The trial of William Porter – one of six Baltimore police officers charged in connection with the death last April of Freddie Gray – begins today.  A Baltimore attorney and University of Baltimore law professor review the legal issues behind the trial, and preview the defense and prosecution strategies likely to shape the proceedings.

Then, Living Questions, our monthly series on the role of religion in the public sphere:  a conversation with two pastors -- an Episcopal Priest and a Lutheran Minister -- whose North Baltimore congregations decided to merge into one religious community. 

And, I’ll drop by the Peabody Library to talk with curator Gabrielle Dean about a new exhibit on the acclaimed Maryland novelist  and educator, John Barth. Plus theater critic J Wynn Rousuck reviews “X's and O's,”  the new play at Center Stage that goes inside the NFL. 

Center Stage

Somewhere between Berkeley, California, last January, and Baltimore, now, the play, X’s and O’s, lost its subtitle: “A Football Love Story.”

When you see Berkeley Rep’s co-production with Center Stage, love isn’t the first emotion that comes to mind. Fandom, fervor, loyalty; definitely. But love? Well, as the saying goes: Love is blind.

Blind to such football health hazards as concussion and CTE, chronic traumatic encephalopathy – the condition that used to be called “punch drunk.” The play also raises other issues, but brain damage is the focus.

Judy Collins holds a unique and cherished place in the top echelons of American music. In September, she released a new CD called Strangers Again, a collection of duets with Michael McDonald, Willie Nelson, Don McLean and several others.

Judy Collins will be giving a concert at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall in Baltimore on Sunday afternoon (11/29). This morning, she joins Tom on the phone from her home in New York to talk about her life in music, and the collaborations with some of the best male singers in the business that make her new CD such a distinctive musical outing.

Chef Sascha Wolhandler is back with recipes that will inspire you to get creative with squash,  just in time for Thanksgiving. 

Harry Bechkes

Loneliness, luck (or the lack of it), birth and death weave their way through Will Eno’s play, “Middletown” -- now at the Theatrical Mining Company in Baltimore.  In the opening scene, the character of a policeman describes the town: “Population: stable. Elevation: same. The main street is called Main Street…People come, people go. Crying, by the way, in both directions.”

Stylistically, this description is reminiscent of the Stage Manager’s description of Grover’s Corners at the start of “Our Town.” Much of what follows is an homage to that classic American play.

This past June, I moderated a playwrights’ panel at the second International Thornton Wilder Conference. Will Eno was one of the panelists. He praised Wilder’s immense skill at writing about the quotidian – the commonplace, the everyday.

Baltimore Heritage

Today, we revisit a conversation with three pastors who lead churches in Sandtown-Winchester, the Baltimore neighborhood which has become the focal point of attention since the riots in April.  At one time, there were more than 50 churches in Sandtown.  There are now more than 30, which still represents a high concentration of churches in the 72 square block area that Sandtown encompasses.  What can and should these churches be doing in this neighborhood, which has long struggled with high unemployment, poverty, addiction, and crime?

We explore that question with three pastors who are doing a lot.  Pastor Amelia Harris is the co-pastor of the Newborn Community of Faith Church.  She has lived and worked in Sandtown with her husband, Elder C. W. Harris, for more than 30 years.  Dr. Louis Wilson came to Sandtown from Chicago in January, accepting the call to lead the New Song Community Church.  

Sloane Brown//Baltimore Sun

The holidays will soon be upon us, and for many folks, that means a chance or two to dress up and enjoy a few parties, and some special meals with family and friends.  What’s the best way to approach the often daunting task of putting together that special outfit for those special occasions?   Maybe more than a few of us have a little fashion phobia when it comes to staying stylish, on a budget, in a world where the range of styles one sees out and about run a very large gamut.  Sloane Brown joins me in the studio.  Sloane keeps a keen eye out for what people are wearing to various events around town, and I thought it would be good to check-in with her for some advice on how to take the fear out fashion, as we gear up for the holidays.  Sloane is the Society and Style reporter for the Baltimore Sun, where she writes the columns called Scene and Heard and Glimpsed.  

LSU Press

Daniel Mark Epstein has written numerous plays, and acclaimed biographies of an eclectic group of historical figures that includes Aimee Semple McPherson, Nat King Cole, Bob Dylan, and Abraham Lincoln. He has also garnered prizes for his eight books of poetry, and this morning, he joins Tom in the studio to talk about his latest collection of new and selected poems, which includes work that spans nearly 50 years. It’s called Dawn to Twilight

Dan will be reading from his collection tonight at the Ivy Bookshop in North Baltimore. That event starts at 7:00. Dan will be reading at The Book Plate on Friday night at 6:00PM in Chestertown, Maryland. 

Center Stage

Theater Critic J. Wynn Rousuck has been to see the production of The Secret Garden, running now through November 29th at Center Stage. This morning she sits down with Tom to share her thoughts on an enchanting performance.

The debate last night in Milwaukee comes just two weeks after the heated Republican debate in Boulder. During and after that debate, the candidates and other Republicans criticized some of the debate questions, calling them politically biased and needlessly confrontational. Do the media outlets that sponsor the debates have too much power, too much influence in deciding the format of the debate, what the questions should be, and even which candidates get to participate?

Joining Tom in the studio to discuss the most recent debate are Dr. Sheri Parks, the Associate Dean for Research, Interdisciplinary Scholarship and Programming in the College of Arts and Humanities, and Associate Professor in the Department of American Studies at the University of Maryland; E.R. Shipp, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and associate professor at the School of Journalism at Morgan State University; and Richard Cross, a former press secretary and speech writer for Bob Erhlich when he was in Congress and when he served as Governor of Maryland. Now he blogs at Cross Purposes.