Aug 27

The History of BET

Black Entertainment Television (BET), headquartered in Washington, D.C. and currently operates under the VIACOM umbrella.   With more than 90 million homes watching worldwide, it is the well-known station targeting African-American viewers.  It is also a leading provider of black American cultural and entertainment based programming, both of original creations, acquired properties and musical presentations.

After stepping down as a lobbyist for the cable industry, Freeport, Illinois native Robert L. Johnson decided to launch his own cable television network. Johnson would soon acquire a loan for $15,000, and earned a $500,000 investment from media executive John Malone to start the network.[3] The network, which was named Black Entertainment Television, launched on January 25, 1980.[4] Initially broadcasting for two hours a week as a block of programming on Nickelodeon (it would not be until 1983 that BET became a full-fledged channel), the network’s lineup consisted of music videos and reruns of popular black sitcoms.  (from Wikipedia)

BET has gained popularity with its’ vast black audience, but has faced a number of major African Americans critics such as syndicated columnist George Curry, cartoonist and television producer Aaron McGruder, movie director  and producer Spike Lee, and former Syracuse University professor Boyce Watkins. These critics and others denounced BET’s programming, claiming it promoted sexism and anti-intellectualism.

They also argued that showing rap and hip hop-oriented programming along with comedy programs either intentionally or inadvertently promoted anti-black stereotypes. BET founder Richard Johnson and Viacom executives claimed they were providing the programming the market demanded. In 2008 a number of prominent black ministers (“Enough is Enough”) publicly protested BET programming choices outside the network’s headquarters.

Enough is Enough supported a 2008 report “The Rap on Rap” by the Parents Television Council that argued that BET’s rap programming, which they believed contained gratuitous sexual, violent and profane content, was targeting children and teens.

The controversy continued in 2010, when BET co-founder Sheila Johnson said she is “ashamed” of what the network has become. “I don’t watch it. I suggest to my kids that they don’t watch it,” she said. “When we started BET, it was going to be the Ebony magazine on television. We had public affairs programming. We had news.

The criticism has not impacted the growth and acceptance of BET and the various shows and programs they have created.  In 2013, it is reported that 79.82% of households with television receive the BET network.  However, there is no information available as to what percentage of those households chose to get the network, or receive the network as part of a larger cable package.

According to the sales material, “BET provides contemporary entertainment that speaks to young Black adults from an authentic, unapologetic viewpoint of the Black experience. BET connects with its target audience in a way no other media outlet can providing hit music, entertainment and news programming that is reflective of their experiences.  Our outstanding mega-specials keep viewers regularly tuned in for the latest and greatest in Black entertainment.”

Oct 25

Arts Calendar for the week of Oct. 26 – The Providence Journal


Brass Roots Trio, Chepachet Baptist Church, 1213 Putnam Pike (Route 44), Chepachet. 568-3771; “Con Brio — With Zest!” featuring trumpet player Travis Heath, French horn player Douglas Lundeen and pianist Rosetta Bacon. 2:30 pm. Donation.

Brown University Chorus, L. Frederick Jodry conducting, Brown University, Sayles Hall, Main Green, Waterman, George and Brown streets, Providence. “Family Weekend Concert,” works by Lauridsen, Whitacre, Stanford, Elgar and Monteverdi. 2 pm. $10, students/seniors $3.

Bob Casola, trombonist, accompanied by Mark Hinkley and Cheryl Casola, pianists, St. Peter’s-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, 72 Central St., Narragansett. 783-4623; “Trombone Colors,” classical to modern works. 5 pm. Free. Donations of canned goods, garden produce, personal care items and cash offerings appreciated to help St. Peter’s Community Market stock its shelves with food from the Rhode Island Community Food Bank.

Dopapod, experimental funk and rock, Spot Underground, 101 Richmond St., Providence. 383-7133, 9 pm-1 am. $18. 18+.

Fall River Symphony Orchestra, Douglas McRay Daniels conducting and featuring tuba soloist Michael Roylance, Bristol Community College, Jackson Arts Center, 777 Elsbree St., Fall River. (508) 674-6128; 3 pm. $15, children/students free.

Brian Larkin, organist, St. Thomas Episcopal Church, One Smith Ave. (Routes 44 and 116), Greenville. 949-2260. “Broadway Overtures 2,” music from “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Camelot,” “Babes in Arms,” and “Hello Dolly.” 3 pm.

I-Heung Lee, pianist, Redwood Library and Athenaeum, 50 Bellevue Ave., Newport. 847-0285, ext. 12. Works by Chopin, Liszt, Czerny and Saint-Saen. 3 pm. $0, members $5.

