Rob Sivak | WYPR

Rob Sivak

Senior Producer, Midday

Rob Sivak is senior producer of Midday, with host Tom Hall.  Rob joined WYPR in 2015 as senior producer of Hall's previous show, Maryland Morning (which aired its final show on September 16th, 2016).  Before coming to the station, Rob enjoyed a 36-year career at the congressionally funded global broadcaster, Voice of America.  At VOA, he honed his skills as a news and feature reporter, producer, editor and program host.

After reporting stints at VOA's New York City, United Nations and Los Angeles bureaus, Rob spent two decades covering international food, farming and nutrition issues for VOA's 180-million worldwide listeners, and created and hosted several popular VOA science magazines.  At Midday, he continues to pursue his passion for radio and his abiding interests in science, health, technology and politics.

Rob grew up as an ex-pat "oil brat" on the Persian Gulf coast of Saudi Arabia, and studied and traveled widely in the Middle East, Europe and Africa.  He attended Hofstra University in New York and Boston University's School of Public Communications.  Rob and his wife, Caroline Barnes, live in Silver Spring, Maryland, where they've raised three daughters.

Photo courtesy Baltimore Sun

Baltimore is one of six US cities now competing for a $30-million federal grant that city planners hope will launch a major redevelopment project in East Baltimore.  More than 1,300 public housing units and a school would be demolished in what could eventually be a $1 billion transformation of a 200-acre tract between Harbor East and Johns Hopkins Hospital, in the Perkins-Somerset-Oldtown neighborhoods -- a part of the city long marked by blight, vacancies and violent crime.  If the Housing and Urban Development grant is awarded to Baltimore this summer and additional financing can be secured, the project could begin as early as next year.    

Perkins Homes, a large public housing complex, as well as City Springs Charter Elementary and Middle School, would be torn down as part of this huge project, which calls for the construction of a new City Springs school complex and more than  2500 new housing units.  But to what extent could current residents be displaced?  And given the history of past redevelopment efforts, could this project lead to more racial segregation and less affordable housing? 

Melody Simmons is a reporter with the Baltimore Business Journal and a veteran observer of the city’s real estate and development scene who has written several articles on the prospective East Baltimore transformation.

Klaus Philipsen is an architect who writes and lectures widely about urban design, city architecture, preservation and transportation issues. He’s the author of Baltimore: Reinventing an Industrial Legacy City, and his commentaries on urban design appear frequently on his blog, Community Architect.

They join Tom in the Midday studio, and answer listener calls, emails and tweets.   

This segment was streamed live on WYPR Facebook page; you can watch the video here.

Photo by David D. Mitchell

It's Thursday, and Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom with her weekly review of a production lighting up one the region's many stages. Today, it's Hoodoo Love, a bluesy play (and one of the earliest works) by Katori Hall, being produced by Baltimore's Arena Players, the oldest continuously operating African American community theater in the United States.

Arena Players calls Hoodoo Love "a tale of love, magic , jealousy and secrets in...1930s Mississippi and Memphis. It is a blues story about having your dreams realized."  Reviewing its premiere in New York's West Village in October 2007, New York Times theater critic Stuart Miller described the play as "an unsentimental, even brutal look at black life in Memphis in the 1930s, the central female characters burdened by rape and betrayal."

One of Hoodoo Love's central female character is Toulou, a young woman who fled an abusive family and the cotton fields of Mississippi to pursue her dream of becoming a blues singer.

“I love my people’s history,” playwright Katori Hall told the Times back in 2007.  Hall, who studied African-American culture and creative writing at Columbia University, added, “I feel a huge responsibility to tell the stories of my past and my ancestors’ past.”

Director David D. Mitchell leads the Arena Players cast, which features IO Browne (Toulou), Theresa Terry (Candylady), Quinton Randall (Ace of Spades) and Quincy Vicks (Jib).

Hoodoo Love is at Arena Playhouse, 801 McCulloh St., Baltimore MD 21201, through Sunday, April 29.   Tix and info here.

photo courtesy Jay Heinrichs

Tom's guest for the hour today is Jay Heinrichsan author, lecturer, and consultant in the art (and science) of rhetoric.  In a new book, he points out that while the word “debate” comes from the same latin word for “battle,” an argument is not a fight.  In a fight, you try to win.  In an argument, you try to win over.

