Six Degrees of Pittsburgh
Friday, 16 September 2011 01:51 AM Written by Carl Kurlander
I know I have written a lot about Fred Rogers here, but today (Friday Sept. 16th) you can hear from those who knew him and his work like no others. At 3:30 p.m. there will be a very special "Making of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" event at the William Pitt Union Ballroom at the University of Pittsburgh. This event is free and open to the public. (See www.steeltown.org for details)
Below is some thoughts about Fred and those who will be part of this event:
Once there was a young man who saw television when he was in college, and dreamt that he could use that new medium to help change the world for the better. Fred Rogers would go on to work behind the scenes as a floor manager in NBC during the golden age of television, but then returned to Pittsburgh near his hometown of Latrobe with his wife Joanne to become part of WQED, the nation's first community supported television station. There Fred and then station secretary Josie Carey volunteered to do children's show, and station manager Dorothy Daniels handed Fred a puppet which would change his life and that of generations of children. Fred did the voice of Daniel the Striped Tiger and other puppets for years on "The Children's Corner" before he would be offered his own show which began in Canada, and then evolved into the show Fred would bring back to Pittsburgh that would become "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."
It was soon after that an intern Hedda Sharapan would join the team which would produce the show along with David Newell who not only played "Mr. McFeely", but also worked behind the scenes doing props and eventually becoming the show's director of public relations. There were many "behind the scenes" figures who played key roles in the show-- from the great jazz musician Johnny Costas who gave life to Fred's compositions (and not to mention Handyman Joe Negri who was a great musician in his own right; to a great supporting cast including many talented Chuck Haber, Maggie Stewart, and others; to producers like Margy Whitmer and Adrienne Wehr who kept the production going; to consultants like Elizabeth Seamans who helped with the scripts and who also played "Mrs. McFeely" to Dr. Margaret McFarland, the Pitt professor of Child Development who Fred met with each week to talk about children and the show.
From these humble beginnings would come one of the longest running and most influential television shows in history which would change the lives of generations of children.
Ultimately, when he was inducted into the television Hall of Fame, Fred would talk about how those who created television having their greatest challenge of "making good attractive." Fred and his colleagues spent their lives producing over 850 television episodes which strived to do just that. Today at the University of Pittsburgh some of these stories will be shared with the hope they will inspire a new generation to build on this powerful legacy which literally began on the Pitt campus.
For more information on this event, please visit www.steeltown.org