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Cue Sheet – August 2007


    I keep forgetting to link to my articles in Strings magazine, at least those that are posted at the Web site. Here’s one from the latest issue, but I’m afraid it will be of interest only to beginning and intermediate string players; it starts like this:

    Have you ever put bow to string and found, to your horror, that the instrument croaks like it’s had too much whiskey and a few packs a day too many? Where is that singing tone that made you fall in love with your stringed instrument? If you’re producing a sick sound, it’s time to visit a doctor—someone like Dr. Laura Talbott, who’s not an MD but assistant professor of violin and viola at Oklahoma State University. She knows how to cure your sound-production ailments.
    There are about as many different varieties of sick sound as there are childhood diseases; let’s consult the doctor about just two of the most common maladies. She’s diagnosed them as “stressed-out sound” and “anti-sostenuto-itis”.
    By the way, the editors moved that final period into the wrong position. In American usage, periods and commas ALWAYS go INSIDE quotation marks. NO EXCEPTIONS. EVER. Colons and semicolons, on the other hand, always go outside the quotation marks. The placement of question marks and exclamation points depends on the context.
    Anyway, other recent Strings articles of mine to which I’ve hitherto neglected to link cover how to deal with stage fright and the cello duets of Friedrich August Kummer—much more interesting pieces than you’d think.

Classical Music,


    It occurred to me this morning that there’s one very consistent exception to my rule about applying the definite article to names of performances spaces, and I unconsciously alluded to it in my last post. Seems that if a space is called “hall”—just “hall,” not “music hall” or “residence hall”—and is prefaced by an individualizing name, it doesn’t take the definite article. Thus: Verizon Hall, Centennial Hall, Toad Hall. Although I can imagine somebody talking about an encounter with “the Monty Hall.”
    Meanwhile, friend of the blog Michael Dauphinais sends this note about my admonition to use “theater” rather than “theatre”:

    Your blog posting mentioning this spelling variant got me thinking. I was taught once upon a time that "theatre" was the general term for the art form and that "theater" was the building. Upon re-examining a few on-line dictionaries, I can find nothing to corroborate this explanation. Most sources seem to view the two spellings as interchangeable.
    Perhaps you should have a British/Canadian spelling day on your blog? Think if the colourful language opportunities. Readers would have something new to analyse. It would be the cat's pyjamas.
    I’ll let Michael’s message serve as this blog’s effort toward Canadian Spelling Day, at least for now. Anyway, the Associated Press style book (which is ignored by the stylistically peculiar and anachronistic New York Times) tells us to prefer the “theater” spelling in all instances, except when a theater or a company’s title uses the other spelling. “Theatre” is a Britishism (borrowed, like so many English words, from the French) that is nearly but not quite as pretentious in American usage as “centre” (employed here only by certain pretentious shopping and arts centers) and “amongst.” Please, fellow Americans, use these spellings only if you really want to look like an utter twit.



    On my way to the studio this morning, I heard C24’s John Zech introduce a piece being played “by Combattimento Consort of Amsterdam.” Apparently, C24 has banished from its satellite feed the use of the definite article (as well as the names of conductors; Zech pointedly omitted them from two other announcements during the 20 minutes I was listening). The disappearance of “the” is a worsening problem. I think it began with the movie Titanic, in which James Cameron was so busy writing stilted dialog that he forgot that people referred to ships with the definite article (think of Mutiny on the Bounty, or how on Star Trek—the original series—they talked about the Enterprise). These days, I’m running across copy all the time that drops the “the,” as in “a performance at Tucson Music Hall” or “Emerson Quartet will perform next week.” It’s as if everybody just got off the boat from some homeland where the articles are so bound up with gender, number and case that they’re too traumatized to bother with the very simple articles in English.
    Here’s a simple rule for how idiomatic users of English ought to employ “the,” specifically in arts writing:
    If the name of a composition, ensemble or place includes a generic term (such as “orchestra,” “consort,” “theater”—and note the proper American –er ending of that last word), preface it with “the.”

  • the Tucson Symphony Orchestra
  • the “Pastoral” Symphony
  • the Tucson Convention Center Music Hall
    There are many exceptions, of course. “The Arizona Theatre Company” (note the pretentious –re ending, as if the company were French or British) sounds a little silly after all these years of being article-free, and some place names, like Verizon Hall, fall much more gracefully from the tongue without the article. Still, the safest practice with articles is the opposite of the comma rule: If in doubt, leave it in.
    (By the way, using “the” in front of a place or business name that begins with an article in another language is redundant and awkward. Think about that the next time you’re about to say “The El Rio Neighborhood.”)



    Critics never review plays before the official opening night, except when they attend that oddity called the “press preview” (which does not exist in Tucson). Nevertheless, I accepted an invitation from some people putting on a play who hoped for some coverage before the end of the show’s two-weekend run. They were confident that they’d have something good to present to me in their rehearsal hall, and they were right:

    New House, New Dog is a new play by Tucsonan Toni Press-Coffman, billed as "a comedy about pets, painting and aging parents."
    Well, the pets and painting are there mainly for alliteration; they're actually almost incidental to this play, which does, indeed, focus on how adults cope with their difficult, elderly progenitors.
    And comedy? Yes, it's funny, but the humor is based on character and social interaction and reaction, not snappy jokes. And like the theater works of French Romantic playwright Alfred de Musset, Press-Coffman's comedy is just sufficiently uneasy that, by the end, it slides imperceptibly into drama.
    The play opens this weekend; last week, I attended a run-through in a bare rehearsal room minus lights, music and any other stage trappings but the essential furniture and props. Because the production was a work in progress, it can't be subjected to a regular review. But, unfinished as the show was, the script, actors and director had already come together so securely that I'm already as enthusiastic about this work as I was about Press-Coffman's That Slut! (see "Sexual Healing," Sept. 4, 2003).
    Read the entire article here.