Cover art courtesy Apollo Press

Today, a conversation about the power of history.

The struggle for civil rights that we’ve remembered in the life and death of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.  and other leaders of the movement a half-century ago is a struggle that continues today.  But how much do we really know about what happened in Montgomery and Selma and Memphis back in the 1950s and 60s, and about how to connect Dr. King’s work with today’s Black Lives Matter movement? 

We don’t know enough, says Baltimore author and youth advocate Kevin Shird, who joins Midday senior producer and guest host Rob Sivak  this hour to talk about his new book, The Colored Waiting Room:  Empowering the Original and the New Civil Rights Movementsthe author's effort to make America’s civil rights history come alive in the context of today’s fraught racial landscape.

Mr. Shird gained a new appreciation for the power of history after he struck up a friendship two years ago with 84 year-old Nelson Malden of Montgomery, Alabama.  Malden is an African American who’d been an eyewitness to the historic civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 60s that played out in Montgomery and elsewhere, and who was, for more than six years, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s barber.

Mr. Shird found in Nelson Malden a willing mentor and history guide, someone who could satisfy his yearning to know more about the American civil rights struggle than what he’d learned in school.

In his new book, Kevin Shird describes his friendship with Nelson Malden, and the pilgrimages he made to the American South and to Malden’s Montgomery home.  It's a personal narrative that tells the story of the civil rights struggle through Nelson Malden’s shared experience, and draws lessons from it for today’s new movement for racial justice.

Associated Press photo

Regular Midday listeners know that every couple of Mondays, we check  in with The Afro-American Newspaper, the venerable news operation just down the road from WYPR.  Today, The Afro’s  managing editor, Kamau High, joins guest host Rob Sivak to spotlight some of the stories the paper is covering this week. 

Those stories include the second of a two-part series by Morgan State U. professor and Pulitzer Prize winning columnist E.R. Shipp, looking at The Black Press and the Baltimore '68 Riots

Another retrospective on that troubled time, and on something good that came out of it, is J. K. Schmid's exclusive feature for The Afro on the city's legendary "Goon Squad," an organization of a dozen-plus ministers, professors, and even a judge, that campaigned for Baltimore causes for decades. Some of the few surviving members share their memories  with Schmid, and we're reminded that they launched a food bank during the riots that eventually morphed into the Maryland Food Bank. Goon Squad members were also involved in the creation of Baltimorians United for Leadership Development, or BUILD, still one of the city's most important centers of community activism. The Afro's Baltimore Editor Sean Yoes also reports on the Civilian Review Board's conclusion that Kevin Davis, Jr. was wrongfully arrested on a murder charge by Baltimore police back in 2015. The CRB is urging disciplinary action against the arresting officers.

Others stories spotlighted in the current issue of The Afro:  the road ahead for the newly elected chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, Darryl Barnes; and how the Maryland General Assembly's busy final days led to new opportunities for minority licenses to grow and market medical marijuana.

Smythe Richbourg/Creative Commons

Today, a look at what was accomplished by our legislators in Annapolis during the 2018 MD General Assembly, which ended on Monday night.

Governor Hogan has signed more than a hundred bills into law since then, and he’s let several become law without his signature.  More than 3,100 bills were introduced this year, a record number. 

Tom talks with two Republicans and two Democrats this afternoon to get their impressions of what the Governor has said is the most productive session of his tenure. 

Two of our guests represent Baltimore City.  Two represent Baltimore and Harford Counties. 

Photo by Joe Williams

It's Thursday, and that means we welcome to the studio Midday's far-ranging theater critic, J. Wynn Rousuck, back from our western frontier and an evening at Frederick's Maryland Ensemble Theater, which is currently staging a new production of playwright Gina Gionfriddo's feminist comedy, Rapture, Blister, Burn -- a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Drama.

MET's program describes it as "an intensely smart, immensely funny play that asks the question, 'What makes us happy in life?' After graduate school, Catherine and Gwen chose polar opposite paths. Catherine built a career as a rock star academic, while Gwen built a home with her husband and children. Decades later each woman covets the other’s life, commencing a dangerous game of musical chairs."

