The Ultimate Fan

A Baltimore sports fan since the 1960s, Stan Charles has created a media success with PressBox. (Provided)

A Baltimore sports fan since the 1960s, Stan Charles has created a media success with PressBox. (Provided)

Long before there were fan-related sports websites such as Bleacher Report, SB Nation, Rant Sports and Fansided, there was PressBox. For more than 31 years Baltimore sports fans have known and loved Stan “The Fan” Charles, a true Charm City icon. Charles was a local radio personality who also penned a weekly sports column for City Paper, but it was his decision in 2007 to create the PressBox brand that has spawned a mini sports-media empire in Baltimore.

Since 2007, Charm City sports fans have been reading PressBox’s signature monthly print magazine; they follow the daily happenings on its website,, and they watch its weekly television show that airs every Sunday morning on WMAR-TV at 10:30.

The success of PressBox is based on a simple premise: Give local readers every possible storyline about their high schools and colleges. Baltimore is a big city that has a passion for high school sports, and Baltimore is home to more than a dozen sports-playing colleges and universities. PressBox makes sure fans have a place to read about their favorite teams.

Of course, no Baltimore-area sports publication would be complete without extensive coverage of the Orioles and Ravens. Charles and his dedicated staff produce sports content that is fresh, current and compelling 24/7.

While many publications such as the Baltimore Sun have downsized and charge a fee for their online content, Charles and his team has ramped up coverage, making sure that PressBox deliverers more fresh content than any other area website. And it’s free.

JT: Where did you grow up? In Baltimore?  
Stan Charles: Actually, I was born in Washington, D.C., in 1952, and in 1958, my father passed away. My mother wanted to be near her family, and that meant moving to Baltimore. Mom was one of a family of 10, so I had plenty of loving aunts, uncles and cousins to help me learn everything about Baltimore. We lived near Pimlico Race Course and the Rodgers Avenue Synagogue, where I had my bar mitzvah. My passion for sports and for Baltimore grew from that amazingly loving community, around the Rodgers Avenue Synagogue.

PressBox debuted in 2007 and puts a huge emphasis on local and high school sports. (Provided)

PressBox debuted in 2007 and puts a huge emphasis on local and high school sports. (Provided)

Growing up in the old neighborhood, attending Arlington Elementary, Pimlico Junior High and Northwestern gave me a wonderful foundation, and it taught me a great life lesson on how important family and a supportive Jewish community are. Also, how relationships you develop as a kid can — if you are lucky — last you a lifetime. Throughout my career, the Jewish community of Baltimore has supported me, and it continues to do so, well over 30 years after I began my work in sports.

When did you become a sports fan?
As with most kids growing up in Baltimore in the 1960s, I listened to all the Orioles and Colts games on my transistor radio. It was the golden age of Baltimore sports with Johnny Unitas, Raymond Berry, and Gino Marchetti among the many great Colts players. Then you had the Orioles with Frank and Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell, along with the outstanding pitching of Jim Palmer, Mike Flannigan and Dave McNally. There are really too many outstanding players on both teams to name, but we loved following both teams every game. Most of the time it was listening on the radio or watching on TV. But things were always the best on those special days when my brother, cousins and uncle would go to Memorial Stadium. Those are the memories that will stay with me forever, and that is what makes sports so special.

When did you know you wanted to be involved in sports as a profession?
I remembered listening to Benny the Fan, who used to have a radio sports show in the 1960s. He knew his stuff and was very entertaining, and it was Benny and another Baltimore radio personality, Charley Eckman, who really got me interested in sports broadcasting. I got my start on radio in 1981 at WFBR, and I knew that was what I wanted to do. There is something about the interaction with the fans, the players and the people in power that seems to always make for a great story. At the same time I was honing my craft learning everything I could as a broadcaster. I also wrote a weekly column for City Paper called “A Fan’s Notes,” So my career as a sports broadcaster and as a columnist began to take shape and flourish.

What is next for PressBox?
We continue to grow and expand the brand as best we can. We are now an affiliate of Monumental Networks, and we launched our new website this year. We not only cover Baltimore, but we have also taken on covering sports in the nation’s capital. We have a Washington-based staff for the new website. My partner, John Coulson, and I both feel very strongly that the way we cover events and the people involved in sports in Baltimore will translate well in Washington. At a time when newspapers are reducing staff or going to an online pay service, we want to keep our sports content fresh, up to date, local and free. It has been a recipe that has served us well for the past seven years, so we will stay true to our brand, as we grow in this ever-changing media world.

Jim Williams is a local freelance writer.

An ‘Oy Vey’ Journey of Self-Discovery

101714_filmEstella Fish is Puerto Rican, and she clasps a rosary while fretting about her directionless youngest daughter, Alexis. Yet, she sounds like a typical Jewish mother concerned about an underachieving adult child.

It may have something to do with the fact that Estella’s husband is Jewish, although he’s easygoing and soft-spoken rather than schticky. The truth, though, is she embodies the universal instincts of mothers everywhere and reminds viewers of their own mom.

