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.

photos courtesy Single Carrot Theatre

Midday on the Arts continues with a conversation about the future of the Single Carrot Theater.  Last January, the 12 year-old Baltimore company announced that next month, it will leave the theater it’s called home since 2014.  The final performances in their Remington space take place this weekend.  The closing show is called Pink Milk, by the trans woman playwright Ariel Zetina. It’s based on the life of the mathematician Alan Turing.  (Midday’s theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck reviewed the play on our show last week.)

Pink Milk is pretty typical of the kind of offering we’ve come to expect from Single Carrot Theatre:  a regional premiere of an experimental play that one would be unlikely to encounter anywhere else.  It is also the only play the company has produced this year. 

Joining Tom to discuss the big changes ahead for Single Carrot are Genevieve DeMahy, the  founding Artistic Director, and Alix Fenhagen, who is serving as the company’s Interim Managing Director. 

Photo by Paolo Nogueras

Today's Midday on the Arts concludes with our theater critic, J. Wynn Rousuck, joining Tom with her review of Christina Anderson's new play, How to Catch Creation, now getting its regional premiere at Baltimore Center Stage.

In this latest work by Anderson, a winner of the prestigious Lorraine Hansberry Award, we meet a wrongly convicted man who is released from prison after 25 years.  As he sets about rebuilding his life, he begins a quest to become a father.  The play spans more than four decades as it explores intersecting lives, family, parenthood, and the power of new beginnings.

How to Catch Creation is directed at Center Stage by Nataki Garrett, and stars Tiffani Barbour as G.K. Marche, Shauna Miles as Natalie, Shayna Small as Riley, Lindsay Smiling as Griffin, Stephanie Weeks as Tami, and Jonathan Bangs as Stokes.

Content Advisory: The play includes some adult language and topics more appropriate for middle schoolers and older audiences.

How to Catch Creation continues at Baltimore Center Stage through Sunday, May 26.

Photo courtesy HBO/imdb.com

Today, another installment of Tube Talk, our ultra-occasional discussion of what’s hot and what’s not on TV.  We had some product placement on Game of Thrones that a few folks happened to notice.  We had the displacement of a local TV anchor that has engendered all sorts of reaction about gender, and race.  And a few fan-favorite shows are on extended hiatus, driving more than a few fans nuts. 

Tom is joined by three of those fans, who collectively watch an extraordinary amount of television and who should probably get out more often.  But we are in debt to our Tube Talkers for making that commitment, and giving the rest of us a better sense of what to watch and what to avoid across the vast TV landscape.

Photo by Britt Olsen-Ecker

It's Thursday, and time for another of  Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck's weekly reviews of the Maryland stage. This week, she spotlights the regional premiere of playwright Ariel Zetina's Pink Milk, staged by Single Carrot Theatre as the last production in its Remington home**.

Directed by Single Carrot ensemble member Ben Kleymeyer, Pink Milk is an unorthodox , imaginitive and highly  empathetic exploration of the mind of British mathematician and famed World War II codebreaker, Alan Turing, starring Mohammad R. Suaidi as Alan,  with Isaiah Harvey as Christopher, and Lauren Jackson as The Inanimate Objects.

Pink Milk continues at Single Carrot Theatre through May 19.

**(Single Carrot's  founding Artistic Director Genevieve de Mahy and interim Managing Director Alix Fenhagen will be Tom's guests on Midday next Friday, May 17, from 12:25-12:45pm, to discuss the Company's upcoming transitions.)

Photo courtesy Creative Commons

On today's show, it’s Back to the Garden, the Spring Planting Edition, in which we spend the hour answering your questions about gardening, and considering the horticultural challenges of Maryland's unsually warm, wet spring.

Worldwide, 90% of people spend 22 hours a day inside, but at least there’s more natural life inside with them.  According to Garden Reasearch.com, 30% of American households purchased a houseplant last year.  Pinterest reports that inquiries about indoor plants are up 90%. 

Whether your garden is in your kitchen, or a pot on a balcony, or a field of dreams, two expert local growers join Tom in Studio A to help us make whatever we’re growing, grow better.  

Denzel Mitchell is the manager at Strength to Love 2 Farm, a 1-½ acre workforce training farm in Sandtown-Winchester, which is part of Intersection of Change, a faith-based community development organization.