Playwright Gionfriddo, in her program notes for Playwrights Horizons' 2012 world premiere of Rapture, Blister, Burn in New York, wrote, "I don't want to say too much about what happens in this play, but age and generation loom large. My play, Becky Shaw, feels to me a play about years 30-35; it's still possible to launch a career or start a family, but you need to hurry up. Rapture, Blister, Burn feels like a play about years 40-45. Big, unfulfilled dreams are still possible, but they're statistically less likely. If you're going to take a big leap and remake yourself, you have to do it now."

The production at MET is directed by Suzanne Beale, and the cast includes Gené Fouché, Carol Randolph, Madeline Reinhold, Laura Stark, and Ron Ward.

Rapture, Blister, Burn continues at Maryland Ensemble Theatre in Frederick through April 29.

Photo by Geoffrey Wahl, Christopher Dravis - NCI-Salk Institute

Today, a conversation about new breakthroughs in cancer research.  Nearly 1.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer in the U.S every year, and nearly 600,000 of those people die from the disease.  Those who survive often face difficult surgeries, and long rounds of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or costly immunotherapy.    

Cancer is one of the world’s leading killers because it’s usually discovered too late, after tumors have grown and spread to other parts of the body.  If detected early enough, most cancers would be survivable.  But until recently, there have been no reliable early-screening methods for the most aggressive forms of cancer. 

Now, a team of physicians at Johns Hopkins has devised a new kind of blood test that can screen for 8 different kinds of cancer.  Taken together, those eight cancers account for more than 60 percent of cancer deaths in the United States each year. 

That team is led by one of Tom's guests today, Dr. Bert Vogelstein.   He is the Clayton Professor of Oncology and Pathology, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator at The Johns Hopkins Medical School and the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center here in Baltimore.  He’s a pioneer in the field of cancer genomics.  His research papers have reportedly been cited more often than those of any other scientist, in any discipline.

And joining us on the line from the studios of Kaiser Health News in Washington is Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal.  She’s a former emergency room physician. She spent 22 years covering health issues for the New York Times.  She was appointed the editor and chief of Kaiser Health News in 2016.  She’s also the author of American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take It Back, which was published exactly one year ago today.  (Dr. Rosenthal spoke with Tom Hall about her book and the issues it explores on the Aug. 9, 2017 Midday. She  was interviewed earlier in the year by Terri Gross on WHYY's Fresh Air. )

Drs. Vogelstein and Rosenthal will be co-panelists again at the Maryland Science Center starting at 7pm on Tuesday, April 24th, in a talk entitled Truths, Myths and Breakthroughs in Medical and Cancer Research, part of this year’s Great Talk series.  Follow the link for program and ticket information.

Image from Creative Commons

It’s Midday at the Movies, our monthly focus on new films and film-industry trends, with our regular movie afficionadoes, Jed Dietz, founding director of the Maryland Film Festival, and Ann Hornaday, film critic for the Washington Post.  They join Tom to consider how new filmmaking and distribution technologies are changing the definition of "a movie." 

In her piece in the Washington Post last week, Ann Hornaday notes the decision by Cannes Film Festival organizers to exclude from this year's awards competition all non-theatrically-released films -- such as those from streaming-service giants Amazon and Netflix -- unless they’re released in French theaters for a month before they become available on-line.  Is a movie still a movie, if you can watch it on your phone?  Is the experience of seeing a movie in a public theater any better than watching it on the big screen in your livingroom?  Today, the movie mavens weigh in on those questions, and spotlight some notable new films opening at Baltimore theaters.

Shealyn Jae Photography

It's Thursday, and our peripatetic theater critic, J. Wynn Rousuck, is back with her weekly review of one of the Baltimore region's thespian offerings.  Today, she spotlights the new production of Cecelia Raker's play, La Llorona, now on stage at Baltimore's Cohesion Theatre Company.