Mayes Guitar Duo, featuring Joseph and Kathleen Mayes, Roger Williams University Performing Arts Center, One Old Ferry Rd., Bristol. 254-3626; Duets by little known composers including Tisserand, Tesar, Zimmerman, Galles, Thorlakson and de Falla. 2 pm. Free.

Mohegan Sun, 1 Mohegan Sun Blvd., Uncasville, Conn.

Mötley Crüe and Alice Cooper, rock, Arena. (800) 745-3000, 7 pm. $69, $89.

Jon Pardi and Joey Hyde, country, Wolf Den. (888) 226-7711, 7 pm. No cover.

Laura Pausini, Italian pop, Foxwoods Resort Casino, Grand Theater, 350 Trolley Line Blvd. (off Route 2), Mashantucket, Conn. (800) 200-2882, 6 pm. $69-$150.

Providence Gay Men’s Chorus, Linden Place Mansion, 500 Hope St., Bristol. 253-0390; “Love is in the Air,” a collection of traditional and new love songs. 2 pm. $20, Linden Place members $16. Reservations requested.

Josie Waverly, tribute to Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn, Stadium Theatre, 28 Monument Square, Main Street, Woonsocket. 762-4545, 2 pm. $21-$31.


Aurea, Slater Mill, 67 Roosevelt Ave., Pawtucket. 725-8638; “Once Upon a Midnight Dreary,” words of Poe and Tennyson and music by Schubert. 7:30 pm. $30, seniors $25, students with ID $8. Performance followed by a reception with the artists.

The Bronx Wanderers, doo-wop and oldies, Mohegan Sun, Wolf Den, 1 Mohegan Sun Blvd., Uncasville, Conn. (888) 226-7711, Noon, 7 pm. No cover.

Comedy Factory. 639-7726,

Mon: Pub on Park, Legion Bowl and Billiards, 661 Park Ave., Cranston. 641-5815. John Perrotta and Friends. 8 pm. No cover.

Wed: Twin Oaks, 100 Sabra St., Cranston. Chris Tabb, Brian Beaudoin, John Perrotta, Steven Donavan, Dan O’Brien and Brian Vincent. 8:30 pm. $40 includes dinner, show, tax and tip.

Lauren Fox and Company, tribute to the folk rock of the ’60s and ’70s, Rhode Island College, Sapinsley Hall, 600 Mount Pleasant Ave., Providence. 456-8144, 7:30 pm. $35.

Laurel Canyon Folkies, Rhode Island College, Sapinsley Hall, 600 Mount Pleasant Ave., Providence. 456-8144 7:30 pm. $35.

“Simply Phenomenal: A Tribute to Maya Angelou,” Community Baptist Church, 50 Dr. Marcus Wheatland Blvd., Newport. 305-7333 7:30 pm. $15.


The Bernadettes, rhythm and blues, Mohegan Sun, Wolf Den, 1 Mohegan Sun Blvd., Uncasville, Conn. (888) 226-7711, 7 pm. No cover.

The Glitch Mob, The M Machine and Chrome Sparks, electronic and rock, Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel, 79 Washington St., Providence. 331-5876, 9 pm. $22.50 advance; $25 day of show. All ages.

Cass McCombs and Meat Puppets, rock, The Met, Hope Artiste Village, 1005 Main St., Pawtucket. 729-1005, 9 pm. $15 advance; $17 day of show. All ages.


Ian Anderson, rock, Providence Performing Arts Center, 220 Weybosset St., Providence. 421-2787, 7:30 pm. $40-$69.50.

Juan Cardona, organist, Stadium Theatre, Monument Square, Woonsocket. 762-4545; Organ accompaniment to the screening of the 1925 version of the film “Phantom of the Opera” with Lon Chaney. 7 pm. $10.

Comix at Foxwoods, Foxwoods Resort Casino, 350 Trolley Line Blvd., Mashantucket, Conn. (800) 200-2882, Best of Last Comix Standing, Wed 8 pm ($10-$20). Lahna Turner, Thu-Sat 8 pm ($15-$40). Halloween Dueling Pianos, Fri 10:30 pm ($15-$25). Ralphie May, Sat 8 pm, Fox Theater ($30-$55); Nasty Show: Lahna Turner, Sat 10:30 pm ($20-$40). Spinnato’s Hypnotic Hysteria, Sun 8 pm ($15-$25).

