Midday | WYPR


Photo Zac DeZon

Tom's guest is the acclaimed playwright, poet and author, Sarah Ruhl.  Her latest book is called Letters from Max: A Book of Friendship.   It’s a collection of her correspondence with Max Ritvo, who took a playwriting class with Sarah at Yale University.  Max Ritvo was a poet who had begun attracting a significant following before he died of cancer at the age of 25.  

Sarah Ruhl is a playwright who has been twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.  She’s also a MacArthur Award winner who has been nominated for a Tony Award.  She’s on the faculty of the Yale School of Drama.

A Tribute to Gil Sandler (1923-2018)

Dec 20, 2018
photo courtesy Tom Hall

We come to you today with a heavy heart.   Yesterday afternoon Gilbert Sandler, the great writer and raconteur died, after a long illness.

No one knew Baltimore or wrote about its charms, its quirks, and its characters as well as Gilbert Sandler.  He was a gifted and spirited story teller, with a great ear for the rhythm and the arc of the stories he told, whether or not he was writing a book, a newspaper column, or reading one of his popular Baltimore Stories here on WYPR. 

He began his career as a radio personality in 2003.  Long before that, he had found his voice as a writer.  Now, at the age of 80, he discovered his voice as an actual teller of tales.  In all, he produced about 175 Baltimore Stories, with which he has delighted us every Friday morning for more than 15 years.  Each one was beautifully and masterfully designed, with a graceful arc, and, very importantly, an abiding respect for the many quirky and colorful characters he introduced us to...

Photo courtesy Fox Rothschild

A few weeks, ago, Tom spoke with Maya Rockeymoore Cummings and Kathleen Matthews, who at the time were running to be the next chair of the MD Democratic Party.  Maya Cummings won that election, and she has begun regrouping Democrats after their second loss in a row in their bid to capture the Governor’s mansion. 

Today, Tom looks at the prospects for Maryland's GOP.  While enjoying their winning hand in Governor Larry Hogan's recent re-election victory and his bipartisan support across the state, MD Republicans are less happy with their persistent minority status in all but a few of the state's election districts.  How do they plan to change the party's fortunes going forward?  Joining Tom in the Midday studio is the newly re-elected chair of the Maryland Republican Party.  Dirk Haire is a Washington DC-based attorney with the firm of Fox Rothschild LLP.   He’s also a veteran Republican political operative;  he worked as a legislative aide to former U.S. Senator Dan Coats who now serves as the Director of National Intelligence in the Trump Administration.

Dirk Haire also managed congressional campaigns for Republican candidates in Indiana and Wisconsin, and he served as the Chair of the Maryland House and Senate Party Caucus Committees.  Before taking on the chairmanship of the MD GOP in 2016, he served as the party’s legal counsel.

ClintonB Photography

Midday theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck, who joins us each week with a review of one of the region's many theatrical productions, today spotlights the revival of Irish playwright Oscar Wilde's classic 1895 work, The Importance of Being Earnest, now on stage at Baltimore's Everyman Theatre.

For this raucous comedy of manners exploring the complications of love, friendship, identity and class, Joseph W. Ritsch directs the Everyman cast, including Jaysen Wright (John Worthing, J.P.), Bruce Randolph Nelson (Lady Bracknell), Danny Gavigan (Algernon Moncrieff),  Katie Kleiger (Hon. Gwendolen Fairfax), Paige Hernandez (Cecily), Helen Hedman (Miss Prism), Wil Love (Rev. Canon Chasuble, D.D.), and Carl Schurr (Lane/Merriman). 

The Importance of Being Earnest continues at Everyman Theatre through Sunday, December 30th. For more information on the performance and tickets, click here.  

Photo Courtesy AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Gen. Michael Flynn will have to wait until March 13th to learn his fate after Judge Emmet Sullivan proposed that the national security adviser's legal team agree to postponing sentencing. The former Trump aide is awaiting sentencing for lying to the FBI. 