Elisa Lane is the co-owner, with her husband Doron, of Two Boots Farm, a commercial farm and floral-design studio in Hampstead  that grows both cut flowers and produce…

Graphic courtesy Maryland Film Festival

[Host Tom Hall opens the show today with updates on the Mayor Pugh scandal and Baltimore County Del. Adrienne Jones's election Wednesday as Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates.  Del. Jones is the first woman and first African American to hold the office.]

It's Midday at the Movies: the Maryland Film Festival Edition.

The 21st Maryland Film Festival kicks off next week. More than 40 feature-length films and 80 short films will be shown during more than four days of screenings and special events at The Parkway and several MICA venues, from May 8 through Mothers' Day Sunday, May 12.

The Festival's founder and former director Jed Dietz and Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday join Tom with a preview. They 're joined on the phone by documentary filmmaker Farihah Zaman, who is co-producer with director Bassam Tariq of one of the Maryland Film Festival's featured short documentaries, Ghosts of  Sugarland.

Bruce F. Press Photography

It's Thursday and time for our theater critic, J. Wynn Rousuck, to join us for another of her weekly reviews of the regional stage.  Today, she describes the new production of British playwright Noel Coward's classic comedy, Blithe Spirit: An Improbable Farce in Three Acts, on stage at Baltimore's Vagabond Players

First seen in London's West End in 1941 and produced on Broadway later that year, Blithe Spirit tells the story of mystery writer and socialite Charles Condomine, whose seemingly untroubled life with his second wife is upended when he engages a medium to seek out spirits as material for his next book.  He winds up instead confronting the ghost of his first wife, and mayhem ensues.

Directed at Vagabond by Steve Goldklang, Blithe Spirit stars Alyssa Wellman Houde as Edith, Barbara Madison Hauck as Ruth, Eric. C. Stein as Charles, Ducan Hood as Dr. Bradman, Dianne Hood as Mrs. Bradman, Maribeth Vogel as Madam Arcati, and Kerry Brady as Elvira.

Blithe Spirit continues at Vagabond Theatre through Sunday May 12.

photo courtesy Friends of Johnny O

Tom’s Newsmaker guest today is Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Junior.  A Democrat, he was elected to office last November, and sworn in on December 3rd.  He’s a former Maryland state delegate, a lifelong resident of Dundalk, and a former high school teacher who made education and the quality of the county’s schools a major part of his campaign for county executive -- and of his first budget.

Two weeks ago, he submitted his 2020 county budget proposal to the County Council.  It’s a $3.4 billion dollar plan, more than half of which is devoted to education spending.  The  Council holds a public hearing about the budget tonight (Tuesday April 30) at 6:00, in Council Chambers in Towson.

Baltimore County Executive Olszewski joins Tom in Studio A to discuss the budget and other issues he's confronted during his first five months in office. 

Listeners with questions and comments can call the studio at 410.662.8780, email us at midday@wypr.org, tweet us at @MiddayWYPR, or comment on  WYPR's Facebook page, where the program was livestreamed.

AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Ever since the story of Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh's lucrative self-dealing book sales first broke in the Sun March 13th, the city has been on a political roller coaster ride, as an embattled and defiant Mayor was sidelined by pneumonia and took an indefinite leave of absence, while the city council president assumed her duties amid a mounting chorus of calls for Mayor Pugh's resignation.   

The latest turn came at about 6:30 yesterday morning,  when agents from the FBI and the criminal division of the IRS fanned out across Baltimore and executed search warrants in seven different locations, including two of the mayor's homes, and the seat of our city’s government, City Hall. 

Today, Tom speaks with some of the reporters who are covering this rapidly developing story.  A little later, Luke Broadwater of the Baltimore Sun and Jayne Miller of WBAL Television will join us.  We’ll also get the perspective of a defense attorney, William Purpura.  He is not representing Mayor Catherine Pugh, but he has represented people in some very high-profile recent cases. 