New York writer-director Nicole Gomez Fisher modeled Estella on her own mother for the altogether winning indie comedy “Sleeping With the Fishes.” For her first screenplay, Fisher followed the age-old advice to write what you know.

“The characters are all loosely based on my family,” she confided. “The actual story itself is a mix of fiction and truth. It is based on my upbringing of being a Puerto Rican Jew, my mother being Puerto Rican and when she met my father made the choice to convert to Judaism. So we were raised Jewish, and, for the most part, we went to Sunday school and Hebrew school.”

“Sleeping With the Fishes” presents a colorblind New York in which young people pay no attention to ethnicity, race and religion. Fisher’s childhood was a lot more complicated, however.

“It was a weird upbringing in the sense that my sister and I tended not to be accepted by kids in Hebrew school,” she recalled. “They would say things like, ‘You know you’re technically not a Jew,’ or ‘You don’t celebrate this [holiday],’ or ‘You’re not kosher.’ They put labels on us and made us feel very excluded.”

“Sleeping With the Fishes” premiered last year at the Brooklyn Film Festival. It’s airing numerous times in October and November on various HBO networks, and it comes out Oct. 21 on DVD.

As the film begins, Alexis (appealingly played by Gina Rodriguez) is living in Los Angeles and working humiliating jobs in a futile attempt to make ends meet. She’s summoned back to New York — her more responsible sister Kayla (an acerbic Ana Ortiz) advances the airfare — for the funeral of a random relative. Moving back in with her parents, Alexis naturally chafes against their concerned (and loving) interest.

The plot kicks into another gear when Alexis and Kayla are hired to produce a bat mitzvah party on one week’s notice with a tiny budget. Propelled by the sisters’ spiky banter and further enlivened by the droll introduction of a potential romantic partner, “Sleeping With the Fishes” is a warm-hearted and deeply pleasurable saga of a resourceful 20-something’s navigation past various bumps in the road.

“I didn’t want this to be a Jewish and/or a Latino film,” said Fisher, who spent four years in Los Angeles doing standup comedy. “For me, it was really more about the mother-daughter relationship than anything else because I tried so hard not to identify myself as one or the other — but just as Nicole — because it was so cloudy growing up and trying to figure out where I fit in.”

A turning point was the film’s West Coast premiere at the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival in the summer of 2013.

“I was very nervous,” Fisher said, “not only because it was the first Jewish forum, but the demographic of the audience was easily 50-plus-plus-plus-plus-plus. I’ve never seen more walkers and scooters in my life. And it was 500 people, too. I’d gone from the Brooklyn Film Festival, where it was 200 mostly family and friends so I felt a little safe, into a whole different world for me, and it was probably in our top three best responses ever.”

Fisher laughs at herself and elaborates on the happy misperception she had of her own work.

“When I wrote this film, I could have sworn that my demographic was going to be young, possibly more Latino than Jewish,” Fisher said. “I have to tell you, with all the screenings we’ve had, definitely I was wrong. It appeals to a much older crowd. A lot of people seem to enjoy the quality of the humor because it’s not like I’m just dashing off stereotypes. I’m speaking from a voice of my own personal experience.”

The response to “Sleeping With the Fishes” is especially gratifying to Fisher given her concern with depicting her family onscreen.

“The process of writing something so close to home, and with characters that are literally your family, was stifling for me,” she admitted. “I was so afraid of insulting or offending or hurting feelings on any level or portraying my mother to be super evil.”

Fisher laughs when her interviewer suggests she didn’t attend the Joan Rivers school of comedy, in which anything — especially family — is fair game and feelings don’t matter.

“I would love to get to that point in my comedy,” she said. “For a first script, I was overly cautious. I felt the need to protect my family, not even knowing it would get to this point with HBO. So now I’m really, really nervous.”

Not so nervous, though, to refrain from telling a childhood anecdote that provokes a chuckle at her mother’s expense.

“We did try doing seders,” Fisher said. “It just didn’t work out. My mom would always cook Puerto Rican food.”

Michael Fox is a San Francisco-based film critic and journalist.

Renovations Coming to Merriweather

Merriweather Post Pavilion has hosted Led Zeppelin, The Black Keys, Jimi Hendrix and Jack Johnson, as well as a variety of music festivals since its opening in 1967. (Photos Provided)

Merriweather Post Pavilion has hosted Led Zeppelin, The Black Keys, Jimi Hendrix and Jack Johnson, as well as a variety of music festivals since its opening in 1967.
(Photo Provided)

Two words come up in conversation consistently when discussing concert amphitheater Merriweather Post Pavilion: unique and iconic.