La Llorona plays off a popular Southwestern legend about the loudly lamenting ghost of a woman who, scorned in love, took the lives of her children and then her own, and was then turned away at the Gates of Heaven.  When a group of young women get thrown together on a school project about La Llorona, the "legend" becomes a real and frightening presence in their lives.  But are La Llorona's shifting stories and irreverent advice meant to steer the young women away from her tragic fate, or entice them to share it? 

La Llorona is directed at Cohesion Theatre Company by Susan Stroupe, and features Mani Yangilmau in the title role, Emily Sucher as Rachel, Natanya Washer as Maria, and Mia Ybarra as Molly.   La Llorona is being produced in repertory with The Orphan Sea, a play by Caridad Svich that is also being directed by Susan Stroupe.

La Llorona -- which contains language, themes, & situations suitable for mature audiences  -- continues at Cohesion Theatre Company until Saturday, April 14th.  For ticket and seating info, click here.

photo courtesy Friends of Johnny O

Today, another installment in our series of Conversations with the Candidates.  Joining Tom in Studio A is former Maryland House Delegate and public school teacher John Olszewski, Jr.  Known as “Johnny O,” he represented the County’s 6th district for two terms in the Maryland General Assembly, and spent nine years teaching in several Baltimore County public schools. In June of 2017, he took leave from his position with a local software company to launch himself back into politics. Olszewski is one of four Democrats vying to be their party's primary pick for the office of Baltimore County Executive.  Maryland primary elections will be held on June 26th.

The county executive manages a $3.5 billion annual budget. A recent report expressed concern about the fiscal condition of Maryland’s third largest jurisdiction.  Several development projects in the County have become political lightning rods, as has the need to relieve overcrowding in county schools. 

Today, Tom asks Johnny O about his vision for the county he has always called home.

The conversation with John Olszewski, Jr., was streamed live on WYPR's Facebook page.  You can view the video here.

Creative Commons

Today, a preview of a powerful new film about the last three years in the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights leader who was assassinated 50 years ago next week, on April 4, 1968.

The renowned historian Taylor Branch is an executive producer of the HBO documentary, King in the Wilderness, a compendium of reflections by King’s closest friends, interwoven with archival footage, about a period that was one of the most tumultuous in American history, and one of the most personally challenging and difficult for the iconic civil rights leader, as he struggled to confront racism, poverty and militarism, and the increasing danger to his own life. 

Taylor Branch joins Tom in Studio A to talk about the film, and the new insights it provides on its its tragic subject.

King in the Wilderness will be screened tonight at 7pm the Parkway Theater.   The film airs Monday April 2nd at 8pm on HBO.

Photo by Stan Barouh

Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins us with her weekly review of one of the region's many thespian offerings.  Today, it's Aubergine, the new play by Julia Cho that's on stage at Baltimore's Everyman Theatre

Aubergine is a story about the complexity of family relationships and the emotional power of food.  The play centers on a Korean family that's struggling to bridge generational and cultural divides, and the foods and culinary traditions that help the family members find each other across those divides.

Produced in association with Olney Theatre Center and directed by Everyman's founding artistic director, Vincent Lancisi, Aubergine features Tony Nam (as Ray); Glenn Kubota (Ray's father); Song Kim (Ray's uncle); Jefferson Russell (Lucien); Eunice Bae (Cornelia); and Megan Anderson (Diane/hospital worker).

Aubergine continues at Everyman Theatre through Sunday, April 15th. 

photo courtesy Hood College

A special Midday broadcast today, live from Hodson Auditorium on the campus of Hood College, in historic Frederick, Maryland.

Our topic today: Frederick at the Crossroads.

Founded in 1748, Frederick has seen its share of American history.  It was founded at the crossroads of a major north-south Native American trail and the east-west route from the Chesapeake Bay across the Appalachian Mountains to the Ohio River Valley.  Frederick County is home to Ft. Detrick and a branch of the National Cancer Institute. The Catoctin Mountain Park, and the presidential retreat, Camp David, are here.

