others gestured with a hand or mouthed a thank-you. Jonatha Brooke expressed her gratitude quietly, as if it were a private moment.

“I love you, Dick.’’

“I love you, Jonatha,’’ came the faint response from the third row.

That would be Dick Pleasants, the beloved radio host whose 40 years on the local airwaves — first on the Cape, then at WGBH, and now at WUMB, among other stations — were being celebrated at Sanders Theatre Friday night. Seated dead center with a single crutch just in front of him (Pleasants was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2003), he was finally stepping into the spotlight that he’s shone on others for so long.

Fred Barzyk premieres new drama

This entry is part 10 of 22 in the series The Fred Barzyk Collection

Chelmsford TeleMedia will present the premiere screening of Fred Barzyk’s original drama, “The Journey,” on Saturday, Jan. 22, 7:00 pm at the Chelmsford Center for the Arts’ Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium, 1A North Road. Admission is free of charge.

CTM board member, Fred Barzyk was founder and first director of WGBH New Television Workshop in 1967. For his work in broadcast television, Barzyk has received the Venice Film Award, three Emmys, two ACE awards and the George Foster Peabody Award from the University of Georgia. He wrote, directed, and produced “The Journey” under the auspices of CTM as a test to see if it was possible to make a full length television drama at a public access station with an all volunteer cast and crew.

At his home in Chelmsford, Barzyk said, “This drama is influenced by extraordinary imagination of Rod Serling’s ‘Twilight Zone.’ Of course, it has my own little twist that make it special, maybe even controversial. We videotaped all over Lowell and Chelmsford. The actors and crew members did a terrific job creating this little thriller of a drama.”

CTM will continuously cable cast “The Journey” on Jan. 29 from noon to midnight on Comcast, Channel 10, and Verizon, Channel 37.

Location

The Chelmsford Center for the Arts in Town Hall, located at 1A North Road, across the street from the Common, is Chelmsford’s only public arts institution. It includes an Art Gallery, Artist-in-Residence studios, meetings and rehearsals of arts groups, as well as classes and events both public and private. For more information, visit www.chelmsfordcenterforthearts.org.

About CTM

Chelmsford TeleMedia is a non-profit organization providing public-access television for Chelmsford, Massachusetts. For more information, visit www.chelmsfordtv.org.

Paik and the Video Synthesizer

This entry is part 5 of 22 in the series The Fred Barzyk Collection
Fred Barzyk (2007)

WGBH New Television Workshop existed mainly because artists didn’t have access to TV cameras. These were the days before Portapaks.

I was doing a local show, What’s Happening, Mr. Silver?, which had been brought to the attention of a NET show, Public Broadcasting Laboratory.

Dean Opennheimer, executive producer of culture, asked David Atwood, Olivia Tappan and myself to come to NY and show off our little experimental shows. After watching our stuff, the artists and the exec. producer decided that we might be the best TV types to help give artists control of television.

This little story is about the day I worked with Nam June for the First Time and how he came to create his video synthesizer.

Paik and the Video Synthesizer

Fred Barzyk, TV Producer/Director
Boston, Massachusetts 1969

I always remember Nam June Paik standing in a television studio, in big old rubber boots, his hands somewhere inside an old TV set, telling me to stand back since TV sets sometime explode when he does this. I backed off. The TV did not explode but gave forth a dazzling array of colors, buzzed and slowly died, never to live again.

“Don’t worry. I got more TV sets,” said Paik.

And more he did. That day, in the television studios of WGBH-TV, the flagship station of America’s Public Television network, Paik burned out more than 12 TV sets. Fortunately, this time their dazzling images were captured on 2 inch videotape.

These “visual moments” became part of a six minute video piece which was included in a half hour program called Medium is the Medium. This was the first time that artists where allowed to control the professional TV cameras, producing their own unique vision for a network show. And quite a show it was.

Paik was one of five artists who created video pieces for this segment of Public Broadcasting Laboratory, a weekly two hour show supported by the Ford Foundation. The artist’s had been selected from a 1969 gallery show, TV as a Creative Medium, at the Howard Wise Gallery, New York.

For his video piece, I had to deliver Paik a videotape of a Richard Nixon speech and a woman dancer in a bikini bottom and pasties for her nipples. He did all the rest, to the great delight of the TV crew. This was not the normal PTV show!

This program began my long association with Nam June, along with my partner Olivia Tappan and colleague, Dave Atwood. The three of us became the supporters, defenders and co conspirators in the creation of the Paik/Abe Video Synthesizer.

Why did it happen at WGBH? with me? I had been interested in using television in a more “artistic” way for a long time. My background was theater and art and I was longing to find a way of expressing it. I got into an aesthetic argument with our senior producer/director about WGBH’s coverage of the Boston Symphony concerts. Why couldn’t the cameras paint pictures instead of showing old men blowing horns and bowing violin strings? Not possible, not at WGBH.

