Windsor Park Stories Season Five"Hard to believe it's been five years," said Tony Mussari as he and his wife, Kitch, sat in their editing suite adjacent to Windsor Park. "We never dreamed we would be celebrating the 100th episode of a series that began as an experiment in 1997."
To celebrate the fifth anniversary of Windsor Park Stories, the Mussaris have produced 29 new episodes, an ambitious undertaking by any measure. The season will begin with a one-hour special Season Preview, to be broadcast on Saturday, January 19, 2001, at 10 PM.
Tony, and his co-producer, Kitch Loftus-Mussari, will start the year with a riveting piece that asks the question, "What Is America?" The Mussaris explained their choice of topic for the first show of Windsor Park's fifth season, "This has been a very difficult year for everyone. What happened on September 11 is frozen in our hearts and minds. It makes us stop and think about what really matters, and to us, America matters. We live it. We breathe it. We benefit from it, but seldom, if ever, do we stop and think about what it is."
The Mussaris had a lot of footage gleaned from 20 years of making documentaries that they were able to call up for help in addressing the question. Tony shared some of these experiences, "In 1988, my team was producing a piece on available real estate in lower Manhattan for a corporate client. I don't know what possessed me to record almost an hour of footage of the Twin Towers during that production. It was not our primary focus, but something inside me said shoot it anyway."
That footage along with material recorded at Ground Zero was used to document a segment entitled, "America Is Dreams."
Footage Mussari shot on December 2, 2001 will be used to show how America embodies freedom, family, gratitude and opportunity. Mussari has a special reverence for this episode; "It was conceived during the memorial service for Leonard Snyder, Jr., a Wilkes-Barre native and King's College graduate. " I did not know him, but I taught his wife, Jeanine, and I just felt a compelling need to do something to help. This is my humble gift to her and to all those who are suffering," said Mussari.
In the course of securing the footage they needed they were detained once in a police trailer. Once they were given a police escort off of the site. They were thrown off a construction project in Jersey City, and several times they were stopped by security guards at Rockefeller Plaza. Where they were trying to shoot footage of the Today Show for a segment on dreams.
Eventually they were able to convince an NBC producer that their motives were pure, and they were permitted to get the footage they needed.
Later that evening they managed to evade arrest by a hair while recording video at the Holland Tunnel when they were apprehended by two undercover Transit Police Officers.
In the aftermath of September 11, many producers have taken up the cause of ordinary people. For Tony & Kitch Mussari celebrities have been out of fashion for a long time.
"Our stories focus on inspirational individuals with motivational stories, people who are genuine role models. Quiet heroes who are real people. These are the kind of persons we found in New York at Ground Zero. There's a crazy idea currently in America that celebrities make good role models when often they are the least likely to be good ones . . . that's why we focus on real people and real heroes. This was the premise of the show when we began the series 5 years ago, and it remains the essence of Windsor Park Stories." Tony Mussari & Kitch Loftus- Mussari, Co-producers of Windsor Park Stories.
There will be several firsts in this year's series. The first teleconference was conducted in March, and led to three of the episodes shot on location in Pittsburgh with a creative teacher named Debbie Soles. "It was just a marvelous experience," wrote Sue Hand, the prominent local artist who has been a creative partner with the Mussaris on a number of episodes. "Tony, Kitch, and a room full of energetic second graders who wanted to share the unique way they studied Cape May. It was just beautiful."
A dynamic Canadian folk group, Tanglefoot, will be featured in two episodes. Tanglefoot performed at College Misericordia, and Joe Grant, the group leader, wrote an inspirational song called "Miners and Mercy" to celebrate the work of the Religious Sisters of Mercy. Windsor Park Stories will feature this song and more when Sister Regina Kelly and Agnes Cardoni tell their stories in Windsor Park.
Compelling stories of recovery and rebirth are told by Atty. Ernie Preate and Jeff Soles. Preate is the former Attorney General of Pennsylvania who went to prison for a campaign violation. He now campaigns for prison reform. Soles is battling a very rare form of cancer.
Windsor Park Stories will feature 12 episodes shot on location in Cape May, New Jersey. "The Cape May episodes were very popular last season," Kitch said with a smile, "So we decided to expand our work in the popular Victorian community." This year's Cape May-based episodes were screened for the community at City Hall in October, and the warm local response indicates the affection is mutual. Mayor Jerry Inderwies summarized local response to the series by saying, "We were overwhelmed by their quality. They're really wonderful."