It is quaint.  And beautiful, as anyone who has been in downtown Frederick can tell you. But while it may be old, it is anything but standing still.  In fact, the city and the county are among the fastest growing parts of Maryland. The population of Frederick City, with its 70,000 residents, has grown 32 percent since 2000 and a whopping 73% since 1990.  And with growth like that, Frederick finds itself at a crossroads once again. How does it honor its past, while being thrust into the future by incredibly rapid growth?  How does it remain charming, despite the pressures to become a bedroom community of Rockville and, by extension, Bethesda and Washington, DC?

Photo courtesy Michael Schwartz

Paula Poundstone is one of America’s most celebrated comedians.  For four decades, she’s blazed a unique trail in the world of standup, from improv clubs in Boston in the late 1970s to award-winning HBO comedy specials, and her 1992 gig as the first woman to emcee the White House Correspondents Dinner.

She’s been a regular on late-night TV, and her standout performances at the Comic Relief concerts in the mid-90s helped raise millions for the homeless. She’s done voice-over roles in animated kids movies, including Disney's Oscar-winning Inside Out, and, of course, public radio fans know her from her regular appearances on NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me.  And the self-narrated audiobook version of her 2017 best-seller, The Totally Unscientific Study of the Search for Human Happiness, was just nominated by the Audio Publishers Association as a 2018 Audie Awards finalist for both Humor and Audiobook of the Year.

Paula Poundstone is appearing at a concert Friday night at Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium.  WYPR is a media partner for the sold-out event.  For additional event info, click here

Whether or not you got tickets to her show, Paula joins Tom today, on the line from NPR-West in Culver City, California, to talk politics, books, parenting, cats, comedy and whatever else they may stumble upon!

Photo copyright by Matthew Murphy

It's Thursday, and that means Midday's intrepid theater critic, J. Wynn Rousuck, is here with another of her weekly reviews of the region's thespian offerings. 

This week, Judy braved the elements to attend the opening of the new touring production of School of Rock, the Andrew Lloyd Weber musical that's now raising the rafters at Baltimore's Hippodrome Theater.

Based on the hit 2003 film, the musical follows Dewey Finn, a down-on-his-luck wannabe rock star who poses as a substitute teacher at a prestigious prep school to make ends meet. When he discovers that his fifth-graders harbor some extraordinary musical talents, he encourages them to form a rock group and take a shot at winning the Battle of the Bands competition.

Andrew Lloyd Weber, who has done more than his share to bring rock and romance to Broadway, has composed 14 new songs for School of Rock, and kept all the original songs from the movie.  Directed by Laurence Connor and choreographed by JoAnn M. Hunter, the talented cast includes Rob Coletti as Dewey Finn, Lexie Dorsett Sharp as Rosalie, and a band of young actor/musicians who help deliver the musical's youthful spirit and high-octane score. 

School of Rock continues at the Hippodrome until Sunday, March 25.

Cover art courtesy Viking Press

It’s coming up on 100 years since the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote, was ratified by legislatures in the requisite three-fourths of US states.  The suffragist movement had begun 72 years earlier.  In the summer of 1920, in Nashville, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th amendment, just in time for the 1920 elections, in which 10 million women helped to sweep Warren Harding into office in a landslide victory. 

This year, as historically large numbers of American women are launching campaigns for election at all levels of government, Baltimore-based author and journalist Elaine Weiss has written a timely and compelling account of the final push in the long and hard-fought battle for women’s suffrage. Her new book is called The Woman’s Hour:  The Great Fight to Win the VoteShe joins Tom in Studio A.

Elaine Weiss will be talking about her new book at the Enoch Pratt Central Library here in Baltimore, as part of the library's Writers Live series.  That event, originally scheduled for tonight, has been rescheduled due to the severe weather, and will take place on Tuesday, April 3, at 6:30pm.  Follow the link for updated event details.

Photo courtesy Al Redmer for Baltimore Co. Executive

Today, it’s another in our series of Conversations with the Candidates, in-depth interviews with contenders in key races leading up to the June 26th Maryland primary election.

Today, Tom's guest is Maryland Insurance Commissioner Al Redmer, Jr.  The Baltimore County native hopes to build on his two terms as the state’s chief insurance regulator and four terms as a Republican state delegate to win his party’s nomination in the June primary for Baltimore County Executive.  Redmer is one of two Republicans in that contest, which is spotlighting his moderate conservativism, his wide-ranging family business experience and his close ties with Governor Hogan.  Where does he stand on school construction, immigration and affordable housing? Can he be the first Republican since 1990 to win Baltimore County’s top job? Candidate Al Redmer takes Tom's questions, and yours.

