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Midday

Photo by Richard Anderson

Midday's theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in the studio -- as she does most Thursdays -- with her review this week of The White Snake, on stage in the renovated Head Theater at the newly named Baltimore Center Stage.

Based on an ancient Chinese fable, The White Snake uses mystery and magic to tell a fantastical tale that's staged in grand-spectacle style, intertwining traditional and modern storytelling techniques.  

Two animal spirits -- White Snake and Green Snake, played by Aime Donna Kelly and Eileen Rivera, have taken human form as a beautiful woman and her sly servant. White Snake falls in love with a poor pharmacist’s assistant (played by Joe Ngo), but their relationship is condemned by a conservative monk (played by Peter Van Wagner), and their newfound happiness is threatened by tragedy. 

The White Snake was written-adapted by Mary Zimmerman, and directed by Natsu Onoda Power.  Nicole Wee is the costume designer,  Hana S. Kim is the scenic and projection designer, and  Jeff Song is music director.

The White Snake is at Baltimore Center Stage until March 26th.  Ticket and showtime information is available here.

Tony Juliano

 

Today a conversation about the racial wealth gap and why it persists. Nationally, Blacks have a median household income that’s 60 percent of that of Whites; in Baltimore that number is even lower at just 54 percent. That’s according to a report from the non-profit Corporation for Enterprise Development

For millions of people, home ownership is the key to building wealth. African Americans and Latinos are less likely to own their own homes. And when they do, because of years of redlining in communities of color, they’re valued a lot lower than houses in traditionally white communities.

Sheri Parks

Today, a conversation about public funding of the arts, and how federal, state and local budgets reflect the priorities of President Donald Trump, Governor Larry Hogan, and Mayor Catherine Pugh. 

The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities are two of 17 federal agencies that appear to be targeted by the Trump administration for elimination, as its budget inclinations lean heavily toward defense spending. The state of Maryland funded arts institutions at the highest level ever last year, and the Governor has proposed an additional $1 million this year, bringing the allocation for the arts to $21 million in Fiscal Year 2018. Ironically, Baltimore City Schools are facing drastic cuts. Principals looking to trim expenses, may have to make cuts to music and visual arts programs. 

An organization called Arts Every Day is holding a symposium this weekend that will call attention to the role that arts education plays in boosting attendance, improving test scores and making schools vibrant parts of their communities.

Cover art courtesy W. W. Norton & Co., Publisher.

Russia remains firmly in the news. Seventeen U.S. intelligence agencies have determined that the Kremlin attempted to influence voters during the Presidential campaign, by spreading disinformation and hacking emails of Clinton campaign officials, and senior leadership of the Democratic National Committee. One senior US official, Gen. Michael Flynn, was forced to resign for not being forthright about his contacts with the Russian Ambassador, and another, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is facing calls to resign for doing essentially, the same thing. America’s posture towards Russia has ebbed and flowed, through two world wars and the Cold War, to the optimism of Perestroika during the Brezhnev/Gorbachev years. Relations deteriorated significantly during the Obama administration, especially when Russian aggression in Crimea and Ukraine led to international sanctions.

President Donald Trump appears to think highly of Russian President Vladimir Putin, but skeptics think that Trump’s bromance with Putin is premised in naiveté, rather than a studied understanding of geo- politics. As Will Englund points out in his new book, it’s nothing new that an American president might not understand Russia, and be ill-equipped to predict what Russian intentions are on the world stage. Englund is an editor on the Washington Post Foreign Desk, and he oversees that paper’s Russia coverage. A Pulitzer Prize winner, he has had three tours as a Moscow correspondent for both The Washington Post and The Baltimore Sun. His book is called March 1917: On the Brink of War and Revolution (published by W.W. Norton & Co.).  Englund joins Tom on the line from the newsroom of The Washington Post.

Will Englund will be talking about his book a week from Tuesday (March 14) at the Ivy Bookshop in North Baltimore, and a month from today (April 6) at the Johns Hopkins Barnes and Noble Bookstore in Baltimore's Charles Village neighborhood.

Photo by REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

It’s the Midday News Wrap, our regular Friday review of the week's top local, national and international news stories, with a rotating panel of journalists, commentators and community leaders.