“Dial M for Murder,” Ocean State Theatre Company, 1245 Jefferson Blvd., Warwick. 921-6800; Straying husband frames his wife for the murder of the man he’d hired to kill her. Curtain times vary. Previews $30; regular run $34-$49. Closes Nov. 16. “Conducting Conversations Live!” with WCRI’s Mike Maino, who leads cast and crew in a discussion after the 2 pm show Nov. 2; free. Piano Bar Series features “Music from Stage and Screen,” Theatre Lobby after evening show Nov. 7-8, 14-15.

“Hamlet,” Brown/Trinity Rep MFA Programs, Pell Chafee Performance Center, 87 Empire St., Providence. 351-4242; Shakespeare’s timeless tale of murder, passion, treachery and revenge. Wed-Thu 7:30 pm, Sat-Sun 2 pm. Oct. 29-30, Nov. 1-2; no show Oct. 31. $10, students/seniors $5. Closes Nov. 2.

Jeezy, Ty Dolla Sign and Lil Bibby, hip-hop, Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel, 79 Washington St., Providence. 331-5876, 9 pm. $40; $45 reserved. All ages.

Lori Phillips, soprano; Mary Phillips, mezzo-soprano, and Judith Lynn Stillman, pianist, Rhode Island College, Sapinsley Hall, 600 Mount Pleasant Ave., Providence. 456-8144 “Diva Triple Play,” a Wednesday Masterworks Concert. 1, 7:30 pm. $10.

Pirates for Peace, classic rock, Mohegan Sun, Wolf Den, 1 Mohegan Sun Blvd., Uncasville, Conn. (888) 226-7711, 7 pm. No cover.


Steve Azar, country, Mohegan Sun, Wolf Den, 1 Mohegan Sun Blvd., Uncasville, Conn. (888) 226-7711, 8 pm. No cover.

Comedy Connection, 39 Warren Ave., East Providence. 438-8383, $5 Funnies: A Wicked Funny Showcase, Thu 8 pm ($5). Hardcore Halloween Show, Fri 10:30 pm ($15). Mick Foley, Sat 8 pm ($27), Comedy Showcase, Sun 8 pm ($10).

“Hype Hero,” Brown University Theatre, Stuart Theatre, 75 Waterman St., Providence. 863-2838; An Afro-futurist comedy of the absurd by Dominic Taylor. Thu-Sat 8 pm; Fri 2, 8 pm. Closes Nov. 9.

Los Lobos, Latin rock, Narrows Center for the Arts, 16 Anawan St., Fall River. (508) 324-1926, 8 pm. $75.

Mastodon, Gojira and Kvelertak, rock, Lupo’s Heartbreak Hotel, 79 Washington St., Providence. 331-5876, 6:30 pm. $25 advance; $30 day of show; $35 reserved. All ages.

Opera Providence Ensemble, Rene de la Garza directing, Providence Art Club, 11 Thomas St., Providence. 331-6060,; “Bewitched by Opera!,” an evening of nostalgia featuring music, food and art. 6 pm. $60. Reservations required.

Play Reading, McCormack Family Theater, Brown University, 70 Brown St., Providence. academics/literary-arts/events. By playwright Donald Margulies. 6 pm.

Warwick Symphony Orchestra, Catherine Gagnon directing. “Around the World in 80 Minutes,” Greenwich Odeum, 59 Main St., East Greenwich. 7:30 pm. $10, children 11 and younger free.


Cheech and Chong and War, comedy, rock and funk, Twin River Casino, Event Center, 100 Twin River Rd., Lincoln. (800) 745-3000, 8 pm. $45-$100. All ages.

Classic Albums Live: Prince’s “Purple Rain,” tribute to Prince, Mohegan Sun, Wolf Den, 1 Mohegan Sun Blvd., Uncasville, Conn. (888) 226-7711, 8 pm. No cover.

“The Imaginary Invalid,” Providence College Theatre, Angell Blackfriars Theatre, One Cunningham Square, Providence. 865-2218; Comedy by Moliere. Fri-Sat 8, Sun 2 pm. $13, seniors $9, students $5. Closes Nov. 9.

The James Montgomery Band, blues and rock, Sandywoods Center for the Arts, 43 Muse Way, Tiverton. 241-7349, 8 pm. $15. Halloween Blues Bash.

Maria Muldaur, folk and blues, Chan’s Restaurant, 267 Main St., Woonsocket. 765-1900, 8 pm. $20. Halloween party.