Today's conversation, like all our Conversations with the Candidates, was streamed live on WYPR's Facebook page.

EPA/ YULIA SKRIPAL/FACEBOOK

On this edition of the Midday News Wrap: Tom speaks with Dayvon Love, Director of Public Policy at Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle (LBS), about the comprehensive crime bill recently passed by the State Senate, over strong opposition from the Baltimore delegation.  The bill would introduce higher mandatory minimums for gun crimes and stringent sentencing for repeat offenders. 

Then, Tom is joined by John Fritze, Washington Bureau Chief for the Baltimore Sun, for a closer look at the race for Maryland's 6th congressional district, where the rising human toll of the opioid crisis looms over both constituents and candidates. 

Later, Will Englund, Foreign Assignment Editor at the Washington Post, veteran Moscow correspondent and a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, talks with Tom about the Trump administration's reactions to the alleged Russian nerve-agent attack in Britain on a former Russian spy and his daughter, and the new sanctions the White House has imposed on Russia for recent acts of political cyber-warfare.

Photo by Michael Brosilow

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins senior producer Rob Sivak with her review of a new production of Animal Farm, an adaptation of George Orwell's dystopian 1945 novella that's now running at Baltimore's Center Stage.

This popular adaptation of the novella, written in 1982 by Ian Wooldridge, is being co-produced in its new run at Center Stage with the Milwaukee Repertory Theater.  It re-imagines Orwell's anti-Stalinist allegory, in which the animals of Manor Farm rise up against their human masters and the tyranny of their forced labor, inspired by the revolutionary ideas that an old boar named Major shared with the animals before his death. They establish a new order based on Major's commandments of "Animalism," in which all humans are enemies, all animals are comrades, and all animals are equal.  But the revolutionary doctrines are soon twisted to empower a ruling clique led by a brutal, authoritarian boar named Napoleon. The citizens of Animal Farm begin to realize that some animals are more equal than others.

Directed at Center Stage by May Adrales, the eight-member "Animal Farm" cast includes Melvin Abston as Napoleon, Jonathan Gillard Daly as Benjamin, Tiffany Rachelle Stewart as Squealer, Brendan Titley as Snowball, and Stephanie Weeks as Major.  Playing multiple roles, the actors deploy unique animal-head armatures created by Costume Designer Izumi Inabi to portray the creatures of Manor Farm.

Animal Farm continues at Baltimore's Center Stage through Sunday, April 1st.  

Bloomberg News

Tom's guests today are three innovators who are working at the frontiers of high technology -- a technology that could be moving us closer to the historic milestone futurists call the “Singularity,” when human cognition merges with machines. 

Whether it’s intelligent robotic systems for the battlefield, or biomechanical limbs that really touch and feel, or those Internet-based oracles -- think Siri, Echo and Alexa -- that are starting to run our smart homes, it’s easy to believe that the "future" is very nearly upon us.  But are we ready for it? Do we understand how these smart machines will change our lives? Do we know how to navigate safely through the complex -- and sometimes dangerous -- cyber landscape that suddenly surrounds us?

Tom's three guests will help us answer those questions.

Joining us in the studio is Tina Williams-Koroma. She’s a lawyer, entrepreneur, educator and the founder and president of TCecure, a Silver Spring, Maryland, company that provides cyber-security and network intelligence to public sector and commercial clients.

Also with us in the studio is Bob Armiger.  He is a robotics expert who leads the Biological Sciences and Engineering Group at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, where his current projects include developing neuro-prosthetic limbs that can restore full sensory function to warfighter amputees.

And joining the conversation by phone is Harris Edge.  He’s the Acting Chief of the Autonomous Systems Division of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County, Maryland, and has been leading research on a variety of unmanned vehicles, drones and intelligent “limbed” machines designed to support military units, in and out of combat.