But we begin today with the newest member of the WYPR news team, city hall reporter Emily Sullivan

photo courtesy Come From Away/Broadway

On Thursdays here on Midday, our theater critic, J. Wynn Rousuck, usually reviews all things theatrical across the region.  Today, instead of a review, we bring you an interview Judy conducted earlier this month with Canadian playwrights David Hein and Irene Sankoff, the married co-creators of the award-winning show, Come From Away

The couple spoke with Judy by phone from New York City.

Their show was inspired by real-life events in the small Newfoundland community of Gander, immediately following the September 11, 2001 series of  airborne terrorist attacks in the United States. Those attacks prompted the closure of US airspace and the diversion of all US-bound airline flights.  Thirty-eight commercial jetliners were forced to land in Gander, stranding nearly 7000 passengers in the tiny coastal community for the better part of a week.   

The North American touring production of this hit Broadway musical is at the Hippodrome Theater here in Baltimore through Sunday, April 28.  

 

Click here to listen to more of J. Wynn Rousuck's interview with Irene Sankoff and David Hein.

photo courtesy Come From Away/Broadway

In this Web-only bonus audio from J. Wynn Rousuck's April 11, 2019 phone interview with "Come From Away" co-creators David Hein and Irene Sankoff, the married composer/playwright team provide some additional background on their experience producing this hit Broadway musical.  Irene describes the special concert performance of "Come From Away" she and David attended in Gander, Newfoundland  in 2016 and the responses local townspeople had to their depiction in the musical.  Irene also recalls some of the other Gander strandees and 9/11 survivors they've met since the musical premiered, and David describes his excitement over plans to produce a film version of "Come From Away."

Courtesy Johns Hopkins Medical Center

Whether you bike or hike, run or climb, swim or paddle...however you stay in shape, join us for the Spring Training edition of What Hurts Today?, our seasonal focus on fitness and exercise with Dr. Miho Tanaka

The acclaimed orthopedic surgeon and sport-fitness expert is the founder and former director of the Women's Sports Medicine Program at the Johns Hopkins Medical Center. Now, she is moving to Boston, where she will be directing the same program at the city's Massachusetts General Hospital, and teaching orthopedic surgery at the Harvard Medical School.  But today, Dr. Tanaka joins us to answer your questions about avoiding and coping with athletic injuries, and the best ways to stay fit this season. 

This conversation was live-streamed on Facebook, and you can watch the video on the WYPR Facebook page. 

Photo courtesy Macmillan Publishing

Monday, April 22, is Earth Day, an annual day of demonstrations, actions, and workshops to raise public awareness about the environment, first observed in 1970. 

Have nearly 50 years of Earth Days helped move the needle when it comes to public concern about the environment?  The existential crisis posed by climate change -- the warming of the earth's atmosphere caused by the world's addiction to fossil fuels --  is the subject of the new book by environmentalist Bill McKibben.  It's a book that widens our lens to include not just the climate crisis but also the amazingly rapid advances in artificial intelligence and human genetic engineering that pose equally profound threats to humanity. 

McKibben, who serves as the Schumann Distinguished Scholar in Environmental Studies at Middelbury College in his home state of Vermont, is also the co-founder of one of the world’s largest climate action groups, 350.org.  In his 1989 best-seller, The End of Nature, McKibben was one of the first writers to warn of the dangers of global warming.  With his new book, thirty years later, he issues an even more dire warning about the threats humanity is facing, and offers hopeful ideas for surviving them.    The book is called Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?

Bill McKibben joins us from the studios of NPR in Washington.

Photo for MET by Joe Williams

It's Thursday, and Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck is back with another of her weekly reviews of the regional stage. Today, she spotlights the late Sam Shepard's 1978  play, Curse of the Starving Classand the new production by Maryland Ensemble Theatre in Frederick.

Shepard's dark comedy about the elusiveness of the American dream is set in a farmhouse in the American West.  The Tate family is struggling to survive, and connect with each other, in a harsh and challenging world that -- 40 years after Shepard penned it -- still resonates with our troubled times.

Peter Wray directs the play, which stars Julie Herber as Ella, Sean Byrne as Wesley, Karli Cole as Emma, Tad Janes as Weston, J.D. Sivert as Taylor, Jack Evans as Ellis and Steve Custer as Malcolm.

Curse of the Starving Class is at Maryland Ensemble Theatre in Frederick until April 28th.

photo courtesy Center for Science in the Public Interest

For most of the past half-century, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has been on the front line of a campaign to improve food safety and nutrition in the United States.  In 1990, the non-profit Center helped push Congress to pass the landmark legislation requiring standardized nutrition information labels on all food packages.   It helped win passage of laws requiring calorie information on chain-restaurant menus, and it went to court to stop deceptive advertising and marketing of foods, sugary beverages and dietary supplements. It’s lobbied to strengthen food safety laws and ban junk food from schools, and it prodded the Food and Drug Administration to eliminate artificial trans-fats from the food supply.

Tom's guest today is Dr. Michael Jacobson, who co-founded the Center for Science in the Public Interest in 1971.  A microbiologist, he was the executive director of the non profit food watchdog group until 2017.  He now serves as CSPI's Senior Scientist.   Jacobson is the author of numerous books, including Eater’s Digest: the Consumer’s Fact Book of Food Additives, and Nutrition Scoreboard.

Dr. Jacobson will be in Baltimore Wednesday, April 17th, to take part in a public panel discussion called Pleasures or Poisons: The Science & Culture of Food.  The event is part of the Great Talk Series, taking place at the Double Tree by Hilton - Baltimore North Hotel, located at 1726 Reistertown  Road in Pikesville.  The discussion gets underway at 7pm.  For event details and ticketing information, click here

Dr. Michael Jacobson joins us today from the studios of NPR in Washington, DC.   

Photo by Glenn Ricci

It's Thursday, and time again for our weekly visit with theater critic J. Wynn  Rousuck and her reviews of the regional stage.  Today, she tells us about Pantheon, the latest eclectic production from Happenstance Theater that's getting its world premiere at Baltimore's Theatre Project

In this new musical work, the award-winning Happenstance quintet romps through a series of narratives that blend Greek mythology with a lean 1940s aesthetic, and take on contemporary issues ranging from the challenged dignity of work to the perils of climate change.

Happenstance Theater features the ensemble talents of  Mark Jaster, Sabrina Mandell, Gwen Grastorf, Sarah Olmsted Thomas, and Alex Vernon, and in this production, the musical scorings of Mark's brother, Craig Jaster.

Happenstance Theater's Pantheon continues at The Theater Project through Sunday April 14.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

It’s Midday on MoneyWith this season’s tax filing deadline fast approaching -- that’s by midnight on Monday, April 15, for you last-minute filers! – most Americans by now have encountered some of the biggest changes to the US tax code in more than three decades.  Whether we wind up paying more taxes this year or less, planning for the future and increasing our financial literacy are always smart moves.  Regardless of how much money we have, how well we manage it has a huge impact on how financially empowered we feel. 

Today, two experts join Tom in Studio A to help us up our games a bit when it comes to saving and investing.

Graphic courtesy BSO

To begin today's Midday on Music program, a conversation about the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, the largest arts organization in the state of Maryland, and one of only 17 full-time orchestras in the United States.  That means that the players of the BSO are hired for the full year, with the vacation and health benefits typical with most full-time jobs.  Many orchestras around the country, including some in fairly large cities, hire their players for only 9 or 10 months every year .

Whether or not the BSO will remain a full-time orchestra is at the heart of a contract dispute that has been going on between the players and BSO management since last fall.  Management of the orchestra points to the fact that the BSO has lost an average of $1.6 million dollars per year for the past 10 years.  Supporters of the BSO are crossing their fingers that the General Assembly will provide supplemental funding for the BSO.  The bill currently under consideration provides an additional $1.6 million dollars for each of the next two years.  This is in addition to the funds the BSO is already scheduled to receive through its annual grant from the MD State Arts Council.  The measure has passed in the House, and it was voted out of committee in the Senate Thursday.  A vote on the Senate floor was expected Friday.**

**April 8 Update: The BSO emergency funding measure -- which was renamed last week by a Senate Committee as the John C. Merrill Act -- was approved by the full Senate on Monday April 8. Once the House concurs to the name change, the bill will be passed, and sent to the Governor for his signature.

In addition to its money woes, the BSO also has a diversity problem.  In our majority black city, only one member of the orchestra is African American.  Why is that and why does it matter?

