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PBS to televise Met's 'Boris' and Anna Deavere Smith's solo play on sickness and dying

February 3, 2011 | 11:27 am

MetRenePapeBorisGodunovGrPrfKenHowardMet Here are some coming attractions, arts-on-the-tube fans –- all on PBS, which is more or less the last bastion for this sort of thing.

This month, the “Great Performances” series produced by New York City’s WNET will roll out the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Modest Mussorgsky’s “Boris Godunov,” starring René Pape (pictured). After premiering Feb. 10 on the home channel, it opens PBS-wide beginning Feb. 13. There’s no listing available yet for Southern California outlets KOCE and KLCS. The show was first transmitted live to movie theaters last Oct. 23 as part of “The Met: Live in HD” series, so in this case, to paraphrase John Milton, they also are served (free of charge, but without the big screen) who sit and wait.

AnnaDeavereSmithLetMeDownEasyJoanMarcusSecondStageTheatre Also in the offing is Anna Deveare Smith’s most recent one-woman, issues-oriented docudrama, “Let Me Down Easy” (pictured), this time with illness and mortality as the subjects and former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, television film critic Joel Siegel, both now deceased,  and cycling star/cancer survivor Lance Armstrong  among the 20 people Smith morphs into on a journey through the valley of the shadow of death. 

"Great Performances" plans to tape the play at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., by the end of its run there on Feb. 13; Smith ought to have the hang of it by now, having premiered “Let Me Down Easy” three years ago at Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, Conn., followed by subsequent stagings at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass., and New York City’s Second Stage Theatre in 2009.

No broadcast date has been set, but “Let Me Down Easy” won’t air until after Smith finishes touring with the show, including  its Southern California premiere April 27-May 15 at the San Diego Repertory Theatre. She has performed the play or excerpts twice in L.A., in one-offs last winter for the UCLA School of Public Health and the California Endowment’s Center for Healthy Communities.

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-- Mike Boehm

Photos: René Pape as Boris Godunov; Anna Deavere Smith performs "Let Me Down Easy." Credits: Ken Howard / Metropolitan Opera (Boris); Joan Marcus / Second Stage Theater (Smith).

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