Midday | WYPR



Our series of Conversations with the Candidates continues as Tom is joined in the studio by Delegate Talmadge Branch, a veteran state lawmaker who has represented Baltimore and the 45th District in the Maryland House since 1995.  He has also been the Democratic Majority Whip since 2007.

Del. Branch is a candidate, running in a crowded field of 24 Democrats (and 8 Republicans), for the 7th District U.S. Congressional seat vacated by the recent death of Representative Elijah Cummings.

In Annapolis, Mr. Branch has served on the House Ways and Means committee; he’s a member of the Legislative Policy Committee and the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus. He chairs the alcoholic beverages subcommittee, and is the former House Chair of the Joint Committee on Welfare Reform.

Photo copyright Teresa Castracane

It's Thursday and time again for theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck, who joins us each week with her reviews of the Maryland stage.  Today, we hear her take on Baltimore Center Stage's new production of Men On Boats.

The 2015 play by Jaclyn Backhaus, directed at Center Stage by Jenny Koons, is based on the published journals of John Wesley Powell, who led an 1869 expedition down the Green and Colorado Rivers into the then-unknown geological wonders of the Grand Canyon.  In Backhaus' comedic retelling of the historic wild-water journey, Powell's all-white-male expeditionary team is played by a gender-nonconforming ensemble of color, featuring Ceci Fernandez as John Wesley Powell, Kai Heath as Hall, and Haruna Lee as Old Shady, among the cast of ten.  Scenic design credits go to Stephanie Osin Cohen.

Men On Boats continues at Baltimore Center Stage through Sunday, December 22.  For location and ticket information, click here.

Courtesy of Liz Matory

Republican candidate Liz Matory joins us for another in  our series of Conversations with the Candidates.  Matory is an author and the CEO of a small publishing house called Liberty Lives Media. She holds a BA from Columbia University, a law degree from Howard University, and an MBA from the University of MD.

Ms. Matory is mounting her third campaign for Congress after unsuccessful bids in two other districts.     

We live-streamed this conversation the WYPR Facebook page.  Click here to watch the video. 

Tom's next guest in today's Conversations with the Candidates is Dr Mark Gosnell, a Democratic candidate in the 7th District.

Dr. Gosnell is the Director of the Intensive Care Unit at Medstar Harbor Hospital and also the chief of pulmonary medicine there.  This is his first run for public office.  Healthcare is one of his chief policy concerns.  

We livestreamed this conversation on the WYPR Facebook page.  Click here to watch the video. 

Courtesy of Kimberly Klacik

Our Conversation with the Candidates series continues with Kimberly Klacik, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Congress. 

Klacik is a GOP strategist and activist who lives in Baltimore County.  She is the Executive Director and Founder of “Potential Me,” a nonprofit which provides works with disadvantaged women. 

We livestreamed this conversation on the WYPR Facebook page.  Click here to watch the video.  

Courtesy of Joe Henson

The business of diversity is booming.  Corporations and cultural institutions spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year on diversity training, yet despite the ubiquity and expense of these efforts, overall racial, gender and ethnic diversity remains an aspiration rather than a reality. 

Today on Midday: what's been tried, what has succeeded and what's flopped in efforts to achieve more inclusion in American life.

Dr. Pamela Newkirk is a professor of journalism at New York University and author of "Diversity, Inc.: The Failed Promise of a Billion-Dollar Business."   

Dr. Newkirk joins us on the line from Argot Studios in New York City.

AP Photo/ J. Scott Applewhite

Yesterday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that she has instructed three committees to draft articles of impeachment, raising the possibility that the House will hold an impeachment vote before the Christmas recess.  On Monday, the Judiciary Committee will hear from lawyers for the House Intelligence Committee about the evidence they have gathered over the past several weeks.

Here in Baltimore, the races for Mayor and President of the City Council get more crowded, and the Department of Public Works is under fire for mismanagement of water bills and trash collecting, as the City Schools' CEO sounds an alarm about a budget shortfall.

photo courtesy Ken Ludwig

Today, the prolific American playwright Ken Ludwig, best known for his award-winning Broadway hits Lend Me A Tenor and Crazy for You, joins Tom and Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck for a conversation about his life and work.  Ludwig has written more than two dozen plays and musicals, and has had six of them on Broadway. They've been performed in over 30 countries in more than 20 languages, and are produced somewhere in the United States virtually every night of the year.

