Arts, Film & Music

Preview: Wisconsin Film Festival 2017

The Wisconsin Film Festival is the state’s premier cinema event, featuring local filmmakers anmovies shot in the state, as well as a diverse range of national and international films. Celebrating its 18th year in 2017, it takes place in Madison from March 30 to April 6.

In this year’s Director’s Cut special episode Wisconsin Film Festival 2017, host Pete Schwaba sits down with the Jim Healy, the festival’s director of programming, to preview this year’s selection of films from a variety of categories. From American visionaries to films by new female directors and even pre-teen filmmakers, Healy’s selections on the program particularly showcase movies made right here in Wisconsin.

“We program thinking about the audience,” Healy says. “We’ve picked the best films from festivals around the world, and films that have been submitted to us in our Wisconsin zone section, to make a festival of festivals.”

With a look at five films screening at the festival, Schwaba and Healy are joined by:

Director Andrew SwantSilently Steal Away: The film explores the story behind the Jack Raymond Show, which has aired on an eccentric Chippewa Falls radio station. But who is Jack Raymond?

Director Mark Davis and subject Jan JensenThe Bear and the Owl: This short documentary film explores the story of an ailing young girl and the kindness of a stranger.

Director, producer and screenwriter Katherine AcostaDivided We Fall: This documentary looks back at the massive 2011 protests inside the Wisconsin State Capitol against Act 10. The investigation revisits many issues that remain relevant in a post-2016 election America.

Co-directors Wesley Morgan & Kate FeldtFake Jewels: This nostalgic and comedic movie explores a long-lost friendship as two women attempt to find a time capsule buried a decade ago.

Editor Luke Bassuener and fifth graders Jaeana Sabally and Jalen Baumback (directors, cast, writers)Daedalus and Icarus: Students in the 4th grade classes of Madison’s Crestwood Elementary School animate the classic Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus, using block-print and paper-cuts. This film has been awarded one of only three 2017 Golden Badger Awards as a top Wisconsin’s Own honoreee.

Director’s Cut airs Monday, March 27 at 8 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Television.

Wisconsin Public Television is a proud sponsor of Wisconsin’s Own, hosting a brunch each year for the festival’s film industry guests. This year, more than 150 people submitted films to be considered for Wisconsin’s Own.

The Journey to Overture Stage

For the finalists of the prestigious Bolz Young Artist competition, the journey to Overture stage is a long one that often takes years of determination, hard work and hundreds of hours of practice to achieve.

In the first stage of the competition a pool of 30-40 contestants perform in a preliminary round of auditions for a panel of three judges. Students are separated into three areas for the audition, Strings, Piano and Brass/Woodwinds/Percussion/Harp. Approximately eight students are selected at the end of the day to move on to the semi-final round two weeks later. The stakes are higher than ever in this round of auditions as it is open to the public and recorded by Wisconsin Public Television. A new panel of judges, including Madison Symphony Orchestra Maestro John DeMain preside over the semi-final round. The four lucky finalists are announced immediately after the second round of auditions to the anxiously awaiting contestants and their families.

Then it is a long two-month wait until the final round. Finalists continue to diligently practice their piece over and over again in anticipation for the big day.

Each finalist meets with Maestro DeMain in the weeks leading up to the final competition to review his or her performance piece together. Then the week of the final competition arrives. Monday brings a rehearsal with the full orchestra and Maestro DeMain for each finalist. This rehearsal gives each student a chance to hear their performance with the full orchestra playing when previously they may only have had a chance to perform with a pianist. The Maestro and each finalist rehearse the pieces, stopping to adjust tempos, dynamics of the orchestra and coordinating the end of cadenzas. Then Tuesday night is a full dress rehearsal, followed by Wednesday, the culmination of months, sometimes years of hard work for these young performers.

No matter the result the journey is a rewarding one. Robert Rockman, the winner of last year’s Final Forte, had this to say of the experience:

“This has been the best experience of my musical career, and for me, this was never about winning the competition but enjoying every second of this amazing process and opportunity. Not winning, but learning, giving, performing, and enjoying music. Not winning, but touching people and making them feel something. So let us all go support, play, and enjoy music.”

This year’s finalists are harpist Naomi Sutherland, a senior at Interlochen Arts Academy.

Pianist, Michael Wu, a 9th grader at Cardinal Heights Upper Middle School.

Violinist Yao Yao Chen, a senior at Xavier High School.

And finally, violinist Julian Rhee, a junior at Brookfield East High School. If he looks familiar that’s because he was the winner of the 2015 Final Forte competition!

The Final Forte will be broadcast live by Wisconsin Public Television at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 29th. Tune in on television or watch the live stream at wpt.org.

Polka! – Meet Mollie B.!

Polka! host Mollie B. poses with her squeezeboxWisconsin Public Television’s all-new film Polka!premiering 7 p.m. tonight, March 6! –  goes inside Wisconsin’s vibrant polka culture to see why so many people love this lively dance.

Who better to host this warm tribute than internationally known polka star Mollie Busta, also known as Mollie B.? Ahead of the premiere, WPT’s Erik Ernst caught up with Mollie to talk about how polka has shaped her life and why Wisconsin is such a great polka state.

Continue reading Polka! – Meet Mollie B.!

Quiz: Polka in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, polka is tied to our identity like beer, brats and cheese! But, how much do you actually know about the music and dance?

Test your knowledge with this 10-question quiz!

