Midday | WYPR


Photo Courtesy Maryland State Archives

Today, an update on the Maryland General Assembly. With six weeks left in this year’s session, and more than 2,000 bills and counting, we’ll rundown the status of some the key pieces of legislation as they work their way through the House and Senate.  

Tom runds down the latest from Annapolis with Washington Post politics reporter Ovetta Wiggins and Baltimore Sun state house reporter Luke Broadwater

Photo by Matthew Miller

It's Thursday on Midday, and time for another of J. Wynn Rousuck's weekly reviews of regional theater.  Today, she spotlights the new traveling revival of The King and I.  The new show is based on the 2015 Tony Award-winning Lincoln Center Theater production, and it's now on stage at Baltimore's Hippodrome Theatre.

The fifth of the many great musicals by the collaborative team of Richard Rodgers (composer) and Oscar Hammerstein II (librettist/lyricist), The King and I was adapted from Margaret Landon's novel, Anna and the King of Siam (1944), which itself drew on the memoirs of Anna Leonowens, governess to the children of King Mongkut of Siam in the early 1860s.  Anna is a British schoolteacher hired to teach in Bangkok, Siam (now Thailand), as part of the King's drive to modernize his country.  Anna and the King form a tense and complicated relationship: a clash of West and East as much as a love neither believes they can acknowledge.

Associated Press

Today, we take a look at a crucial, and surprisingly overlooked chapter of fairly recent American history. 

The story revolves around Spiro Agnew, who was Richard Nixon’s vice president until he resigned after pleading no contest to tax evasion and fraud charges.  Agnew, of course, was also a Baltimorean -- he was born and raised in the city and he served as Baltimore County Executive and Governor of Maryland before being tapped as Nixon’s running mate in 1968. 

And as we are deftly reminded in "Bag Man," a podcast hosted by Rachel Maddow, Agnew’s resignation in October 1973 was still linked in a very important way to the resignation of President Nixon the following summer.

Tim Baker was an assistant U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland in the 1970s. He was part of the team of lawyers who investigated corruption in the Baltimore County Executive’s office, which set off a chain of events that eventually led to Spiro Agnew’s resignation as Vice President.   Mike Yarvitz is an Emmy and Peabody Award winning TV producer and the Executive Producer of “Bag Man,” which he co-wrote with Rachel Maddow. 


Today, it’s Midday on the Environment. Last fall, a United Nations climate change report and the U.S. National Climate Assessment estimated that in just 10 years, global warming will begin to trigger changes in the world’s climate that are more severe, more costly and more catastrophic than any we’ve seen thus far.

For decades, scientists and activists have been urging the world’s governments to work together to address this global crisis. The U.S. withdrawal last year from the Paris Climate Accord, and the Trump administration’s dismantling of an array of environmental regulations has, in some ways, galvanized the environmental movement to step up its efforts. 

Earlier this month, freshman Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Democratic Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts introduced a joint resolution they call the Green New Deal. They describe it as an economic, social and political manifesto for more aggressive steps to mitigate climate change. 

What is the Green New Deal? Is it the best way to address the climate change crisis?  Tom is joined, both in the studio and on the line, by three climate policy experts. 

US Drug Enforcement Administration via AP

Todaya conversation with William Purpura, a Baltimore attorney who was a member of the legal defense team for Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the notorious Mexican drug kingpin also known as "El Chapo."  Guzman was convicted in a Brooklyn courthouse last week on charges related to his illicit drug enterprise. The guilty verdicts, on all 10 counts, came after a three-month trial, and for federal prosecutors, three decades of investigation into the huge drug trafficking enterprise known as the Sinaloa Cartel. It was one of the most high-profile federal drug prosecutions in history. 

William Purpura has been involved in other recent high-profile cases, including the defense of Daniel Hersl, one of the Baltimore City police officers convicted in the Gun Trace Task Force scandal, and Michael Vaughan, a former MD Delegate from Prince George’s County, who was sentenced to four years in prison in a bribery case last September.  Mr. Purpura joins Tom in Studio A.  

