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Midday

Photo courtesy Patheos.com

Today it's another edition of our monthly series called Living Questions – a series produced in collaboration with the ICJS, the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies here in Baltimore – that explores the role of religion in the public sphere.  

On today’s program, we’re going to be looking at the impact of the 112-day-old Trump Administration on religious freedom and tolerance in the United States.  Much has been said and written about the polarization in American political dialogue since the November presidential election, but we’re going to focus on how Donald Trump’s election victory has affected the way diverse religious groups interact with the larger society, and how presidential actions may have improved or worsened the climate of religious freedom -- one of America’s bedrock values.

Joining Rob to examine these questions are three leaders in their respective faith communities: 

John Gehring is Catholic program director at Faith in Public Life, which describes itself as a non-profit “strategy center…advancing faith in the public square as a powerful force for justice, compassion and the common good.”  He is also a contributing editor to Commonweal Magazine, and the author of The Francis Effect: A Radical Pope’s Challenge to the American Catholic Church, published in 2015. His analysis has been featured in the Washington Post, the New York Times, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Commonweal, and the National Catholic Reporter.   John Gehring joins us from NPR studios in Washington.

Joining Rob in Studio A is Rabbi Daniel Cotzin Burg.  He has been the Rabbi at the Beth Am Synagogue in Reservoir Hill here in Baltimore since 2010. He is a fellow in the Rabbinic Leadership Initiative of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and is a contributing author to Keeping Faith in Rabbis: A Community Conversation about Rabbinical Education.  He is a trustee of the ICJS.

Also in the studio is Imam Mohamad Bashar Arafat.  A native of Syria who has lived in the United States for nearly 30 years, Imam Arafat serves as the President of the Islamic Affairs Council of Maryland, and is the president and founder of the Civilizations Exchange & Cooperation Foundation, a non-profit group that provides religious and cultural training, consultation and orientation services for foreign exchange students and for the staff of the State Department’s Youth Exchange Study Program.

Photos by Teresa Castracane

It's Thursday, and that means theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck is here with her weekly review of the region's thespian offerings.  Today, she joins guest host and Midday senior producer Rob Sivak with a review of the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's revival of the 1960 classic musical, The Fantasticks.

The longest-running musical in Broadway history -- and still a perennial favorite of theater companies across the country and around the world -- has a simple, Shakespeare-inspired storyline, at whose heart is a 19 year-old boy and the 16 year-old girl next door. Their controlling fathers scheme to lead the unwitting pair into romance, but the matchmaking goes terribly wrong. The lyrical and sentimental musical, with book and lyrics by Tom Jones and music by Harvey Schmidt, is filled with memorable songs.  The Fantasticks is Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's first musical.  Directed by Curt L. Tofteland.

The Fantasticks continues at the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company through Sunday, May 21st.

photo courtesy vanhollen.sen.gov

President Trump's surprise decision Tuesday night to fire FBI Director James Comey, ostensibly for mishandling the Hillary Clinton email-server investigation, has sparked a political firestorm, and precipitated what some political observers say is an unprecedented constitutional crisis. 

Critics of Comey's sacking allege it was a brazen attempt by Mr. Trump to derail the FBI's ongoing investigation -- being led by Mr. Comey -- into Russia's meddling in the 2016 US presidential election, and possible collusion with the Trump presidential campaign.  The presidents's supporters say Mr. Trump's decision to fire the FBI chief was justified by Mr. Comey's controversial public statements regarding the FBI's Clinton investigation.  And they dismiss critics' concerns that the FBI's Russia probe could come to a halt under the new director that Mr. Trump will appoint.

For the first segment of Wednesday's show, Tom speaks with U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D. Md.) about the Comey firing, how it changes the political dynamic in Washington, and what impact it will have on the effort to finally learn the truth about Russia's involvement with the 2016 presidential race and the Trump campaign.

Photo courtesy Madison Smartt Bell

Tom's guest this afternoon is the novelist Madison Smartt Bell.  He is the author of more than 20 books, which include novels, short stories and works of non-fiction.  In 1995 and 1996, his novel, All Soul’s Rising, was a finalist for the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award.   It won the Anisfield-Wolf award for the best book of the year dealing with matters of race.  It’s the first of a three-part trilogy about Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Slave Uprising of the late 18th century.

Bell’s a professor of English and the co-director of the Kratz Center for Creative Writing at Goucher College.  He calls his latest novel "a fever dream."  Behind the Moon begins with a group of teenagers skipping school and heading to the desert for a camping trip.  When one of them gets into an accident, it sets off a chain of events that brings together an absent  mother, a young refugee, and a shaman, among others, for a story that delves into the complexities of family, the hardships of the outsider, and the power and possibility of the spirit world.  

Madison Smartt Bell will be talking about Behind the Moon on Saturday, May 13 at the "Starts Here Series” held at Bird in Hand Bookstore, located at 11 East 33rd Street, Baltimore, MD  21218.  

The event begins at 7:30pm.  For additional details, click here, or call 410 243 0757. You can also contact host Jen Michalski at jen.michalski@gmail.com

Today, the author joins Tom in the studio, and takes your calls, emails and tweets.

Today, a discussion about what we might call the privacy paradox.

We say one thing when it comes to online privacy, but many of us act in decidedly un-private ways when we’re on the internet. What do we mean by that? We often say that we don’t want to be spied on -- by big government or by big data, the companies that collect and sell information about every place we go online. But our behavior suggests that we don't really care about our privacy as much as we say we do.   We post all sorts of intimate details about our lives and our families. We voluntarily allow apps to know exactly where we are at all times. That information is valuable to all sorts of companies, and sometimes to certain government agencies. Do we, perhaps, care about privacy in some abstract way -- but not enough to behave online in a way that would keep our information more secure?  And if we say we value privacy, are we, as a society, able to articulate what’s wrong with losing privacy?

Joining Tom at the top of the show today is Firmin DeBrander, a professor and philosopher who has thought a great deal about our relationship with online privacy and why privacy matters.  DeBrabander is an associate professor of philosophy at MICA here in Baltimore, where he has taught since 2005.  He is the author, most recently of the book, “Do Guns Make Us Free?”  He is working on a book about privacy, and an article that he wrote recently on the subject caught our eye, so we asked him to stop by Studio A to tell us more.

This afternoon Tom welcomes to the show two scholars who think a lot about the technical and legal ways in which our privacy is up for grabs, how privacy protections are changing in the Trump Era, and what those changes mean.

Melanie Teplinsky is a cyber law and policy expert and an adjunct professor at American University’s Washington College of Law.  As a lawyer, she has advised international clients on a broad array of technical and policy positions having to do with privacy. She began her career as an analyst at the National Security Agency, and she then worked on encryption policy and a wide range of information technology policy issues as part of the Clinton Administration. Teplinsky writes and speaks extensively on cyber law and policy issues.  She joined us on the line from the studios of WAMU in Washington.

Prof. Avi Rubin joined Tom in the studio.  Rubin is the Technical Director of the Information Security Institute at Johns Hopkins University, where he also teaches computer science.  He specializes in the areas of cybersecurity and applied cryptography. He is the author of five books on information and computer security.

Photos- Allen by Stuart Hovell. Parnes by Chip Somodevilla

Yesterday, Emmanuel Macron trounced the populist far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, to become France’s next President.  The election was a blowout, and the latest in a string of repudiations of anti-immigrant candidates in Europe. 

So why have voters in France, the Netherlands and Austria rejected populist candidates while voters in the United States embraced the xenophobia of Donald Trump?  The authors of a new book about the 2016 Presidential election argue that the answer is, in part, Hillary Clinton.  Few candidates in history had the kind of political pedigree that the former Secretary of State brought to the race, but she was unable to overcome chronic and implacable voter distrust. 

Jonathan Allen is the head of community and content for Sidewire, and a columnist for Roll Call.  He joins us from the studios of NPR in Washington, DC.

Amie Parnes is the senior White House correspondent for The Hill newspaper.  She connects with us from WBGO public radio in Newark, NJ.

The two reporters /co-authors join Tom for the hour to describe one of the most consequential cases of woulda, coulda and shoulda in U.S. political history.  Their new book is called Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign.  

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

It's the Midday News Wrap, our Friday review of the week's top local, national and international stories, with host Tom Hall joined by a rotating panel of esteemed journalists and political observers.

This week, Democrats actually broke into song (belting out a few choruses of the 1969 Steam hit, "Na Na Na Na Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye") on the floor of the House of Representatives, as the Republicans' seven-year-long campaign to repeal and replace Obamacare finally took a step towards fruition.  Given the dramatic reductions in health coverage written into the bill, many Democrats believed it was a vote that will come back to haunt the Republicans at election time.  

Scribner, an imprint of Simon and Schuster

Today, a conversation about Dorothy Day, the journalist and Catholic social activist. She was the author of five books, and the co-founder and publisher of the Catholic Worker newspaper, which she edited from 1933 nearly until her death in 1980 at the age of 83. She was a rabble-rouser. She was a champion of social justice, pacifism and women’s suffrage. She converted to Catholicism as an adult. And now she’s being considered by the Catholic Church for canonization as a saint.

Dorothy Day’s granddaughter, Kate Hennessy, joins Tom in the studio to share some personal recollections of this iconic public figure. Hennessy, the youngest of Day’s nine grandchildren, is the author of a new book called “Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty: An Intimate Portrait of My Grandmother.” . She’ll be speaking tonight at 6 pm at Viva House, at 26 South Mount Street in Baltimore. For more information about tonight's event, call Viva House at 410-233-0488. Kate’s book will be available for sale at tonight's event, courtesy of St. Bede’s Bookstore.

Viva House is one of more than 250 Catholic Worker hospitality houses around the world, inspired by the houses Dorothy Day and others established decades ago. It’s run by Brendan Walsh and Willa Bickham. Bickham and Walsh joined Tom on the show last December for a conversation about their book of essays and art about Viva House. That lovely book is called "The Long Loneliness in Baltimore."

Associated Press photo.

On Friday (05/05/17) afternoon at 1:00pm, Reveal, the nationally syndicated NPR program produced by the Center for Investigative Reporting, will air an episode about police and communities of color here in Baltimore.  Mary Rose Madden of the WYPR news team and Mary Wiltenberg, a freelance reporter here in Baltimore, have each contributed stories about what happens when suspects in a crime react to police in different ways.  It’s called Running from Cops: In the Streets to the CourtsYou can hear it tomorrow afternoon on the radio or on-line, and you can also be part of a special listening event with the two reporters at 1:00 tomorrow at the Charles Theater here in Baltimore.  Mary Rose Madden and Mary Wiltenberg join Tom in Studio A with a preview.

Photography by Katie Simmons-Barth

Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck stops by each Thursday with her latest review of a major stage production. This week, it's "Dorian's Closet," at Rep Stage in Columbia, Maryland.

“Dorian’s Closet” is a new musical getting its world premier at the Rep Stage, that's loosely based on the life of Dorian Corey.  She was a legendary female impersonator who yearned for fame, but who also gained notoriety for a startling discovery made after her death.

The musical chronicles Dorian’s rise in the underground club scene in New York City in the 1980s through her death in 1993. “Dorian’s Closet” is a sobering and inspirational odyssey about the drive to turn dreams into reality. Directed by Joseph Ritsch.  Book & lyrics by Richard Mailman and music by Ryan Haase; choreographed by Rachel Dolan, with Musical Direction by Stacey Antoine.

Dorian's Closet continues at Rep Stage through Sunday, May 14.