These challenges are not unique to the BSO.  Does the BSO face problems that are all that different from those facing orchestras in other cities?  What would it mean to the city, and what would it mean to you, if the BSO weren’t a 52-week orchestra?  

Joining Tom to discuss the road ahead for the BSO are Fred Bronstein, the Dean of the Peabody Institute, and Tim Smith, the former classical music critic for the Baltimore Sun.  

Today's Midday on Music conversations are being live-streamed on WYPR's Facebook page. You can watch the video here

poster image from musicwithease.com

In Part I of today's Midday on Music program, we talked about some of the financial challenges the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra is experiencing.   In Part II of our program today, we're going to consider the unique challenges facing Baltimore's opera community

As expensive as it is to assemble and rehearse a world class symphony orchestra, it’s even more expensive to stage a grand opera.  Not only do you need an orchestra, you need a cast of principal singers, a chorus, costumes, a set, a lighting designer, a director, multiple stage-hands and more to create that magical world where people sing on stage as naturally as the rest of us speak in real life. 

Those are just some of the reasons that it’s been hard in recent years for Grand Opera to succeed in Baltimore.  After nearly seven decades, the Baltimore Opera Company went out of business in 2009.  Its successor, the Lyric Opera of Baltimore shuttered its doors in 2017.  And now, one of the area’s most accomplished operatic artists is hoping that three times is the charm.  James Harp is the founder and artistic director of Maryland Opera.  He joins Tom in Studio A, along with local opera soprano, Colleen Daly, to talk about Maryland Opera's inaugural season.

Photo courtesy Derrick Wang

Part III of Midday on Music opens with a brief snippet from a comic opera by Derrick Wang, a work that the composer -- who is also an attorney and constitutional scholar -- says was inspired by the friendship between two iconic figures in American jurisprudence: Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the late Antonin Scalia, who passed away in 2016.  Wang's opera is called Scalia/Ginsburg, and it will receive its local premiere tonight at the Baltimore Concert Opera

The Baltimore Concert Opera is an opera company that breaks the mold.  It doesn't present fully staged productions with costumes and sets and a full orchestra, but over the past 10 years, its presentations of both classic operatic fare and lesser known works have attracted a strong following.   Its productions, including the ones being offering this weekend, consistently sell out.  As of September 1st, an all-female leadership team--unusual in classical music--including Artistic and General Director Julia Cooke and Music Director Rachelle Jonck, will guide Baltimore Concert Opera into the future.

Photo courtesy Monkeypaw Productions

Today, on the April edition of  Midday at the Movies, Tom spotlights director Jordan Peele's new horror-suspense flick, Us.  Joining him in the studio are movie mavens Jed Dietz, the founding director of the Maryland Film Festival and Parkway Theater, and Elissa Blount Moorhead, a Baltimore filmmaker and creative partner at TGEN Film Studios. They discuss the cinematic structures and social themes of Us, a record-breaking box-office hit that's building on the success of Peele's 2017 Oscar-winning (Best Original Screenplay) debut film, Get Out.  

They also discuss other notable new films --  including Apollo 11the powerful new documentary of NASA's historic manned mission to the moon in 1969, and The Burial of Kojo, a breakthrough feature-film directing/writing debut by Ghanaian-born hip-hop artist Blitz "the Ambassador" Bazawule, who lives and works today in Brooklyn, New York. Bazawule's film is being released and distributed by Ava DuVernay's company, Array, and is now streaming on Netflix.

Photography by Brandon W. Vernon

It's Thursday, and that means it's time for our regular studio sojourn with theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck, who joins us every week with her reviews of the Maryland regional stage. Today, she tells us about Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's new production of  Henry IV Part II, one of the Bard's major historical plays, and the repertory companion to Henry IV, Part I, which the Company performed earlier this season and in tandem with Part II on a series of recent Saturday marathons.

In this historical sequel rich with explorations of paternal relationships, King Henry IV's rogue son, Prince Hal - a carousing and impulsive young man in the sway of a friendship with a rough-edged knight named Falstaff - faces new responsibilities as the king's health grows increasingly frail, and as the king's armies battle to put down an insurrection. Those armies eventually triumph, and Prince Hal is reconciled with his dying father. And as Hal assumes the throne as King Henry V, he lets Falstaff know their reckless friendship is history. 

