Mary Tyler Moore, move over. The real story behind the men, women, and the early days of television news is the subject of “Chickens on The Freeway: Film at 11”.
The play focuses on the competition, camaraderie and tension in the newsroom created by the entry of women into the workplace and onto the scene of TV news in the 1960s.
The story line follows an AP news writer named Andy Stevens (based on the Twin Cities’ first female television news reporter: Betty Wolden) as she battles gender discrimination and a hostile work climate in the breakthrough TV story of her career. Andy’s investigative reporting on a freeway accident involving a truckload of chickens and a mysterious driver leads her into a story with implications that run far deeper than that of the usual fender bender.
With the Vietnam War and sexual revolution as a backdrop, Stevens encounters counter-culture protesters, a ratings-driven on-air sexpot, jealous male colleagues, and romance in the workplace as she focuses on reporting on the story and achieving her dream of being the area’s first female on-air reporter.
The production features the music of local composer J Roth and spot on, recreated vintage-style news clips and performances by area talent.
“The drama is based on the real life experience of a number of female reporters from the Twin Cities,” says playwright J.B. Eckert, who’s spent more than 30 years of his career as a TV and radio news reporter and writer. “While the characters and the love story are entirely fictional, the newsroom atmosphere, attitudes and day-to-day happenings are based on real stories.”
Assisting as advisor and making a cameo appearance in the show was Museum of Broadcasting Hall of Fame inductee Marcia Fluer.
LYDIA ORVIS as Andy Stevens
BRIAN JOHNSON as William Dickler III
JENNIFER KUDELKA as Naomi Bitters
PHIL LUSARDI as Grant Musser
MORGAN STRICKLAND as Trudy
MARY HELEN SCHMIDT as Bambi Lynn
DAVID OTTO SIMANEK as Jeff Hohton
MILO WEIL as Brian Letherty
PETE SKARMAN as Jerry Androfski
J.J. SITZMAN as Dan Zefka
KENNETH COY as Terrance Underhille
TROY IVERSON as Bob Wayne
ADAM ROUSAR as Mikie Mayhap
KYLER CHASE as Steve Witbourne
DANIEL WATSON as Kid
WILLIAM BRADSHAW as Kid
BRIANNA REGAN as Kid
PAUL CAMERON – drum, guitar, typewriter
MATT IDES – bass
MILO WEIL – violin
J ROTH – piano, guitar, trumpet
RYAN MURPHY – sax, drums, guitar, cello, harmonica
For full production notes read The Musicker’s Gazette No. 18.