BPD

Tom's guest is Kevin Davis, the Police Commissioner of the City of Baltimore.  He oversees the eighth largest police department in the country, with an annual budget of $480 million; that’s almost 19% of the entire city budget.  The BPD is one of about 25 agencies around the country that were investigated by the Civil Rights Division of the Dept. of Justice during the Obama Administration.  Other jurisdictions included New Orleans, Cleveland, and Ferguson, MS.   

In August of 2016, the Justice Department issued a scathing report about the Baltimore Police Department that found a pattern and practice of unconstitutional stops and arrests that singled out African Americans, the use of excessive force, and other very serious allegations.  That report led to a consent decree that was agreed to on January 12th of this year, just 8 days before the Obama Administration handed power over to the Trump Administration.  

Sheri Parks/D.Watkins

Today another installment of Culture Connections with Dr. Sheri Parks of the University of Maryland. Author D. Watkins joins as we continue to reflect on the 2015 Uprising sparked by the death of Freddie Gray. D. co-hosts Undisclosed, a podcast that re-examines Freddie Gray’s death. 

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Today a conversation with a panel of activists and community leaders as we continue to reflect on the 2015 violence and Uprising sparked by the death of Freddie Gray. Last year The Department of Justice issued a report detailing widespread misconduct and unconstitutional practices within the Baltimore Police Department. The city signed a consent decree with the DOJ and city leaders have vowed to reform the department.

Will those reforms be enough to build trust between police and communities of color? Two years after the Uprising, are residents seeing any differences in their communities? 

Midday's Sneak Peek At The Parkway

Apr 28, 2017
Maryland Film Festival

Midday host Tom Hall is joined by Jed Dietz, the Maryland Film Festival's founder and director; Ann Hornaday, Washington Post film critic and author of Talking Pictures: How to Watch Movies;  plus a panel of distinguished guests, for a special broadcast of Midday, live from the main theater of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Parkway, the new home of the Maryland Film Festival

The 19th Annual Maryland Film Festival will take place May 3rd-7th 2017. You can find the full schedule here.

Photo courtesy Baltimore Sun

Today (April 27, 2017) marks the 2nd anniversary of the 2015 Uprising, the eruption of violence in Baltimore following the funeral of Freddie Gray, the 25 year-old African American man who suffered a fatal spinal injury while being arrested by Baltimore City Police.  Those fateful days of rage – coming after two weeks of tense but largely peaceful protests -- shook Baltimore to its roots. It sparked a city-wide soul-searching that launched ambitious efforts to address the long- simmering issues affecting Baltimore’s communities of color. Yet two years later, many would say too little has been done to address the root causes of the 2015 unrest, and that the city may have let slip important opportunities for lasting change.

Photo by Stan Barouh

It's Theater Thursday on Midday, and that means our theater critic, J. Wynn Rousuck, joins Tom with her weekly review of the region's thespian offerings. This week, it's The Magic Play, the latest work of 2015 Helen Hayes Award-winner Andrew Hinderaker (Colossal). He returns to the Olney Theatre Center with another unique story combining passionate theatricality with a touch of genuine theater magic.

Brett Schneider plays a talented magician (like himself) who has won acclaim by maintaining absolute control over his performances. He has tried to do the same with his love life, but when his lover forces him toward some painful emotional reckonings, it threatens even his confidence as a magician. Hinderaker's play weaves a tale of emotional conflict and sleight-of-hand wizardry.

The Magic Play is directed by Halena Kays, with magic created by Brett Schneider.  Jim Steinmeyer serves as magic consultant.   Also in the cast are Jon Hudson Odom and Harry A. Winter.

An advisory from The Olney Theatre Center:  The Magic Play is recommended for ages 16+ for mature themes, strong language and intimate situations. It is not a magic show appropriate for children.

The Magic Play continues at the Olney Theatre Center through Sunday, May 7th.

Kids Safe Zone

Following the 2015 Uprising, everyone from politicians to activists pointed to issues of systematic racism and inequality as the cause of the unrest. Today as we reflect on the 2 years since the Uprising sparked by the death of Freddie Gray we’ll check in with two activists who lead non-profits to talk about the work they’re doing and the work the city has ahead to achieve equity. 

