Iris Acker had had enough.
The stage and screen actress had been hosting the performing-arts show “On Stage With Iris Acker,” in one form or another, for 25 years, going from WLRN to WXEL and then Comcast. She conducted one-on-one interviews with, among others, Valerie Harper, Hal Linden and Chita Rivera.
“It was the same show, asking the same questions, sometimes to the same people,” Acker says from her home in Hallandale Beach. “I was bored.”
During an informal meeting to try and salvage the show on Broward Education Communication Network (BECON-TV), Acker says she may have been the one who mentioned how much everyone seemed to enjoy the lively back-and-forth of shows like “The View” and its confrontational panel.
“So I thought of people we’ve already had on the show before and who were wonderful guests,” Acker recalls.
Those guests — playwright Michael McKeever, actress Karen Stephens and theater critic Bill Hirschman — are now the new panel on the reborn and re-christened “Spotlight on the Arts,” which will debut Friday, Oct. 11, on BECON-TV.
“Each show is a topic: censorship, children’s theater; how to get children involved in theater. Are unions necessary? How do you win a new audience?” Acker explains. “Theaters and operas are closing across the country, but Florida Grand Opera is still going strong. So we ask them how they are developing new audiences. Slow Burn Theatre [in Boca Raton] is a new theater company and successful. So we ask them, ‘What have you done right?’”
Acker has lived in South Florida for 30 years, arriving here from New York in 1974 with the play “The Marriage-Go-Round,” starring Julie Newmar at the long-defunct Stage Door Dinner Theatre in Fort Lauderdale (where Bimini Boatyard is now located).
During the run, she hired a local agent who sent her on auditions for commercials, which she consistently booked (she's written a textbook on how to audition for commericals and taught jam-packed classes on the topic here in SoFlo).
After appearing in “Plaza Suite” in Orlando and touring the state in “Minnie’s Boys,” Acker got her husband to agree to move here on one condition.
“He said we had to live on a boat,” she says. “So we lived on a sailboat in Coconut Grove.”
The first show uses footage from April’s Carbonell Awards at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts as a springboard for the group discussion.
“We ask people, ‘Why is theater so important?’” Acker says. “And then, of course, we all have our answers as a playwright, a critic, an actress and a producer … that’s me.”
“Spotlight on the Arts” will air 7 p.m. Fridays, beginning Oct. 11, with repeats 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. BECON-TV (Comcast Ch. 19, DirecTV/Dish/AT&T Ch. 63, Atlantic Ch. 83). The shows also will be archived at the BECON.tv.