 Plus, new details emerge about Russian efforts to sway the 2016 presidential elections through a disinformation campaign targeting African Americans with fake social media accounts. Tom is joined by Washington Post reporter Greg Miller, and New York Times reporter Scott Shane.  

Photo by Bruce Emmerling/Wikimedia Commons

As the year comes to a close, I’d like to take a moment to look back and remember some important contributors to local cultural and civic life who we lost in 2018.  This is by no means an exhaustive list.  I simply want to mention a few people I was blessed to know, and who our community was blessed to have. 

Tom Saunders died in January.  He was an accomplished historian of local African American history, who led bus tours of important sites throughout the city.  His tours drew thousands of people.  He took them to Frederick Douglass’ house, the house where Thurgood Marshall was born, and the “Colored Pool,” that had long been abandoned in Druid Hill Park.  He was a masterful story-teller, and having worked at the city Rumor Control office for many years, he knew very well how to separate fact from fiction.

Photo courtesy Pugh for Mayor

Today, on  Midday with the Mayor, Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh joins Tom in Studio A for an exclusive interview.  She discusses her nomination of Dr. Joel Fitzgerald, the current police chief in Ft. Worth, Texas, to be Baltimore’s new police commissioner.  If the City Council confirms him next month, Fitzgerald will take over a department that is still reeling from frequent leadership changes, a demoralized rank and file, and corruption scandals. 

As for the Mayor’s efforts to reduce violence in Baltimore, the Safe Streets program is adding three more locations around town.  Mayor Pugh also points to the 52 million-dollar Neighborhood Impact Investment Fund, which she has long championed, as another initiative aimed at transforming economically depressed areas of our city.  On Saturday, the Mayor attended a ceremony celebrating three new Habitat for Humanity homes in Sandtown Winchester.

During their hour-long conversation, Tom also questions the Mayor on her efforts to take the bite out of continued water-rate hikes, the future of Pimlico and the Preakness, and other important issues affecting Charm City.  And the Mayor addresses listener comments and questions, as well.

This program was live-streamed on WYPR's Facebook page, and the video can be seen here.   (The final three minutes of the stream were lost because of a brief Internet service interruption.)

John Sarbanes

Rep. John Sarbanes joins Tom for the hour today. Last month, he was re-elected to represent Maryland’s 3rd congressional district for a seventh term.  

For nearly two years, Sarbanes has chaired the House Democracy Reform Task Force, a group of legislators seeking to minimize the influence of special interests on elections. He is the principle author of H.R. 1, a bill that addresses ethics and campaign finance reform as well as voting rights protections. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who will likely be the new Speaker of the House, said the bill will be the first order of business when the House reconvenes on January 3rd, 2019.

Congressman Sarbanes also serves on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and its Subcommittee on National Security. He joins Tom live in Studio A.

Today, Live in Studio A, it's Helicon, the iconic Celtic-inspired trio of Robin Bullock (guitar, citern)Chris Norman (wooden flutes, penny whistle) and Ken Kolodner (hammered dulcimer, fiddle, hammered mbira).  Tomorrow, the group reunites for their 33rd Annual Winter Solstice Reunion Concert at Goucher College, playing Scottish, Irish, Appalachian and other folk music. But today, in keeping with a Midday holiday tradition, Helicon is joined in our studio by members of the local old-timey music band, Charm City Junction, including Ken’s son Brad Kolodner (banjo, fiddle, vocals), Alex Lacquement (bass, vocals), Sean McComiskey (accordian), Patrick McAvinue (fiddle, mandolin, vocals), with Rachel Eddy (guitar, fiddle and vocals). Join us for some great traditional, folk and blue-grass music, performed by some of the best musicians in the genres.

Can After-school Sports Help Kids in Class?

Dec 13, 2018
USAG- Humphreys/CC by 2.0

Today on Midday, a conversation with the leaders of four different youth sports programs that are propelling kids in Baltimore toward academic success.  Through these programs, young people are playing hockey, soccer and squash, and even riding dirt bikes. They're also gaining access to college and career planning resources, mentoring services and academic help.

