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'Partners To The Arts' : Radio Stations Turn On To Festival

August 21, 1987|STEVE WEINSTEIN

Though most of the acts appearing in the first Los Angeles Festival are probably a bit too artsy to provoke regular coverage on network television, local public radio audiences, those most likely to hunger for color and information about this city's monthlong smorgasbord of theater, dance and music from all over the world, will not want for an extensive and eclectic mix of special festival programming.

KUSC-FM (91.5) and KCRW-FM (89.9) plan to participate in the international festival and the locally organized Fringe Festival with a diverse menu of original reports and broadcasts originating from all over the city.

"We are a partner to the arts," says Peter Rutenberg, executive producer of KUSC's festival coverage. "Our medium is not dance, music or theater. Our medium is broadcasting--delving into what other people are doing and exposing it to as wide an audience as possible. We have always attempted to educate and invigorate the cultural community, and we see the festival as an important opportunity to do this."

Rutenberg believes that the growth and popularity of arts festivals in Los Angeles over the last several years have signaled Los Angeles' coming of age as a world cultural power. And he says that a local arts festival that can attract world-renowned opera singers such as Placido Domingo and theater companies headed by Peter Brook and Ingmar Bergman affords the city a chance "to strut its artistic stuff."

The festival also provides the opportunity for his subscriber-supported radio station, armed with a large grant from the Times Mirror Corp. to knock itself out with its own, expensive pageant of radio festival news.

Beginning Sept. 2, KUSC will air a daily half hour magazine program that will try to bring the entire festival--from building sets and raising circus tents to dance class with some of the world's foremost choreographers--alive on car radios across Southern California.

To produce 18 programs, KUSC has hired 15 extra reporters to scour theater and dance sets all over the city for little bits of sound and color that it hopes might enrich the festival experience for all its listeners. Hosted by Gail Eichenthal and Gene Parrish, "Festival Magazine" will air each weekday through Sept. 25 at 4:30 p.m.

The producers of "Festival Magazine" intend to at least touch on every performance in both the festival and "the fringe," and they don't find it at all contradictory that a primarily classical music station would endeavor to report on exotic video art or a satiric mime troupe from Barcelona.

"When confronted with an experimental risk-taking event like this, you have to take risks in programming to capture what's going on," says Susan Taylor at KUSC. "Our audience expects it of us. Our listeners who spend their days in the company of Beethoven and Mozart appreciate what we can do to introduce them to the different and the unusual."

But KUSC will also tread more familiar turf on Sept. 8 when it will broadcast live the opening night of the Los Angeles Music Center Opera's performance of Giacomo Puccini's "La Boheme" starring Daniela Dessi and Placido Domingo. Commentary, interviews with the artists and introductions begin at 7 p.m.

Meanwhile, about 30 minutes down the Santa Monica Freeway, the eclectic staff of KCRW will be engaged in their own brand of festival coverage. The station will kick off its special programming Sept. 4 with a live broadcast from the Embassy Hotel of the festival's first music event--"An Evening of Classic Jazz" that includes Guatemala's Paco Gatsby Band and Michael White's Liberty Jazz Band from New Orleans.

KCRW also will feature two weekly half-hour arts magazine programs dedicated to the festival, and National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" has contracted the KCRW staff to produce periodic reports on the festival for national broadcast.

The highlight of KCRW's special coverage seems to revolve around the station's efforts to become a part of the Fringe Festival itself. On four consecutive Thursdays beginning Sept. 3, KCRW will produce and broadcast four live performances on its various music shows--"SNAP," "Morning Becomes Eclectic," "Doodlin"' and "Evening Becomes Eclectic."

"SNAP" will open this series by presenting the Groundlings' comic "Guide to the Fringe Festival," followed on Sept. 10 by Tom Schnabel's "Lifeguards in Bondage," a show designed to explore the dreams and realities of actual lifeguards while Ry Cooder and friends punctuate those stories with live, improvisational music.

The series also includes a tribute to a former Los Angeles high school teacher, who taught music to many local jazz greats including Charles Mingus, and a radio performance by artists Linda Albertano called "Spanish Is the Loving Tongue."

KCRW is funding all this special programming, which also includes daily calendars of festival events and "Fringephone," a succession of nightly reports from artists, reporters and bohemians of all sorts called in from pay telephones on site at the various fringe events, out of its own operating budget.

"We are not being funded for any of our extra programming or coverage," says Sarah Spitz, who is producing festival coverage for National Public Radio. "We are doing it simply to be a part of the community."

Classical radio station KFAC-FM (92.3) also is planning to acknowledge the festival with a series of interviews with some of the musical stars of the event on its weekly Thursday night program, "AT&T Music Center Magazine."

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