Benjamin Nacar, pianist, Pembroke Hall, Room 305, 172 Meeting St., Providence. humanities/events/cogut -center-events. “The Rise of the Romantic Ideal,” featuring works by Bach, Chopin and Liszt. 12:30 pm.

Mark Steinbach, organist, Brown University, Sayles Hall Auditorium, College Green, Brown, George and Waterman streets, Providence. spiritual-life/chaplains. Midnight Halloween organ concert featuring select works performed on the 1903 Hutchings-volley pipe organ. 11:55 pm. Attendees encouraged to wear costumes and bring blankets and pillows in lieu of seating.

Stone Temple Pilots, rock, Foxwoods Resort Casino, Grand Theater, 350 Trolley Line Blvd. (off Route 2), Mashantucket, Conn. (800) 200-2882, 8 pm. $40, $55.


Deadstring Ensemble, acoustic, Blackstone River Theatre, 549 Broad St., Cumberland. 725-9272, 8 pm. $12 advance; $15 day of show.

Lyn Dillies, illusionist, Park Theatre/Rhode Island Center for the Performing Arts, 848 Park Ave., Cranston. 467-7275, 7 pm. $15, $25.

Seth Glier, rock and pop, Common Fence Point Community Hall, 933 Anthony Rd., Portsmouth. 683-5085, 8 pm. $15 advance; $18 door.

Magnolia, Cajun, Sandywoods Center for the Arts, 43 Muse Way, Tiverton. 241-7349, 8 pm. $12 advance; $15 door. Dance lesson 7:30 pm.

Mohegan Sun, 1 Mohegan Sun Blvd., Uncasville, Conn.

Los Lobos, Latin rock, Wolf Den. (888) 226-7711, 8 pm. No cover.

Treehouse Comedy Productions, Cabaret Theatre. (800) 745-3000, Joey Vega and Peter Bales. Sat 9 pm. $22.

Schola Cantorum of Boston, Frederick Jodry directing, St. Joseph Church, 86-92 Hope St., Providence. 274-5073; “The Flavors of Spain.” 7:30 pm. $25, seniors $20, students $7.

“Silent Night, Deadly Night,” Marley Bridges Theatre Company, Newport Art Museum, 76 Bellevue Ave., Newport. 848-8200; A “Sweets Showdown” with Newport’s society members and domestics is set in 1891 in this audience participation holiday murder mystery. Nov.1, 8, 15, 22, 29, Dec. 6, 27 at 7 pm. $30, 65+/active military $25, youth 17 and younger/students $15. Closes Dec. 27.

So You Think You Can Dance, Foxwoods Resort Casino, Grand Theater, 350 Trolley Line Blvd. (off Route 2), Mashantucket, Conn. (866) 646-0050, 8 pm. $45, $60.

Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, rock, Stadium Theatre, 28 Monument Square, Main Street, Woonsocket. 762-4545, 8 pm. $26-$36.

Up Close on Hope: Program 1 — Mixed Repertory, Festival Ballet Providence, Black Box Theatre, 825 Hope St., Providence. 353-1129, Fri 8 pm, Sat 7:30 pm. $50. Closes Nov. 21.

Ursula George featuring Lori Urso, Marty Richards, David Zinno, Doug Woolverton, Doug James, Rich Lataille and David Maxwell, blues, Chan’s Restaurant, 267 Main St., Woonsocket. 765-1900, 8 pm. $15.


“Addams Family The Musical,” Academy Players, Q2Q Blackbox Theatre, 202B King Philip St., Building 2, Providence. brown Based on the bizarre and beloved characters created by American cartoonist Charles Addams. Thu-Sat 7 pm, Sun 4 pm. $15, 65+ $12, students $10. Closes Nov. 2.

“The Diner and Mr. Stone,” Mixed Magic Theatre, 560 Mineral Spring Ave., Pawtucket. 305-7333; Silicon Valley businesswoman and her father, the owner of a small Providence diner, struggle with a complicated relationship and family secrets in this Kevin Broccoli play. Fri-Sat 7:30 pm, Sun 3 pm. $20 advance, $25 door. Closes Nov. 9.

“Eleemosynary,” 2nd Story Theatre, DownStage, 28 Market St., Warren. 247-4200; Story about a young girl’s determination to win a national spelling bee and her relationship with her mother and grandmother. Fri-Sat 7:30 pm, Sun 2:30 pm. $30, under 21 $21; Oct. 26, $10. Closes Nov. 23.

“Enron,” 2nd Story Theatre, UpStage, 28 Market St., Warren. 247-4200; Tale about a brilliant but ruthless CEO and the scandal that toppled one of America’s major companies. Thu-Sat 7:30 pm, Sun 2:30. $30, under 21 $21. Closes Nov. 2.

