Arts & Culture
5:12 pm
Wed November 20, 2013

Milwaukee Ballet's 'Peter Pan' to Air on PBS in 2014

Wendy watches as Peter sews his shadow back on in the Milwaukee Ballet's production of "Peter Pan."
Credit Mark Frohna, 2012, Milwaukee Ballet

Lake Effect's Mitch Teich interviews Paula Kerger, president and CEO of PBS.

Many in Milwaukee remember trying to get tickets to sold-out performances of Milwaukee Ballet's adaptation of "Peter Pan" when it made its debut in 2010.

The Michael Pink-directed show got rave reviews and returned in 2012 due to popular demand. Now it will be getting a national television audience.

PBS President and CEO Paula Kerger has announced that the program, produced by Milwaukee Public Television, will air on public television member stations across the country.

Kerger says MPTV president Ellis Bromberg first brought the show to her attention.

"He was absolutely right - it's an extraordinary production, and we felt that it was the kind of program that a national audience would treasure as much as people have in Milwaukee," she says.

She says PBS has grown its audience by 7 percent in the last year by offering quality programs like "Peter Pan" to its audience.

"A production like 'Peter Pan' is similar to other types of productions that not only get people interested in ballet, but 'Peter Pan' is really accessible to kids, so that's why I was really excited to showcase it," Kerger says.

That a locally produced show featuring a local arts organization will air on a national scale is all part of what Kerger says is a broader effort "deepening public television's commitment to the arts." Fewer outlets today highlight and educate the public about the arts.

"I grew up seeing programs like 'The Ed Sullivan Show' where you had the opportunity to see an opera singer or a dancer...and that kind of programming doesn't really exist anymore," she says.

Kerger says she's also seen arts organizations on both the national and local levels struggle financially and with getting exposure, particularly during the last economic downturn.

"Part of the issue is marketing dollars were often early dollars to be cut and if you can't put your art form in front of the public, how do you encourage people in?" she says. "I challenged our colleagues in public broadcasting to double down, on the local level as well as nationally, to explore ways to give wider exposure to the arts."

Additionally having member stations work more closely together and with the national level in PBS will also strengthen public broadcasting overall, Kerger says.

"What's worked both in public television and radio is that the independence of the local station is profoundly important," she says, "but being able to do that work and at the same time take advantage of the scale that stations coming together in support of (what) an NPR or in support of a PBS can do collectively is what makes us different and unique."

"Peter Pan" will air on PBS' member stations, including MPTV, on April 18, 2014. See a video going backstage at the Milwaukee Ballet production below.