Thursday, March 30, 2006

Dave Silverbrand’s Big Story

Can the North Coast laugh at itself? Or are we all up our own tree?

by William S. Kowinski

Six years ago, Dave Silverbrand was the news director, anchor and star reporter on the TV station with Humboldt County’s largest TV news staff. They generated 22 hours of local news a week---news at 6 a.m., news at 5 p.m., news at 6 and 6:30 and 11 pm, on KVIQ (Channel 6.) The Ackerley Group, owner of Channel 6, poured a million dollars into staff and equipment. Even when they lured away the anchor of rival KAEF (Channel 23,) Silverbrand remained the genial face of Channel 6 news, second in the ratings to KIEM (Channel 3.)

Then it was over. Ackerley sold out to the broadcasting behemoth, Clear Channel Communications (which reportedly was most interested in Ackerley’s billboard business). As a result of the sale, the Channel 6 local newscasts were closed down completely.

One of the few at Channel 6 to survive this sale was Dave Silverbrand, who continued to provide one local news story a day for Clear Channel’s station in Santa Rosa. Shortly thereafter, KVIQ was sold again, this time to Raul Broadcasting, and for a short time, Silverbrand was out of a job entirely.

Dave Silverbrand has the image and presence of an easy-going guy. But he doesn’t like inactivity. So in his underemployed period about four years ago, he sat down and wrote a play: a satirical look at a North Coast conflict, centered on the survival of a tree.

One of the characters is a veteran TV news reporter, worried and angry that his 35 years of reporting hasn’t amounted to much, who is trying to redeem his own self-image with one last great story.

After finishing the play, which he titled The Tree, “I didn’t try to do anything with it,” Silverbrand said recently. “I figured an opportunity would come up sometime.”

Pacific Arts Center Theatre created challenging theatre on the North Coast for a generation, first in Arcata in the 1970s and then in the early 90s in Manila. Along the way, it spawned the children’s theatre group, Vagabond Players. After leaving Manila, both groups moved for about a year to the Eagle House, then to a Eureka warehouse space. Then PACT stopped producing completely, and Vagabond reconstituted itself as a program of the Ink People. But true to their name, they were still vagabonds.

“We were homeless for about two years,” said Carole Wolfe, volunteer artistic director. “I wanted us to be in Arcata, but I was basically calling everybody who might have a space to rent.”

When it got to the point that she was looking just for storage space for Vagabond’s equipment, she contacted the landlord of the Old Creamery building in Arcata. “He asked me if we were still looking for space for the theatre. I said, ‘yes we are.’” Three months later Vagabond Players moved in---to the same space where Pacific Arts Center began, some thirty years earlier.

Vagabond’s first foray in its new space was an ambitious production last fall of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, directed by Mark Dupre.

Dave Silverbrand, who lost his job when Raul Broadcasting took over, had to apply for the position of General Manager of KVIQ, which he got. Except for an engineer, he is the station’s only employee. He does all the station’s local segments, such as his “Project Lean” series (healthful food), “Project Green” (Arcata Recycling) and “Dave is---“ (“a kind of comical thing where I try different peoples’ jobs”), a format he began in previous Channel 6 incarnations.

So last September he showed up at the Vagabond Players’ new space, now called the Star Garden Theatre Art Center, to do a story on "Wild Things.” He mentioned his play, which he’d continued to work on over the years. “They said, well, it would be our first adult production,” Silverbrand recalls, “ but let’s take a look at it, and they did, and pretty much on the spot said they wanted to do it.”

So The Tree grew in Arcata, and will open this Thursday, March 30 at the Star Garden Theatre for a three-weekend run, with all proceeds donated to Food for People, the Humboldt County food bank.

No comments: