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.

This Thursday, our esteemed theatre critic, J. Wynn Rousuck, reviews a little musical you may have heard of before called Hamilton: An American Musical. The award-winning show, now being performed at The Kennedy Center, uses rap, R&B, and hip-hop to tell none other than the history of the American Revolution, garnering it a gargantuan fan base across America and the world.  

Winner of 11 Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize to name a few, Lin-Manuel Miranda's masterpiece, inspired by Ron Chernow's famed biography, has finally reached Washington.  This version of the show started in San Francisco and is one of five off-Broadway versions of "Hamilton" across the U.S. and Britain. Directed by Thomas Kail, the show is here to stay for the next three months.

With 46 songs packed with lyrical punches, rhythm and rhyme, and a cast made up mostly of performers of color, "Hamilton" details the story of Alexander Hamilton, played by Austin Scott, the founding fathers, and their fight for independence. Love and loss. Betrayal and hope. Miranda guides viewers along the winding road of America's path to freedom. Immigration, national identity, and political scandal--Hamilton is not just a story of the past, but radiates with relevancey in the hearts of Americans today.

Hamilton: An American Musical continues at the The Kennedy Center through September 16th.

image courtesy aact.org

Today, a conversation about cultivating start-up businesses in Baltimore.  What does it take in terms of money and people to bring an idea for a new product or service to the market?  A recent survey of cities with the most start-up activity ranked Baltimore near the bottom.  Cities like San Francisco and New Yok continue to attract young entrepreneurs.  How can we get them to bring their talent here? 

Tom's three guests today help us answer those questions, from a variety of perspectives:

Christy Wyskiel runs the Johns Hopkins University Technology Ventures program.  She's also senior advisor to The Johns Hopkins University President, Ronald Daniels. 

Josh Russakis directs the Baltimore office of Venture for America, a two-year salaried fellowship program that matches recent college graduates with local start-ups. 

Floyd Jones is a fellow in that program, who's working with a start-up youth-sports organization in Baltimore called VoloCity and the VoloCity Kids Foundation.

They join Tom in the studio to share their experiences making Baltimore better for small business. 

We're live streaming the conversation on WYPR's Facebook page.

Photo by Ron Aira, Creative Services GMU

Tom’s guest today is General Michael Hayden.  In more than 40 years in the Air Force and the Intelligence Community, the retired four-star General served as the Director of the National Security Agency from 1999-2005, during the George W. Bush Administration.  He also served for about a year as the Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence, and in 2006, he became the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, until President Obama appointed Leon Panetta to that position in 2009.  

The thesis of General Hayden’s latest book is disconcerting and frightening.  Given President Trump’s proclivity to lie about what he knows to be true, and the danger that there are things he should know to be true, but doesn’t, Michael Hayden paints a picture of an intelligence community at risk, whose efficacy is directly affected by the President’s refusal to acknowledge facts, and his harsh and undisciplined rhetoric. 

photo courtesy The New School

Now, a conversation about a unique classical choral concert that’s happening tomorrow night in Towson, and the unique chorus that will be performing. 

Berkshire Choral International is an organization that for more than 30 years has brought choral singers together from all over the world, to perform in venues all over the world.  Tomorrow night, the BCI will be at Goucher College's Kraushaar Auditorium in Towson, performing Haydn's The Seasons.  For ticket and location info, click here.  

Joining Tom in Studio A to talk about the performance, and about the BCI's mission of building a global choral community, is Frank Nemhauser, who has been the group's Music Director since 1993.

Photography by Shealyn Jae

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins us now with her regular Thursday review of one of our region's many thespian offerings.  Today, she spotlights playwright Mark Scharf's The Quickening, now getting its world premiere at Baltimore's Fells Point Corner Theatre, in a co-production with the Collaborative Theatre Company.

Frederick Board of Elections

Early voting in the Maryland Primary begins tomorrow (June 14th).   Marylanders can vote early, at locations around the state, for a week, until June 21st.  Then, there’s a four-day break in voting until Election Day on Tuesday, June 26th.  A reminder that if you are not yet registered to vote, you can register and vote on the same day -- if you vote earlyYou will not be able to register on Election Day. 

The last time Maryland held a primary election for important offices like Governor, County Executive, or State’s Attorney was in 2014.  In the primaries that year, barely more than 24% of eligible Democrats participated in the election, and even fewer Republicans cast a vote in their primary.  The turnout in the General election was also very low.  Let’s hope that isn’t the case again this year.  

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Today we continue our series of Conversations with the Candidates with Baltimore City State’s Attorney, Marilyn Mosby.  She is running for re-election in the Democratic primary that takes place on the 26th of this month.  Early voting begins on Thursday.  She is opposed by two other candidates, Ivan Bates and Thiru Vignarajah.  The winner of the primary will run unopposed in the general election.   

Marilyn Mosby drew international attention when she indicted six Baltimore police officers in the police-custody death of Freddie Gray in 2015.   None of those indictments resulted in a conviction, but Ms. Mosby points to a 95% conviction rate to date for her office overall.  The State’s Attorney’s office prosecuted more than 41,000 cases last year.

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On this edition of Midday at the Movies -- our monthly look at new flicks and new trends in the film industry --movie mavens Ann Hornaday, film critic for the Washington Post, and Jed Dietz, founding director of the Maryland Film Festival,  join Tom to consider the surprisingly weak box office performance of the latest iteration of the Star Wars franchise,  director Ron Howard's Solo: A Star Wars Story, and the equally surprising popularity of RBG, the new documentary about the life and career of 84 year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, co-directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen.

Plus, Ann and Jed list their picks for new summer films you'll want to check out at local theaters.

photo by Matthew Murphy

Each Thursday, Midday's peripatetic theater critic, J. Wynn Rousuck, joins us with a review of one of the region's many theatrical offerings.  This week, she's spotlighting On Your Feet!, the new touring musical production based on the life and career of Cuban pop sensations (and husband-and-wife team) Gloria and Emilio Estefan, that's now on stage at Baltimore's Hippodrome Theatre.

With Christie Prades and Mauricio Martinez in the lead roles, On Your Feet portrays the Estefan's humble beginnings in Cuba, and their ascent, after coming to America, to the pinnacle of the pop-music world.  It shows us the near tragedies, too, including the life-changing 1990 bus crash that severely damaged Gloria's back and also injured other members of her family and band.

Energized by a score featuring more than two dozen of Emilio and Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine's iconic pop hits -- from "Conga" to "Turn the Beat Around" --  On Your Feet! tells the story of a pioneering and influential musical couple that faced adversity, and found a way to stay on their feet.

On Your Feet! is directed at the Hippodrome by two-time Tony Award winner Jerry Mitchell (Kinky Boots), with choreography by Olivier Award winner Sergio Trujillo (Jersey Boys) and an original book by Academy Award winner Alexander Dinelaris (Birdman).  

On Your Feet! continues at The Hippodrome through Sunday June 10.

photo by Earl Wilson, New York Times

Many have suggested that this election year is, once again, the year of the woman.  As primaries continue in this mid-term cycle, there are nearly 80 women who have already secured a spot on November 2018 ballots for U.S. congressional seats and governorships across the country.

Today, Tom's guest is Amy Chozick, a reporter for the New York Times who covered Hillary Clinton, the most famous woman in American politics, in her two attempts to win the White House.  Chozick's new book is called Chasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns and One Intact Glass Ceiling

There is no shortage of theories to explain why Secretary Clinton was not able to break the glass ceiling of the Presidency, even when pitted against a candidate who was as divisive and abhorrent to as many people as Donald Trump was, and continues to be.  But how does Clinton's loss in 2016 -- and her loss to her Democratic rival, Barack Obama, in 2012 -- inform the current crop of women who are storming the barricades in this cycle?  Given Clinton’s unique place in American politics, in what ways might she present a model for that woman who eventually does break the proverbial glass ceiling of the Oval Office?

Amy Chozick joins Tom for the hour.

photo courtesy Thiru for Baltimore.

Continuing our series of Conversations with the Candidates, our focus today is on the Democratic primary election later this month for Baltimore City State’s Attorney Three candidates, including the incumbent, Marilyn Mosby, are competing in that race to be the city’s top prosecutor.

It’s a big job, overseeing more than 200 lawyers and tens of thousands of prosecutions every year, and it's a job our guest today would very much like to have. 

Thiru Vignarajah is a former prosecutor who’s spent most of his legal career in public service.  He was born in Baltimore to Sri Lankan immigrant parents, both of them Baltimore City public school teachers. Vignarajah himself is a product of the public school system, having gone from Edmondson Heights and Woodlawn High to Yale University and Harvard Law School, where he served as president of the Harvard Law Review . He went on to clerk for Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer, and he served as a federal prosecutor at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore, working under then-U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein. Vignarajah subsequently moved to the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office, where he headed the Major Investigations Unit.

photo courtesy Annapolis Shakespeare Co.

It's Thursday, and time again for a visit with Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck, who joins us in the studio each week with her reviews of the region's theatrical endeavors.  This week, she spotlights the new production of Kiss Me, Kate, the Bard-inspired musical now on stage at Annapolis Shakespeare Company

Kiss Me, Kate is the "backstage" story of the production of a fictional musical version of William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew, fueled by the conflicts, on-stage and off, between the show's director, producer and star, and his temperamental leading lady (and ex-wife).

Written by Samuel and Bella Spewack, with music and lyrics by the inimitable Cole PorterKiss Me, Kate opened on Broadway in 1948 and enjoyed a long and successful initial run. In 1949, it won five Tony Awards, including the first Tony ever presented for Best Musical.  Ever since, it has been a frequent and internationally popular choice for revivals.

Directed and choreographed for Annapolis Shakespeare Company by Sally Boyett, with musical direction by Marc IrwinKiss Me Kate features a 17-member cast led by Benjamin Russell as producer Fred Graham and Robin Weiner as his ex-wife and star, Lilli Vanessi.

Kiss Me Kate continues at Annapolis Shakespeare Company through Sunday June 3.

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Early on Saturday morning, June 2, several thousand runners are expected to turn out for the 10th annual Baltimore Ten-Miler.   It starts and finishes in Druid Hill Park, and includes scenic strolls across 33rd Street and around Lake Montebello.  When that many runners lace-up and hit the pavement, there are bound to be a few twisted ankles, sore knees and strained backs.  

Dr. Miho Tanaka joins Tom in the studio to talk about how you can avoid serious injuries on race day and how you can minimize some of the inevitable aches and pains that follow a long run.  Dr. Tanaka also discusses the importance of an active lifestyle, and different kinds of exercise that help us stay healthy.  

Dr. Tanaka is an orthopedic surgeon and the Director of the Women’s Sports Medicine Program at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Before moving to Baltimore, she was the team physician for the St. Louis Cardinals and the St Louis Surge in the WNBA.  She’s also served as assistant team physician for the Baltimore Orioles and another professional women’s basketball team, the NY Liberty.   

Dr. Tanaka also answers listeners' questions about fitness and training routines, and possible treatments for the aches and pains of their active lives.

photo by Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun

Today we continue our series of Conversations with the Candidates...

Here in Baltimore, the city’s top prosecutor is the Baltimore City State’s Attorney, an elective position that's often in the eye of the storm surrounding some very high profile criminal cases.  The incumbent State’s Attorney, Marilyn Mosby, attracted national attention with her decision to indict six officers involved in the arrest of Freddie Gray in 2015.  Mr. Gray died while in police custody.  None of the indicted officers were convicted of a crime.   

But while cases like those involving Freddie Gray get a lot of scrutiny, the State’s Attorney’s office prosecuted more than 41,000 cases in 2017.  The State’s Attorney oversees more than 400 people, including more than 200 lawyers, and the salary is the highest of any city employee.  It’s a big job, and there are two people challenging the incumbent for it in next month’s Democratic primary. 

Tom's guest for the hour today is one of those challengers. 

Ivan J. Bates is a veteran litigator, defense attorney and city prosecutor.  He earned his BA in journalism at Howard University in 1992 and got his Law Degree at William and Mary in 1995.  He was admitted to the Maryland bar that year and after clerking for Judge David B. Mitchell on the Circuit Court of Baltimore City, he served as an assistant state’s attorney in Baltimore, where he worked in the Juvenile Crime Division and later, the Homicide Division.  He started his own law practice in 2006.

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Today, Midday goes Back to the Garden.  

It’s been a pretty unusual spring, with the Eastern United States recording one of the coldest Marches in nearly two decades and an April that was also colder and wetter than normal. 

But here we are in May, with the Memorial Day Weekend on the horizon.  If you’re staying in town, sunshine is predicted at least for Saturday, and lots of us are raring to go in our gardens. 

Joining us with some tips on how to make those gardens grow: 

Carrie Engel, the greenhouse manager at Valley View Farms, the popular family-owned nursery in Cockeysville, Maryland.  She’s been a plant specialist at Valley View for most of nearly five decades.  She takes care of the annuals, tropicals and vegetables...

...and Denzel Mitchell, Jr. the former owner of Five Seeds Farm. Last month, he signed on as the farm manager at Strength to Love 2 Farm, a 1-½ acre workforce training farm in Baltimore's Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood.  They work with returning ex-offenders and serve as a Baltimore food resource with produce outlets around the city.  The farm is run by the faith-inspired non-profit group called Intersection of Change.  It's also a member of the Farm Alliance of Baltimore, a network of producers that’s working to increase the viability of urban farming and to improve access to city-grown foods...

We invite you to join the conversation with questions about your garden.

This segment was streamed live on WYPR's Facebook page.  You can check out the video here.

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It's time again for our weekly visit from theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck, who joins Tom today with her review of the new production of The Book of Joseph, now on stage at Baltimore's Everyman Theatre.

The play is a stage adaptation by Seattle playwright Karen Hartman of a book by former Baltimore newpaper and TV journalist Richard Hollander.  After Hollander's parents were killed in a car accident in the mid-1980s, he discovered in their attic a briefcase filled with correspondence. The letters, all stamped with Third Reich swastikas, provided a unique record of the tragic fate of his Jewish relatives in German-occupied Poland during the Holocaust, and of his father's heroic efforts to save them.

The discovery of those letters led Hollander, eventually, to write a book, which he published in 2007, called “Every Day Lasts a Year: A Jewish Family’s Correspondence from Poland.”  The book inspired the play that world-premiered in Chicago in 2017, and has now come to the Everyman, with Noah Himmelstein directing the resident company cast.

The Book of Joseph continues at Baltimore's Everyman Theatre until Sunday, June 10. 

Photo courtesy Donna Brazile

Tom's guest today is Donna Brazile.  A Democratic political operative for more than 40 years, Ms. Brazile encountered a firestorm of criticism last fall when she published her memoir of the 2016 election, Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-Ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House.  Many of her fellow Democrats read the book as a bitter diatribe from a disgruntled member of the old guard.

But perhaps lost in the scrum of discord were Ms. Brazile’s alarming accounts of Russian interference in the electoral process.  Yesterday, the Republican Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee affirmed the conclusion of multiple intelligence agencies that the Russians did indeed act to support Donald Trump and discredit Hillary Clinton in the run-up to the US presidential election of 2016. 

Photo by Bill Geenan

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom today with her review of the world premiere of Soul: The Stax Musical, now rattling the boards at Baltimore Center Stage.

