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Cue Sheet – July 2008

I DON'T

This week in the Tucson Weekly I review a likeable production of an unlikable show:

Live Theatre Workshop has pulled from the archives I Do! I Do!, a dusty little musical from the creators of The Fantasticks. In 1992, when I reviewed a version of I Do! I Do! at another theater company, I wrote that the company "lavishe(d) a wonderful pair of singing actors on a show that nearly undermine(d) the foundation of social conscience" upon which that theater had built more than 20 seasons. However, LTW has never pretended to be a theater of social conscience; it's an organization that does its best to entertain people, usually with pretty good material, in a very small space. I Do! I Do! certainly entertains a lot of people, but that task must fall to the two cast members, because the material is as stale as 40-year-old wedding cake.

See me take a bite out of it here.

tucson-arts,

MIDORI GOES TO SCHOOL

All right, now we’re getting caught up with my contributions to Strings magazine. The current issue contains my cover feature on Midori’s ambitious efforts as a music educator:

Yes, it took tireless practice and dedication for Midori Goto, at age 11, to become a pigtailed prodigy playing in the world’s most prominent halls. But now that the violinist is in her 30s, instead of coasting through a conventional concert career, she’s working even harder. Not content to merely show up and play, Midori has positioned herself as today’s leading performer-educator. She wedges concert engagements into a remarkably full schedule that includes chairing the strings department and holding the Jascha Heifetz Chair in Violin at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music. She also creates community-engagement events in the United States and Asia through her Orchestral Residencies Program and projects called Music Sharing, Midori & Friends, and Partners in Performance. Consider her datebook this past February. At the beginning of the month, Midori did a week-long Orchestra Residency Program in Des Moines, Iowa. Midmonth, she joined the Miró Quartet, Marc-André Hamelin, and Johannes Moser in the first two of three programs of a series she devised for New York’s Lincoln Center that examines the musical influences and cultures of Tōru Takemitsu and Alfred Schnittke. At the end of February, she took off on a European recital tour with pianist Charles Abramovic. All this, and USC, too. “She’s a force of nature,” declares Margaret Batjer, Midori’s USC faculty colleague and concertmaster of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. “She has more energy and more ideas and is more on the ball than anyone I know. It’s amazing to me that she has this whole other life beyond what she does at USC, because her commitment here seems to be full-time to us.”

You can find the full story here.

Classical Music,

FRIENDS

Although some Tucson theater people would surely like to see me drawn and quartered, I am on friendly terms with several local actors, writers and directors. I try not to get into true friendships with them, unless I knew them before I got into the theater-criticism racket, because that could lead to all sorts of conflict of interest issues, real or perceived: Could a positive review of a friend be trusted? Could I bring myself to write negatively about a friend if that were warranted? Kathy Allen, at the Arizona Daily Star, has gone so far as to marry an actor, and she has to recuse herself from covering anything he’s involved in.

After the Tucson Weekly launched its own Facebook page for marketing purposes, it seemed logical that I, as the paper’s arts editor, should set up my own profile. At a site like this, other people can ask to become your “friend.” Some of these requests come from actual friends and family members; others come from people you may not know well (or at all) but share some of the interests you have revealed; others are just people trying to network, and make you aware of what services they might be able to sell you. (I occasionally get friend requests from cartoonists, who mistakenly believe I have any influence over what comic strips appear in the Weekly.)

What should I do when I get “friended” by some local theater person I don’t really know? At first I was reluctant to confirm or seek out such people on Facebook, because I held a very traditional interpretation of the term “friend.” How would it look if I were Facebook friends with all these people I have to write about? But eventually I realized that these people aren’t necessarily being displayed as true friends in the old sense. Facebook, MySpace and Twitter are social networking sites, and having “friends” there isn’t necessarily much different from mingling with people at a Chamber of Commerce mixer. So I decided to open myself to friendship, although I'm not going out of my way to initiate the contacts.

Am I wrong?

Contact Me

quodlibet,

THE ART OF ALMQUIST

In the latest Tucson Weekly I offer the lowdown on Art Almquist, who is training actors and activists through the theater program at Tucson Magnet High School:

"I believe the human condition is something in constant need of examination and celebration," he says. "Art is something that can help you make sense of this crazy life. It's a tool for transformation; you get so wrapped up in it that it makes you able to understand something in your own life that used to be a mystery."

The full story lies here. While you’re at the site, check out the Mailbag section, which publishes the only really negative responses to my column about no longer subscribing to the Tucson Symphony. Unfortunately, both correspondents miss the point; the first is shocked that I would dare to express an opinion in a column, and both point to the Lord of the Rings concert as a successful attempt to bring in a younger audience—but the Lord of the Rings show was not a subscription concert, which was explicitly the subject of my column.

The first letter-writer, and one unpublished correspondent, have suggested that I be more supportive of the TSO in its time of need. But supporting mediocrity does not foster improvement, and I reject the notion that a mediocre arts organization is better than none at all. Whether the endeavor is arts, business or politics, if you’re going to do it, do it right, and if the present managers can’t, replace them.

tucson-arts,

UNASKED QUESTIONS (ANOTHER IN A SERIES)

Yesterday, UApresents issued a press release crowing that the campus impresario has ended the fiscal year about $90,000 ahead and with more than $1 million in advance ticket sales for next season. The press release is duly re-written with a couple of new quotes in the Arizona Daily Star this morning. But what neither the press release nor the rewrite told us is the state of the old deficit. A couple of years ago, the organization was a million dollars in the hole. Has the old debt been retired? Forgiven? Or does it still lurk there? It’s a simple question that should have been answered in the news story. And it would have been good to front-load the information that UApresents has been undertaking some severe cost-containment measures, including a reduction in attractions and periodic staff firings. Good newspapers are not merely conduits for image-polishing press releases.

tucson-arts,

THE OTHER AMADEUS

We’re almost caught up with links to my articles for Strings magazine that appeared during the blogging hiatus. A couple of issues back, I wrote a piece on the string music of a very interesting figure:

Karl Amadeus Hartmann may be the most significant 20th-century composer whose music you barely know. His _Concerto funèbre_, a mature, moving work for violin and orchestra, is the main composition that carries Hartmann’s name from one concert hall and CD player to another, but even string players familiar with that piece probably don’t realize there’s more violin music where that came from. Early in his career, Hartmann wrote two suites and two sonatas for solo violin. These pieces from the 1920s have only recently entered circulation. They don’t entirely suggest Hartmann’s later style, but they are recital-worthy and show Hartmann was an assured composer almost from the beginning.

There’s more, including a chat with German violinist Viviane Hagner about one of those early suites, available here.

Oh, and to motivate you to visit the site, here’s a picture of Viviane Hagner:

Viviane Hagner

Classical Music,