Ericka Alston Buck is the CEO of Maryland Community Health Initiatives Inc., a nonprofit organization that provides several services based programs in the Penn North Community, including the Kids Safe Zone and the Penn North Community Resource Center.

Photo by George David Sanchez

Today, it’s Midday on Mid Life.  Mid Life can be a dizzying hash of juggling jobs, keeping a marriage vibrant, tending to children as they enter adulthood, and caring for parents as they enter their twilight years.  No wonder the term “midlife” so often has the word “crisis” attached to it like a tentacle.     

But our 40s, 50s and 60s can also be a time when we come into our own, forge new relationships, and discover fresh things about the world and ourselves. 

In her most recent book, Life Reimagined: The Science, Art and Opportunity of Midlifeformer NPR correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty takes a clear-eyed look at the challenges and joys of being old enough to know better, and young enough to enjoy the new things that life may have to offer. 

Barbara Bradley Hagerty will talk about her book Wednesday night (April 26) at the Towson Unitarian Universalist Church on Dulaney Valley Road in Lutherville.  Her talk is sponsored by a group called Well for the Journey.  The event begins at 7:30.  More details here.

University of Maryland, Baltimore County

This week, we reflect on what’s happened in Baltimore since the 2015 violence and Uprising sparked by the death of Freddie Gray while in the custody of police. Even before the national guard troops left town in April 2015, civic leaders, law enforcement officials, scholars, business people and community activists identified systemic racial and economic inequality as root causes for the unrest. These community leaders envisioned a road forward that included more employment and educational opportunities for the city's poorest residents. Has that happened? What work do we have ahead of us?

Tom is joined by Dr. Freeman Hrabowski. He's been the president of The University of Maryland Baltimore County since 1992. He’s the co-author of Beating the Odds and Overcoming the Odds and the author of Holding Fast to Dreams: Empowering Youth from the Civil Rights Crusade to STEM Achievement. In 2012 he was asked by President Obama to chair the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans. 

Photo by Getty Images

It's the Midday News Wrap, our weekly roundtable on the week's major local, national and international developments, with a rotating panel of journalists and commentators.

Joining Tom on the News Wrap panel today:

Dr. Zeynep Tufekci is a contributing opinion writer at the New York Times and author of  the new book Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protests.  She joins Tom on the line from Chapel Hill, where she is an associate professor at the University of North Carolina.

Kamau High joins us in Studio A.   He is managing editor of the Afro-American Newspaper, based here in Baltimore, and a former reporter and digital producer in New York City for the Wall Street JournalThe Financial Times, among others.

Michael Fletcher is also here today.  He is a senior writer at ESPN’s The Undefeated.  He was for many years a national economics reporter and a White House reporter for The Washington Post, and before that, he was a reporter for many years at The Baltimore Sun. 

Photo courtesy Dr. Axe

For most of us, there’s at least one food we just can’t think about eating: otherwise-respectable fare like broccoli or Brussels sprouts, cabbage or kale, organ meats or sardines, tofu or…gorgonzola cheese. One look, or one whiff, and our minds tell us, no way…  

Today we're going to explore ways we might get around such food blocks, on this installment of What Ya Got Cooking? -- a regular Midday feature where we talk about recipes, food trends, traditions and good eats with our resident foodies:  John Shields and Sascha Wolhandler. 

John Shields is a chef, cookbook author and, with partner John Gilligan, the proprietor of Gertrude’s Restaurant at the Baltimore Museum of Art.  He’s also the host of Coastal Cooking and Chesapeake Bay Cooking with John Shields on Maryland Public Television and PBS.

Sascha Wolhandler runs Sascha’s 527 Cafe with her husband, Steve Susser.  