We live-streamed this conversation, and you can view the video on the WYPR Facebook page.

Graphic courtesy BSO

Today, a conversation about the future of the BSO.  The orchestra enjoys an excellent international reputation, and on stage, they continue to play beautifully and audiences continue to respond enthusiastically.  Off stage, however, there is deep disagreement between the BSO management and the musicians about the future direction of the state’s largest arts organization.

Negotiations on a new labor agreement between players and management began last year.  The last contract expired in September.  It was extended until the 15th of last month.  The orchestra has been playing without a contract since that time, as negotiations continue. 

Tom is joined in Studio A by Peter KjomePresident and CEO of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and Tonya McBride Robles, the BSO's Vice President and General Manager.

Later, Tom talks with Brian Prechtl, a BSO percussionist and co-chair of the Players Committee of the Baltimore Symphony Musicians, and Jane Marvine, an English horn player who has been with the BSO since 1978, and who is also a member of the Players Committee.  

Today's conversation was streamed live on the WYPR Facebook Page.  

Photo Courtesy Dan O'Brien

Tonight is the opening night of Henry IV Part I at the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company.  The play is the first of William Shakespeare’s seven “Henrys,” as these sequential history plays are known by Bard aficionados, and it’s considered to be one of the playwright's most ambitious.  Written between 1596 and 1599, Henry IV Part I and Henry IV Part II tell the story of friends, fathers and sons, war, and the weight of honor.  

Tom is joined in Studio A by two Chesapeake Shakespeare Resident Company actors who play leading roles in the new production: Séamus Millerwho plays Prince Hal; and Gregory Burgess, who plays Prince Hal’s mentor, the incorrigible knight, Sir John Falstaff.  

Henry IV Part I continues at The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company through March 30.  Henry IV Part II will run from March 15 through April 7.   The Company will be presenting both Henry IV Part I and II in Signature Event same-day performances on three successive Saturdays, on March 16, 23, and 30.  For more information, click here

Chesapeake Shakespeare Company is located at 7 South Calvert Street, Baltimore 21202.

This segment was streamed live on the WYPR Facebook Page.  

Photo Courtesy Flickr

When Virginia Governor Ralph Northam was recently confronted with a page from his medical school's 1984 yearbook, he apologized for being one of the two people in a photograph - on his page in the yearbook - that showed a white man in blackface, and a person dressed in the hood and sheet of the Ku Klux Klan.  Calls for his resignation poured forth from both Democrats and Republicans, in VA and around the country.  The next day, he announced that neither of the people in the photograph were him, but he had worn blackface and moon-walked in a Michael Jackson imitation at around the same time in his life, some 30 years ago.  

Today – we simply ask:  “What is the deal with white men dressing in blackface?”  Is it ever to don the look of minstrelsy, which for generations has been recognized as demeaning to and racist against people of color?  It is a practice that certainly did not begin or end in the 1980s, but how should the fact that two government officials wore blackface at that time inform how we think about what they did, and what form their contrition should take? 

ClintonB Photography

Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom each Thursday with her reviews of the region's theatrical offerings.  Today, she talks about Everything Is Wonderfula powerful drama set in Amish country about a man, and a family, in crisis. 

The play by Chelsea Marcantel, which world-premiered at the Contemporary Theater Festival in West Virgina in 2017, is getting a new production at Baltimore's Everyman Theatre.

Directed by Noah Himmelstein, the play stars Everyman Theatre Resident Company actors Deborah Hazlett (Esther) and Bruce Randolph Nelson (Jacob), and features Tony Nam (Eric),  Alex Spieth (Miri), Hannah Kelly (Ruth), and Steve Polites (Abram).

Everything Is Wonderful continues at Everyman Theater through Sunday, February 24.

W. W. Norton & Company

Today, Tom's guest is Steve Luxenberg, a longtime  associate editor at The Washington Post. His latest book, Separate: The Story of Plessy v. Ferguson, and America’s Journey from Slavery to Segregationchronicles the events that led up to the landmark 1896 Supreme Court ruling.