Henry IV, Part II is co-directed for the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company by its founder and artistic director Ian Gallanar, and by Company actor and CSC associate artistic director Gerrad Alex Taylor.  The production's cast of more than three dozen actors and musicians features resident Company members Seamus Miller as Prince Hal, Ron Heneghan as King Henry and Gregory Burgess as Falstaff.

Henry IV, Part II continues at Baltimore's Chesapeake Shakespeare Company  through April 7.

Graphic courtesy Ensemble Galilei

The music that opens this segment is a 16th century song called The Flowers of the Forest. It was written in memory of the thousands of Scottish soldiers who died in battle in 1513.  To this day, this song is played when English or Canadian soldiers are killed in places like Afghanistan.  This recording is the title cut on the latest CD from Ensemble Galilei, an early-music chamber group.

It is also the opening and closing anthem in a program called Between War and Here, a show that includes narration and music inspired by veterans and their experiences in combat.  It’s a unique collaboration between Ensemble Galilei and veteran war correspondents Anne Garrels and Neal Conan, both formerly with NPR. 

Anne Garrels had hoped to join us this afternoon, but she is feeling a bit under the weather.  But we're delighted that Neal Conan is with us here in Studio A.  He’s a former host of All Things Considered and NPR’s Talk of the Nation.  These days, he produces and hosts a podcast for public radio called Truth, Politics and Power… 

Also joining us is Carolyn Surrick, a viola da gamba player who founded Ensemble Galilei twenty-five years ago, and who is the creative force behind Between War and Here.  The show takes its name from the title of a book she published in 2011: a collection of poems inspired by her experiences during seven years of playing concerts for wounded veterans at Washington's Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

photo courtesy Alan Squire Publishing

Tom's guest today is the new Poet Laureate of Maryland, Grace Cavalieri.

It would be selling her talents short if we only called her a “poet.”  She has indeed published more than 20 books of poetry.    But she has also written more than two dozen plays, some of which have premiered here in Baltimore, and she’s penned text and lyrics for opera, TV and film productions as well. 

Grace Cavalieri is also well-known as the host of The Poet and the Poem, a radio interview show she has hosted for 42 years. The show began on Pacifica station WPFW in Washington in 1977 and evolved into a podcast that she produces now with the Library of Congress.  Her interviews with poets are also broadcast around the country by more than 40 member radio stations in the Pacifica Network.

Grace Cavalieri is the founder of several small-press publishing and printing houses.  She teaches and lectures at colleges and universities across the country, and for 25 years, she was the visiting writer at St. Mary’s College in southern Maryland.

Last November, she was appointed by Governor Larry Hogan to be the 10th Poet Laureate of Maryland.   She joins Tom today in Studio A, and addresses our listeners' questions and comments.

This conversation was livestreamed on WYPR's Facebook page, and you can watch the video here.

Photo by Rob Clatterbuck

It's Thursday, and Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck join us with another of her weekly reviews of the Maryland regional stage.  This week, she spotlights Small House, No Secrets, the new musical at Fells Point Corner Theatre, produced as part of the Baltimore Playwrights Festival.

Small House, No Secrets is a collaboration between the celebrated singer-songwriter SONiA Rutstein (aka SONiA disappear fear) (music and lyrics) and playwright Jody Nusholtz (book and lyrics), who is also a writer and communications arts professor at Carroll Community College. 

An exploration of the complexities of sexual identity, friendship, family bonds and faith, the musical is directed at Fells Point Corner Theatre by Miriam Bazensky, and features Annette Mooney Wasno in the lead role as Liz.

Small House No Secrets continues at the Fells Point Corner Theatre through March 31.

PIXABAY

The Kirwan Commission on education reform in Maryland has recommended a re-ordering of our educational priorities. One of the central tenets of the Commission’s approach is to expand early pre-school for three and four year olds.

The data on pre-k might surprise you. A Brookings Institution study argues that there is little correlation between pre-k and academic achievement in elementary school. But scholars have determined that kids in pre-school are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college. And a report by MD Family Network calculates the loss to businesses at nearly two and half billion dollars for parents with kids under the age of five, for time lost at work due to inadequate child care.