John and Sascha join Tom today with their tips for overcoming food aversions with a little creative cooking…and they share a few ideas for making the most of the delicious new spring veggies now available at local farmers markets

So, what foods do YOU avoid?  Got a recipe that’s changed your mind about a food you’ve always hated?  You’re welcome to join the conversation!

photo by Jeremy Daniel

Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom each Thursday to share her impressions of the region's thespian offerings. This week she's here with a review of the touring company production of the Broadway musical Something Rotten!, now playing at Baltimore's Hippodrome Theatre.    

A musical comedy brought together on stage by the director of Aladdin and co-director of The Book of Mormon and the producer of Rent, Avenue Q and In the Heights, Something Rotten! tells the story of brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom, two Renaissance-era playwrights mired in the shadow of their rockstar contemporary, Will Shakespeare. After a fortune-teller informs them that the next big trend in theater will involve plays that feature singing, dancing and acting at the same time, the brothers decide to produce the world's first musical. Their efforts provide Something Rotten!'s driving energy.

The musical's New York production opened in April 2015. The National Tour commenced in January of this year, with three Broadway principals reprising their roles: Rob McClure as Nick Bottom, Adam Pascal as Shakespeare and Josh Grisetti as Nigel Bottom. The touring cast also features Maggie Lakis as Bea, Blake Hammond as Nostradamus, Autumn Hurlbert as Portia, Scott Cote as Brother Jeremiah and Jeff Brooks as Shylock.

The original musical is directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon, Aladdin), with music and lyrics by Grammy Award winner and Tony Award nominee Wayne Kirkpatrick and Golden Globe Award and Tony Award nominee Karey Kirkpatrick, and a book by Tony Award nominees Karey Kirkpatrick and best-selling author John O’Farrell.

Something Rotten! continues at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore for a limited engagement from Tuesday, April 18 to Sunday, April 23.

Flickr/Franco Folini

Last month, the outcry from concerned parents and citizens about the number of missing teenage girls in and around Washington, D.C. sparked national outrage. The conversation was prompted by the dozens of missing persons alerts with pictures of black and brown teenage girls shared on social media over a short period of time.

There were theories and fears that the girls were being preyed upon by human traffickers. The hashtag #MissingDCGirls trended on Twitter; celebrities and politicians weighed in, and Washington DC Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a task force that will increase the number of police officers assigned to work missing persons cases, among other things. It turns out, that, according to the DC Metropolitan Police Department, the actual number of missing children has decreased over the last two years.  

Penguin Random House

Tom is joined today by Nigerian author, essayist and activist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Adichie splits her time between her native country Nigeria and the US, where she has a home in Columbia, Maryland. She's won several prestigious awards, including the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction and a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. She's headlining the 2017 Baltimore CityLit Festival later this month. That’s an annual event sponsored by the CityLit Project, an organization that advances the cause of all things literary here in Maryland.

US News and World Report

The Trump Administration and the Republican leadership in Congress are still vowing to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but as of now, Obamacare remains the law of the land.

With growing numbers of Americans speaking out in support for all or parts of Obama’s signature legislation, what lies ahead? 

How healthy is the ACA, and what changes might be in store for the tens of millions of Americans who depend on it?

Joining Tom to discuss the status and future of the Affordable Care Act are three experts on the ACA and national health policy: Julie Rovner, the chief Washington correspondent for Kaiser Health News and a former health policy reporter for NPR;  Professor Brad Herring, a health economist in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health; and Andrew Ratner, Director of Marketing and Strategic Initiatives at the Maryland Health Benefits Exchange, the agency that runs the state's health insurance marketplace.  

We also take your tweets, calls, and emails.

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We begin with State Senator Jim Rosapepe (D-MD 21st District), with his take on why lawmakers in Annapolis spent this year’s session with one eye on Capitol Hill. 

Then, the Midday News Wrap panelists join Tom to discuss the biggest stories of the week. Yesterday, President Trump dropped the "mother of all bombs" on ISIS targets in Afghanistan, this comes after the President launched a targeted airstrike in Syria in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad alleged use of chemical weapons. 