The production is the directorial swansong of departing artistic director Kwame Kwei Armah, who's stepping down after seven years running the shows at Center Stage. (Check out his May 9 interview here on Midday).

With a book by Matthew Benjamin, choreography by Chase Brock, musical direction by Rahn Coleman and a multi-talented 21-member cast, Soul: the Stax Musical tells the story (with renditions of more than 30 songs) of Memphis-based Stax Records and the recording company's role in launching such legendary artists as Otis Redding, The Staple Singers, Isaac Hayes, Booker T & The MG's, Rufus & Carla Thomas, David Porter, Wilson Pickett, Johnnie Taylor, and Eddie Floyd — singers whose iconic work during the 1960s and 70s laid the foundations for American Soul Music. Their story, and the rise and fall of Stax Records, play out against the backdrop of the evolving civil rights struggle and the growing power of R&B music -- still evident today -- to unite a divided nation.   

Soul: The Stax Musical continues at Baltimore's Center Stage through Sunday, June 10.   

Hollander photo by Katherine Marmion/Everyman; Hartman photo by Lou Daprile

We turn now to a play that's based on a book by a former journalist whom many Baltimoreans of a certain age will recognize.   After Richard Hollander’s parents were killed in a car accident in the mid-1980s, he discovered in their attic a suitcase full of correspondence that gave him great insight into the fate of his Jewish relatives in German-occupied Poland during the Holocaust.  That discovery led him to write a book, with co-authors Christopher R. Browning and Nechama Tec, which he published in 2007, called “Every Day Lasts a Year: A Jewish Family’s Correspondence from Poland.”  That book, in turn, inspired a play that is currently on stage at the Everyman Theater.  It’s called The Book of Joseph.  It was adapted by Seattle-based playwright Karen Hartman, whose other recent works include Roz and Ray and Project Dawn. She joins us on the phone from Seattle.

Author Rich Hollander was a reporter for the long-defunct Baltimore News American newspaper and later for WBAL Television. He now runs Millbrook Communications, a sports marketing firm in Baltimore.  He joins Tom in Studio A.

Public Domain Pictures

Before beginning today's Healthwatch conversation with Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen, Tom talks with WYPR reporter Mary Rose Madden about the news that Baltimore Police Commissioner Daryl DeSousa has been charged by federal prosecutors with not filing tax returns for the years 2013, 2014 and 2015.  DeSousa has admitted to the facts filed in Federal Court yesterday, and he’s apologized.

Following today's Midday broadcast, Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh announced she has suspended Mr. DeSousa with pay until the matter is "resolved." In the meantime, the police chief position will be filled by Deputy Commissioner Gary Tuggle, a former top-ranking Drug Enforcement Administration official tapped by De Sousa in March to oversee strategic and support services for the City.
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As Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is laid to rest this afternoon, we’ll begin today with a conversation about heart disease.  Mr. Kamenetz’s sudden passing has left a lot of people wondering, “How can a man, who was only 60 years old, not overweight, a healthy eater, and a person who exercised regularly, die of a heart attack?”

Dr. Leana Wen, the Health Commissioner of Baltimore City reminds us of what we can do to prevent heart disease.  She joins Tom on this edition of the Midday Healthwatch, our regular conversations with Dr. Wen about important public health issues affecting the well-being of all Baltimorians.  

Baltimore County Executive's Office

We begin the show today with reflections on the life and career of Kevin Kamenetz, a fixture on the Maryland political scene for more than two decades.

Mr. Kamenetz died early Thursday morning from a heart attack.

He began his career in public service as a prosecutor in the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s office. He was first elected to the Baltimore County Council in 1994. He served four terms, before being elected as the County Executive in 2010. He was considered a leading candidate in the crowded field of people running for the Democratic nomination for Governor. He is survived by his wife Jill, and their two teenage sons, Karson and Dylan. Our hearts ache for them. Kevin Kamenetz was 60 years old.