He talks about two works now running simultaneously in our area: his newest play, Dear Jack, Dear Louise, which opened this week at DC's Arena Stage; and his acclaimed adaptation of novelist Agathie Christie's classic who-done-it, Murder on the Orient Express, now in a new production at Baltimore's Everyman Theatre

Ken Ludwig speaks with us today from NPR studios in Washington, DC.

Still courtesy Big Beach Films

It's the December edition of Midday at the Movies, our monthly feature about films and filmmaking. Joining Tom to consider the cascade of pre-Oscars holiday movies are two of our favorite film fans:  here in the studio, Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday, who is also the author of Talking Pictures: How to Watch Movies; and on the line from Manhattan, Maryland Film Festival founder Jed Dietz.

Today, Tom and the movie mavens talk about some interesting new angles on male identity that, as Ann has written, appear in a raft of new films, from Martin Scorsese's The Irishman and James Mangold's Ford v. Ferrari, to Marielle Heller's A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood ​and Melina Matsoukas' Queen and Slim.

And Tom asks listeners to share their favorite holiday movies; he votes, as always, for Love, Actually, director Richard Curtis' 2003 romantic comedy starring Hugh Grant, Martine McCutcheon, and many, many more...

Blueprint Montage courtesy OSI-Baltimore

Now, a conversation about the Blueprint for Baltimore.  It's a project supported by The Open Society Institute-Baltimore and the T.Rowe Price Foundation, in partnership with several community groups --  including Black Leaders Organizing for Change (BLOC), CASA, Baltimore Votes, Black Girls Vote, and the No Boundaries Coalition.  The goal  of Blueprint for Baltimore is to survey as many as 12,000 Baltimore City residents – the largest issue-oriented survey in city history – about their priorities for the city on a range of public policy issues, including education, public safety, and housing, as the race for Mayor, City Council President and City Council move into high gear. 

Joining Tom in the studio is Evan Serpick. He’s OSI’s Director of Strategic Communications, and was closely involved in the development of the survey.

Also joining us are project partners Tre Murphy, the co-founder and operations director for BLOC; and Lydia Walther-Rodriquez, Baltimore Regional Director for CASA of Maryland, a group that advocates for the state’s Latino and immigrant communities.

The Blueprint for Baltimore survey -- which can also be taken online -- concludes Sunday, December 8.

This conversation was livestreamed on WYPR's Facebook page. Watch the video here.

Photo Courtesy / Higginbotham for Congress

Today, it’s another in our series of Conversations with the Candidates ahead of the special primary election to fill the 7th District congressional seat vacated by the death of Elijah Cummings.

In all, 32 candidates will be on the Republican and Democratic special primary election ballot in February, vying as well for the nomination in the primary elections on April 28th.   

Tom is joined today in Studio A by F. Michael Higginbotham.  He is a legal scholar and professor, who has taught at the University of Baltimore School of Law since 1988.

He holds an undergraduate degree from Brown University, and law degrees from the Yale Law School and Cambridge University.   


Tom's guest today is Senator Chris Van Hollen. The Democratic junior senator from Maryland, who was  first elected to the US Senate in 2016 after representing Maryland's 8th District in the House since 2003, is leading a bipartisan effort to thwart continuing efforts by Russia and others to influence American elections. Over the weekend, one of Mr. Van Hollen’s Senate colleagues from Louisiana, Sen. John Kennedy, repeated a claim that Ukraine, a strategic partner and putative U.S. ally, had acted to interfere in the 2016 election. That claim has been dismissed as Russian disinformation by the US intelligence community and by a host of others, but it is repeatedly advanced by Republicans in both the House and Senate.

And with an impeachment inquiry into President Trump hovering over the legislature like a dark cloud, what of the other business that the Senate could be acting on? Issues like gun safety, the federal minimum wage, prescription drug prices, immigration, and locally, legislation to protect the Chesapeake Bay: all appear to be on hold while the impeachment drama plays out. 

Photo by Rob Sivak/WYPR

It’s the What Ya Got Cookin' -Thanksgiving Edition, a beloved tradition here on Midday going all the way back to 2016.

Chef John Shields  is a chef and the proprietor, along with John Gilligan of the great  Gertrude’s Chesapeake Kitchen at the BMA.  He is the author of several cookbooks, the latest of which is The New Chesapeake Kitchen.  Chef David Thomas  is executive chef and co-owner with his wife, Tonya, of the terrific modern day soul food restaurant, Ida B’s Table  They are both here in Studio A.   

photo courtesy Mfume for Congress

Today, we begin a new series of Conversations with the Candidates: 2020 in advance of the special primary election in February, and the local and national primary elections in April. 