Nestled in the woods of Columbia, Merriweather is considered the Holy Grail of Maryland concert venues by fans, artists and agents alike. It’s large enough to host acts such as Jack White, Jack Johnson, The Flaming Lips and Bob Dylan, but small enough to still feel somewhat intimate, with most concerts capping at about 18,000 attendees. With its sloping lawn, rustic atmosphere and world-class sound, it was ranked the fourth-best amphitheater in the country by Rolling Stone magazine last year.

Seth Hurwitz, chairman of I.M.P., which operates Merriweather and the 9:30 Club and produces concerts at several other Baltimore-Washington, D.C.-area venues, can list a number of factors that set the venue apart from others, but at the end of the day, what makes it unique is still intangible.

“It’s probably a good thing that there’s no formula or way to describe it,” Hurwitz said.

In June, Hurwitz, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman and musician Jack Johnson unveiled a $19 million renovation plan for the venue, which will take place during the next five off-seasons. The renovations include new seating, a raised main roof, new restrooms and concessions, new artist dressing rooms, a new stage and environmental improvements.

“I knew the next important step was to make sure there was some reinvestment into the venue to keep the character of the venue, but bring 21st-century amenities into the venue,” said Ulman, who was part of an effort to save Merriweather after its previous owners threatened to close it in 2003.

The challenge is updating the building in a way that maintains its character and history. Merriweather stands out from the venues built during the “gold rush of amphitheaters,” Hurwitz said, which tend to be uniform in look and were “designed to maximize the number of people and how much beer you can sell in a short time” without any attention to aesthetics.

“Merriweather was different and needs to stay different, so you don’t want to do anything that looks like anyone else,” Hurwitz said of the upcoming renovations. “There were a lot of cookie-cutter concrete-and-steel places built, and we are the antithesis of that, and we need to remain so.”

Merriweather Post Pavilion was built in 1967, and was named after philanthropist, socialite and Post Foods heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post. In the venue’s early days, it hosted legends Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead and a concert that featured both Led Zeppelin and The Who. It was designed by architect Frank Gehry, who is known for his unorthodox projects.

These days, the venue hosts a number of unique festivals: Sweetlife, which featured Lana Del Ray, Foster the People and more this summer; the Virgin Mobile FreeFest, which did not occur in 2014; the Mad Decent Block Party, an electronic music festival; and the Capital Jazz Festival, which brings top jazz acts to the venue each summer.

Merriweather remains a destination for touring artists, said WME agent Seth Seigle, whose agency has booked Gary Clark Jr., Trombone Shorty, Eric Church, John Legend and a plethora of multi-genre artists at the venue in recent years.

“Merriweather has become a place we want to see on our tours, and it’s something many artists aspire to,” Seigle said. “I think our work says it all because you have options, and we like competition and the idea of differentiation, but historically, our clients go back there.”

Many of those aspiring artists start out at I.M.P. venue the 9:30 Club in Washington and later go on to play Merriweather. To commemorate artists who took such a path, the 9:32 Club, a bar at Merriweather, now features an exhibit with side-by-side displays of show posters from artists who played the 9:30 Club and then Merriweather. It even features a needlepoint creation by an I.M.P. employee.

“That’s just an example of something you wouldn’t see at the steel-and-concrete places. They wouldn’t have the history,” said Audrey Schaefer, I.M.P. spokeswoman. “It’s really about connecting in the beginning, and that feeling of a honeymoon continues.”

Merriweather has also expanded its food offerings through a kitchen expansion, added a music pinball arcade and tripled bathroom facilities in recent years. But it is other changes that have kept at least one musician coming back to perform.

Singer-songwriter Jack Johnson, who works to make his tours and shows environmentally friendly, has encouraged and applauded such measures Merriweather has made over the years as the installation of solar panels that power the house lights, composting and building new structures according to LEED (leadership in energy and environmental design) standards.

Merriweather’s greening efforts will be further enhanced by the renovations, which include capturing all storm water runoff for irrigation use, expanding solar capacity 12-fold, replacing all lighting with LED lights and rebuilding restrooms and concessions to meet high-efficiency standards.

The Howard County Council is providing a loan of $9.5 million for the renovations, and the Howard Hughes Corporation, which owns Merriweather, will provide the other $9.5 million. When the renovations are finished, Howard Hughes will pass off ownership of the venue to the nonprofit Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission.

The developer is in the planning and design phases, trying to figure out the best way to get the renovations done in the projected time, said Greg Fitchitt, vice president of development at the Howard Hughes Corporation.

Fitchitt said the company has Merriweather’s “iconic brand” in mind as it nears the beginning of construction.

“It’s got a great, funky, rustic, agricultural feel to it,” he said. “Preserving that is really important to us.”

The Merriweather renovations are at the center of greater development in downtown Columbia. Howard Hughes plans to eventually build 13 million square feet of new development, but is currently in planning discussions with the county over about 4.9 million square feet that would include residential, office, retail, civic and cultural space as well as a 250-room hotel.