I finally convinced a group of engineers and camera people to stay late a couple of nights and we created what is suppose to be the first video experiments, Jazz Images (1963). You must remember, we were like a closed society. No one had TV cameras except TV stations. They were just too big and too expensive. We were like a fortress surrounded by a moat, and no artist was allowed to cross over. So we, those on the inside, had to put a break in the structure.

This kind of experimentation gave the three of us (Barzyk, Tappan, Atwood) a reputation for being “far out.” We were bringing this kind of “experimental” look to a local jazz show and a local series called, What’s Happening Mr. Silver? This kind of continued experimentation within the system was what brought Paik and us together. The producers had heard of our work and we lugged heavy 2 inch tape to New York to show to the artists. Fortunately, they liked our work. We agreed to collaborate.

Howard Klein of the Rockerfeller Foundation became the next major player in the creation of the video synthesizer. Klein offered an artist-in-residence grant to WGBH. I was asked to head up the project. Paik was one of my first choices.

He was brought to Boston for an extended stay as a Rockerfeller Artist in Residence. We tried small little video experiments, but Paik was frustrated because using WGBH’s TV studios, crews, etc. were very expensive. He saw his small grant disappearing without any major creations. He looked for ways to make his work “as inexpensive as Xeroxing.”

One day he presented me with a most complicated looking diagram. I am not an engineer and sometimes had trouble understanding what Paik is saying, and was totally unsure that day of what he was describing to me.

What I was able to fathom, was that he wanted to go to Japan and work with a Japanese engineer (Abe) to create a low cost video machine. This machine would cost $10,000 and give Nam June the ability to create constantly without worrying about costs. He further explained that the $10,000 would include his travel, the engineers time, all the electronic equipment, and bring the machine and engineer from Japan to Boston to set up its operation. Was this possible? He insisted he could do it. And he did.

Paik and I had a lunch with the head of WGBH, Michael Rice, to try and sell him on the expenditure of the grant money to create this video machine. Michael sat there and listened as Paik went on and on about the beauty of the synthesizer and the images it would create. We laid out the diagram on the lunch table, and Paik gave his best presentation yet. To his credit, Michael Rice agreed there, on the spot.

Nam June would soon be on his way to Japan.

“That’s the easiest $10,000 grant I ever got!” said Paik.

For the next three months, I heard from Nam June every once in awhile. Back here in Boston, I had convinced the station to give over a very small studio to house the synthesizer. Finally, passing through customs, Paik and Abe arrived with boxes and boxes of equipment. Paik had also purchased an old record turntable on which he would construct objects and spin them at either 33rpm or 78rpm. This was the focus of the synthesizers black and white cameras as the two men set up their video machine.

I knew the day it was working, when Nam June showed me a mound of shaving cream whirling around on the turntable, which was being transformed into a mélange of color and images on his color TV sets. The Video Synthesizer lived.

The first broadcast of the synthesizer was a video marathon, broadcast live from 10:00 pm to 1:00 AM. Paik called it “Beatles, from beginning to end.”

That night he played every Beatle tune that had been recorded (some several times) and created abstract image after another. People, friends showed up to help.

The costs of this three hour television broadcast, including shaving cream, tin foil, and assorted objects plus supper for Paik and Abe was $100. He had done it. He broke the back of expensive broadcast TV.

The only problem with that evening’s broadcast was that he blew out the TV transmitter. The chroma level coming out of the synthesizer was much too high and destroyed a component. It had to be replaced and it was very expensive.

“What’s television coming to?” said WGBH’s head engineer.

“I can’t believe what’s happening on my TV,” said a TV viewer

“Beautiful. Like video wall paper,” said Nam June Paik.

Left alone in the Museum of Modern Art

This entry is part 8 of 22 in the series The Fred Barzyk Collection
Fred Barzyk (2007)

Pete Hoving (camera) and I traveled to New York to work on a documentary about a Boston still photographer, Marie Cosindas. We had received a grant from Polaroid to help defray the cost of doing this “Creative Person” 1/2-hour show for NET.

Peter and I both had experience at the MFA in Boston, where they would never let us roam free without someone from the museum staff being with us. (Probably those restrictions happened after one of our lights melted a painting on exhibit. It was a scoop light that was a little too close to the painting that caused the disaster. Fortunately, the museum experts where able to retouch it and it looked pretty much the same. The MFA kept on doing Museum Open House and WGBH employees knew the rules of engagement.)

But here at the MOMA, we were shocked at what happened to us … free and alone in a gallery with some of the worlds most noted modern masterpieces. Here is a little poem recalling the event.