“Excellent Trouble,” Fisherman’s Follies, Emmanuel Church, 120 Nate Whipple Highway, Cumberland. New production. Sun 3 pm. Freewill offering. Closes Oct. 26.

“Harris Cashes Out,” The Newport Playhouse and Cabaret, 102 Connell Highway, Newport. 848-7529; Comedy about a composer who is thrown together with a flaky young woman who lives down the hall and her scheming boyfriend. Sun buffet 6:15 pm, curtain 8 pm. $49.95 all inclusive; play $20, cabaret $15, play and cabaret $30. Closes Oct. 26.

“Hedda Gabler,” Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre, 172 Exchange St., Pawtucket. 723-4266; Henrik Ibsen’s study of society and character. Tue-Thu 7 pm; Fri-Sat 8 pm; Sun 2, 7 pm; no shows Nov. 4, 12, 18, 26-27. $41, $49; Oct. 26, $30. Closes Nov. 30.

“The Importance of Being Earnest,” Salve Regina University, Casino Theatre, 9 Freebody St., Newport. 341-2250; Oscar Wilde’s satire on manners, morals and marriage. Sun 2 pm. $15; seniors/military $10; students $8. Closes Oct. 26.

“Our Town,” Swamp Meadow Community Theater, Captain Isaac Paine School Auditorium, 160 Foster Center Rd., Foster. (888) 493-7110; Thornton Wilder play about a small New England town. Sun 2 pm. $12, students/seniors $7, family maximum $40. Closes Oct. 26.

“Redrum: Oath,” Providence Improv Guild, Southside Cultural Center, 393 Broad St., Providence.; Audience participation thriller. Parental discretion advised. Thu-Fri 8 pm. $15. Closes Oct. 31.

“Sexting,” The Players, Green Room, Barker Playhouse, 400 Benefit St., Providence. 273-0590. Original play offers a look at “love by text.” Sun 2 pm. Free; donations welcome. Closing Oct. 26.

“South Pacific,” Granite Theatre, One Granite St., Westerly. 596-2341; Rodgers and Hammerstein musical love story set against the backdrop of World War II in the Pacific. Thu-Sat 8 pm; Sun 2 pm. $25, 62+ $22, children 12 and younger $15. Closes Nov. 16.

“The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” Community Players, Jenks Auditorium, Division Street, Pawtucket. 726-6860; Tale chronicles the experiences of six youngsters vying for the spelling championship of a lifetime. Fri-Sat 8 pm, Sun 2 pm. $20, students with valid ID $15. Closes Nov. 2.

“The Visit,” Contemporary Theater Company, 327 Main St., Wakefield. 218-0282; contemporarytheater Play centers on an incredibly wealthy woman returning to her poverty-stricken hometown and the man she loved and lost. Fri-Sat 7 pm; Nov. 2 and 9, 2 pm. $20. Closes Nov. 15.


Oct 24

Commentary: Now Is Not the Time to Panic About Ebola

New York City has its first case of the virus.

Oct 23

Making a Name on Horseback – New York Times

New York Times

Making a Name on Horseback
New York Times
… Dinan, twenty one, whose parents are the billionaire Adam G. Dinan, who founded You are able to Capital Management, and his wife, At the R. Miller; and Paige Manley, 29, the daughter of Robert L. and Sheila C. Manley, founders of Dark Entertainment Television .

Oct 22

Leslie Jones Promoted to Regular SNL Cast Member

The comedian started as a writer earlier this year.

Oct 21

‘SNL’ adds black woman to throw from writers room – Every day Item

NEW YORK (AP) ” “Saturday Night Live” is giving its on-screen diversity another boost. NBC says the comic institution is adding Leslie Jones to its throw.

The African-American comedian is victorious her on-camera role after providing as a writer on the show last time of year.

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Oct 21

The particular Rundown: T. I., Paperwork: The particular Motion Picture

A breakdown from the King’s latest saga.

Oct 21

The mind blowing kim kardashian Using Beyonce’s Name For Advertising?

October twenty-first, 2014


A person won’t believe the fake story Kim Kardashian publicist released to the press!

Kim Kardashian is claiming that Beyonce is trying to be her friend and the former porn celebrity rejected the pop star’s provide.

Here’s the fabricated story Kim Kardashian’s publicist told the press:

“As far as Betty is concerned, the damage is done. She believes Bey only wants to be buddies because she wants something through her now.