“We want Merriweather to be more woven into the fabric of the Columbia Town Center and waterfront,” said Ulman, who is running for lieutenant governor on Anthony Brown’s ticket. “There’s a lot of exciting things happening at Town Center, and Merriweather really is at the heart of the entire master planning around creating a special place where folks will want to live, want to work and shop and go there for entertainment.”


“Mumbojumbo” by Astral Eyes (Photo by Dan Meyers)

“Mumbojumbo” by Astral Eyes
(Photo by Dan Meyers)

Ever wonder where great ideas — truly inspired ideas that transport and transform the people who have them and their worlds — come from? Great ideas and the unusual visionaries who dream them up are the subject of a new exhibition that opened Oct. 4 at the American Visionary Art Museum.

Described by AVAM’s founder and director Rebecca Alban Hoffberger as a show about life’s “Aha!” and “Eureka!” moments, “The Visionary Experience, Saint Francis to Finster,” includes the work of self-taught artists, inventors, architects, scientists, saints and spiritual leaders of different races, ethnicities, socioeconomic levels and faith traditions who all share the experience of being struck by “some lightning bolt of greater understanding, insight, grace and muse” that inspired their uncommon and majestic creations.

The exhibition, curated by Hoffberger with filmmaker and publisher Jodi Wille, also explores why some human beings are blessed with supernatural capacities for insight and understanding, unusual powers of intuition and the ability to access a degree of spiritual connectedness that for most people remains out of reach.

A tour of “The Visionary Experience” begins before one crosses the threshold of the museum. The building itself, adorned with a 1,920-square-foot mirror-and-glass mosaic, is a work of art designed and installed with the help of at-risk and incarcerated youth trained by community artists. The project began in 2000, and its third phase, supervised by artist Mari Gardner, was completed just in time for the exhibition opening.

Hoffberger said the museum campus, which also includes two sculpture plazas, a wildflower garden, the Leroy E. Hoffberger Speaker’s Corner, the LOVE Sculpture Barn, and an outdoor movie theater, was conceived as a place that should always be open to the public.

“If you come at 3 a.m., you can still hug an egg,” she said, referring to Andrew Logan’s “Cosmic Galaxy Egg” installed outside. As part of the new exhibition, visitors who arrive after closing time can also see visionary artist and classic car collector Steve Heller’s “Stargate,” made entirely of automobile parts.

“Feminine Risin” by Ingo Swann (Photo by Dan Meyers)

“Feminine Rising” by Ingo Swann
(Photo by Dan Meyers)

Upon entering the museum, visitors will see local artist, author, radio host, political activist and one of America’s foremost symbolic muralists, Robert Richard Hieronimus’ painting, “Historic Views of Baltimore, 1752-1858,” a 24-by-4-foot, three-paneled panoramic view of the Baltimore Harbor. The work explores what inspired the founding fathers to conceive of their new country.

The exhibit also focuses on the phenomena of near-death and out-of-body experiences.

“Close encounters with death are often life-changing experiences, common to visionaries,” noted Hoffberger. For example, “Visionary Experience” artist Jason Padgett became a gifted mathematician, physicist and illustrator after a mugging in which he was repeatedly kicked in the head. Artist Maja D’Aoust had her first supernatural experience when she was extremely ill as a 2-year-old, and painter Norbert Kox had his life-changing spiritual awakening after a drug overdose.

The Rev. Howard Finster, a Baptist minister and jack of all trades, was born in Alabama in 1915 (or 1916.) Recognized as America’s most prolific artist, Finster is said to have experienced his first vision at the age of 3, when he saw his late sister, Abbie Rose, descend a staircase from the heavens. She said, “Howard, you’re going to be a man of visions.”

“The Visionary Experience,” said Hoffberger, is dedicated to the centennial celebration of Finster’s birth.

Although his visions began early in life, Finster did not begin painting until age 60, when he heard God speak to him. Before his death in 2001, Finster created 46,000 numbered works; was the creator of Paradise Garden, a folk art sculpture garden in Georgia; illustrated album covers for rock groups REM and Talking Heads and even appeared on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson.

Astral Eyes, born James Weigel, whose piece “Mumbojumbo” appears in the show, heard voices and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He was fortunate to be homeschooled by his mother, who also heard voices and was able to provide guidance for her son as he learned to manage, and to flourish artistically, despite (or possibly because of) his psychiatric symptoms. Born in 1976, Astral Eyes has enjoyed a successful career as an artist of record album covers and as a clothing designer.

Several paintings by visionary artist and psychic Ingo Swann, a “pioneer in the field of remote viewing” and co-creator of Stanford Research Institute of Remote Viewing and the CIA Stargate Project, is also on display. Swann said his first out-of-body experience occurred during a tonsillectomy at age 3. His work has been shown in the Pan Am Building in New York City and is on permanent display at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

The stories of these artists raise one of the exhibition’s most interesting questions: Are some visionaries mentally ill, or are they instead just more in touch with alternate states of consciousness? The curators conclude that there are no boundaries to what the mind can access, if the thinker is receptive.

