Arts and Cultural Programming
Since its inception, MPT has been a significant voice for arts and culture. Tapping into the rich cultural resources of the region enabled the network to create some of its most critically acclaimed programs featuring music, drama, comedy, and dance. The Critics’ Place (1974-1986), one of the longest-running series, was a weekly review of performing arts in the Baltimore-Washington area. In 1985, MPT launched the nationally renowned On Stage at Wolf Trap (1985-1989) in alliance with Wolf Trap National Park. Hosted by American soprano Beverly Sills, the series featured performers ranging from Ella Fitzgerald and Tony Bennett to Fabian and Frankie Avalon. In the late ‘80s, MPT produced several star-studded specials for the notable PBS series Great Performances which began with The Music Makers: An ASCAP Celebration at Wolf Trap (1987) and was followed by a 1988 all-star salute to jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. In 2009, the Soulful Symphony, a 75-piece orchestra comprising predominantly African-American and Latino musicians conducted by Darin Atwater, debuted on MPT with the program and regional Emmy® winner Song in a Strange Land.
MPT also featured local talent by commissioning original works, highlighting Maryland-based playwrights, and casting regional actors. Our Street (1969-1973), an urban soap opera about an African-American family living in East Baltimore, was one of the first programs to address issues specific to Baltimore. In 1977, MPT collaborated with Baltimore’s Center Stage to produce two original plays, An Apple, An Orange and Bartleby, the Scrivener, the latter winning an Emmy®. And the beloved sketch comedy show Crabs (1984-1991), winner of 13 regional Emmys®, included original songs, parodies, and topical humor that was usually based on life and politics in Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
Arts and culture programming remain MPT specialties as the current, long-running series Artworks and Chesapeake Collectibles certainly attest.