In 1892, Homer Plessy, a young black musician who often passed for white, boarded a train in New Orleans, and was arrested when he sat in the whites-only railway car. His arrest formed the basis of a Supreme Court challenge to the Louisiana Separate Car Act, a state law that segregated black and white people while riding the train. The Court’s decision, four years later, enshrined in American law the "separate but equal" doctrine. It wasn’t until 60 years later, in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case, that the doctrine of “separate but equal” was repudiated by the Court. 

Tonight at 7 p.m. Steve will be discussing his book with Judge Robert M. Bell, the former chief judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals. The event is part of the Open Society Institute's "Talking About Race" series and will be held at the Church of the Redeemer in Baltimore. For more details about tonight's event, click here.

Tom's conversation with Steve Luxenberg was livestreamed on WYPR's Facebook page.  Watch the video here.


Today on Midday, a converation about foster parenting and adoption.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 63 percent of children adopted from foster care go to white families. White families also make up 71 percent of the total number of adoptive parents in the U.S. And transracial or interracial adoptions now account for more than 40 percent of adoptions in the U.S.

How has the conversation around interracial adoption changed over the years? And what are some of the rewards and challenges for parents who are raising children of a different race than themselves? Tom is joined by two journalists - both adoptive mothers - who share their own experiences with adoption.

Loyola University Maryland

Today, another in our occasional series, Midday on Higher Education. From time to time, host Tom Hall sits down with the presidents of Maryland colleges and universities to talk about the challenges that each of their institutions face, and how those institutions are connected to the fabric of the communities in which they are located. 

Today Tom's guest is the Rev. Brian F. Linnane, a Jesuit priest who serves as president of Loyola University Maryland, here in Baltimore.  Loyola is one of 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the country. There are several others that are named “Loyola,” after St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuit order, but Baltimore was the first. Before coming to Loyola, Fr. Linnane was an associate professor of Religious Studies at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, where he later served as Assistant Dean. He has been the President of Loyola University Maryland since 2005, and as such he is one of the longest serving university presidents in Maryland.

AP Photo/ Steve Helber

On today's News Wrap, guest host Nathan Sterner sits in for Tom Hall with a rundown of the stories making headlines in our region this week:

Turmoil in Virginia as a blackface scandal and allegations of sexual assault have led to calls for the resignation of the state's top  political leaders; Baltimore County executive Johnny Olszewski sites "tough challenges" following cuts to the county's education budget; and former New Orleans police superintendent Michael Harrison is set to assume his duties as BPD acting police commissioner on Monday. Pending a final vote by the city council, the incoming top cop is on track to become the Baltimore’s fifth police commissioner in four years. 

Joining Nathan with the latest are Washington Post Senior Regional Correspondent Robert McCartney; WYPR Baltimore County reporter John Lee; and Ian Duncan, City Hall reporter for the Baltimore Sun.

photo courtesy oscars.org

Today, a special Oscars Preview edition of Midday at the Movies, with guest host and Midday senior producer Rob Sivak sitting in for Tom Hall.  With the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gearing up for its 91st annual awards ceremony in Los Angeles later this month, we’re going to talk about some of the extraordinary films and artists that have been nominated for Oscars – and some that weren’t but should have been.  Joining Rob to help size up the contenders are two of Midday’s favorite movie mavens:  Jed Dietz is the founding director of the Maryland Film Festival, which  also runs the historic SNF Parkway movie theater on North Avenue; Max Weiss is the editor-in-chief of Baltimore magazine and the periodical’s hard-working film and pop-culture critic, who also shares her thoughts on her blogpost  maxthe girl.com and on Twitter and Instagram, @maxthegirlShe is also a certified critic for Rotten Tomatoes' film review service.

And we hear from listeners about their picks for their year's best films and best performances.

The conversation was live-streamed on WYPR's Facebook page, and you can watch that video here.