Joining Tom on the line to remember Mr. Kamenetz are Donald Mohler III, who was a close friend of Mr. Kamenetz and served as his chief of staff in the County Executive’s Office, Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger, who served as Baltimore County Executive from 1994 to 2002, and Jim Smith, who preceded Kamenetz as Baltimore County Executive. He currently serves as the Chief of Strategic Alliances in the office of Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh.

Photo by Britt Olsen-Ecker

Our theater critic J. Wynn  Rousuck joins Tom for another of her weekly reviews of the region's theater offerings. Today, she's spotlighting the world premiere of an adaptation of the J.M.Barrie classic, Peter Pan, ​now on stage at Baltimore's Single Carrot Theatre.

Billed officially as Peter Pan: Wendy, Peter. Peter, Wendy, the play is a modern re-imagining of Barrie's beloved 1904 stage fantasy (and 1911 novel) about identity, growing up and belonging.  It retains the original's iconic characters, from Peter Pan and Wendy and the Darling family dog Nana, to Captain Hook and Tiger Lily and the Lost Boys.  But playwright Joshua Conkel, working in collaboration with Baltimore’s LGBTQ+ residents and service organizations, has updated the Barrie original (as the Single Carrot program explains) "to include contemporary conversations about gender, sexuality, and performative identity, and to embrace queer culture."  The result is that Barrie's nostalgic Neverland is transformed "from a distant fantasy to a modern safe-haven for those who have been rejected and devalued, a stronghold against normalcy and a place where Peter and his Lost Boys can finally be themselves."

Tristan Powell directs Peter Pan at Single Carrot with a cast that features Tina Canady as Wendy/Peter, and Single Carrot Ensemble member Ben Kleymeyer as Peter/Wendy.

Peter Pan continues at Single Carrot Theatre through Sunday, May 20. 

Photo courtesy BCPS

Tom's guest today is the interim superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools, Verletta White.  Last month, the County School Board appointed Ms. White as the permanent superintendent, but that decision was overruled last week by the State School Superintendent, Karen Salmon.  Baltimore County is still reeling from the ethics scandal that led to a jail sentence for the previous superintendent.  What are the consequences of the continuing drama surrounding his successor on the state’s third largest school district?  Verletta White joins us today in Studio A to discuss the turmoil over her appointment, and the next steps in her bid to lead Baltimore County schools.

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Plus, there's some drama with the leadership of schools in Baltimore City and Prince George’s County, too.  We’ll have analysis of recent developments in both school systems as well as perspectives on Verletta White's situation, in the second half of the show today, from veteran Baltimore Sun education reporter Liz Bowie. 

Photo by Matthew Murphy

It's time for our regular Thursday visit with Midday's peripatetic theater critic,  J. Wynn Rousuck, who joins Tom in the studio today with her review of An American in Paristhe touring stage adaptation of the Gershwin-inspired 1951 film musical. The Tony Award-winning production premiered on Broadway in 2015, hit the road in 2016, and is just now making its local stop at Baltimore's Hippodrome Theater.

Like the classic Vincente Minnelli film -- which starred Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron and won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture -- this award-winning stage adaptation tells the story of an American World War II veteran and aspiring painter who lingers in the newly-liberated Paris of 1945 and falls in love with a young French woman.  Also like the film, the stage version weaves their complicated romance through a rich tapestry of George Gershwin's brilliant orchestral works -- including the titular An American in Paris, the Concerto in F and a Second Rhapsody/Cuban Overture medley -- and more than a dozen of the incomparable songs that George and his brother Ira Gershwin penned during the 1920s and 30s.  Show numbers include I Got Rhythm, S'Wonderful, But Not for Me, Stairway to Paradise, and They Can't take That Away.  And as in the Gene Kelly-choreographed film, a lot of that great music is set wonderfully to dance.

Sollers Point still courtesy Matt Porterfield

It's Midday at the Movies.