Tom will explore how youth sports programs can help students succeed both in and out of the classroom.

Photo by Bill Geenen, Baltimore Center Stage

Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom with another of her weekly reviews of regional productions. Today she spotlights A Wonder in My Soul, a tale of friendship and family set in the heart of Baltimore which is playing at Baltimore Center Stage through next weekend.

Written by acclaimed playwright Marcus Gardley and directed by Daniel Bryant, A Wonder in My Soul is the story of Swann (Harriett D. Foy) and Gwynn (Wandachristine), two best friends pressured to make an important decision about their Baltimore beauty shop as the forces of gentrification begin to impact their neighborhood. The play was originally set in Chicago, the city in which it premiered in early 2017, but Gardley has rewritten it with a Charm City setting for its Baltimore debut.

A Wonder in My Soul continues at Baltimore Center Stage through next Sunday, December 23. Get more information about ticketing here.

Enoch Pratt Free Library

Are you still searching for the perfect books to give your loved ones this holiday season? Or are you looking for a book of your own to relax with during the cold days of December?

On today's show, Tom considers some of the year's best books, invites listener picks, and solicits the expert recommendations of two very well-placed local book lovers who join us in the studio:

Heidi Daniel is the President and CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library

Paula Willey is the Children's Department Head at the Pratts's Southeast Anchor Branch in Highlandtown.

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

Milicano Gueira

Why it is that black babies in the U.S. are more than twice as likely to die than white babies? And why are black women dying from complications related to childbirth four times more frequently than white women?

Linda Villarosa is a journalist, an educator and a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine. She covers the intersection of health and medicine and social justice.

Andrea N. Williams is a Doula who supports families during their birth journeys here in Baltimore.  She  is a member of the Community Advisory Board for Bmore for Healthy Babies, and a member of the Working Group for the “Black Mamas Matter Alliance,” a national organization focused on maternal health. 

Rebeca Dineen is the Assistant Commissioner of the Baltimore Bureau of Maternal and Child Health.  She leads a program called B’more for Healthy Babies.

This segment was streamed on WYPR's Facebook Page.

Coppin State University

Dr. Maria Thompson, president of Coppin State University, joins us for the first in our series of conversations with local college presidents: Midday on Higher Education. She will discuss how institutions of higher education are meeting the needs of older, non-traditional students as the number of degree seeking students over 25 continues to rise. 

Dr. Thompson is Coppin State's seventh president since its founding 118 years ago. She has served in her role since 2015 and is the first female president in the university's history.  She previously served as the provost and vice president for academic affairs at the State University of New York at Oneonta. Dr. Thompson holds an undergraduate degree from Tennessee State University, a Master’s Degree from Ohio State University and a doctorate in textile science and textile economics from the University of Tennessee.

News Wrap 12.07.2018

Dec 7, 2018
Associated Press

Join us for another Midday News Wrap.

U.S. Justice Department Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III was the man of the week after new developments in his investigation of Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election. In a heavily redacted court filing, Mueller announced that he would not pursue prison time for President Trump’s former national security advisor, Gen. Michael Flynn, because of his "significant" cooperation with the investigation.  Mueller's prosecutors in DC and a team in the Southern District of New York were scheduled to submit separate sentencing memos on Friday for former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, and former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.

Tom talks with Washington Post national security reporter Devlin Barrett about the Mueller team's multiple ongoing probes.

Those probes weren't the only stories dominating headlines this week: US senators, including some leading Republicans, responded angrily to the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi after their closed-door briefing by CIA Director Gina Haspel; the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics refused to certify the election of Republican House candidate Mark Harris following reports of systematic voter fraud in the state’s 9th district; and many around the country mourned former President George H.W. Bush after his death last Friday.

NPR lead politics editor Domenico Montanaro joins Tom from NPR studios in Washington to discuss these and other major news developments this week.

Live in Studio A: SONiA disappear fear

Dec 7, 2018
Lea Morales

SONiA disappear fear is a Baltimore-based singer and songwriter. A cause-driven artist, her songs explore the human spirit and address global humanitarian issues. She spends a lot of her time performing in cities around the world. 