Kanye wants things to be better and it is trying to get Kim to soften. Kanye spoke to Jay privately and told him the approach may have to be public in some way. That’s the way Kim is and not coming to the wedding ceremony was a huge snub.

Kim is ignoring her calls so far. Bey’s going to have to eat some serious simple pie to make up for all the open public snubs she made over the years as well as for missing her wedding. She’s most certainly not going to forgive her just because Kim’s a bit more famous now and Beyonce’s popularity has taken a hit. ”

Oct 19

Missy Elliott ‘Works It’ for H&M 70 Pounds Lighter

Rapper talks about new weight loss routine.

Oct 19

At 75, Providence’s Lee continues to create iconic sets for TV, Broadway … – The Providence Journal

It was about a month ago that Eugene Lee got a call from a producer at “Saturday Night Live.” How was work going on the new Weekend Update news desk?

Lee, the popular show’s resident designer since it first aired 40 years ago, was aboard an Amtrak Acela on one of his frequent treks from his home on Providence’s East Side to New York, where he helps make SNL happen.

He recalled having a conversation about replacing the desk, but had been told the old one would stay. Now, it was Wednesday morning and Lorne Michaels, the show’s creator, wanted a new desk for Saturday’s program.

What happened next was not pretty. But after a series of disasters and an all-nighter, the desk got built and Lee once again had saved the day.

Lee is telling this harrowing tale of life on the front lines of live TV while driving to New Haven in his silver Volvo wagon to check out the set he designed for “Our Town” at the award-winning Long Wharf Theatre.

Lee, who’s 75, is a small man with white, fly-away hair, which looks like it belongs to a cartoon character who just stuck his finger in an electrical outlet. He’s got on a navy-blue sweater, khaki pants and hiking boots, along with his signature suspenders and circular glasses.

As he arrives at Long Wharf, an unassuming place amid rows of gritty warehouses, he is greeted not quite like a god, but certainly as a wise elder.

It is refreshing to see a man who has earned three Tony Awards and helped shape the face of late-night TV hanging out at a small regional theater. After all, Lee’s not only responsible for the look of SNL. He created the set for “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” with its diminutive cityscape carved from cherry, and he brought about the recent changes in “Late Night with Seth Meyers.”

But Lee, who’s been the resident designer at Trinity Repertory Company since the late ’60s, seems to be up for whatever comes his way. Besides, he has a hard time saying, no.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s regional theater or Broadway,” said Brooke Lee, Lee’s wife of 33 years. “He’s not thinking about the importance of the job or the money. It’s just, ‘I have this idea and can do something really wonderful.’ It’s about figuring out how to solve things.”

Iconic play that it is, Lee has never worked on a production of “Our Town.” Never even seen it.

Thornton Wilder’s script, set in 1901 in a small New Hampshire hamlet, of course, calls for very little in the way of scenery, the kind of look Lee is known for. But he has taken that concept and run with it for Long Wharf, even dispensing with the traditional twin stepladders that young George and Emily ascend to share a heartfelt moment.

Instead, a wall of black panels covers the back of an empty, slate-gray stage with black-and-white pictures of houses drawn by third and fourth graders from local schools plastered across the panels.

Beneath the sketches sits a row of mismatched chairs. At times, cast members lug on stage a nondescript table that looks like it was rescued from a street corner to represent someone’s home.

As the second act segues into the third, when we drop in on the dead in the town cemetery, the black panels swivel to create a blinding white space.

“Oskar [Eustis, former head of Trinity Rep] used to say that Eugene is a set designer who hates scenery,” said Gordon Edelstein, Long Wharf’s creative director and director of “Our Town.”

“He was joking, of course. But there’s some truth to that,” said Edelstein. “Eugene’s sets aren’t pretty, they aren’t painterly. But he is a genius — and I use that word cautiously — at boring into the center of a play and finding the theatrical metaphor that works on stage.”

Lee also likes “real” materials, says Edelstein, recalling how two years ago he shipped antique flooring from a derelict whiskey factory in Tennessee to Long Wharf for the synagogue in “My Name is Asher Lev,” Chaim Potok’s tale of a young Jewish boy who is something of a loner with artistic leanings.

“Eugene hates phony scenery,” he said.


Eugene Lee, of course, is known locally for his decades-long association with Trinity Rep, where he and founder Adrian Hall produced some of the most provocative theater Rhode Island has ever seen, when they fired cannon at the audience, literally as well as metaphorically. He, as much as Hall, is responsible for the Trinity style — telling the story and not trying to hide the fact that what the audience is witnessing is theater.