The congressional vacancy in Maryland's 7th District, created by the death last month of Representative Elijah Cummings, has attracted 32 candidates to an election to succeed him, including Congressman Cummings’ widow, a former aid, four state legislators and a law professor.

In all, twenty-four Democrats and eight Republicans have filed to run in a special primary election on February 4th.  The general election for the 7th District will take place on April 28th, which is Primary day for all other races in MD, including the Presidential Primary.   

Kweisi Mfume joins Tom today in Studio A.  He is familiar to many 7th District voters.  He held the seat for five terms -- from 1987 to 1996 -- before leaving Congress to head up the NAACP.  He stepped down from that position in November 2004.

John Lee

Earlier this month, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Jr. signed the HOME Act into law, ending a years-long dispute about equity and affordable housing in the County. The law says that landlords cannot refuse to rent to a potential tenant based on a person’s source of income, which means, for example, if a tenant wants to use a government housing voucher to help her rent, the landlord can’t refuse her.

Baltimore County now joins Baltimore City, Anne Arundel, Montgomery, Howard and Frederick Counties in prohibiting discrimination based on source of income. The legislation, introduced by Olszewski, is part of a legal mandate in what’s known as the Voluntary Compliance Agreement with the federal government, arising from discrimination complaints about the County’s housing and zoning policies that were brought against the County in 2011.

Joining Tom to explain what it means for tenants and landlords are John Lee, who covers Baltimore County for WYPR, Baltimore County Council member Julian Jones and Ben Frederick, III, the president of Ben Frederick Realty.

Courtesy of Jonah House

Since the summer of 2018, we’ve kept an eye on the legal proceedings surrounding a group of Catholic anti-nuclear activists who have come to be known as the Kings Bay Plowshares 7.

On the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death in April of last year, they broke into the Kings Bay Naval Station in Georgia to protest the American nuclear arsenal.  They hammered on statues of nuclear missiles; they poured blood around the base, and hung anti-nuclear banners.  Officials at the base said they did more than $30,000 worth of damage to property at the base.

The activists were arrested and charged with conspiracy, destruction of government property, depredation and trespassing.  Last month, they stood trial on those charges in Federal court in Georgia. A jury found them guilty of all of the charges.  They could face 20 years in prison.  Sentencing will likely take place at the end of December.

The seven activists include Elizabeth McAlister, a founder of Jonah House here in Baltimore. Liz McAlister spent more 18 months in prison while she awaited trial. She and all but one of the protesters are out of jail while they await sentencing.  Tom spoke with Liz McAlister earlier this month. 

Tom's guest today is the City Solicitor of Baltimore, Andre M. Davis.

Mr. Davis served for more than 30 years as a judge -- on the Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, the US District Court, the Circuit Court for Baltimore City and the State District Court.

The City Solicitor -- a member of the Mayor's Cabinet and the head of the City Law Department -- oversees a staff of more than 100 lawyers, and serves as one of five members of the Board of Estimates, the municipal spending authority.

Andre Davis was appointed to the position of Solicitor by former Mayor Catherine Pugh, who resigned from office last spring, and who pleaded guilty yesterday to four of 11 counts in an indictment that was unsealed the day before.  Judge Davis joins Tom in Studio A for the hour, and answers listener comments and questions.

We livestreamed this conversation on the WYPR Facebook page. 

Photography by Deen van Meer

Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom for another of her weekly reviews of the Maryland stage, and today she spotlights the spectacular new musical production of Disney's Aladdin, the Broadway touring show now brightening the stage at Baltimore's Hippodrome Theatre.

Based on Disney's Oscar-winning 1992 animated film of the same name (which was also adapted earlier this year into a live action version), the Broadway  musical adaptation retains Aladdin's successful creative elements: the Alan Menken music,  and the lyrics by Howard Ashman, Tim Rice and Chad Beguelin, who also wrote the original book.

The lavish touring stage production is directed and choreographed at the Hippodrome by Casey Nicholaw, with scenic design by Bob Crowley, and featuring a nearly forty-member cast led by Jonah Ho'okano as Aladdin, Kaenaonalani Kekoa as Jasmine, and Korie Lee Blossey as Genie.

Disney's Aladdin continues at Baltimore's Hippodrome Theatre through Sunday, December 1st. Ticket info here.

Kim Hairston/The Baltimore Sun

For the second time in 10 years, and for the second time in the history of the city, a Baltimore mayor has pleaded guilty to criminal behavior while in office.   

