A recent production of "Julius Caesar" at New York City’s Shakespeare in the Park has caused uproar within right-wing circles. Some conservatives say the Caesar character -- who is styled after President Trump and assassinated -- normalizes political violence against the right. But do these critics miss the point of the play? The work has long been used as a vehicle for political commentary, and Shakespeare scholars cite its role as a cautionary tale of the dangers of political assassination.

Our guests discuss what the play really means, how it’s taught (if it is taught) in schools, and the role of farce in theater. In studio:

  • Diana Louise Carter, producer for WallByrd Theatre Co.'s summer production of Macbeth, and publicist for the Rochester Shakespeare Players' summer production of As You Like It
  • Evvy Fanning, local high school English teacher
  • Jacob Baller, senior at Webster Thomas High School
  • Sheila Byrne, Advanced Placement English teacher at Webster Thomas High School who prepares students for the Rochester Shakespeare Competition

Can you stand your neighbors? Increasingly, the answer depends on what their politics are. We are moving away from people who disagree with us, and National Review writer David French says we're headed for a "national divorce." French says, "Americans tend to belong to their political tribe not so much because they love its ideas but rather because they despise their opponents." So we've decided to bring in guests who are close friends and political opposites. How do they maintain friendships? What can we learn from that?

Our guests:

  • Ernie Orlando, 8th grade social studies teacher at Churchville-Chili Schools
  • Joe Randise, IT manager
  • Tom Proietti, resident media scholar at St. John Fisher College
  • Tony Conte, professor of accounting at Monroe Community College

Chidike Okeem is a writer, and an outspoken black conservative. He argues that mainstream American conservatism often traffics in anti-black rhetoric, and it forces black conservatives to join that refrain. But Okeem also argues that liberal policies have been destructive, and he finds a distinct home for black conservatism that is solution-oriented.

When the RPO performs Shostakovich's fifth symphony later this month, they will be performing one of the legendary examples of music as political speech. Stalin thought it was a tribute to his regime; almost certainly, however, Shostakovich had threaded a musical needle and was signaling his solidarity to a suffering public.

That got us thinking: what are some other examples of music as political speech? It spans genres, and it's not always as effective as the creator of the music hopes. Finally, we discuss whether music can move the public, or if music is more effective at simply reflecting the public's mood. Our guests:

  • John Covach, director of the Institute for Popular Music at the University of Rochester
  • Lisa Jakelski, associate professor of musicology at the Eastman School of Music
  • Terry Smith, head of the Harley School's Lower School
  • Mona Seghatoleslami, host and producer on WXXI Classical 91.5

Members of the Electoral College are scheduled to formally cast their votes on Monday. We explore the history of the Electoral College, along with the debate over whether the electors should consider voting against their states' wishes.

Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren is one of New York State's electors; we've reached out to her and other electors about whether they consider it ethical to go against a pledged vote for a particular candidate. Our guests:

  • Wes Renfro, associate professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at St. John Fisher College
  • Kathleen Donovan, associate professor in the Department of Political Science at St. John Fisher College

Former journalist Rachel Barnhart has released a book about her experience in politics. The title is a nod to the book's exploration of the role of gender in politics. It's called Broad, Casted. Barnhart has said that even after years covering politics, she was not prepared for the sexism she encountered. Her critics -- particularly critics in the Democratic Party -- argue that she has misjudged some common political tactics as being sexist. We discuss that, along with her career and her future.  

Dog-whistles are code words in politics: sometimes, you hear a phrase and it is supposed to sound unoffensive or straightforward, but does it really mean something else? There's a list of phrases, and you may agree or disagree that they are racial dog-whistles.

The executive director of the Strong Economy for All Coalition was in Rochester to give a presentation on this subject. We talk to him about what the code words are, how they may demean someone of a different race or culture, and what we can to decode dog-whistles. Our guests:

If you're feeling some panic about the presidential election, a question: are you going to stay on the couch, curled up in the fetal position, for the next six weeks? Or might you go to work, volunteering? Would you go to a swing state for a weekend? Would you phone bank?

No matter whom you support, we're exploring ways in which you - yes, you! - can get involved to help impact the election. Beyond, you know, asking the universe to intervene. Our guests:

  • Dick Hastings, Republican organizer and volunteer
  • Carol McManus, Republican organizer and volunteer
  • Larry Knox, political and community engagement coordinator with SEIU
  • Michelle Daniels, Democratic volunteer

In 2000, Florida's now-infamous "butterfly ballot" caused confusion among voters who weren't entirely sure whom they were voting for. The dizzying design was a mess, and it sparked a kind of movement in design.

Marcia Lausen took the opportunity to not only offer a better design concept for ballots; she wanted to redesign democracy to better serve citizens. The result is a book called Design for Democracy, which provides a template for ballots, registration forms, posters and signs, and more.

So have we put these safeguards in place, or is another Florida possible? Lausen joins us to discuss her work, and her visit to RIT for their series on design conversations.

What are some of the best (and worst) films about politics? And do they have the power to change viewers' political views?

We discuss a number of films with our guests:

  • Jack Garner, longtime film critic
  • Lester D. Friedman, professor and former chair of the Media and Society Program at Hobart and William Smith College