Over the past 30 years, SONiA has shared the stage with many popular music icons, from Pete Seeger and Joan Baez to superstars such as Bruce Springsteen, Emmy Lou Harris, and Sheryl Crowe.  Last week SONiA released a new CD  titled "By My Silence," a collection of songs heavily influenced by  her recent trip to Europe.

She joins us in Studio A to talk about her music and to perform a few songs from the new CD.

The segment was  streamed live, and you can watch the video on WYPR's Facebook page.

Universal Studios

It’s Midday at the Movies!

Following this morning’s Golden Globe nominations, author and Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday and founding director of the Maryland Film Festival Jed Dietz join Tom in the studio to discuss the nominees, and to consider the recent surge in films telling stories of African-Americans and strong (though not always likable) women, including:

The Favourite, a comedy-drama starring Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz. They play three women vying for personal and political influence in the 18th century palace of Britain's Queen Anne.  Released last month, the film has received critical acclaim and earned five Golden Globe nominations, including one for each of its lead actresses; and

Green Book, a more contemporary comedy-drama, also based on a true story. It stars Mahershala Ali as an erudite black classical pianist who hires an unsophisticated white club bouncer (Viggo Mortensen) to be his driver, bodyguard, and ultimately, friend, on a concert tour through the American South in the 1960s. The film also received five Golden Globe nominations, including nods to both lead actors.

Tom, Ann and Jed also take your calls, emails and Tweets...

Photo by Evan Zimmerman/MurphyMade

Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom to share another weekly review of a local theatrical production. This week, she spotlights  Anastasia, a musical based on the 1997 classic animated film, that's getting a brief run this week at the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore.

Anastasia -- with book by Terrence McNally, score by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens -- is a historical drama set amidst the fall of the Russian Empire and the avante-garde excitement of Paris in the 1920s. Anya (Lila Coogan) is a Russian woman digging into a mystery from her past. Her quest takes her to Paris, alongside Vlad (Edward Staudenmayer) and Dmitry (Stephen Brower), while a Bolshevik general, Gleb (Jason Michael Evans), tries to track them down.

Directed by Tony Award-winner Darko Tresnjak, this national touring production of Anastasia will be on stage at the Hippodrome through this Sunday, December 9. Get more information about tickets here.

On today's Midday Culture Connections, a conversation about the links between racism and anti-Semitism. Tom is joined by Dr. Sheri Parks, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at MICA, and Dr. Beverly Mitchell, a professor of Historical Theology at the Wesley Theological Seminary. They discuss the connections between slavery and the Holocaust, and how interfaith engagements can help to counter movements that promote white supremacy, nationalism and xenophobia.

Dr. Beverly E. Mitchell  will be speaking as part of the Manekin-Clark Lecture Series of the Institute of Islamic Christian and Jewish Studies next Wednesday. 

Later in the hour, Tom and Dr. Parks discuss the state of arts criticism here in Baltimore, following the departure of two of the Baltimore Sun’s cultural critics, Tim Smith and Wesley Case, who left the paper before Thanksgiving.    

We live streamed this conversation, and you can watch the video on WYPR's Facebook page.

Today on Midday, Tom talks with the co-authors of the new book, "The Black and The Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America's Law Enforcement."

Former cop Matthew Horace gives readers an inside view of police tactics and police culture. Horace worked in federal, state and local law enforcement for 28 years, including more than two decades with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF). He was based in Baltimore for some of that time, where he served as an ATF Violent Crime Supervisor.

Ron Harris is the co-author of the new book.  He’s a former reporter and editor at the Los Angeles Times and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Remembering President George H.W. Bush

Dec 3, 2018

George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president of the United States, died in his Houston, Texas, home on Friday, November 30th. He was 94. 

Today, Karen Hoslerfrom the WYPR news team, joins us to talk about the president, his life and his legacy. Karen covered George H.W. Bush as a reporter for The Baltimore Sun.