Guernica, from Wikipedia

Museum of Modern Art, 1962

I couldn’t believe it —
We had been left alone —
The top floor of the MOMA
Just me and my cameraman
Left alone by a busy curator
Before any security guards appeared
In the middle of a deserted gallery
We waited, quiet, uncertain
Left alone in the Museum of Modern Art

Pollock, Klee, Kandinsky and all the others
Colors, shapes, demanding us to pay attention
Visual challenges screaming out from the shadows
Paintings, barely lit by the early morning light
We tried to comprehend their messages
but the images just stared back,
providing no other clues
We waited, quiet, uncertain
Left alone in the Museum of Modern Art

Around a corner is where it was hung
Twenty five feet long
Eleven feet high
Black and white,
A screaming woman,
A limp baby
A severed arm clutching a sword
Pablo Picasso’s scream against war and carnage
“Guernica”
We looked, quiet, uncertain
Alone in the Museum of Modern Art

Then the Silence stopped
Now an ugly sound filled the space,
a sound so loud and awful
a horrible sound heard only by our eyes
emanating from the massive, black and white canvas:
red, hideous yellow fire bombings,
pink flesh gnashing against brittle bones
hot blood flowing dark purple, crimson;
black explosions,
white screams;
until nothing but
Death
Horrified, we listened with our eyes
Alone in the Museum of Modern Art

Then it stopped. Gone.
The sound of high heels on cold tile
The gallery lights sputtering on.
The curator returned and the carnage vanished
Replaced by distant city traffic down below
by a car horn, a police siren
by the heaviness of our breathing.
Time now to film our documentary
Time to turn our attention to another artist
We set up our tripod and loaded our camera
Point and shoot, focus and zoom
We try to forget the cries of anguish we saw
While we were alone in the Museum of Modern Art.

But we can’t.
Never will.
Never.

Ted Sherburne, 91, science television pioneer

In 1955, when WGBH-TV, Boston went on air, Ted Sherburne was program manager, framing the first schedule for the station, and influencing national standards of educational TV. Numerous awards were made to WGBH in news and science coverage, including a Sylvania award for Discovery, a science program hosted by his future wife. He was also a Program Manager for the Public Broadcasting Service, and coordinated an educational TV network for the University of California campuses.

June Judson, 81, actress-director

Many actors and playwrights who started in Boston’s theater community in the 1980s and ’90s shared June Judson as a mentor.

She was a gifted nurturer of new talent and theatrical works, most notably through Theatre-in-Process, a laboratory-workshop she founded in the early 1980s to give emerging playwrights a place to stage readings and receive audience feedback….

Mrs. Judson’s initial roles were in community theater in Lincoln and Concord, the Poets Theatre in Cambridge, and two appearances on the WGBH-TV show “The Shakespearean Imagination.’’ She turned professional when she joined the Charles Playhouse and the Tufts Arena Theatre for productions in the summers of 1959 and 1960….

After returning to Boston in 1966, Mrs. Judson worked for the Theatre Company of Boston and was selected to work for WGBH, acting and directing for a year as part of a new radio drama repertory company….

David Atwood: Getting started at WGBH

From David Atwood

Fred Barzyk and David Atwood (2007)

Needing a job fresh out of college in the fall of 1965 I made an alphabetical list of Boston’s TV stations. The first was WBZ. I set out from Woburn, found WBZ and went in looking for work. They said they might start me in the mail room. I was devastated. I had four years of TV production experience at two commercial stations, one educational station, and one closed circuit facility in Maine.

I wanted to go home and sulk but next on the list was WGBH which was close by on Western Avenue, Allston. The operator in the lobby asked me to wait then Al Potter appeared. We interviewed in his office near the studio and he must have given me a tour. They had, as I remember, ten black and white cameras distributed among the three studios and mobile unit. In Maine TV I had never seen more than two studio cameras in one station. Impressive and scary.

Al told me to come back after lunch to interview with Greg Harney. Greg hired me as a lighting director after asking me if I knew what a key light and a back light was. I did … because I’d read it in a book recently. (In Maine we named our pets but not our lights.) I started two days later on the crew, mostly hanging lights up at the grid on an Eco Lift, terrified of heights but never saying so. In a few weeks they discovered I knew how to run camera so the only event I ever lighted was the Christmas party that year. Red and Green.

In 1967 Al called me into his office and told me they needed a director and that I was it. As a cameraman I had watched closely the stable of directors at GBH and was convinced I could do a better job than any of them. I had lots of ideas, especially during a show as they went from shot to shot.

Sitting in front of the monitor wall in the studio A control room on my first directing assignment I immediately forgot everything. I could barely stammer “take 2”.

But I survived. Not everyone did.