Jack Garofolo/Paris Match via Getty Images

The 1960s and 70s were a time of protest and change in America, and while marches and rallies were bringing the messages of dissent and disaffection to a world stage, movement activists were also using the marketplace to share and promote their ideas. Their unique storefronts offered politically-conscious alternatives to conventional, profit-driven business models. Today we’re going to take a closer look at those radical shops -- why many failed, some succeeded, and what impact they had on their movements.

Joining guest host Rob Sivak in the studio is Joshua Clark Davis, an assistant professor of history at the University of Baltimore and the author of a fascinating new book, From Head Shops to Whole Foods: the Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs, which chronicles the struggles, successes and legacies of those pioneering storefronts.

Later in the hour, Darius Wilmore joins the conversation to share his unique perspective on activist enterprise. Wilmore is a Baltimore-based design artist who’s produced the award-inning barber-shop style social commentary show, Fades and Fellowship, as well as the monthly storytelling series, The Short Cutz Show, rooted in the African-American and civil rights experience.  As a self-described “social impact designer” who got his start with the legendary Def Jam rap music studio 20 years ago, he has been closely involved for the past decade in the creation and evolution of a successful Baltimore business called Taharka Brothers Ice Cream, a company that has used its products, and its profits, to support programs for young African American men in Baltimore.

Photo by Tessa Sollway

It's Thursday, and Midday theater critic J, Wynn Rousuck joins guest host Rob Sivak with her weekly review of local thespian offerings.  Today, she spotlights the new production of a two-woman play by Win Wells called Gertrude Stein and a Companion, at the Fells Point Corner Theater.

Directed by Anne Hammontree and starring Marianne Gazzola Angelella as Alice B. Toklas and Andrea Bush as Gertrude Stein, the play explores the complex relationship between Stein, the celebrated American avante-garde writer, and Toklas, her lifelong companion.

Gertrude Stein and a Companion continues at the Fells Point Corner Theater through Sunday, m,arch 25th.

Photo courtesy Jim Brochin for Baltimore County Executive

Today on Midday, another in our series of Conversations with the Candidates, ahead of the June 26th primary elections. 

Tom's guest today is State Senator Jim Brochin, who is one of three Democratic candidates in the primary race for Baltimore County Executive.  The current County Executive, Kevin Kamenetz, has served the maximum two terms.  He is now running for Governor.  

Senator Brochin has represented the 42nd District in central and northern Baltimore County for four terms.  He was first elected to the Senate in 2003.  He heads the Baltimore County Delegation, and serves on the Judicial Proceedings Committee, the Special Committee on Substance Abuse, and the Executive Nominations Committee.  He’s an insurance broker.  He is 54 years old, a single father with a daughter named Catherine who is attending the University of Colorado.   Senator Brochin lives in Cockeysville.

We are streaming all of our Conversations with the Candidates on the WYPR Facebook page.  We take your calls and comments in the second part of today’s show.

Photo courtesy oscars.org

Welcome to another edition of Midday at the Movies
The 90th Annual Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday night, hosted once again by talk show host (and social activist) Jimmy Kimmel.  Excitement about this year's awards is running high because of a notably diverse and independent crop of films, filmmakers and performers. 

On today's Midday at the Movies, we preview a bit of that excitement by offering up some predictions of Oscar glory. Two of our favorite movie mavens join Tom in the studio:  

Jed Dietz is the founder and director of the Maryland Film Festival,which runs the newly restored  SNF Parkway Theater in Baltimore.

And Max Weiss is editor-in-chief and film critic for Baltimore magazine.

Before the conversation turns to the Oscars, however, Tom and his guests discuss the cinematic phenomenon that's swept not only U.S. theaters the past three weekends, but the international film market as well: Black Panther

An Africa-centered sci-fi action-hero film produced by Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Pictures and directed by Ryan Coogler, Black Panther has been attracting massive global audiences. As of Tuesday this week, the movie's worldwide box office had reached $748.1 million, and it continues to chase records for domestic weekend ticket sales. 

Photo by Shealyn Jae

It's Thursday, and our peripatetic theater critic, J. Wynn Rousuck, joins us once again, today with her review of Count DownThe play by Dominique Cieri is being produced by The Strand Theater Company, the only Baltimore theater that presents works written exclusively by women artists.

