A WWII Veteran Pursues His Dreams in ‘Clarence’

Clarence in the library

Director’s Cut “Clarence” airs 9 p.m. Friday, July 3 on Wisconsin Public Television.

This week on Director’s Cut we welcome Kristin Catalano, the creative force behind the documentary Clarence. Clarence tells the story of World War II veteran Clarence Garrett who decides to return to college to pursue his degree at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee after “cutting class” for more than 50 years.

It’s hard enough to stay focused on your education after a week-long spring break. Picture yourself returning to the world of academia after fighting in a war, raising a family and having a full career while now being hard of hearing, lacking computer skills and moving at a snail’s pace while going from class to class.

The film is a thumbnail of Clarence’s life, one spent overcoming obstacle after obstacle and doing so the only way Clarence knows how, with a never-say-die, can-do attitude. The story Catalano tells is not only inspiring but also uplifting. Clarence’s infectious personality elevates those around him with his “you’re only here once so why be anything but upbeat” attitude.

Catalano does a nice job of showing how Clarence immerses himself in campus life, making solid friendships with a generation of students at least twice removed from his own and engaging his professors in the process. There is no way anyone can not feel great about life while watching Clarence achieve his long postponed dream after making sacrifices to provide for his family and putting the academic needs of his children before his own.

The biggest challenge for Clarence, and possibly Catalano as director, was when Clarence was hospitalized shortly before completing his first semester, forcing him to fall behind. Clarence takes this in stride as just another of life’s inevitable hurdles. Since quitting never seems to have been an option for Clarence in his life, he pushes on as he has always done, with a determined yet whimsical grace.

Please put the bottle rockets down for an hour or so and join us for Director’s Cut on Wisconsin Public Television 9 p.m. Friday night to celebrate a nice little film about a great, inspiring American. Hope to see you then, indie film fans. Have a fun and safe 4th of July!

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Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson React to Supreme Court Rulings

U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin and Ron JohnsonWatch Wisconsin’s two U.S. Senators talk with Here and Now anchor Frederica Freyberg about this week’s Supreme Court decisions on health care and same-sex marriage.

In a 5-4 decision made today, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, making it legal in all 50 states. And on Thursday, the high court voted to uphold federal subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The decision ensures approximately 166,000 people in Wisconsin will continue to receive subsidized healthcare through the federal exchange.

Watch Here and Now tonight at 7:30 and Sunday at 9:30 a.m.

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Parkinson’s and Modern Dance Meet in ‘Capturing Grace’

Capturing Grace airs 9 p.m. Friday on Director’s Cut. Watch an encore 6 p.m. Sunday, June 28, following the film Life With Parkinson’s or watch Capturing Grace for free on-demand at video.wpt.org.

Dave Iverson and host Pete Schwaba

Click to watch the interview now.

This week on Director’s Cut we welcome director David Iverson to discuss his film, Capturing Grace.

Capturing Grace follows several people with Parkinson’s disease and tells the story of what happens when they team up with acclaimed dancers from Brooklyn’s highly regarded Mark Morris Dance Group. Iverson is quite familiar with this debilitating disease. Not only does he suffer from Parkinson’s, his father and brother do as well and his passion for telling this story, and filmmaking in general, are evident from the start of the interview.

Watching people with Parkinson’s dance is fascinating in that those with the most advanced stages seem almost more at ease dancing than sitting still. The most severe case in the film is Cindy, who struggles through sentences when talking and is constantly moving while sitting. Watching her dance so fluidly is fascinating and therapeutic even to the viewer.

One of the other cases in the film is Charlie, a former star athlete and fitness guru. Seeing Charlie embrace dance as an escape and new form of exercise is even more uplifting than it is heartbreaking. The moments of ‘grace’ in this engaging documentary are too many to list.

Iverson is a Wisconsin Public Television alum. He worked as a writer, reporter and executive producer during his time at WPT and it was a pleasure to interview him and to see his excitement for being back in Madison.

Dancers in a still from the film Capturing Grace

“Capturing Grace” airs Friday night. Encore broadcast 6 p.m. Sunday.

He also was the writer, correspondent and co-producer/director of the award-winning 2009 Frontline documentary My Father, My Brother and Me which also explores Parkinson’s and his family’s experience with the disease.

His new film, Capturing Grace is as informative as it is entertaining with each character experiencing their own personal triumph of the human spirit. If you or anyone you know has Parkinson’s or if you just appreciate deft storytelling, please join my this Friday night for Director’s Cut. Hope to see you then!

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Giving Curiosity a Kick-Start

Image of Josh standing outside the White House

Wisconsin’s National Geographic Bee representative Josh Frank outside the White House

Meet Joshua Frank from Fall River.

I asked Josh if he could sum up why Wisconsin Public Television is important. He said: “Public television has been one of the main kick-starters of my whole curiosity.”

Josh and his mom Heather called me recently to chat about a trip they took to Washington D.C. a few weeks ago. Josh, who just finished seventh grade, won the 2015 Wisconsin National Geographic State Bee and became the Wisconsin representative at the National Geographic Bee in Washington. He was one of 54 competitors, and it was his first trip on an airplane. Both he and his mom said it was a great experience — except for the fact that they didn’t get enough time to see all of the Smithsonian.

Heather had told me in an earlier conversation that they didn’t have cable, and that PBS Kids was the only TV she allowed Josh and his brother to watch when they were growing up. Josh confirmed that today. He told me that, when he was younger, “I wanted to be a contestant on Fetch! With Ruff Ruffman so bad!”

Josh said: “At the GeoBee I met kids that are actually like me.  Being from a small town – I feel… a bit unique.” His mom shared that in meeting the other kids and their families, they realized that most of these kids, like Josh, don’t cram or study specifically for this competition — they are just interested in learning, and in the world, and tend to pick up these facts. Josh spends loads of time on Wikipedia, watches Nature and NOVA and is also into weather, geology and physics.

We are looking forward to watching where Josh’s curiosity leads him next! What has WPT inspired you to learn more about?

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Attend a Live Taping of 30 Minute Music Hour

30 Minute Music Hour LogoTake off work the afternoon of Monday, July 13 and enjoy some live music at Wisconsin Public Television. Three bands will be joining us to record live sets for the new season of 30 Minute Music Hour, and tickets are totally free. Just send an email to 30mmhaudience@gmail.com to reserve your seats for one or all of the following shows.

FEUFOLLET - 1:15 p.m. concert/audience seated by 1 p.m.
It’d be easy to label this five-piece from Lafayette, La. as a Cajun band, but a deeper listen reveals experimentation with honky-tonk, rock, country and even a bit of pop. During this set, we may need to push back the chairs and make way for dancing. You can also check out Feufollet at La Fete de Marquette in Madison the weekend before their 30MMH show.

TRAPPER SCHOEPP - 2:30 p.m. concert/audience seated by 2:15 p.m.
Milwaukee’s Trapper Schoepp have toured hard the past year, sharing stages with big-name bands like The Jayhawks and the Old 97′s. Huffington Post called Schoepp a “master storyteller.” Add catchy alt-country rock to insightful lyrics and you have a recipe for musical longevity.

THE CACTUS BLOSSOMS - 4 p.m. concert/audience seated by 3:45 p.m.
The Cactus Blossoms are two brothers from the Twin Cities who are true country throwbacks. The duo’s vocal harmonies, which resemble The Everly Brothers, have garnered praise from Garrison Keillor, CMT and BBC Radio.

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