Photograph by Bill Geenen/Baltimore Center Stage

Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins guest host Rob Sivak with another of her weekly reviews of the region's stage offerings.  Today she spotlights the Tony Award-winning musical, Fun Home, now getting a new production at Baltimore's Center Stage.

Adapted from the best-selling graphic memoir of the same name by Alison Bechdel, with music composed by Jeanine Tesori and book and lyrics by Lisa Kron, Fun Home introduces us to the Bechdel family through the eyes of daughter Alison—played at ages 9, 19, and then 43, by Molly Lyons, Laura Darrell and Andrea Prestinario, respectively.  We experience Alison's shifting memories of her brothers, mother, and her complex and difficult father, played out amidst the family funeral home, and we relive Alison’s emotionally wrenching coming out.  The musical world-premiered at New York City’s Public Theater in 2013 and went on to Broadway, where it won the 2015 Tony Award for Best Musical for the composer of Caroline, or Change and the writer of 2.5 Minute Ride. Fun Home is directed at Center Stage by Hana S. Sharif.

Fun Home continues at Baltimore Center Stage through Sunday, February 24. 

Doug Mills/The New York Times via AP, Pool

In an 82-minute State of the Union address that was long on introductions and short on new proposals to achieve the bipartisan cooperation the President says he aspires to, Donald Trump repeated his oft-repeated claims about illegal immigration.  And, with an ad-lib, he also elevated a questionable claim about legal immigration, and he even attempted some soaring rhetoric as he finished an address that was notable for what it didn’t include as much as what it did. 

The headline on FoxNews.com this morning was “Trump rejects socialism as expressionless Dems sit unmoved.”  The Washington Post editorial board said the speech “reflected endurance if not eloquence.”  A Make America Great Again Rally has been scheduled for February 11th in the southern border town of El Paso, TX.  That’s four days before the deadline that could result in another partial government shutdown over border security. 

And former Democratic candidate for Governor of Georgia, Stacy Abrams, made her debut on the national stage, offering a Democratic response to Mr. Trump that was praised by the Post as well as Chris Wallace and Laura Ingraham of Fox

Norman Ornstein joins us.  He’s a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a contributing editor and columnist for the National Journal and The Atlantic, and a co-author, with EJ Dionne and Thomas Mann of One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported.  He joins us on the line from Washington DC.

Baltimore Ceasfire 365 via FB

The slogan of Baltimore Ceasefire 365 is simple: “Nobody kill anybody.”  The mission of the organization is to re-direct our hearts and minds to the positive dimensions of our lives, so that we take better care of each other.  Last weekend, the first Ceasefire of 2019 took place.  As we do after every Ceasefire weekend here on Midday, we are joined by one of the organizers to touch base about how things went. 

Tom speaks with Baltimore Ceasefire co-founder Erricka Bridgeford; and Sean Yoes, the Baltimore Editor of The Afro Newspaper, and the author of Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories fromOne of America's Great Imperiled Cities

The annual Motor Trend International Auto Show opens tomorrow at noon at the Baltimore Convention Center, with more than 500 vehicles, from the ultra-expensive to the very practical. Some run on gas, some on electricity, some on a little of both.

Last year, we visited the Auto Show with a young man who knows an awful lot about cars: Rory Cahill. His expertise and opinions on all things automotive have attracted the attention of a lot of folks.

On two occasions, General Motors has shipped a car to Rory’s house and asked him to try it out for a week, and give them his unvarnished opinion. In the biz, he’s known as “an influencer.”  Here's his review of the Alfa Romeo Giulia -- long a favorite and tied for 1st as his Best Car of 2019.  Here's a short film about Rory that premiered at the 2017 Maryland Film Festival.  

This year, we have invited Rory back to talk about the latest cars – which ones he likes, which ones he doesn’t like, and why.

We aren’t going to be able to visit the Auto Show together this year, but Rory has kept up with the latest industry developments, and he joins me in the studio. Full disclosure: Rory is the son of one of our producers, Kathleen Cahill.