And tune in Monday at 7 p.m. for Polka! with musician and host Mollie Busta — better known as Mollie B. — as she explores the history and culture surrounding the often misunderstood dance, the memories it conjures, the people who enjoy it … and the fun it invokes across Wisconsin. Watch the preview and read our interview with Mollie B.

Ready to get out your dancing shoes? Find polka across Wisconsin by exploring this map that lists venues with weekly music and annual festivals.

Funding for Polka! is provided in part by the Stanley J. Cottrill Fund, International Polka Association, Wisconsin Dells Polka Fest, and Friends of Wisconsin Public Television.

Discover Polka! in Wisconsin

Did you know that polka is the official state dance of Wisconsin? (It’s the law – since 1993!)

In Wisconsin Public Television’s new hour-long documentary airing 7 p.m. on Monday, March 6, musician and host Mollie Busta — better known as Mollie B. — explores how European immigrants brought polka music and dance to the hills and shores of Wisconsin in the 19th century — and how the folk tradition is being kept alive in communities across the state.

Watch the film preview below and read our interview with Mollie B.

Polka is music made for getting together, being happy, and dancing! It’s time to get up, get out, and enjoy polka at venues and festivals across Wisconsin. Find a location near you and join in the fun all year long!

And if you live near Monroe, please join WPT and Mollie B. on Thursday, March 2 for a Polka! advance screening.

We are still adding events and locations to the map, so check back soon! Know of another place or event where people enjoy polka concerts and dancing not shown here? Let us know! Leave a comment or email jessica.lee@wpt.org — and we’ll add it to the map.

Funding for Polka! is provided in part by the Stanley J. Cottrill Fund, International Polka Association, Wisconsin Dells Polka Fest, and Friends of Wisconsin Public Television.

WPT Previews: American Experience’s Mark Samels on Command and Control

When he visited Wisconsin recently, American Experience Executive Producer and UW-Madison alumnus Mark Samels talked with us to give a behind-the-scenes perspective on the making of the PBS series’ new film, Command and Control, which premieres the evening of Tuesday, Jan. 10, immediately following PBS NewsHour coverage of President Obama’s Farewell Address.

Watch his behind-the-scenes perspective on the film’s creation and then watch a trailer for this powerful documentary, below.

Dashing Through the Snow? Five Holiday Favorites to Watch on the Go!

For those of us with loved ones in various area codes, holiday travel is an inevitable part of the holiday experience. If you have some time to relax on your journey – or are simply looking for something to keep the children entertained on the road – WPT’s online video library has you covered!

Here are five online holiday favorites that run the gamut from music to craft to Wisconsin-made programs. All of the shows below are available to stream on video.wpt.org and on the PBS channel of your Roku or other digital device.

Trust us: this list is just the tip of PBS’ holiday programming iceberg! You can explore the full collection online, anytime.

Caregivers, take note: the PBS KIDS app and pbskids.org/video/ let you stream full episodes of PBS KIDS programs, including holiday favorites from Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Peg + Cat and more! 

Read inside for some of our favorites – and let us know what gems you find!

Continue reading Dashing Through the Snow? Five Holiday Favorites to Watch on the Go!

Jazz Fest in Eau Claire Spotlights Young Performers

An Eau Claire jazz tradition that highlights the talents of young Wisconsin performers comes to WPT this Monday, Dec. 19 at 9 p.m. The full Jazz Fest in Eau Claire special, along with bonus musical content from the 50th annual Eau Claire Jazz Festival, is also available online now.

Jazz Fest in Eau Claire takes you inside the festival to see students performing in venues across Eau Claire, as well as learning from experts in hands-on clinics.

Performances from the headlining concert at Eau Claire Memorial High School feature groups who received the festival’s highest honors, including the Whitewater High School Jazz Ensemble from Whitewater, the Waconia High School Jazz Ensemble from Waconia, Minn., the Black Elk Jazz Ensemble from Elk River, Minn., and Valley High School Jazz Ensemble from West Des Moines, Iowa.

World-renowned jazz artists Stefon Harris and Jimmy Heath also perform with the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Jazz Ensemble I.

Enjoy the web exclusive below, featuring the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Jazz I Ensemble performing Duke Ellington’s “Rockin’ in Rhythm,” at the 50th annual Eau Claire Jazz Festival. Then tune in Monday or watch the full program online now!

Jazz Fest in Eau Claire is part of WPT’s multiyear Young Performers Initiative, a statewide effort to raise the visibility of the arts, celebrate the creative achievements of Wisconsin’s young people and support the arts in education.

Funding for Jazz Fest in Eau Claire provided by David and Susan Manor in honor of Blaine and Loretta Manor, Holiday Vacations, and Friends of Wisconsin Public Television.

Remembering John Lennon In His Own Words

As we remember John Lennon, who died on this day in 1980, watch this animated Blank on Blank interview from PBS Digital Studios with Lennon and Yoko Ono talking about the complexity of love.

Then, watch Patina Miller’s stunning version of Lennon’s “Imagine” in this clip from Live at Lincoln Center.


Behind the Scenes: The 2016 Tommy Awards

The 2016 Tommy Awards premieres 8 p.m. tonight, Monday, Oct. 24 on WPT.  Take a look behind the scenes in this blog post by Young Performers Initiative project manager Megan Aley. (Can’t wait for tonight’s broadcast? Watch the full program online now.)


Continue reading Behind the Scenes: The 2016 Tommy Awards