For additional information, visit

A Happy Holiday

Making the holiday  cooking experience even more fun, Ilene Spector and her grandson made this memorable — and tasty — edible sukkah. (David Stuck)

Making the holiday cooking experience even more fun, Ilene Spector and her grandson made this memorable — and tasty — edible sukkah. (David Stuck)

Sukkot celebrates the joy of the late summer harvest and is often thought of as the Jewish Thanksgiving. However, at this holiday, where we eat is as meaningful as what we eat.

Through the sukkahs we simulate the experience of the Exodus from Egypt. Traveling to the Promised Land for 40 years through the desert, the fleeing children of Israel created temporary housing or huts. By living in these temporary sukkahs, we get a sense of our dependence on nature — and our inter-dependence of family, friends and neighbors.

One of the rituals performed each day in the sukkah is holding four species of vegetation in one’s hands and lifting them in six directions: east, west, north, south, up and down. This reflects our belief that God is everywhere, and there is no place that God is not present.

Eating in the sukkah is the essence of the holiday. Even the composition of food holds metaphors. For example, “stuffed” recipes (such as cabbage, eggplants and tomatoes) remind us of being surrounded in a cozy dwelling. Decorate your table with pomegranates and bottles of wine. I even made a small edible sukkah with my grandson. A cornucopia should overflow with fruits, vegetables, nut and candies. Your sukkah should always be ready for guests.

Get out your Crock-Pot(s) for hearty soups and cholent. Some people decorate sukkahs quite elaborately. Yes, I have seen chandeliers. But there are other more simple options, such as using children’s drawings and photos of Israel. This is a happy holiday ending with Simchat Torah, marking the end of the Torah reading and the beginning — the circle of life. Here are some recipes to add delicious tastes and smells to your sukkah.


Rolled Stuffed Eggplant

Scalloped Tomatoes

Light Sweet Potatoes With Apples


Tips & Tricks
• Spruce up wilted vegetables with a “splash” of plain vinegar.
• Royal icing: 1 egg white and 1 to 2 cups sifted 10X sugar. Beat on high to a “glue” consistency.
• Use a lot of fresh aromatic herbs, such as fresh rosemary and basil, to scent your sukkah table.

Ilene Spector is a local freelance writer.

Thoroughly modern ‘Altina’

Altina Schinasi studies one of her projects in this 1970 photo. (Photos courtesy of

Altina Schinasi studies one of her projects in this 1970 photo. (Photos courtesy of

LOS ANGELES — Ambitious girls of yore looking for role models among successful and accomplished women might turn to scientist Marie Curie, aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart or first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, a social justice champion.

And then there was Altina Schinasi, the subject of a new documentary feature, “Altina,” directed by her filmmaker grandson Peter Sanders.

“Tina” grew up among the opulent splendor of a New York mansion, became a painter and innovative sculptor, then an Oscar-nominated film producer, inventor, business executive, backer of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and an advocate for refugees fleeing the Nazis.

The new feature on her life was shown last month in New York City and Beverly Hills, Calif.; future screenings are planned for Washington, D.C.

Altina Schinasi-Sanders-Barrett-Carey-Miranda was born in 1907 and raised in a 12-bedroom white marble mansion that’s still standing on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, at Riverside Drive and 107th Street.

Her father, Morris Schinasi, arrived in New York as a penniless Jewish immigrant from Turkey. He invented a cigarette-rolling machine at a time when people still rolled their own, then branched out into making and selling his own brands of cigarettes packed with strong Oriental tobacco. Morris Schinasi managed to build a business empire without learning how to read or write — but he spoke eight languages fluently.

Tina Schinasi attended a predominantly Episcopalian boarding school in Wellesley, Mass., where she got her first youthful taste of anti-Semitism.

Despite her family wealth, she went to work during the Depression, designing window displays for Fifth Avenue stores. Schinasi also collaborated with the surrealist painter Salvador Dali on some assignments and studied under the German exile artist George Grosz.

She found the spectacles worn by women in the early part of the 20th century to be unflattering, so she created Harlequin — or cat’s eye — frames, which swept the country in the 1930s. Subsequently, Schinasi established her own company to distribute her invention.

The Schinasi Mansion on Manhattan's Upper West Side as it looked in 1907, the year of Altina’s birth.

The Schinasi Mansion on Manhattan’s Upper West Side as it looked in 1907, the year of Altina’s birth.

Striking out as an artist, she experimented with bold paintings, showing the influence of Picasso and Chagall. Then, turning to sculpture, she created “humanistic” benches and chairs that she dubbed “chairacters,” depicting lovers in passionate embrace or coolly turning their backs on each other.

“I never thought I was a great painter, but I had a passion for the arts,” she says in the film.

In the 1940s, she moved to Los Angeles and naturally directed her talents toward making a documentary film. Titled “Interregnum” (“Germany Between Wars”), it tracked the artistic and political career of her ex-teacher Grosz, whose biting anti-Nazi caricatures led to his forced exile when Hitler came to power.