And, it's the video seen across the country; the footage of a 69-year old man being forcibly and violently removed from an overbooked United Airlines flight has caused a pr nightmare for the airline. Dr. David Dao's lawyer says he suffered a concussion and broken nose in the incident and lost two teeth, he plans to file a lawsuit. How did the incident escalate to violence and can United bounce back?

Photos by Sigrid Estrada

In this week when Jews celebrate Passover and Christians celebrate Easter, it’s another installment of Living Questions, our monthly series in which we explore the role of religion in the public sphere.

Today: the thorny issue of anti-Judaism in some of the great works of Christian art, with two writers for whom the famed 18th-century German composer, Johann Sebastian Bach, is a central focus.   

Lauren Belfer is a novelist.  Her latest book, And After the Fire, follows the journey of a Bach cantata as it changes hands over the course of two hundred years.

The music scholar Michael Marissen has written extensively about the religious and often anti-Jewish sentiments in the texts that Bach chooses to set to his glorious music.

His latest book is called Bach and God.   Marissen also explored this topic in a monograph he co-wrote in 2005 with Tom Hall and former ICJS executive director Christopher Leighton, called The Bach Passions in Our Time: Contending with the Legacy of Antisemitism.  

Confronting the legacy of anti-Semitism in the arts, on this edition of Living Questions, a collaborative production of WYPR and the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies (ICJS).

Photo by Glenn Ricci

Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck, who joins Tom each Thursday with her impressions of the region's latest stagecraft,  this week reviews what Submersive Productions likes to call its "immersive" new offering at Baltimore's historic Peale Center, called H.T. Darling's Incredible Musaeum Presents the Treasures of New Galapagos and Astonishing Acquisitions from the Perisphere.

Like previous excursions by Submersive Productions, H.T. Darling's Incredible Musaeum, based on a concept by Lisa Stoessel, engages the audience in a non-traditional theatrical setting. It encourages playgoers to explore the former Peale Museum's three stories of interconnected rooms, each not only filled with art, curios and exhibition-style display cases, but also peopled with live actors and puppets.

The titular H.T. Darling, played by mustachioed Sarah Olmstead Thomas, is a well-to-do explorer who has just returned from an expedition to a fanciful region of outer space called the Perisphere, and an alien planet he's named New Galapagos.  Darling shares the artifacts he's brought back with him in his Incredible Musaeum, where each audience member chooses his or her own path through the rooms, and through the evening's strange and cleverly organized events.

H. T. Darling's Incredible Musaeum is directed by Lisi Stoessel, Susan Stroupe and Glenn Ricci.  Mr. Ricci is also Submersive Productions' co-artistic director, with Ursula Marcum.

The cast also includes Josh Aterovis (Clayton, a museum guard),  Francisco Benavides (The Groundskeeper), Caitlin Bouxsein (a museum guard), David Brasington (Carol, a curator), E’Tona Ford (a museum guard), Emily Hall (shopkeeper-shared role), Brad Norris (Cedric), Martha Robichaud (shopkeeper-shared role), Trustina Sabah (Aku Maxilla, “humanoid specimen”), Lisi Stoessel (Maude, a curator),  and Alex Vernon (Dr. Percy Warner).  

Ursula Marcum and Jess Rassp are the play's puppeteers.

H. T. Darling's Incredible Musaeum is playing at the historic Peale Center, where its run has been extended through Sunday, May 14.  Ticket and showtime information here.

Maryland GovPics

Nearly 2,700 bills were introduced in this year’s session of the Maryland General Assembly, which came to a close on Monday night. Paid sick leave is in. Fracking is out. Ethics laws for lawmakers were juiced-up, as a long time member is indicted on fraud charges. There was a package of bills to address the opioid epidemic, and a measure that could lead to punishment for drug manufacturers who hike prices unreasonably. Gov. Larry Hogan reached a compromise on a transportation bill, and legislators found a way to allocate additional help to local school jurisdictions, including Baltimore. When asked to assess the third General Assembly since being elected in 2014, the Governor told reporters,“I’m not sure how it could have been any better."

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