There’s only one thing Rory doesn’t know about cars: how to drive them. Rory is 14 years old -- two years shy of getting his license.

We begin with a look at the history of African Americans in Horror movies.   On Thursday, Shudder TV will premiere a terrific new documentary called,  Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror.  The film offers a fresh, fearless and affectionately humorous ethnographic examination into representations and contributions of African Americans in this popular genre. 

Tananarive Due is  educator, author and exectutive producer of 'Horror Noire'. She joins Tom and Dr. Sheri Parks from NPR's studios in New York. 

Later, a conversation about of God on television and why it is that even as society becomes more secular, the Almighty continues to command heavenly ratings?

Dr. Sheri Parks is the Vice President of Strategic Inititatives at the Maryland Institutie College of Art, and a reuglar contributor to our show on Midday Culture Connections.  She's the author of Fierce Angels: Living with a legacy form the Sacred Dark Feminie to the Strong Black Woman

Our conversation was streamed live on WYPR's Facebook page. You can watch the live video here

The Office of Sen. Chris Van Hollen

Today, a conversation with U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, Democrat from Maryland.  He was elected to the Senate in 2016 after serving seven terms in the House of Representatives, where he represented Maryland’s 8th congressional district.

Senator Van Hollen currently serves on the Senate Budget Committee, the Banking and Environment Committees and the all-important Appropriations Committee.

Early in his career, Van Hollen served in Maryland’s House of Delegates as well as in the State Senate.

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

Photo Courtesy Rep. Elijah Cummings

Tom speaks with Congressman Elijah Cummings.  He represents Maryland's 7th District, which includes parts of Baltimore City and some of Baltimore and Howard Counties.  On January 4th, 2019, Rep. Cummings was elected by his colleagues in the newly Democrat-controlled House of Representatives to be chairman of the Committee of Oversight and Reform for the 116th Congressthe committee on which he'd previously served as Ranking Member.

We’ll hear about the issues on the committee's agenda, including reform of prescription drug pricing and a sweeping anti-corruption bill called HR 1. 

On Tuesday of this week, Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby announced that her office would cease prosecution of marijuana possession.  The State’s Attorney called the new policy a "monumental shift" and announced that her office is seeking to vacate nearly 5,000 cannabis possession convictions going back to 2011. 

How will the  new policy affect policing and public safety? And how will the state legislature respond to this latest development, as advocates continue to push for the legalization of recreational marijuana in Maryland?

State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby joins Tom on the line from her offices in Baltimore.  

Morton Tadder

Today, a birthday tribute to our dear friend Gil Sandler. Gil, who passed away in December, would have celebrated his 96th birthday this Sunday. His Baltimore Stories have delighted WYPR listeners for a decade and a half .  

Today, we share with you an interview recorded about six months prior to his final appearance on our show, in June of 2017, as we approached the 15th anniversary of the Baltimore Stories.  This is the first time this interview has been broadcast.  

Associated Press photo/David J. Phillip

Today, it’s Midday on Sports: Gridiron Edition.  Super Bowl 53 is being played on Sunday.  We thought it a good time to talk about the state of the NFL, particularly the league’s evolving response to the prevalence of serious head injuries, and the fact that the NFL and leagues like the Pop Warner Youth League for kids are having a hard time finding insurance companies who are willing to write policies that cover serious injuries. 

Photography by Rob Clatterbuck

It's Thursday and time again for Midday's peripatetic theater critic, J. Wynn Rousuck, to join us with another of her weekly reviews of regional stage productions. 

Today, she describes the Stillpointe Theatre revival of Company, the 1970 musical comedy with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by George Furth. The original Broadway production was nominated for a record-setting fourteen Tony Awards and it won six, including the 1971 Tonys for Best Musical, Best Book, Best Score and Best Lyrics.

The play's essential storyline involves Bobby (played by Jason Hentrich), a single man who's been unable to commit to a steady relationship, much less to marriage; the five married couples who are his best friends; and his three girlfriends.  One of the first "concept" musicals on Broadway to deal with complex relationship issues, Company's "story" unfolds in a very un-linear, un-chronological style, as Bobby wrestles with the pros and cons of bachelorhood and marriage through a series of song-filled vignettes -- all linked by a celebration of Bobby's 35th birthday.