This first-time effort won her an Oscar nomination and the prestigious Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival.

During the civil rights confrontations of the 1950s and ‘60s, she befriended King and obtained his agreement to make a film about his life and struggles. The project was too controversial at the time, and Schinasi was unable to find studio funding and backing, Sanders said.

During the communist-hunting era of the 1940s and ‘50s, Sanders noted, Schinasi sheltered movie director John Berry, who was trying to avoid a congressional subpoena, in her Beverly Hills home.

Alongside these varied activities she married a procession of husbands. In chronological order they were architect Morris Sanders; Eric Barrett, a Viennese doctor and concert pianist; Charles Carey, her co-producer on “Interregnum”; and finally, Celestino (“Tino”) Miranda, an artistic refugee form Castro’s Cuba who joined Tina in her painting and sculpturing studio.

Miranda makes for one of the more arresting figures in the film. He married the considerably older Tina in 1981, when she was already in her 70s. Speaking in Spanish, he tells the viewer, “She was hot, she liked sex. She didn’t just lie there, she had the stamina of a 25-year-old.”

Schinasi died in 1999 at age 92. In making his documentary, Sanders was greatly aided by the discovery of footage that Morris Sanders shot on the couple’s honeymoon in 1927 and in 1928. A two-hour interview filmed with an 84-year-old Schinasi filmed by her son Terry Sanders also was instrumental.

During the last decade of her life, Schinasi and Miranda lived in Santa Fe, N.M., and Peter Sanders joined them for half a year at their combination homestead and artists’ studio.

He remembered his grandmother as cool and private, not the hugging type.

“I tried to decode what her paintings and sculptures meant,” Peter Sanders said. “And everywhere there were animals, inside and outside, peacocks, sheep, Chinese roosters and Bernese Mountain Dogs.”

Asked about the Jewish aspect of his family tree, Sanders observed, “My grandmother Tina was proud of her Jewishness, deeply affected by the rise of the Nazis and personally furnished 13 affidavits to enable Jewish refugees to enter the United States. But we were never practicing Jews in the religious sense.”

An upbeat aspect of the film is the musical score, including ragtime and jazz, reflecting the various decades of Tina’s life.

Following five years of work, “Altina” came in at a budget of about $250,000, mainly underwritten by Schinasi’s granddaughter Victoria Sanders, who first conceptualized the film, and executive producer Diane Dickensheid.

To borrow from satirist and songwriter Tom Lehrer’s paean to the much and famously married Alma Mahler, “a woman like this makes one realize how little one has accomplished in one’s own life.”

Ice Cold But Red Hot


Maryland native Nicole Feld, along with her team at Feld Entertainment, turned “Frozen” the movie into “Frozen” on ice. (Provided)

Baltimore just got a lot cooler. The Snow Queen is coming to town.

“Disney on Ice: Frozen,” an adaptation of  the highest-grossing animated movie of all time, will be at Royal Farms Arena from Oct. 29 to Nov. 2. Among those most excited to bring the Academy Award-winning retelling of the Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen” to the area is Marylander Nicole Feld.

Feld, who is producing the ice-skating adaptation, said she first got wind of the project from the movie’s executive producer, John Lasseter.

Lasseter “called me excitedly when they first began working on the movie,” said Feld, a native of Potomac. “He told me, ‘We are working on the perfect ice show for you. It is even called ‘Frozen.’ We saw early cuts of the film and worked directly with animators to create the production.”

Disney’s latest box-office smash, ‘Frozen’ tells the classic story of two Scandinavian princesses, sisters Elsa and Anna, but it also provides a modern feminist twist on the fairy tale. With a Broadway score, decadent costumes and intricate sets, it seamlessly transitions into a live show for Disney On Ice’s 34th production.

“I have a 3-year-old daughter. When I’m not directing ‘Frozen,’ I’m watching ‘Frozen’ with her,” said Feld. “From ‘Let It Go’ to ‘In Summer,’ the music excites me. This movie was made to be on ice.”

The production comes as part of Feld Entertainment’s 35-year partnership with Disney. Feld joined the family business in 2001 and has produced more than 30 shows during her tenure. Her grandfather, Irvin, started the company after acquiring the rights to produce the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus in 1967.

“I love continuing my grandfather’s work,” said Feld. “From seeing children dressed up in costumes to watching the audience’s eyes light up, I am privileged to bring these magical movies to life.”

With 39 performers and 20 crew and staff members, “Disney on Ice: Frozen” uses state-of-the-art special effects, modular set pieces, a snowflake-shaped stage and digital video projections, and seasoned ice skaters, producers and directors create a larger-than-life experience for fans, said Feld.

“They know every song, every line and every dance move” she said. “Because the bar is already set so high, there is a lot of pressure to live up to the fans’ expectations. We created the princesses’ castle, the North Mountains and even brought a blizzard and Marshmallow monster onstage. We do not want to disappoint our fans.”