The 20th annual Maryland Film Festival kicks off tonight at the SNF Parkway Theater here in Baltimore.  More than 120 local and international filmmakers from around the world are gathered at the newly restored theater on Charles Street to screen their latest work, and to discuss the many facets of their art in panel discussions and workshops.  Between Wednesday May 2 and Sunday, May 6, audiences will be treated to a buffet of over 40 narrative films and documentaries, plus 10 series of short films. 

Today, a preview of the Maryland Film Festival, with its director and founder, Jed Dietz.

Tom also talks with a group of film artists with past and present links to the festival, including Baltimore director Matt Porterfield and actor Jim Belushi, the co-star of Porterfield's new film, Sollers Point, which is premiering at this year's festival

Filmmaker and Maryland Historical Society curator Joe Tropea also stops by the studio to discuss   Sickies Making Filmshis new documentary about the history of film censorship in America. And Tom talks by phone with filmmaker Erik Ljung (pron. "yung") in Los Angeles. His powerful documentary film, The Blood Is at the Doorstep, about a police killing of an unarmed black man in Milwaukee four years ago, has won kudos since its world premiere at the 2017 South-by-Southwest Festival in Austin. The film also screened at last year's Maryland Film Festival, and it returns for another run at the Parkway theater on the heels of the Festival next week.

:Photo courtesy The Union newspaper (CA)

Today a conversation about the interplay of music and medicine.

Parkinson's disease is a chronic degenerative brain disorder that affects about 3% of people over the age of 60.  That’s the average age of people who develop the disease, but Parkinson’s has been diagnosed in people as young as 18.  

The Parkinson’s Association reports that about 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease every year.  There may be as many as 7-10 million people living with Parkinson’s world-wide.

There’s a story in the Baltimore Sun by Andrea McDaniels that describes how some patients use boxing to help stave-off the tremors and balance problems they experience.  And, there is some encouraging research that indicates that music may also be a helpful tool in treating the devastating symptoms of this pernicious disease. 

Dr. Zoltan Mari is the director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas and the head of the Nevada Movement Disorders Program.  He joins us on the phone from his office in Las Vegas.

Dr. Alexander Pantelyat joins us here in Studio A. He’s an assistant professor of neurology, and the co-founder and co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Music and Medicine, a research and treatment initiative with the Peabody Institute.   As you can see in this brief clip produced by the Baltimore SunDr. Pantelyat is also an accomplished violinist.

Carolyn Black-Sotir is here as well.  She’s a singer, actress and journalist.  You may have seen her perform in concerts, or as a host on Maryland Public Television.   She lost both her parents to Parkinson’s Disease, and she has a concert series called the Steinway Series at Silo Hill in Baltimore County that is devoted to raising awareness of, and funding for, research on Parkinson’s Disease.

An outgrowth of Dr. Pantelyat's research at Johns Hopkins Center for Music and Medicine is ParkinSonics, a research study group-turned-community chorus that's open to anyone with PD or atypical Parkinsonism. No musical experience is necessary, and everyone is welcome. Sponsored by the Maryland Association for Parkinson Support, Inc (MAPS), and Johns Hopkins Pacing for Parkinsons Campaign. For more info, email parkinsonics@comcast.net.

Photo by Will Kirk

It's Thursday, and that means it's time for Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck and her weekly review of the region's noteworthy thespian offerings.   Today, she spotlights the new and unusual staging of William Shakespeare's Othello at Baltimore Shakespeare Factory.

What's distinctive about this production of the Bard's 1604 tragedy is its use of "Original Pronunciation," or O.P., which employs the sounds and rhythms of the English that actors in Shakespeare's London theaters would have spoken more than 400 years ago.  The cast was trained in the antique dialect by O.P. coach  Ann Turiano.

Directed by Tom Delise, BSF's Othello features Troy Jennings in the title role, Kathryn Zoerb as Desdemona, Ian Blackwell Rogers as Iago, and Jess Behar as Aemelia.

Othello (in Original Pronunciation) continues at the Baltimore Shakespeare Factory through April 29.

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 characters 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.

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