This new revival of Company - directed by Deirdre McAllister - continues at Stillpointe Theatre until Sat., February 2. For performance and ticket information, click here.


E.J. Dionne  joins Tom to talk politics. 

The State of the Union speech was supposed to have taken place last night; it's been rescheduled for next Tuesday. This is the first time since 1986 that a State of the Union has been delayed, when Ronald Reagan was slated to address Congress on the same day as the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.

The longest government shutdown in U.S. history, which ended last Friday, was a disaster of a different kind. An estimated 800,000 federal workers missed two paychecks and many questioned whether American institutions could be trusted with the basic task of governing.

E.J. Dionne is a longtime syndicated columnist for The Washington Post, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a professor in the Foundations of Democracy and Culture program at Georgetown University.  His latest book, co-authored with Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann, is called  One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate and the Not-Yet Deported.  It’s now available in paperback.

Early Light Media

Today, Tom speaks with Dr. Richard Antoine White, a tubist with the New Mexico Philharmonic in Albuquerque. White is originally from Baltimore's Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood.  As a young child, he experienced homelessness and poverty.  Despite this, he graduated from Baltimore School for the Arts and Peabody Institute. Now, in addition to the Philharmonic, he is a tenured Associate Professor of Tuba and Euphonium at the University of New Mexico and associate director of the university’s marching band. White is the first African American to earn a doctorate of music in tuba performance.

White's extraordinary journey from the streets of Sandtown to accomplished symphonic musician and professor is told in a new documentary called “R.A.W. Tuba: From Sandtown to Symphony." The documentary is made by Baltimore filmmakers Darren Durlach and David Larson of Early Light Media. Watch a trailer for the film here.

Cover art courtesy Harper Collins

Today, a conversation about one of the most fascinating figures, not only in baseball history, but in American history.  George Herman "Babe" Ruth, Jr. was born and raised in Baltimore,  graduated from the school of hard knocks, and evolved into the most famous man in America, whose every swing of the bat seemed to be a matter of national interest, and whose every exploit off the field was a source of endless fascination for Depression-era fans.  His influence and importance to the game is unquestioned, and because the timing of his rise to prominence coincided with an expansion of media from print to broadcast, his influence in the public sphere, well outside the diamond, was unprecedented. 

In her fascinating and granular look at the life of Babe Ruth, Jane Leavy -- the best-selling author of The Last Boy and Sandy Koufax -- observes, “At some point in the trajectory of fame, real life becomes apocryphal.  Home runs travel in perpetuity, drafting on perpetually willing suspension of disbelief.  The temporal facts of biography no longer matter because everyone knows a person who can hit 60 home runs will live forever.”  

Today, a conversation about the 2019 priority agenda of Maryland’s Legislative Black Caucus. The fifty-six member organization has highlighted the issues that they believe address the concerns of Black Marylanders and will ensure greater equality and protection for their communities.

Tom's guests are two members of the Legislative Black Caucus: Delegate Pamela E. Queen and Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes.

Delegate Queen represents District 14, Montgomery County and is secretary of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland.  

Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes represents District 37A, encompassing Wicomico County and parts of Dorchester County.  She is also the chair of the Women Legislators of MD.   

Photo courtesy Reginald F. Lewis Museum

Since 2016, Wanda Draper has served as the Executive Director of the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture. In her two years on the job, Baltimore native Wanda Draper has, by most accounts, breathed new life into the Lewis Museum. In 2018, for the first time in a decade, the museum was able to meet the state’s mandate to generate $2 million dollars in revenue; last June the museum launched a new website; and the museum has seen an increase in visitation.  

Wanda Draper has announced she will be retiring next month.  Today, she joins Tom in Studio A.

This conversation was streamed live on WYPR's Facebook Pate.  You can watch the video here.