Is universal pre-k worth the investment? How much does it really prepare kids for success down the line?  And if the state doesn’t make pre-k programs affordable and accessible to parents, does that decision come with an economic cost? 

Today, a panel of early education experts joins Tom for a closer look at the costs and benefits of pre-k.

Associated Press Photo by Brian Whitte

Last week, amid news reports of self-dealing by members of the board of directors of The University of Maryland Medical System (known as UMMS), the CEO of the system, Robert Chrencik, was placed on a leave of absence while the board hired an outside firm to conduct an audit of the System’s contracting practices and its conflicts-of-interest policies.  Several board members have resigned, including Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, who had served on the UMMS board for more than 18 years.  Other board members who currently have business relationships with the System have also been asked to take a leave of absence from the board.  

When Luke Broadwater of the Sun wrote about the allegations that Mayor Pugh and others were profiting from their seats on the board of the UMMS, reaction in Annapolis was swift, and unequivocal.  Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Senate President Mike Miller, and Speaker of the House Mike Busch (himself a member of the UMMS board), all condemned the practice of awarding contracts to businesses that were connected to board members.  A bill proposed by Speaker Busch is being fast-tracked through the House, and a bill introduced on the Senate side is also making its way through the legislative process .  Both bills aim to address conflicts of interest and financial disclosures by board members. 

Erica Chambers Photography

Now, time for some Old Time Music...that's the name for a family of traditional Appalachian folk music styles that will be featured at a brand new festival this weekend.  The father-and-son musical duo, Ken and Brad Kolodner, have organized the first-ever Baltimore Old Time Music Festival at the Creative Alliance in East Baltimore.  Starting Friday (3.22.19) and running through Saturday night, there will be performances by dozens of musicians from near and far, a variety of workshops and even a square dance to celebrate the roots and old-time music scene here in Baltimore. 

In addition to the Kolodners, musical acts include the Corn Potato String Band, Molsky’s Mountain Drifters, and the two musical guests who join us now in Studio A. 

Linda Jean Stokley and Montana Hobbs comprise the duo called The Local Honeys.  They’re from Kentucky, and they specialize in the unique string and vocal harmonies of Appalachian folk music, playing both traditional and original songs.  Today in Studio A, the duo play three originals: "The Cigarette Trees," a song Linda Jean wrote about Kentucky's strip mining operations; "The Beattyville Bomber," a song by Montana about some of the folks in her hometown; and a folk tune they learned from songwriter Shirley Collins called "Space Girl."

We livestreamed The LocalHoney's performance today on WYPR's Facebook page. Watch it here.

Teresa Castracane photography

It's Thursday, and Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom in the studio for another of her weekly reviews of the regional stage. Today, she spotlights Dinner with Friends, the 1999 Off-Broadway hit that won playwright Donald Margulies the 2000 Pultizer Prize for Drama.  A new production of this popular play is now on stage at Baltimore's Everyman Theatre.

Directed by Everyman's Founding Artistic Director Vincent Lancisi, Dinner with Friends centers on married food writers Gabe (played by M. Scott McLean) and Karen (Beth Hylton), and their frequent dinner guests, long-time friends Beth (Megan Anderson) and her husband Tom (Danny Gavigan).  When Beth announces that her husband wants a divorce after 12 years of marriage, both couples are forced to confront profound questions about loyalty, commitment and personal freedom. 

Dinner with Friends, an enduring drama about marriage and friendship, continues at Everyman Theatre until Sunday, April 7th.  

Fair Use: pinterest.com

An iconoclastic professor of literature at Oxford University named John Carey wrote a book a few years back called What Good Are the Arts?  In it he examines, among other things, why people make a distinction between the so-called fine arts, and all the other kinds of arts.  Are a pink flamingo on a lawn in Hampden and a Renaissance statue in the sculpture court of the Walters Art Museum fundamentally different, if both give pleasure to the person who encounters them?  Is the intrinsic value of art premised in its being beautiful?  And why do any of us recognize anything as being "beautiful" -- or not?

On today's edition of Midday on the Arts, we begin with a conversation about the nature of art and beauty, and what shapes our responses to art that we find appealing, and art that leaves us flat, or even infuriated. 

Tom's guests are a visual artist, a brain scientist who studies what shapes our aesthetic experiences and an art historian who heads a major art museum.

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