Three Buffalo State faculty members and 10 students have contributed to a unique radio series that dramatizes Western New York’s storied history.
Created by Jeff Z. Klein, a Sweet Home High School graduate and former New York Times reporter, Niagara Frontier Heritage Moments, is composed of approximately two dozen one-minute dramatizations of significant events in the region's history—from the War of 1812 to the Underground Railroad to the Blizzard of ’77 (pictured). They also shine a light on the area's famous sons and daughters, such as a comedienne and Jamestown native Lucille Ball and funk superstar Rick James. The series airs on WBFO-FM 88.7 and is included on the station's website.
Klein, who wrote and directed the series, tapped the talents of Anthony Chase, assistant dean of the School of Arts and Humanities; Thomas Reigstad, professor emeritus of English; Margo Davis, professional actor and lecturer of communication; and Buffalo State theater students who slipped into various roles. Chase helped identify the student-actors who volunteered their time. Additionally, students working for the campus radio station, WBNY-FM 91.3, served as recording and sound engineers.
What emerged was a “terrific and diverse cast,” said Klein. “I was impressed with the level of talent the student-actors demonstrated.”
Over the summer Klein met with WBFO news director Brian Meyer, who expressed interest in the connection to history and to Buffalo State. The series began in November and will be broadcast throughout the year during the National Public Radio (NPR) programs All Things Considered, Here and Now, and Weekend Edition.
"I wanted to focus on points of pride in the Buffalo-Niagara region in a format that incorporates drama, comedy, and music, rather than just talking,” said Klein, who got the idea for the project from a group of similar profiles that have appeared on Canadian radio and television.
"I hope the vignettes strike a chord with people and make them aware of the region’s rich history and heritage. I didn’t want 25 pieces about great white men. Our history is so much deeper and wider than that."
According to Meyer, each Heritage Moment brings to life the region’s most dramatic events and features diverse characters and subjects—segments focus on science, the arts, the military, and politics.
"The compelling issues that are explored are as important in 2015 as they were one or two centuries ago," said Meyer.
The series illustrates the history of soldiers; the lives of housewives, artists, and chieftains; and tales of drinkers, brawlers, lovers, and heroes—a wide spectrum of topics that prompted Klein to involve Buffalo State.
"Buffalo State is so inspirational—with its history and communication departments that deal with a full range of perspectives on the region,” he said. "It's been great to be able to go there and talk to scholars."
Photo: Blizzard 'of '77. Courtesy of WNED-TV/Buffalo's First Ward.
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