'The Playlist' your free ticket to local entertainment

It's no secret that the Northland has an abundance of creative residents. From painters and sculptors to musicians and thespians and everyone in between, the options are seemingly endless if you're looking for art to enjoy.

Coal Car Slamdance
At a recent taping of "The Playlist," the local group Coal Car Caboose performed as "Evil Dead: The Musical" cast members danced/goofed around off to the side. Image courtesy WDSE/WPRT

It's no secret that the Northland has an abundance of creative residents. From painters and sculptors to musicians and thespians and everyone in between, the options are seemingly endless if you're looking for art to enjoy.

If there is one drawback, it's that no one person could stay sane trying to keep up with everything that there is to offer. How can someone realistically find out about all the different artists and events in the area -- let alone try to sift through the ones they might be interested in?

Fortunately, there is a solution to the problem. A solution you don't even have to leave the house for.

Duluth's local PBS station, WDSE/WPRT, which airs on Channel 8 in the Twin Ports, helps solve the aforementioned problem with a show called "The Playlist."

"The Playlist" features live music, demonstrations and interviews with local artists, actors, musicians and other assorted creative types.


And, while no two shows are alike, there are some common elements. Some weeks are more theater-based, while others give more time to artists and musicians.

"The Playlist" usually starts and ends with live music from a local musician or group. Then sandwiched in between is an interview with someone about an upcoming event and profile pieces on local art and theater.

Up to 20 minutes of the 30-minute show is shot live from the studio, while the remaining five to 10 minutes is shot on location.

The goal, said Karen Sunderman, the show's producer and host, is to generate more interest in the arts with the show. She wants a show that is not only informative but also entertaining to viewers.

"My goal is to create a show that serves our community and inspires people to go out and engage in the arts," she said. "I want it to be something that someone can actually sit down and watch."

The show's first season of 13 episodes ran from April until June and featured more than 200 guests and more than 50 art organizations. Notable first-season guests included local musicians Trampled by Turtles and Charlie Parr, who have both achieved quite a following outside of the Twin Ports area.

Sunderman hopes the show can be a springboard for other local artists and musicians who appear on the show. She said in the future they would like to bring back notable guests for an alumni event, such as a concert.

Further, the station's staff does what it can to promote the show's guests. Brita Edgerton, who is responsible for promotion, said that clips of guests featured on the show are often sent to them for use on their own social network sites.


There has also been some talk of having a live audience for the show to add more energy for the musicians playing.

Although the studio is not conducive to a large viewing audience, it could accommodate around a dozen people.

"If we are strategic and thoughtful about it, it will add a lot," Sunderman said. "Bands thrive on live audiences."

Edgerton agreed with the idea of a live audience and pointed to a prior episode as evidence when Coal Car Caboose (pictured) played on the show while the cast of "Evil Dead: The Musical" was there for a different segment. By the end of the broadcast, the musical's cast was dancing in the studio, adding to the ambience of the show.

Sunderman anticipates that if the station can figure out a good way to have a live audience the tickets would be free.

While Sunderman does a lot of work to find participants for the show, she credits the local community with finding new groups she isn't familiar with. She also said the show is accepting submissions on its website for people interested in showing off their skills, as that is the focus of the show.

Despite the show still being in its infancy, Sunderman hopes that it has staying power.

She would like to see the show continue as long as it keeps serving the art community and bringing fresh perspectives to the audience.


As far as ratings, Sunderman said that the show's online viewership has climbed steadily and is optimistic that "The Playlist" can equal, if not exceed, the show it replaced. That show, "Venture North," ran for 29 years and averaged around 20,000 viewers per week before finishing its run last year.

"I want it to bust through that ceiling in a big way," Sunderman added.

"The Playlist" is currently in its second season and airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. with episodes also appearing online the day after broadcast. Viewers can watch new episodes through the end of January. The show will then return in late March and continues until June for the completion of its 26-episode season.

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