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[caption id="SoComeAlongandLiveSomeHistory_img1" align="aligncenter" width="261"][/caption]
[caption id="TheGreatTrioByTrain_img1" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] The Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain near the Serpentine in Hyde Park cools many a tired foot.[/caption]
THERE MIGHT BE a whole ocean between Cambridge, Md., and Cambridge, Cambridgeshire—but on weekday afternoons, Maryland Public Television endeavors to make the distance seem not quite so far.
Afternoon Tea, MPT’s weekday schedule of British programming, features a rotating variety of comedies (“Keeping Up Appearances,” “Are You Being Served?”) and series (“Ballykissangel,” “All Creatures Great and Small”); all tied together with commentary from MPT’s Tea Lady, Heather Sanderson.
Sanderson’s relationship with public broadcasting in America began almost the moment she arrived. Having studied at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, she fell in love with the West Coast while vacationing with friends in Palo Alto, Calif.—and announced to her father that at the ripe old age of 22, she was moving to California.
With one suitcase, &doller;150 and a one-way ticket, Sanderson headed for San Francisco in the autumn of 1981. “Prince Charles had been taken that summer,” she quips, so there was little to lose. “I didn’t come back to England for five years.”
She waitressed at a teahouse called, originally enough, London Tea House, and did some acting in the San Francisco area. And “I watched PBS right from the get-go. KTEH in San Jose was the only station I watched.”
Her life changed—although not immediately—when she auditioned for a play in Sonora. “The artistic director didn’t cast me; I didn’t get the part,” she remembers. But he didn’t forget her—three years later he was heading up fundraising at KTEH, and when the station needed someone to host its evening of British-themed programming, he remembered the young British actress who had auditioned for him and mentioned her for the job. The station’s staff traced her through local theater groups, and she came in to audition (“I’m good at reading from a TelePromTer,” she says) and got the job.
Soon she was also writing her own scripts to fill in the time between shows. “I subscribed to British women’s magazines; I gave them all this gossip” about the actors and programs—and Britain. “It was very, very successful. Then when I went to England for the summer, I sent back video postcards.”
She continued hosting on British night until she gave birth to her first child—which was announced on the air. The dad? That director who passed on her for the play in Sonora, Sanderson’s husband Rick Lore.
Fundraising for PBS stations took the family to Ohio and New Hampshire before they landed in Alexandria, Va., where Lore was director of on-air fundraising for PBS. A friend who was involved with both WETA in Washington, D.C., and Maryland Public Broadcasting forged the connection between Sanderson and MPT’s Afternoon Tea.
[caption id="ADaytoVisittheEnglishRiviera_Feature" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Meadfoot Beach, shown here in the twilight, is one of 11 managed beaches along the jagged arch of Tor Bay. A favorite place for picnics and late night bonfires, Meadfoot feels quiet and secluded, though the bustling harbor of Torquay lies just around the headland to the west.[/caption]
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