“He’s not about making artistic statements,” said his wife, Brooke. “He’s about telling stories. That’s what he does.”

Until he saw Lee’s Tony-winning production of “Sweeny Todd” on Broadway, Trinity’s current creative head, Curt Columbus, said he’d been a “passive spectator” when it came to the theater. But the towering factory that Lee created — with 10-ton gantries on I-beams — made Columbus feel like he’d “entered the world of the play,” a revelation that changed the way he has made theater ever since.

“Eugene has made me a better theater artist,” he said.

Otherwise, it’s a little hard to pin down the Lee aesthetic. There’s a look, said Brooke, but no rubber stamp.

For Trinity’s “Memory House,” Kathleen Tolan’s mother-daughter memoir, he used the barest of staging, while he went all out for the detail-rich London underground stop for “Camelot.”

“It’s never the same twice,” said Columbus. “Sometimes his sets are pared down to the essentials, sometimes they are so lavish you can’t believe they can happen in a theater.”

The bottom line: Lee is all about serving the play, not himself.

Richard Jenkins, the Oscar-nominated film actor who got his start at Trinity, recalls a production of Shakespeare’s “Troilus and Cressida,” in which Lee placed a rusted-out truck on stage. But when Adrian Hall complained that he had trouble seeing actor David Kennett sitting in the truck’s cab, Lee came out during intermission with a torch and cut away the cab.

“Most designers would have never done that,” said Jenkins. “But Eugene wanted to make the play better.”

Lee, whom his wife describes as easy going but not afraid to tell it like it is, tends to be his harshest critic, saying he only sees his mistakes. And he’s intense, but doesn’t cave under pressure. When asked if he weren’t a bit frazzled by the Weekend Update desk debacle, Lee, who’s spent his career in the trenches, said only, “You somehow have to make it work.”

Lee said he does well with the big picture, but confesses he tends to lose interest in the details. And he’s not one for over-thinking his craft. When asked if ending “Our Town” with a blaze of white was a metaphor for the afterlife, he just shrugged and said, “Maybe.”

The first thing you notice when you climb the narrow stairs to Lee’s East Side studio are the vintage bicycles hanging from the rafters, then the hanging lamps, clocks and bentwood chairs, along with an imposing coal stove. It’s a cluttered loft in the brick carriage house behind the elegant four-bedroom Georgian Revival he shares with Brooke and their two black Labs, a designer’s fun house that very much reflects his curious and inventive mind and what he calls his “funny ways.”

Some of the items that fill the house are from the couple’s funky flea-market finds — collections of turkey-shaped salt and pepper shakers, souvenir buildings, globes and typewriters.

Brooke and Eugene met in the spring of 1980 at a dinner party put together by a match-making friend. He invited her sailing the next weekend and ended up giving her a bracelet in the parking lot of a plumbing supply company next to the old Leo’s restaurant, where Brooke made pastries.

“I wanted someone who knew what Payne’s grey was,” said Brooke, a painter who’s fond of that shade. “I don’t believe in soul mates, but there he was.”

The couple, the parents of two grown children, have made their home in Providence, not New York, because Lee finds Rhode Island “quirky,” and that appeals to him.

He uses a cell phone, but has managed to avoid the technological advances in his profession. He doesn’t draw with computers, relying instead on the worn mechanical drafting arm that has served him for years.

“I’ve been working since high school,” said Lee, “and haven’t changed much.”

And he doesn’t bother much with money. Lee said he has no idea what he’s paid for his work at SNL, and doesn’t know who handles his money. All he knows is that Brooke makes sure he has cash in his money clip.

“I haven’t signed a check in 20 years,” he said.

That’s not to say Lee is hurting financially. A little musical called “Wicked” made sure of that. Lee won his third Tony for the Broadway blockbuster, and he continues to reap rewards as it’s staged around the world.

“Wicked” paid for a weekend getaway on the Jamestown shore with a 250-foot dock. And it has allowed him to hire a driver to chauffeur him home from New York each weekend when he’s finished with SNL.

“It was life-changing,” said Brooke of “Wicked.”

Even though Lee grew up in Wisconsin, the son of a mechanical engineer “who’d rather have been fishing,” he’s got a thing for the water and keeps eight sailboats moored around the state and the Cape.

He was in fact living on a 52-foot wishbone ketch in Pawtuxet Cove when he first started working at Trinity in the late 1960s. That’s when he got a call from Lorne Michaels, the young Canadian producer who was creating a live comedy show for late-night TV. He’d seen Lee’s set for “Candide” on Broadway, for which he won a Tony.

