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Tom heads downtown for an evening of varied theater

The point guard next year for the high school team I coach is named Kya. She gets really good grades, and she can dribble with her left hand, so the talking to plants and other hippie stuff she does are just pleasant eccentricities on her part.

When the summer basketball leagues ended in late June, she told me that she was going to be participating in the Arizona Theatre Company's Summer on Stage program, which would be putting on a Broadway-type musical adaptation of The Wedding Singer at the Temple of Music and Art at the end of July. She invited me to the show, and I, caught without an excuse for that far off in the future, said, "Sure."

As it happens, The Rapture didn't take place this July, so the date arrived for the show. I had been downtown earlier in the day when I stopped at the anti-SB 1070 rally to see if anybody had anything interesting (or, in some cases, lucid) to say. Some of the people had been there for 24 hours, and it showed. And smelled. I asked a few people whether Judge Susan Bolton's gutting of the law before it could take effect had taken some of the wind out of their sails. They all said no, that as long as any part of SB 1070 remained, they would protest it.

I asked specifically which parts of 1070 remained, and nobody knew for sure, but that's all right. Sometimes it's OK if passion trumps intellect. But only sometimes.

I was getting ready to leave when I saw a couple of college kids I knew from basketball. I asked them what they were doing, and they said they were waiting around for "the show" at 5 p.m.

The way they talked about it reminded me of the Richard Pryor bit where he asked his dad if he could go out, and the dad said it was OK, but he had to be home by 11. So he goes out, and all of his friends are just standing around, doing nothing. So Richard asked, "What are y'all waitin' around for?"

To which the response was, "11:30. We're gonna pitch a bitch at 11:30!"

I didn't feel like waiting around, so I went home. I turned on the 5 p.m. news to see whether they had discovered the cause for the medical-helicopter crash the day before, but the TV stations were having none of that. Just like clockwork, the protest had spilled out into the intersection of Congress Street and Granada Avenue, blocking rush-hour traffic, prompting an inevitable police response, and making the TV people all giddy.

KGUN Channel 9 stayed with it for almost the entire broadcast. At one point, the lead reporter asked the cameraman to hold the microphone so that she could wander over to where the cops were, and ask her colleague if he had heard what the police were saying. Not exactly a Peabody Award moment.

About halfway through the broadcast, somebody finally got arrested. (The cops could have screwed things up for the station had they waited until after 5:30, but they did their part, and Street Theater was served. Channel 9 pre-empted the national news, much to many viewers' chagrin.)

I have written and spoken against SB 1070, unwaveringly, since its inception. I thought it was a mean-spirited law, although I didn't buy into some of the doomsday scenarios some of its opponents were trying to sell. But I have to say this: The Mexican flags at the protests don't help. They really don't. To me, they're about the same as the Confederate flags at Tea Party rallies. At best, they're a distraction. At worst, they cause that much-coveted open mind—the one held by the person sitting on the fence, waiting to be convinced of the rightness of an argument—to slam shut.

I took a circuitous route into downtown and got to the Temple around 6:10. By the time the doors opened at 6:30, there were hundreds of people standing in line out to the street—and about 10 who thought they were going to cut in. Most people avoid any kind of physical confrontation, but when people have been standing in line in Tucson in late July, they're not open to others cutting in. It was actually quite entertaining watching the jackasses trying unsuccessfully to squeeze in. Even old people were trying to cut in. What, didn't FDR talk about manners in his Fireside Chats?

The show itself was wildly entertaining—briskly paced and professionally staged. The jokes were funny; the singing was way above average; and most of the kids could dance. Among other bit parts, Kya played a Las Vegas-based Tina Turner impersonator in the play's final scene. She was hilarious, along with Colin Evans as Fake Ronald Reagan, TJ Clark as Fake Mr. T, and Emily Godfrey as Fake Cyndi Lauper.

On the way home, I drove through the intersection of Congress and Granada, thinking that there might be an Act II for the 10 p.m. news, but there wasn't one person there. I watched the news when I got home and learned that the people who had been "arrested" were cited and released, while the police were happy that they were able to handle their business without running up huge overtime charges. Sigh.

All things considered, the Summer on Stage production gets an A; Street Theater gets a B-minus.

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