To those who might think that the hoary old radio show “Prairie Home Companion” is way past its period of influence, there’s this: Not one, but two new projects are in the works in Santa Cruz that both point to “PHC” as a model and an inspiration.
One of those projects is called “Planet Cruz,” a soon-to-be-launched comedy, music and variety show to be hosted by Santa Cruz stand-up comic Richard Stockton. Stockton has struck a deal with KUSP to broadcast the monthly show beginning in October. It will be staged as part of the First Friday Art Tour at the Dead Cow Gallery on the grounds of the future Tannery Arts Center. Rick McKee, aka “Ukulele Dick,” is on board as the musical director.
The other project is being called “Santa Cruz Live,” not to be confused with SantaCruzLive.com, the Sentinel’s arts/entertainment Web site. “SCL” is an ambitious idea, fostered by Marty Collins and Ginny Mitchell of Santa Cruz’s Digital Media Lab, an “Austin City Limits” style musical show recorded in front of a live audience as well.
Behind both of these projects is the idea that Santa Cruz culture — surfers, granola crunchers, lefties, creative types, eccentrics — can be marketed to a larger audiences. After all, Garrison Keillor of “Prairie Home Companion” essentially sells the culture of the upper Midwest in his show, and that culture is a lot more homogeneous and less interesting than the rag-tag West Coast culture that Santa Cruz represents.
But Keillor is also a unique talent, and to get these two separate but equally ambitious projects off the ground, it’ll have to offer something other than “only in Santa Cruz” philosophizing. Are there compelling talents out there that can bring Santa Cruz to a larger audience? We’ll keep an eye out.