By working closely with the animators from Day 1, Feld was able to meld Disney’s initial ideas into the show.

“We went through intensive character development with our skaters. The filmmakers showed us tiny nuances they used to create each character,” said Feld. “While Elsa’s movements are more definitive and sharp, Anna’s are more whimsical. If she slips and falls on the ice, you will never know if it was on purpose or accidental.”

While human characters such as Elsa and Anna were easier to get onstage, characters such as Olaf the Snowman proved to be more difficult.

“We had to sprinkle some Disney magic and use some tricks of the trade to create Olaf,” said Feld. “He does not come out until the second half, but when he does, the crowd goes wild. It is not easy to re-create a character with removable body parts.”

After nine months of development, “Disney on Ice: Frozen” opened to audiences in Orlando, Fla., last month.

“Surprisingly, our initial visualization of the show is almost identical to the final product,” said Feld. “We usually take a year to create productions, but this movie is so popular that we worked on a tight deadline to start our tour.”

For more information, go to

Orioles Rally

More than 300 people participated in an Orioles rally at Stevenson University as part of the team’s “We Won’t Stop” campaign on Monday. The event featured former Oriole Scott McGregor, the Oriole Bird and trivia with signed memorabilia as prizes.

The Right Call

Orioles fans celebrate before the last out against the Toronto Blue Jays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Sept. 16. The O’s clinched the American League East that night with a 8-2 victory. (Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire 255/Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire/Newscom)

Orioles fans celebrate before the last out against the Toronto Blue Jays at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Sept. 16. The O’s clinched the American League East that night with a 8-2 victory. (Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire 255/Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire/Newscom)

Jewish baseball fans, journalists, broadcasters and players face a very important decision this week. They must choose between baseball or attending Yom Kippur services.

The Orioles won the American League East title and hosted the Detroit Tigers, winners of the Central Division, in the league’s Division Series opener on Oct. 2. Forty-three south, the Washington Nationals won the National League’s East Division and open their division series on Oct. 3.

The Nationals’ game will be played on Erev Yom Kippur, and Game 2 of that series on Oct. 4, which is Yom Kippur. Game 2 of the ALDS between Orioles and Tigers also will be played on Erev Yom Kippur at Oriole Park.

The Lerner family, who own the Nationals, announced last week that it will not attend any games —  including the playoffs — that fall on Jewish holidays including, of course, Yom Kippur. Neither the Orioles nor the Nationals has a Jewish player.

Major League Baseball Commissioner Alan “Bud” Selig, who likely will be in Baltimore on Oct. 3 and in Washington on Oct. 4, will have to choose between baseball or Yom Kippur. So will Tigers manager Brad Aumus and his star second baseman, Ian Kinsler, who are in Charm City Friday night.

There are other Jewish players in the playoffs who will have to make the same choice: Ike Davis (Pittsburgh Pirates); Sam Fuld and Nate Freiman (Oakland A’s); and Joc Pederson (Los Angeles Dodgers).

Historically, two of the most famous of all Jewish baseball stars, Hank Greenberg and Sandy Koufax, faced the same decision: play or pray.

Greenburg, a first baseman for the 1934 Tigers, was the team’s best player. His Tigers were in the middle of a hot American League pennant race. It was Rosh Hashanah, and he had been pressured for more than a week from rabbis and Jews nationwide, some telling him not to play, others telling him that he could not let down his team.

See Orioles Rally pictures here.

Greenburg chose to play and hit two home runs, including one in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the Boston Red Sox, 2-1. Nine days later, he sat on Yom Kippur, and the Tigers went on to represent the American League in the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Greenburg had an outstanding Series, but the Cardinals rode the strong arms of standout pitchers — and brothers — Paul and Dizzy Dean to win the championship.

However, it was Koufax who made national headlines in 1965 for choosing “praying over playing.” He wasn’t just any other pitcher; the future Hall-
of-Famer was the Major League’s very best at the time.

He sat out Game 1 of the World Series against the Minnesota Twins. Koufax, one of the most private superstars in sports history, fasted and prayed in his hotel room in Minneapolis rather than draw attention by attending services at a local synagogue.

Don Drysdale took Koufax’s place in Game 1, and the Dodgers lost. Koufax started Game 2, and he too lost. But the Dodgers rallied to win the Series, as Koufax pitched shutouts in Game 5 and the decisive Game 7.

For journalists who have followed the Orioles and Nationals since February, when both teams started spring training, it has been an exciting nine-month, 162-game ride. Yes, the playoffs are what we all had hoped for; and yes, each one of the games is special. But there are far more important matters.

Despite wanting to cover the Orioles and Nationals, I will be attending services at Chizuk Amuno, not only because, to me, it is the right thing to do, but if the great Sandy Koufax can choose to sit out starting Game 1 of a World Series, one of the most exciting experiences in sports, out of respect and love for being Jewish, I can surely miss three first-round playoff games.