Welcome to this Special Edition of Midday.  Host Tom Hall spends the hour talking with reporters and legal experts about the guilty plea of former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh.  Yesterday, she was charged with 11 counts of wire fraud, conspiracy, and tax evasion. 

She appeared in federal court a couple of hours ago, and pleaded guilty to 4 of those charges, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States,  and  two counts of tax evasion.

Courtesy of Morgan State Univ.

Today, it's another episode of Midday on Higher Education, our occasional series of conversations with the presidents of colleges and universities in our region and across Maryland.

Joining Tom for the hour in Studio A is the president of Morgan State University, Dr. David Wilson. He is Morgan’s 10th president and has led the university since 2010.

Morgan is the largest of Maryland’s four Historically Black College or Universities, and a visit to its campus in Northeast Baltimore reveals that it is growing by leaps and bounds. Several new buildings are slated to open in the next few years. And, defying a trend at many other institutions of higher learning, Morgan’s enrollment has increased about 15% over the last decade. In an op-ed earlier this year, Dr. Wilson proposed expanding MSU even further, by merging the University of Baltimore into Morgan State.

We livestreamed this conversation with Dr Wilson on the WYPR Facebook page. To watch that video, click here.

Baltimore City Police Department

Tom's guest today is the Commissioner of the Baltimore City Police Department, Michael Harrison.  He was sworn into office in March, after a successful tenure as commissioner in New Orleans.  That tenure continues to be credited with the sharp decline in murders and robberies in NOLA over the past three years. 

A decline in murders here in Baltimore continues to be aspirational. Just this morning, our city recorded its 300th homicide for the fifth year in a row.  That number includes a few deaths which were ruled homicides this year following assaults that occurred in prior years. But the stubborn and horrifying fact is that more people have been killed so far this year than at this time in 2018, and we could be on track to equal the city's near-record homicide count of 343 in 2017.

Photos by Katie Simmons-Barth

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins us with another of her weekly reviews of the Maryland stage. Today, she spotlights the world premiere production by Rep Stage of E2, playwright Bob Bartlett's contemporary re-telling of Christopher Marlowe's 1593 drama, Edward II. In Marlowe's play, the infamous English monarch's homosexual relationship with his "favourite," Gaveston, scandalizes his queen, sparks bloody discord within his court and eventually brings his reign to a tragic end.  In Bartlett's play, King Edward's drama becomes a modern-day tale of rising anti-LGBTQ sentiment around the world; Marlowe's sprawling court is pared to just five characters forced to wrestle with the personal costs of political power.

Directed at Rep Stage by Joseph W. Ritsch, Bartlett's play features Zachary L. Powell as Edward II, Alejandro Ruiz as Gaveston, Dane Figueroa Edidi as Queen Isabella, Robbie Gay as Mortimer, and Zach Rakotomaniraka as Edward III.

E2 continues at Rep Stage (at Howard Community College) through  Sunday, November 17.  For ticket information, click here.

Because of special NPR programming, this week's theater review could not be broadcast live. 

Criminal Justice And The Shadow Of Slavery

Nov 11, 2019
UB School of Law.

Last August, the New York Times began a groundbreaking series, The 1619 Project, a series of podcasts and an entire edition of the Times Magazine dedicated to the often untold history of the slave trade. The scars of slavery were central to the founding of our Republic, and the impact of slavery’s legacy has extended to all areas of the American experiment, from economic inequality to mass incarceration, to education, health care, and arts and culture.

This coming weekend, a symposium at the University of Baltimore Law School will explore the impact of slavery on the criminal justice system in America. Today on Midday, a conversation with two of the legal scholars who will be presenting at the symposium, which is entitled “400 Years: Slavery and the Criminal Justice System.” 

We begin with Michael Higginbotham, the Joseph Curtis Professor of Law at the University of Baltimore School of Law and the author of Ghosts of Jim Crow: Ending Racism in Post-Racial America. Then, Tom speaks with Roy L. Austin, a former Department of Justice and Obama Administration official who is delivering one of the keynote addresses at the UB Law School symposium. Mr. Austin joins us on the line from Washington, D.C.

Clay McBride

Tom’s guest today is the comedian Lewis Black.

Since the mid-1990s, his “Back in Black” rants have been a popular fixture on The Daily Show on Comedy Central.

Black is also an author, a playwright and an actor with credits that include movies and television.

He’s appearing next Tuesday night, Nov. 12, at the Modell Lyric Theater here in Baltimore in a show that will benefit two causes that have long been near and dear to his heart: the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Pathfinders for Autism.

Black  joins us today on the line from Milwaukee, one of many stops on his “Ít Gets Better Every Day” tour.

