Amherst life is focus of new local, live talk show

Last modified: Monday, September 23, 2013

AMHERST — They attracted an appreciative audience to the theater at the Eric Carle Museum Thursday night, and true to their word, the creators of “Amherst Live” provided a collection of interviews and stories to give a taste of life in Amherst.

WGBY public television from Springfield was on hand, as they had hoped, to videotape the show, which at 2½ hours likely will be edited down for broadcast.

In fact, editing is a key word here, as the segments, intended to be about 15 minutes each, all seemed to run long.

“It is a really interesting idea,” audience member Rosemary Agoglia of Amherst said afterward. “It captured the spirit of the town, but as a pilot, I am sure certain aspects will stay and others will be left by the wayside.”

One that’s a keeper in her view was the interview with poet Karen Skofield, which included Skolfield reciting one of her poems. “I loved Karen’s poetry,” she said.

Billed as “Amherst Live, Brains and Passion Locally Grown,” the show was conceived by Oliver Broudy, who served as editor and host, and Baer Tierkel, the publisher and politics editor. The show sold out the 160-seat auditorium at the Carle Museum at $5 a ticket.

Broudy, standing center stage, opened with a monologue sprinkled with humor. It was a folksy ramble describing him wending his way through the town center stopping at various businesses, checking in on the goings on. That was followed by three light-hearted interviews conducted at a round wooden table: one with Tierkel on Amherst politics, a second with Casey Beebe of the Hitchcock Center for the Environment on creatures preparing for winter and a third with Skolfield on the accessibility of poetry. Tierkel’s politics stayed away from controversial subjects, though he and Broudy joked about the town’s penchant for squabbling. He described Town Meeting, which fascinated him as a newcomer 10 years ago, and discussed parking, a perennial issue in town.

After the interviews, three speakers took turns. Author and poet Corwin Ericson told a detailed and somewhat gory but humorous tale of finding a moose carcass in the woods last spring and chopping off the head so he could preserve the skull. Gabriel Arboleda, a professor of sustainable agriculture at Hampshire College, talked about composting toilets and the worldwide sanitation problem, including a description of his own bout with typhoid fever — also done with a light touch. And Amherst College professor of law and social thought Martha Umphrey discussed the hung jury murder trial of Cara Rintala, accused of killing her wife in Granby in 2010. Umphrey analyzed the case within the context of the institution of marriage, questioning the impact their same-sex union may have had on the proceedings.

The pieces were knitted together with guitar music played by Henning Ohlenbusch of Northampton, who also sang two original songs. The speakers elicited lots of laughs and warm applause.

Those attending were invited to arrive an hour before the show to chat in the lobby where plastic cups of microbrew beer and trays filled with cold cuts and cheese were offered. At the end of the performances, Broudy encouraged them to stop at one of the stations, also in the lobby, where Ericson, Arboleda, Umphrey and Broudy were available for conversation. A fair number of people took him up on the offer.

Greg Kendall of Amherst, who was lingering afterward talking with friends, said he thought the event was put together well. “It was very entertaining,” he said. “It was an enlightening glimpse of the town.”

Julie Johnson of the Hitchcock Center was effusive in her praise. “It was a wonderful show,” she said.


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