Jim Williams is a local freelance writer.

Playing a New Tune

Jose Antonio Bowen (Provided)

Jose Antonio Bowen (Provided)

With the selection of Jose Antonio Bowen as its 11th president, Goucher College has jumped with both feet into the 21st century. Since the semester began just weeks ago, Bowen, 52, an award-winning educator, author, arts administrator, jazz musician and composer, has begun signaling the Goucher community, as well as the academic establishment at large, that the times are changing at the Towson-based liberal arts college.

Yet, despite his modern outlook, Bowen said he chose to come to Goucher because of the institution’s “great history, stellar academics, financial health and commitments to inclusion and social justice.”

The new president, who is of Cuban and Jewish ancestry, spent most of his childhood in Fresno, Calif., and went on to earn four degrees from Stanford University: a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, master’s degrees in music composition and humanities and a joint Ph.D. in musicology and humanities. In 1982, Bowen became Stanford’s director of jazz ensembles, leaving in 1994 to become founding director of the Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music at the University of Southampton, England.

In 1999, Bowen returned to the United States to occupy the first endowed Caestecker Chair of Music at Georgetown University. At Georgetown, Bowen created and led the now Department of Performing Arts. He was dean of fine arts at Miami University before moving to Southern Methodist University in Dallas in 2006 to become dean of its arts school. By the end of his time at Meadows, the school topped USA Today’s 2014 rankings for schools of music.

Bowen has published more than 100 scholarly articles, is the editor of the Cambridge Companion to Conducting and received a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. He contributed to Discover Jazz (Pearson, 2011) and is one of the editors of the six-CD set, ”Jazz: The Smithsonian Anthology” (2011).

For 35 years, he has performed, composed and toured through the U.S., Europe, the Middle East, the Americas and Asia with jazz greats, including Dizzy Gillespie, Dave Brubeck, Bobby McFerrin, Liberace and Stan Getz. But Bowen even found musical ways to pay homage to his Jewish roots, composing a body of Jewish music including jazz Shabbat and klezmer services, Jewish choral music, a song-cycle with text from Anne Frank’s diary called “Voice from the Attic” and a Chanukah play for children.

Despite Bowen’s strong credentials, some may wonder why Goucher chose a president whose background has been so musically focused. But Bowen explained that music, especially jazz, lends itself well to his work as a college president.

“Musicians must be great collaborators and great listeners,” he said. “Especially in jazz, you must be spontaneous and know when to fit in your part and when to sit back and let someone else play. Ultimately, it’s the total product that matters.”

Although he hopes to continue composing, teaching and performing music, Bowen said that for the time being, most of his time will be spent focusing on his work as Goucher’s president. He and his wife, Kimberly, live on campus, and Bowen said they rarely have had occasion to get off campus since they moved to Baltimore. The couple has a 21-year-old daughter, who is a senior at SMU.

Soon after his arrival, Bowen made headlines with his announcement that the college will soon permit students to side-step what for many has been a tortuous application process and instead apply to Goucher by submitting a two-minute video presentation and two pieces of work — one written — of which they are especially proud. The groundbreaking policy has pleased some and raised red flags for others.

Bowen was quick to explain that the alternative application process will not affect the majority of students who apply to Goucher and that the new process is “only experimental.”

“If it doesn’t work, we’ll stop,” he said. “It is simply a different way to look at talent. We’re looking to start conversations with more students who might find the traditional application process too intimidating.”

As evidenced by the new application process, his robust website and his blog and tweets, Goucher’s new president is clearly a fan of technology. Yet his book, “Teaching Naked,” which won the Ness Award for the “book that best illuminates the goals and practices of a contemporary liberal education,” advises educators to remove technology from their classrooms. “Teaching Naked,” said Bowen, “is about the value of face-to-face study.”

With the wealth of information available free on the Internet and the tremendous cost of college education, he said, parents must be convinced that students will receive significant benefit from their time in the classroom. If teachers follow certain techniques, Bowen believes that they will be convinced.

“The Internet has changed everything. Today, there is more information on our phones than can be gotten from any scholar in any class. The best place for technology is outside the classroom,” he insisted.

Bowen suggests that teachers use technologies such as social media to keep students engaged and thinking about ideas generated during classroom interactions when they are outside of class. “The value of the classroom is more about pedagogy— teaching students to think,” he explained. “The trick is to [teach
students to be] discerning and analytic. Students need to learn the difference between fact and fiction. Can they sort through all the stuff on the Internet and find what they really need? This is more important than ever.”

Liberal arts colleges and universities that aren’t prepared to rethink their methods of education, concluded Bowen, may not survive. In fact, he said, 30 to 40 percent of these institutions will fail in the next 15 years.

“Every year, we lose a couple of dozen,” said Bowen. “The number of high school graduates has fallen, and the baby boomers are over; the median income is down, and skepticism about liberal arts education has increased. The real answer is that each campus must be unique.”