She was also the president of the White House Correspondents Association during his presidency, and was a friend of the elder President Bush after he left office. 


Since July, a team of workers clad in purple shirts have been on the streets of Baltimore in pursuit of 180 young men at-risk because of their involvement in the drug trade and gangs. These outreach workers are with Roca, a new program which aims to help these men, some of whom are among the most violent criminals in the city, turn their lives around.

For three decades, Roca has worked in 21 communities in Massachusetts. It’s now a nationally recognized model of how behavioral health, education, job training and engagement can successfully transform the lives of those who are caught in a perpetual cycle of poverty and crime. Mayor Catherine Pugh secured four years of funding for the program with nearly $17 million dollars, mostly in private donations.

Molly Baldwin, Baltimore native and the founder and CEO of Roca, joins Tom in the studio to discuss the organization’s plans in Baltimore. Later, Tom talks with Tyrone Roper of the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, which works closely with the program.

Live in Studio A: Lutenist Ronn McFarlane

Nov 30, 2018
Photo courtesy Ronn McFarlane

Ronn McFarlane is one of the most acclaimed masters of a very old instrument – the lute.  He’s a Grammy-nominated musician and was a founding member of the Baltimore Consort. He’s also a founder of folk trio Ayreheart and has worked with many other great early music groups in the United States and around the world. 

Alongside fellow lutenist Paul O'Dette, McFarlane will perform tomorrow night in a program titled For Two Lutes: Virtuoso Duets from Italy and England. The concert is at 8:00 at Towson University's Harold J. Kaplan Concert Hall. It’s part of the series sponsored by the Baltimore Classical Guitar Society. Get more information here.

Ronn McFarlane joins Tom in Studio A.  He performs selections from A Fancy, by John Dowland; Passacaglia, by Allessandro Piccinini; and he closes out with another Dowland piece, Tarleton's Resurrection.

McFarlane's performance was streamed live on WYPR's Facebook page, and you can watch the video here.

Photos courtesy Kathleen Matthews/Maya Cummings

Today on Midday, a conversation about the status and future of Maryland's Democratic Party, with two stalwarts now vying for the party's top leadership position.

Maryland Democrats strengthened their majority in the General Assembly in this year’s midterm election. They also kept the Baltimore County Executive seat and picked up seats in Howard and Anne Arundel Counties. But Republican Governor Larry Hogan won a decisive reelection over Democratic challenger Ben Jealous. In the wake of those midterms, the Democratic State Central Committee will elect the next State Party Chair on Saturday.

Photography by Stan Barouh

Theater critic J. Wynn Rousuck joins Tom with her weekly review of a regional theatrical production. Today she spotlights Elf the Musical -- an adaptation of filmmaker David Berenbaum's beloved 2003 Will Ferrell comedy, Elf -- now on stage at the Olney Theatre Center in Olney, Md.

David Schlumpf stars as Buddy, a human raised by Santa’s elves in the North Pole who travels to New York City to meet his real father, Walter Hobbs (played by Bobby Smith). Buddy is shocked to learn that Walter, as well as his wife Emily (Janine Sunday) and son Michael (Tyler Smallwood) don’t believe in Santa. He sets out to reignite their belief and spread Christmas cheer. Michael J. Bobbitt directs this fresh take on a holiday favorite.

Elf the Musical -- written by Thomas Meehan and Bob Martin with music by Matthew Sklar and lyrics by Chad Beguelin -- continues at the Olney Theatre through the holidays until January 6th. Get ticket information here.

Health Care Options for Marylanders

Nov 27, 2018
Photo courtesy MHBE

Today on Midday on Health Care, Tom sorts through the many changes that have taken place in the health care options available to Marylanders, as they shop for plans during the current Open Season, which began on November 1 and ends on December 15.

Tom talks with Michele Eberle, the executive director of the Maryland Health Benefit Exchange, the state’s marketplace for private health insurance plans and Medicaid, services offered through its online Maryland Health Connection and the MHC mobile app.