    Viennese forensic scientist Christian Reiter, after analyzing strands of Beethoven’s hair, has concluded that the composer died prematurely because he was inadvertently poisoned by his physician, Andreas Wawruch. Cause of death: lead poisoning:

    A dramatic spike in the concentrations follows each of the doctor's five treatments between Dec. 5, 1826 and Feb. 27, 1827, according to Reiter.
    He theorizes that Wawruch, treating Beethoven for pneumonia that December, administered a medicine containing lead, as many medicines did at the time. Within days, Beethoven's stomach became terribly bloated, leading Wawruch to puncture his patient's abdomen four times in the next two months. Gallons of fluid drained out, some of it spilling into the bedding; Beethoven complained about the bugs and the odor.
    Reiter's suspicion is that the sticky poultices applied to the puncture wounds contained soapy lead salts, as they often did early in the 19th century; the salts would have been absorbed into the bloodstream, spiking lead levels.
    He further suspects that Wawruch did not understand Beethoven's underlying health problems, spelled out in the autopsy: a breakdown of the digestive system and extensive damage to the kidneys and liver, which was "like leather."
    Beethoven, a big drinker at a time when lead was commonly added to wines to increase sweetness, probably suffered from cirrhosis. A lead-laced medicine would have sent his liver "over the brink" and to collapse, Reiter said this week.
    You’ll find the entire article here.

Classical Music,


    This information comes straight from Arizona Theatre Company:

    Arizona Theatre Company announces the selection of Fantasmaville by Raul Garza as the winner of the 2007 National Latino Playwriting Award. Garza was awarded $1,000. Guillermo Reyes’ Allende by Pinochet and Caridad Svich’s Lucinda Caval  were lauded as finalists for the award.
    Fantasmaville humorously examines the love/hate relationship Latino-Americans have with the ghosts of past people and places. When a world-weary Latina, Celeste, and her Anglo husband, Martin, desire to experience a sense of community, they return home to the urban neighborhood where they both grew up.  They resist the surge of gentrification.  Colorful local characters, including an advice-spinning “Mexican Spirit Guide” who takes on the form of a human-sized raccoon, complicate the couple's return.  While facing the threat of a yuppie-centric Dog Park encroaching on her neighborhood, Celeste discovers the secret of her heritage, her purpose, and her longing for a sense of home.
    Raul Garza is a Texas-based writer whose screenplay Digging Up Roots was featured at Teatro Humanidad’s Play Festival. His work has been performed by the Latino Comedy Project at SketchFests in Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle and Vancouver. A veteran of the advertising industry, Raul has created national commercials for clients including McDonald’s, Reebok and Miller Lite, and is co-founder of TKO Advertising in Austin, TX. Fantasmaville is Garza’s first full-length play.  
    “Fantasmaville is a hilarious play about the cost of urban blight on the Latino soul,” said Arizona Theatre Company’s Playwright-in-Residence Elaine Romero, “The judges were won over by Raul Garza's fresh comedic voice.  One gets the sense that Garza intimately knows the characters he writes.  Garza writes with a fluent Chicano tongue, dancing effortlessly between English and Spanish.  With a strong dose of irony, Garza captures the plight of urban Chicanos caught between their treasured cultural past and their assimilated present.” 
    Guillermo Reyes and Caridad Svich, both past winners of the National Latino Playwriting Award, were name finalists for their 2007 play submissions. Mr. Reyes’ play Allende By Pinochet is a historical drama in which dictator Augusto Pinochet writes his own memoirs revealing how he overthrew the Socialist president of Chile, Salvador Allende, but history refuses to accept his version and talks back. Ms. Svich’s play Lucinda Caval is a drama of suspense and identity detailing a woman’s search for her missing brother while a blind architect dreams of an imagined past reconstructed from censored shards of books. 
    Guillermo Reyes is a Chilean-born U.S. citizen, and author of off-Broadway plays such as Men On The Verge of a His-Panic Breakdown and Mother Lolita, and was recently featured in Voices at the River at Arkansas Repertory Theatre. Mr. Reyes is the head of the playwriting program at Arizona State University.
    Caridad Svich is the author of over forty plays and fifteen translations. Her work has been seen at venues across the US and abroad, including Royal Court Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse, The Women's Project, Salvage Vanguard and 7 Stages. She is alumna playwright of New Dramatists, founder of theatre alliance NoPassport, and contributing editor of TheatreForum. Her website is
    Arizona Theatre Company's National Latino Playwriting Award annually recognizes an outstanding work by a Latino playwright written on any subject.  Arizona Theatre Company solicits submissions from across the U.S., its territories, and Mexico.  Full-length and one-act plays (minimum length, 50 pages) written in English, English and Spanish, or solely in Spanish are accepted. Spanish language and bilingual scripts must be accompanied by an English translation. The submission deadline for the 2008  National Latino Playwriting Award is December 30, 2008.


About Cue Sheet

James Reel's cranky consideration of the fine arts and public radio in Tucson and beyond.