Charm City is built on stories. We share them on stoops, from block to block and everywhere in between. And many storytelling pioneers in the national spotlight have deep roots in the Baltimore Jewish community. Ready for a quick kvell? Here’s shorthand on the famous People of the Book: Bawlmer Chapter.
Name: Ira Glass
High School: Milford Mill
Known For: “This American Life.” Defining long-form radio narrative as we know it.
Baltimore Street Cred: Lists Rabbi Seymour L. Essrog (his childhood rabbi) as inspiration for his approach to storytelling. Lost virginity in a Goucher dorm room (Seriously!)… Cousin of fellow Baltimore native Philip Glass.
What’s Next? Continuing “This American Life.” Producing three movies in 2018 — with “Ode to Joy” directed by fellow-Baltimorean Jason Winer.
Known For: Arguably America’s greatest living composer
Baltimore Street Cred: Learned his love of music (along with some industry funny-business) in his father’s longtime Baltimore record shop. Mother was one of the first women to graduate from Johns Hopkins University, at the age of 19.
What’s Next? Philip is still touring strong and we should all keep an ear out for special releases from time to time.
Name: David Simon
High School: Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School (Baltimore transplant)
Known For: “The Wire.” Long-form television as tableaux for righteous rage at systemic injustice.
Baltimore Street Cred: Maintains primary residence in Baltimore. Member at Beth Am. Married to celebrated Baltimore mystery novelist Laura Lippman. (Even stopped for a recorded chat with this Jmore reporter!)
Name: Barry Levinson
High School: Forest Park High
Known for: “Diner,” “Tin Men,” “Avalon,” “Liberty Heights.” (Baltimore “Trilogy”) Diner created the template for character-driven neurotic comedy of Seinfeld, and the rest is history…
Baltimore Street Cred: Unofficial local champion of Jewish Baltimore’s narrative. ‘Nuff said.
Name: Amanda Lipitsz
High School: Park School
Known For: “Step” — a documentary film that was a sensation at Sundance.
Baltimore Street Cred: Step was filmed at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, which Amanda’s mother (Brenda Brown Rever) founded. Brenda also founded CHANA, a local Jewish community program serving victims of abuse and trauma.
What’s Next? Directing English-language remake of the hit Spanish film, “Instructions Not Included” — about a playboy jazz musician whose former lover returns six years after abandoning him with their baby daughter. Also, a narrative version of “Step” is in the works!
Name: Paula Vogel
High School: High Point High School (Beltsville, Md.)
Known for: Renowned playwright of Broadway’s Indecent which examines taboo, especially around sexual (and Jewish) mores. (A common thread throughout her career.)
Baltimore Street Cred: Hit national theater scene with “The Baltimore Waltz,” examining her real-life relationship with her brother who tragically dies of AIDS. Cites Baltimore as key to her creative identity, noting, “Baltimore was a very adult city for me growing up,” she says. “This was the place to go visit my older brother [Carl], see John Waters’ films, eat wonderful food, go to the museums. This was the getting-away-from-suburban-Maryland place.”
What’s Next? “Indecent” lands at Baltimore’s Center Stage in February-March of 2019!
Name: Marc Platt
High School: Pikesville High
Known for: “La La Land.” Film and theater producer with a list of accolades worth scrolling when you have time to give your neck a workout! It’s actually tough to find something great that doesn’t have Marc’s fingerprint. That’s what happens when you’ve been the president of production for three movie studios: Orion Pictures, TriStar Pictures and Universal Studios. Also “produced” five children! (Exhausting, right?) Two even stepped from behind the scenes into the performance spotlight — Jonah stars in Broadway mega-hit “Wicked” (produced by Marc) and Ben stars in “Book of Mormon” (produced by…we’ll give you one guess.)
Baltimore Street Cred: Frequent face at Charm City weddings, b’nai mitzvah, Jewish holidays, and to visit his parents and cousins Baltimore is always top of mind. Of course Jonah recently stopped by for a performance at the JCC’s Gordon Center!
What’s Next? With 19 active projects listed on his plate, let’s go out on a limb and just choose one Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious project, “Mary Poppins Returns.”
Name: Jason Winer
High School: Friends School
Known For: Producer and Director of “Modern Family”
Baltimore Street Cred: Pikesville native spilled all his Baltimore beans in this interview where he talks about loving his local family and the Ravens. He also mentions whipping out a Baltimore accent for fun with fellow Baltimorean Julie Bowen on set. Mentions catching the acting bug early, on a segment for WJZ called “For Kids’ Sake with Jason.” (Special Jmore prize for anyone who can produce a tape!)
What’s Next? “Ode to Joy”–a feature film slated for 2018, based on a true story featured on “This American Life” about a man who suffers from narcolepsy when he’s overjoyed. Nightmarish right? 🙂 It’s an expat-Baltimore affair with Ira Glass co-producing.
Name: Jessica Anya Blau
Age: Une Femme d’un certain age! (but presently lying about her age)
High School: Dos Pueblos, in Santa Monica, Calif. (Baltimore transplant)
Known For: Author, “The Summer of Naked Swim Parties”
Baltimore Street Cred: Taught writing for years at Johns Hopkins and Goucher College. Adopted Baltimore, sharing with Baltimore Magazine that, “I feel like a complete weirdo and outsider but I really love it here. I love the people. When I go back home to California I engage in the bizarre fantasy that I move back to California and then, somehow, I take the population of Baltimore and stick it in California with me.”
What’s Next? Novel featuring a woman in in her second marriage, leaving Baltimore for Toronto to tend to her first husband who finds himself in crisis. She’s haunted by the ghosts of her past. (Therapy not included!)
Name: Rain Pryor
High School: Beverly Hills High School (Baltimore transplant)
Known For: “Fried Chicken & Latkes,” an off-Broadway show about growing up at the intersection of black and Jewish identities as the biracial daughter of comic legend Richard Pryor.
Baltimore Street Cred: Former artistic director of Baltimore’s Strand Theatre for women has called Baltimore home for 13 years and loves it! Also inherits local artist DNA from her maternal great-uncle, who played horn at the Hippodrome in the 1930s and 1940s.
What’s Next? Developing a TV series and special based on “Fried Chicken & Latkes.” Stay tuned!
The creator of “Mad Men” was born in Baltimore but not raised in town. The Season Three opener (“Out of Town“) was set at the fabled Belvedere Hotel. Also includes stops at old London Fog factory (now our Jmore offices!) and the old Haussner’s restaurant. Bonus points for mention of travel through Friendship Airport, which was not yet BWI in the 1960s.