Later, Tom is joined by Vincent DeMarco, the president of the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative Education Fund, a non-profit group established to educate Marylanders about ways to achieve quality, affordable health care. The group pursues its Healthcare For All mission, in coalition with community, business and religious partners, by advocating with policy makers to support improved health care access for everyone in the state.

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

Photo courtesy OIG

During their campaigning for the November mid-term elections, current office holders and wanna-be office holders often cited government "waste, fraud and abuse" as the trifecta they would address if elected -- a promise that was often followed by a pledge to fund new or existing programs with the massive savings citizens would enjoy when the waste was ferreted out. 

Tom's guest for the hour today is in charge of identifying and exposing wasteful spending -- and other forms of serious misconduct and mismanagement  -- by people who work for the city of Baltimore.  As of a couple of years ago, there were nearly 14,000 people employed by the city. 

Isabel Mercedes Cumming is one of them.  She was appointed to be the city's Inspector General in late January of this year, taking charge of an office that had been left vacant since September of 2016.    

 This program originally aired on October 16, 2018. 

Author Jabari Asim joins Tom in Studio A today.  Asim is a former editor and columnist for The Washington Post and the Editor-in-Chief of The Crisis,  the journal of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. His 2007 book, The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn’t, and Why was acclaimed for its important and trenchant observations about race in America.

Asim’s latest book, titled We Can't Breathe: On Black Lives, White Lies, and the Art of Survival, is a collection of personal and political essays that continues his exploration of the complex dynamics of race, in particular around what he calls the “narrative combat” that white and black people engage in as they live and encounter racial inequality from vastly different perspectives.

[Asim spoke about his new book on October 16 at the Enoch Pratt Central Library, as part of their Writers LIVE series. Find out more information about the series here.]

WYPR photo by Rob Sivak

It’s the What Ya Got Cookin'? -Thanksgiving Edition, a beloved tradition here on Middaygoing all the way back to...2016!  Tom's guests today are two of Baltimore's pre-eminent culinary masters:

John Shields is the chef and proprietor, along with John Gilligan, of Gertrude’s Restaurant at the Baltimore Museum of Art, and the author most recently, of The New Chesapeake Kitchen;

And David Thomas is the chef and co-owner with his wife Tonya of Ida B’s Table, a “modern soul food restaurant” on Holliday Street in downtown Baltimore; and he was a winning contestant on last night's (11/21) episode of the hit show, Choppedon the Food Network!

Later in the hour, a brand new segment, Midday with My Mom: Tom Hall's mother, Rosemary Hall, is in the house with our good friend, retired Baltimore restaurateur Sascha Wolhandler, and they'll share their memories of Thanksgiving dinners -- and desserts -- and the many ways that the kitchen helps bring families together.

But first, with the magical day of Thanksgiving upon us:  Maybe you haven’t quite gotten your act together yet, and you’re at the brink of despair and panic.  Or, conversely, maybe you’re completely on top of everything, and you risk making a mistake born of over-confidence.

Either way, or somewhere in between, Chefs David and John are here to talk you through any and all of it, and we’ll do what we can to help you make sure everything goes smoothly and tastes terrific tomorrow.

But most importantly, we look forward to hearing about your family’s special Thanksgiving traditions.  Your favorite recipes, your favorite memories, your favorite part of what, for many folks, is their favorite holiday of the year.

Today's conversation was streamed live on WYPR's Facebook page, and you can watch the video here.

The Thanksgiving Day marathons Tom mentioned are part of the annual Y Turkey Trot Charity 5K -- the YMCA's sponsored 3.1 mile charity runs, held at locations across Central Maryland and the Eastern Shore, to raise funds to help children and families living in poverty in your community.  Follow the link for locations, routes and times. 

Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori is live with Tom Hall.

Archbishop Lori leads the Archdiocese of Baltimore, which is the oldest Catholic diocese in the United States.  At the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Fall General Assembly, held last week (Nov. 12-14) in Baltimore, Archbishop Lori was among those who reportedly pressed his colleagues to take some action in response to the allegations of clergy child abuse in the Catholic Church.