Theater Morgan

Next, Tom welcomes two guests: First, the stage director Dr. Shirley Basfield Dunlap.  She is directing a special multi-media performance tonight at Morgan State University – a performance that takes its cue from The New York Times Magazine’s 1619 Project.

The show is called Since We’ve Been Here: Commemorating 400 Years of African Presence in America.  Dr. Dunlap is an Associate Professor and the Coordinator of Theater Arts at Morgan State University.  Since We’ve Been Here: Commemorating 400 Years of African Presence in America starts at 7:30 tonight in the Gilliam Concert Hall at Morgan State’s Murphy Fine Arts Center. Maria Broom will narrate.

Dr. Eric Conway will conduct the Morgan State Choir as part of the show, and he also joins Tom in Studio A.  Click here for more information and tickets to Since We’ve Been Here.

And coming up next weekend and the weekend before Thanksgiving, also at Morgan’s Murphy Fine Arts Center, the gospel song-play Black Nativity by Langston Hughes. Dwight RB Cook directs that production which includes spoken word, dance, gospel and spirituals. Click here for more information and tickets to Black Nativity.

It’s another edition of Midday at the Movies, our monthly look at what's new in films, and filmmaking.

Our movie mavens, Ann Hornaday, film critic for The Washington Post, and Jed Dietz, the founding director of the Maryland Film Festival, joined Tom in Studio A with tips on what to see this weekend in local theaters.

Among the films discussed today are Western Stars, the Bruce Springsteen documentary (at The Senator Theatre); and Parasite, JoJoRabbit, Pain and Glory and Harriet, which are all at The Charles Theatre.

Ann also told us the story behind the story of her wonderful recent feature piece in The Post about Springsteen, the filmmaker.

The great jazz singer Tierney Sutton joined Tom today.  She has been nominated for a Grammy for Best Jazz Vocal Album eight times – that’s a Grammy nomination for every CD she has released in the last 10 years.

She’s been touring and recording with her band for the past 20 years.  Her latest CD, Screenplay, is a collection of great songs from movies.  Tierney Sutton will be appearing this Saturday and Sunday at Baltimore’s newest, wonderful jazz club, Keystone Korner in Baltimore’s Harbor East. 

She joined Tom on the line from Minneapolis, where she is appearing before she makes the trip to Baltimore.

Teresa Castracane Photography

It's Thursday, which means theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck  is here with her weekly review.

Today, she discusses Radio Golf, by August Wilson – the final installment in the late Pulitzer-Prize-winning playwright's ten-part Century Cycle.

Directed by Carl Cofield, Radio Golf is the story of an African-American real estate developer running for mayor of Pittsburgh in the mid-1990s who struggles with his role in gentrifying his childhood neighborhood.

The Everyman production stars Dawn Ursula as Mame Wilks, Jamil A.C. Mangan as Harmond Wilks, Jason B. McIntosh as Roosevelt Hicks, Anton Floyd as Sterling Johnson and Charles Dumas as Elder Joseph Barlow.

This Sunday,  Nov. 10, the Everyman is holding its rescheduled Market Center Trash Bash – a large-scale neighborhood cleanup and block party. To register as a volunteer for the Trash Bash, and for more details, click here.  All participants in the cleanup can purchase discounted $25 tickets to Sunday evening’s performance of Radio Golf.  Registration is free. The cleanup starts at 2pm, the block party is at 5 pm, and the discounted performance of Radio Golf begins at 7. 

Radio Golf continues at the Everyman Theatre through Sun., Nov. 17.

Today on Midday with the Mayor, Balitmore City Mayor Jack Young joins Tom in Studio A for an exclusive interview.

Earlier this year, when former Mayor Catherine Pugh resigned from office, Mr. Young was elevated from City Council President to Mayor. At that time he said he had no interest in continuing as Mayor after he'd served out Ms. Pugh’s term.

But he has since re-considered. Young is now assumed by many to be the front-runner in a crowded field of candidates who are running in the Democratic mayoral primary, which will be held on April 28th. 

Photo Credit: Colby Ware

Today on Midday Culture Connections:  a conversation about an effort to engage Squeegee Kids by helping a few of them form a new company that produces and markets bottled water. It’s called Korner Boyz Enterprises, and it’s being launched by young people with the assistance and guidance of people at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), the University of Maryland Law School, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, and a non-profit called Equity Matters.

Tom and  Dr. Sheri Parks of the Maryland Institute College of Art are joined by some of the mentors who are involved in the project.