Familiar faces. Familiar places.
The premier of WPSU's Our Town Warren - featuring dozens of prominent Warren community members - was aired Thursday night.
The topics in the extended program covered various aspects of local life - including the Struthers Library Theatre and the arts in general, some of the key individuals and businesses that have shaped the town, tourism and recreation opportunities, and much more - all from the points of view of those who live and work here.
Peggy Morgan gestures during her presentation
The hosts of the show informed viewers that the DVDs contain bonus material that would not fit in the allotted air time.
"It was altogether fitting that this 74th production of 'Our Town' was the longest ever in the history of the series," John Beard of Northwest Savings Bank and various community events, said. "The hosts repeatedly reminded everyone that there was so much going on in Warren that not only did they extend the video by an additional 25 percent, they also had to add things to the video that they didn't have time to air."
Even the extended version didn't provide enough time to bring all of Warren into focus.
"I was left thinking of all the great stories and places and people here that were not part of this, which would have added immensely," said painter Tom Paquette, who is a member of the Crary Gallery board of directors. But he understand the constraints. "It was really a sampling and not the full buffet of our town. Short of a 10-hour program, that would probably be impossible.," he added.
That didn't mean the program had nothing new to offer Warren residents.
"I thought I knew almost everything about Warren that there was to knowbut I learned things and saw things I never knew existed," Beard said. "It made for an enjoyable evening!"
Local volunteers worked with WPSU throughout the process.
"I think the WPSU crew did a really great job," Paquette said. "I sensed that they truly enjoyed Warren, far beyond their call of duty."
"Last night - and throughout this entire process - the folks at WPSU have been so warm, caring, and genuinely invested in telling the story of Warren that I consider them family and - at the very least - honorary Warrenites!" Chuck Gray of Running rEvolution said.
It was producer Jessica Peters' last Our Town.
"I could not have imagined a town better than Warren to wrap up my time at WPSU," she said. "Your town is beautiful aesthetically and beautiful in spirit. You have much to be proud of, and we were so lucky to be able to feature your stories."
The program ran in a divided format. Groups of interviews ran followed by the fundraising effort, with local volunteers answering the phones at WPSU headquarters. Those volunteers, most of whom also appeared in the interviews, sometimes waved or held up signs to the viewers and callers.
The donations allow the public broadcasting station to continue to operate. At a certain level of donation, callers were given copies of the program and bonus material. The crew was kept busy reading names of donors on the air.
"The preliminary total from last night is 344 calls with $28,550 pledged," Peters said. "That puts Our Town: Warren 2013 in the top five of highest pledged for the series!"
Kirk Johnson of Friends of Allegheny Wilderness and Leadership Warren County, and Gray were among the people who were interviewed on the program and answered pledge calls.
"It is hard to know exactly how many people I spoke to," Johnson said. "As soon as the first fundraising segment began, my phone starting ringing off the hook. I would take a pledge, hang up the phone and it would instantly begin to ring again. It was kind of a blur."
He estimated he handled about 30 calls.
One of the advantages of having local folks handling the calls is they know at least some of those who call.
"It was fun," Johnson said. "I spoke to a number of donors who I knew."
"Answering telephones during the airing of Our Town Warren was great," Gray said. "I was incredibly proud of Warren for stepping up and supporting the show! I was so involved talking to friends and neighbors - and new friends - who were pledging that I lost count of my total calls."
"I would like to thank each of you so much for the time and effort that you put in to making this show an unbelievable success," Peters said. "You should all be very proud of yourselves for the beautiful stories that you put together and proud of your amazing community for pulling together and supporting this program so that we can make the next Our Town in the next community."