Rogers State University Public TV and the Will Rogers Memorial and Museums will host a Jan. 12 broadcast watch party for the prime-time premiere of a new documentary written, directed and produced by Inola native Beau Jennings.
“The Verdigris: In Search of Will Rogers” will be broadcast on Tuesday, Jan. 12, at 7 p.m. on RSU TV. The watch party will be held in the Memorial’s auditorium, located at 1720 W. Will Rogers Blvd. in Claremore. A question-and-answer panel will follow featuring Jennings and longtime Memorial director and Rogers scholar Steve Gragert. Admission is free and the event is made possible in part by The Oklahoma Humanities Council.
RSU TV is the presenting station for national broadcast distribution by American Public Television. More than 60 public television licensees have already signed on to broadcast the title. According to Jennifer Sterling, manager of content and community engagement for RSU TV, this partnership represents a new direction for the independent station.
“We’re committed to working with local independent filmmakers to provide a platform for distribution. It’s a logical extension of our mission to bring the stories and voices that are uniquely Oklahoma to the widest possible audience. ‘The Verdigris’ is a unique project and we’re proud to have it as our first collaborative offer.”
When singer-songwriter Jennings set out to make his latest album, he thought the subject would be his experiences of his home at the time, Brooklyn. As Jennings worked on the album, he was drawn to his childhood hero, Oklahoma legend Will Rogers. Rogers, a rancher and citizen of the Cherokee Nation, was at one time the most famous person in the world. He was the first global media superstar of the electronic age, with a newspaper column, radio show and the No. 1 ranking at the box office throughout the 1930s. His sly political commentary wrapped in a folksy homespun delivery was hugely influential and paved the way for present day successors like Steven Colbert and Jon Stewart.
Not content to just imagine where Will Rogers stood, Jennings decided to visit each of the places he had written about. His travels took him from a small boat above the site of the original Rogers ranch in the middle of Oologah Lake, to the isolated beach at Point Barrow, Alaska, where Rogers died in 1935 with fellow Oklahoman, aviation pioneer Wiley Post. As Jennings made his way to the major locales in Rogers’ life, he recorded the songs he’d written along the way. On his journey, he was accompanied by a film crew led by his friend and fellow Okie, Bradley Beesley (“Okie Noodling,” “Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo.”)
The collaboration resulted in an evocative musical and visual tapestry of the diverse landscapes and unique people who shaped and were shaped by Rogers and his legacy. The touching and sometime humorous interviews include a compelling segment with the grandson of the couple who found the wreckage at Point Barrow. The crumbling monument at the crash site can be seen as a symbol of the fleeting nature of celebrity, or a reminder that the influence of character and wisdom withstand the harshest winds of time.
For more information on the watch party or the documentary, contact Jennifer Sterling, manager of content and community engagement for RSU TV, at 918-343-7882.
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This program is funded in part by the Oklahoma Humanities Council (OHC) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily represent those of OHC or NEH.
About RSU TV
As the only full-powered public television station licensed to a public university in Oklahoma, RSU TV provides educational, cultural and general interest programming to an audience of 1.2 million viewers in northeastern Oklahoma, and the Tulsa metropolitan area. The independent station has won numerous awards for its programming and community impact. The primary channel is broadcast over the air on Channels 35.1 and can be found on Cox cable on Channels 86 (SD) and 1086 (HD).