The Irish Teachers Festival, an annual event in Windsor Park, provided the setting for two musical episodes, one on the Butler Irish Dancers and the other on the Donegal Weavers. Shortly after the Festival, Brendan Vaughn of County Clare, Ireland, came to Windsor Park to share his thoughts about the King's College Irish Teachers Program. Vaughn will be featured in "What Is America?" as he provides an excellent answer to this question.
Windsor Park Stories was given the exclusive video rights to the first annual Solas Award Banquet in Philadelphia. Anne O'Callaghan tells the story behind the visit of Martin Sheen and Fr. Dan Berrigan. In another episode, Bob McGovern, the artist who crafted the award, tells the story of crafting the Solas Award.
A wonderful story about a group of middle school students and a dream became the focus of an episode entitled "Stepping Stones, Building a Memorial Garden at the Tunkhannock Area Middle School."
For Tony & Kitch Mussari Windsor Park Stories has become a way of life. It's a great human-interest story. They have never drawn a salary from their documentary work, and they have never drawn a salary from the work they have done producing, shooting, and editing Windsor Park Stories. Neither have any of the volunteers who assist with the production.
"All of us do this because we want to make television programs that inform, inspire and bring hope to people. Television programs that our viewers would not be embarrassed to share with their family and friends. Television programs that help people."
'Windsor Park Stories' TV crew back in town
Cape May - It is rare to see television documentaries where ordinary people are interviewed and allowed to tell their stories without editorial oversight.
One such series, which normally airs on public television in Northeastern Pennsylvania, is Windsor Park Stories, produced by Tony Mussari, Ph.D.
"We interview ordinary people," said Mussari who along with his wife Kitch Loftus-Mussari, guide the series. "They tell their story the way they want to tell it, not the way a TV person wants it."
Mussari and his crew were back in town last week and the week before to shoot their upcoming stories focusing on some ordinary People in Cape May.
The couple with the help of two or three others on each trip visits many places and they are expected to complete their 100th episode this year. Mussari considers his group to be made up of creative partners. With him on the just concluded visit here were artist Sue Hand and video journalist Phil Yacuboski, both of northeastern Pennsylvania.
They love Cape May and a full 20 per cent of their shows have been and will be recorded here. Shows taped this time included recently promoted Rear Admiral Sally Brice-O'Hara of the Coast Guard and (Bob Carlough who works out of) the Miss Chris Marina.
"We (he and his wife) like the values in Cape May," Mussari said, "We like the people in Cape May, and we are impressed by the dynamics of Cape May. We do anything we can to enhance the values of this place, in the city and offshore."
"Cape May is preserving and keeping with its historical past," he continued. "That's wholesome and very good."
Thus far they have done two stories each on the Nature Center here, the Cape May Lighthouse, the Coast Guard base, Jackson Street, Bruce Minnix, Curtis Bashaw's Virginia Hotel and Congress Hall, and Linda and Skip Loughlin. Other features here include stories on Ellen Taussig, a 95 year old veteran newswoman and columnist with the Cape May Star and Wave, Ann LeDuc of the Chalfonte, Keith Laudeman of the Lobster House, Bob Carloiugh who helped preserve the salt marsh and Dave and Ann Marie McGonigle of the Wooden Rabitt.
Mussari has been producing videos for 25 years, most of it for corporate clients.
About six years ago they bought an old community dump in Northeast Pennsylvania and reclaimed it. They created a four- level perennial park, named it Windsor Park and use it as a set for their TV programs.
They are starting their fifth season, which runs from January to June. The shows are will be donated to the Library of Congress, American Folklore Collection, and excerpts of every show are shown here in October. They were shown at City Hall last year, but this year's site has yet to be selected.
For the most part, this series features the ordinary person doing his or her chosen activity.
"We think of ourselves as a production botique,"Mussari said. "We do not exploit people. We stress poignancy, discovery and fulfillment."
The group has a website, www.leader.net/wps or www. Windsorparkstories.com, which describes the series and their work.
Photos taken by Kitch Loftus-Mussari and Phil Yacuboski.
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