Michaels said he was struck by Lee’s “radical” approach to “Candide,” an honest take that picked up on the urban decay of the 1970s and wasn’t into shiny surfaces and primary colors that seemed false. And that was the look Lee brought to SNL.

“His basic look is rooted in the look of realism,” Michaels said.

He and Lee, Michaels said, are a perfect fit. They talk over designs, Lee disappears and returns with the problem solved.

“He’s been great,” said Michaels.

Lee is something of a self-made man who just happened to spend time at places such as Carnegie Mellon and Yale, working with some gifted artists.

The way he tells it, he’d show up at a school in the VW Beetle his grandmother bought him as a high school graduation present and talk his way into the design program. He picked up three degrees in as many years, he said.

Although he’s never been much of an academic, at this point in life he’d like to teach. And he’d like that to happen at Brown University.

After Trinity’s Michael McGarty left Brown, Lee let it be known that he wanted his job, but was turned down. That led Lee, in his more petulant moments, to threaten to cut ties to Trinity, which jointly runs the graduate theater program with Brown.

The only reason he’s still working at Trinity, Lee said, is because of Brian Mertes, who directed last season’s knockout “A Lie of the Mind,” Sam Shepard’s bruising look at two half-mad families torn apart by a horrible act of domestic violence. Lee framed the action with a wall of 52 box fans that came to life at key moments in the show.

“He’s crazy, but I love him,” said Lee of Mertes.

Lee had big plans for Brown, though. Still does. He talks about how he’d like to bring in some of the top people in theater to work with students, and in the process create one of the premier design departments in the country.

But he got a terse note from theater department head Erik Ehn, saying the school isn’t interested in a professional design program, preferring to expose students to design in a liberal arts setting.

But Lee’s not buying it. Design students need to spend time with people like him, who have spent their lives in the theater, not the classroom, he said.

“I got the job at ‘Saturday Night Live’ because Lorne saw something I did on Broadway,” says Lee, “not because I went to Yale.”

At 75, Lee uses a cane now and again for an occasional back problem, but otherwise seems spry and busier than ever.

Besides his work for NBC, he has a hand in the new Steve Martin-Edie Brickell musical, “Bright Star,” which is breaking box office records at The Old Globe in San Diego. And he’s scrambling to finish a “Nutcracker” with award-winning illustrator Chris Van Allsburg that’s slated to open in seven weeks in Grand Rapids, Mich.

Just the other day he got a call from Bryan Singer, creator of the “X-Men” films, asking if he’d like to take part in a new stage project, to which Lee responded in the affirmative. He loves what Singer has in mind, but can’t talk about it.

He’s also working with Francis Ford Coppola on what the legendary director refers to as “live cinema,” an autobiographical look at a famed Italian filmmaker that Coppola plans to release on various digital platforms in 2016. The first half of the show calls for 350 sets, which does not seem to rattle Lee in the least.

“Francis said, ‘At our age, let’s try it,’ ” said Lee. “If it flops, so be it.”

Lee agreed last week to take on a Broadway adaptation of “Somewhere in Time,” based on Richard Matheson’s book about a young playwright and his encounter with a mysterious woman. Meanwhile, “The Fortress of Solitude,” Jonathan Lethem’s coming-of-age story set in 1970s Brooklyn, is now playing New York’s Public Theater, and “Amazing Grace,” the story of an Englishman caught up in the British slave trade, just opened in Chicago on its way to Broadway.

Theresa Rebeck’s “The Understudy,” another one of his shows, opened last week in Princeton, and he’s been hired to stage for Seattle Rep “Outside Mullingar,” the new John Patrick Shanley play that was just on Broadway.

Besides the ever-growing list of shows he’s working on, Lee is thinking about creating a new set for SNL. He’s fond of his decade-old Grand Central Terminal set, but open to change.

Perhaps he’ll begin the show with an aerial view of the Comcast Building, the new name for 30 Rockefeller Plaza, where the NBC studios are housed. Then with the help of some digital magic, sweep down the side of the building and into the studio, where there might be an image of the Rockefeller Center skating rink and its statue of the Greek Titan Prometheus.

With all this work on his plate, you might think Lee has a high-powered PR machine behind him. But he says he’s never sent out a résumé and doesn’t go after jobs. Instead, the world lines up at his door. And as long as that happens, he will continue to work his magic on the stage.

“And when they stop calling,” he says, “I guess it’s over.”

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