Queens theater junky produces public television

By Ron Hellman

It seems obvious that the first rule of life is to have a good time. Brendan Gill, The New Yorker.

As a student of philosophy and history, I am painfully aware that we live in difficult and challenging times. But in this season of hope, I invite you to — following the lyrics of Johnny Mercer, music by Harold Arlen — “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative, and don’t mess with Mister In-Between.”

I’m doing my part by showing up at the TimeWarner studio in Flushing at Main Street and Kissena Boulevard to have an uplifting chat with Fran Pellegrino of Queens Public Television. Fran and I go back to the 1970s when we were members of the Queens Community Theater, a leader in its time, now long since gone. A favorite show of Fran’s at QCT was “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying”, a Frank Loesser gem recently revived on Broadway.

For the past 12 years Fran has been a certified producer at QPTV after taking its course in field and studio production. Her show is called “Spotlight,” originally intended to stick to show business, but her programming has expanded to include features on authors, artists, health issues, community volunteers, women’s issues, cooking and lots more. Spotlight airs — check those local listings — on Queens Public Television and across the river on Manhattan Neighborhood Network.

Fran, who lives in Whitestone with her husband Tom, was working for an advertising company when she was recruited as the lead singer for a band, The Bob Christy Sound. The group performed at a number of nightclubs in the metropolitan area, most notably at The Riverboat in the Empire State Building. Some years later she attended the Turtle Bay Music School, appearing in original productions at the school and picking up some cabaret gigs.

For anyone who wants to be a performer, Fran offers lots of encouragement. “Try it!” she urges. “One of the best and easiest ways to get started is to join a community theater group. It’s such a fun and rewarding experience.”

Over the years at QPTV Fran has had a great variety of guests, and she claims to have enjoyed every one. Probably true, since Fran has a welcoming and engaging personality. Among her more memorable guests was a man who was one of the first to get a live liver transplant, and his daughter who was the donor. Another was a female boxing official who appeared on the program with some of her boxers. Still another, yet to be aired, was a singers workshop concert with students of Susan Agin at the Continuing Education Department at Queensborough Community College.

Honors have come Fran’s way, including a CAPA award for “A Young Artist Sculpts,” hosted by her husband, and a Hometown Video Festival award for “Tahuantinsuyo,” featuring music of the Andes.

“Producing your own TV show is such a wonderful opportunity,” says Fran. “You have to be really dedicated — a lot of effort goes into putting a program together, and you’re responsible for booking guests and getting a crew.” For information on how to be a QPTV producer, go to www.qptv.org/training. And if you think you’d make a good interview, drop Fran a line to Spotlightfp@aol.com.

Here’s to good times for my loyal readers and a happy third birthday to granddaughter Addison on Christmas Eve.

Contact Ron Hellman at RBH24@Columbia.edu.

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