Cieri describes the play as a composite of her experiences working for a New Jersey youth arts program, helping a group of at-risk teenage girls express themselves by creating an original musical stage production.  Cieri says her work with the girls quickly became "a labor of love, and an odyssey into the psyche of the adolescent girl."

Count Down -- directed at the Strand by Bari Hochwald -- portrays that revelation, and, in the words of the Strand's program, "exposes the inherent dissonance between the child welfare system and the reality of the girls who have no choice but to spend their childhood and adolescence in its care."

Count Down was the recipient of the 2009 Mid Atlantic Individual Playwriting Fellowship, and Finalist for Playwrights First Award, the National Arts Club, NYC.

The Strand's production of Count Down is presented as part of the DC region's 2018 Women's Voices Theatre Festival.

Count Down continues through Sunday, March 4 at The Strand Theater,  which is located at 5426 Harford Rd. Baltimore MD 21201.  Ticket info at www.strand-theater.org.

Photo by Tom Kelley/Getty Images

On this edition of the Midday Healthwatch:  a busy week for public health advocates.  Members of the Baltimore City Council voted unanimously Monday to approve a measure requiring restaurants to replace the sugary soft drinks offered in most kids’ meals with more healthful milk, juice or water -- a response to the city's rampant childhood-obesity rates. In Annapolis, advocates pressed state lawmakers for new controls on soaring prescription drug prices. They also lobbied to bolster mandatory insurance provisions of the beleaguered Affordable Care Act, and they sparred over a bill that would impose tough new conditions on the use of the life-saving anti-overdose drug Narcan, or Naloxone, by repeat opioid abusers.

Joining Tom in the studio -- and taking a break from the front lines of public health advocacy -- is  our regular guest on the Midday HealthwatchBaltimore City Health Commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen.  She talks about some of the key legislative battles being waged over public health policy, and addresses listeners' comments and questions. 

Photo courtesy Gun News Daily

On today's edition of the Midday News Wrap, we begin with Baltimore Brew founding editor and publisher, Fern ShenThis week, the Brew published a series documenting the ballooning problem of overtime abuse in the Baltimore police department.

Then, Luke Broadwater of the Baltimore Sun and investigative reporter Alec MacGillis of ProPublica  join Tom to review some of the week’s top local and national stories, from Police Commissioner-designate Darryl De Sousa’s confirmation hearing in the City Council, and the Governor and the Mayor of Baltimore taking a victory lap following hundreds of warrant arrests, to the national debate over gun regulation that’s been re-ignited by last week’s deadly mass shooting at a Florida high school.

Photo by Britt Olsen-Ecker

There are few names or brands more deeply entrenched in the American psyche than Walt Disney. The 20th century animation pioneer built an iconic business and entertainment empire on the shoulders of a talking mouse named Mickey.  By the time of his death from lung cancer in 1966 at the age of 65, Disney and his many multi-media enterprises -- from movies to theme parks -- had become an unparalleled force in American culture. 

Now, a new show at the Single Carrot Theater in Baltimore explores a side of Mr. Disney that's in stark contrast to his benign public persona.   The production is called "A Public Reading of an Unpublished Screenplay About The Death of Walt Disney," and joining Tom to talk about it is the  company’s artistic director, renowned actress Genevieve de Mahy.  

Photo by Alyssa Eisenstein-Oxfam

Three-point-four million American citizens live on the island of Puerto Rico.  While efforts to rebuild communities in Texas and Florida after a series of deadly hurricanes last September are progressing steadily, 400,000 Puerto Ricans on the island are still without electricity, some five months after the wind and rain stopped. 

Noah Steinberg-Di Stefano has just returned from his second trip to Puerto Rico.  He’s with the Baltimore-based international aid group,  Lutheran World Relief.  He joins Tom in the studio.

Diane Jharriah-Robinson of Caritas-Antilles is working to restore stability and normalcy to the lives of the 73,000 people displaced by hurricanes on the tiny island of Dominica.  She joins us by phone from her field office in the Dominican capital, Roseau.

They give us an update on relief efforts, now that the TV cameras are long gone. 

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