President Trump gave a widely praised speech on Tuesday night to a joint session of Congress.  Various news outlets have identified more than a dozen false or misleading statements in that address.  The Washington Post is keeping track of such things.  They’ve accumulated 187 factually inaccurate statements by the President in his first 40 days in office.  Still, many people think the President quieted some skeptics with his performance in front of Congress.

KEVIN WINTER/ GETTY IMAGES

Today, it’s our monthly Movie Mayhem, and we start with a look back at last Sunday's Academy Award ceremony. That was one weird ending, on a historic night when Moonlight, a low-budget film about a young black man's coming of age and coming out, won the Best Picture Oscar – and deservedly so – but only after its statue was first mistakenly given to La La Land. And that gag with the Hollywood tour group? Did anyone vote for that?

Tom zooms in today on what won and what worked at the 2017 Oscars, plus what’s next on the big screen -- and what's good about the new Cinebistro in the Rotunda -- with regular Midday movie maven Jed Dietz of the Maryland Film Festival, and guest maven Max Weiss, a film and culture critic and managing editor of Baltimore Magazine.

Photo by Joan Marcus

Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in the studio, as she does each Thursday, with a review today of  the Broadway touring company production of The Bodyguard, on stage through Sunday (March 5) at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore.  

Based on the 1992 hit film of the same name starring Kevin Costner and the late Whitney Houston, the award-winning musical showcases the extraordinary talents of the Grammy-nominated R&B superstar, Deborah Cox

Most audiences will likely recall The Bodyguard storyline: former Secret Service agent-turned-bodyguard, Frank Farmer, played by Judson Mills, is hired to protect superstar Rachel Marron, played by Cox, from an unknown stalker. Each is strong-willed and used to being in control, but in spite of themselves, they fall in love.  The Bodyguard features a playlist of popular classics, including "Queen of the Night," "So Emotional," "One Moment in Time," "Saving All My Love," "Run to You," "I Have Nothing," "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" and one of the biggest-selling songs of all time – "I Will Always Love You."

The Bodyguard was adapted from the Lawrence Kasdan screenplay with a book by Alexander Dinelaris.  The Broadway touring production is directed by Thea Sharrock, choreographed by Karen Bruce, with set and costume designs by Tim Hatley.  

The Bodyguard continues at the Hippodrome until Sunday, March 5th.

Baltimore City Council

Today a conversation with three new members of the Baltimore City Council. Last November, voters elected eight new members to the council. At that time, pundits predicted that these new, often younger members would shake things up. So how are the first few months going and what can we expect from the city council going forward?  

There’s a public hearing tonight on a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. On Monday, the council passed a resolution tranfer control of the  Baltimore police department from the state to the city. And, funding for the school system is front of mind. We’ll find out where these freshmen lawmakers stand on these and other issues facing them in their first weeks in office.  

cnn.com

There are an estimated 19,000 addicts who inject heroin and other opioids in the city of Baltimore.  They shoot up, in the shadows.  They even have a name for the vacant houses they sometimes use:  abandominiums.        

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health say that as part of a strategy to address this growing epidemic, Baltimore should establish places where addicts can use drugs in safer environments.  These “Safe Drug Consumption Spaces” would be monitored by medical personnel, who could intercede if someone overdoses, and addicts can, at the very least, be guaranteed the use of sterile needles. 

Dr. Susan Sherman recently published a report commissioned by the Abell Foundation that makes the argument for the creation of these safe spaces in Baltimore City.  She joins me today, along with Robert Kinneberg, the director of the Phoenix Recovery Center, who works to cure addiction.  And we're joined on the line from Annapolis by Del. Dan Morhaim, a Democrat and licensed emergency-room physician who represents Baltimore County in the MD House. He's just introduced a bill authorizing the creation of safe drug injection facilities in communities across Maryland.  We also take your calls, tweets and emails.

Photo by K. Whiteford

Today an update on the Maryland General Assembly. Late last week, a bill that would require many Maryland employers to provide paid sick leave advanced out of committee. The bill calls for companies with at least 15 employees to offer up to seven days of paid sick leave to full-time workers per year. Smaller companies would have to offer unpaid sick leave.

 There’s also legislation to make Maryland a sanctuary state for undocumented immigrants. And, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh now has the authority to bypass Governor Hogan to challenge the Trump administration in court. A spokesman for the Governor says that this one of the nearly one hundred bills aimed at limited Governor's Hogan's power since he was elected three years ago.

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