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Article on the City's Housing Program Led to Positive Change

I believe the article written by David Devine for the Feb. 5 edition ("Multiple Roles," Currents), and his conversations with city staff, helped those involved in the subsequent grant-solicitation process for city housing monies develop a more inclusive and accountable process that is better for our community.

The process of allocating government funds needs to cast as wide of a net to qualifying entities as possible. Quality research and reporting continues to be one means of informing the public about what is happening in government-decision-making processes. Devine's article did just that, and now the process has improved, for the benefit of our community.

Don Strauch, TMM Family Services

The Tucson Festival of Books Had an Impact on Thousands

From the chorus of exclamations and adoration, I can only presume—and hope—that the recent Tucson Festival of Books ("Reading the Crowd," Books, March 12), held at the University of Arizona, will repeat and receive the full support of the Tucson City Council, the UA, the Pima County Public Library, etc.

I spoke with Councilman Rodney Glassman, who strongly supports the Book Festival. In fact, his Glassman Foundation teamed up with the Arizona Daily Star to distribute thousands of children's books to attendees. He said he looks forward to doing even more next year!

As a bookseller for 22 years, and now as a technical writer who "has shovel, needs project," I was totally enthralled. There were a goodly supply of authors, and what truly surprised me was the selection of small publishers, and their depth. That is a true sign of a maturing publishing environment.

Of course, the University of Arizona Press was there, celebrating their 50 years. On the Target Stage, as I walked past, there was my absolute favorite Southwestern author, bar none—no one writes a Southwestern historical novel like Nancy E. Turner! Her These Is My Words is an absolute classic. Nancy had the crowd chuckling along at her "reluctant writer" stories. According to Turner, she had absolutely no intention of ever becoming a writer—ever. She wanted to be an English teacher. I got a very real impression that she still wants to teach English. I suppose she might still realize her dream—after the movies are made!

I was pleasantly surprised at the support the entire festival received. There were people and children enjoying every facet—and it truly had a fair-like atmosphere.

I wonder what would have happened had the festival not been held over Spring Break, when most of the UA students were away. In this age of e-mails, of kids turning their backs on society for this Facebook or that podcast, isn't it wonderful to sit back under the trees, put one's feet up and listen to the birds with a nondigital book in one's hands? Do our children and our students heading for the brave new world of the Great Recession know and appreciate the value of the book?

I am, however, certain of one thing: If this festival repeats, I have already volunteered for next year's event. If this repeats, we, the citizens of Tucson, will have made an impact on our children and our students. That impact, the value of the printed word and holding a book in our hands—the way Grandma held a book, with me on her knee and read Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories to me—cannot be over estimated.

Jack Bybee

'Immortal Longings' Offers the Audience a Chance to Consider and Reconsider

I was disturbed at the end of The Rogue Theatre's performance of Immortal Longings, written and directed by Joseph McGrath ("A Teen's Trial," Performing Arts, March 26). Offering a brilliant premise and plot and energetic characters (women in major Shakespeare plays), the situation is this: Juliet wants to live and love Romeo. A court of other Shakespearean heroines agrees to hear evidence on both sides.

This is, of course, fiction—art. With art, we can do anything we can imagine.

But there is another issue at stake here. In Immortal Longings, there is one important character who is not listed on the program but who is onstage throughout the play: The Book—Shakespeare's texts. The other characters open the book when they are directly quoting Shakespeare, and close it when they are commenting on it in McGrath's words. The book represents the law, the patriarchy, and the inviolable words of our most venerable writer. In this production, we apparently can comment on the book—witness years of literary criticism—but we cannot change it.

In the Bernstein version of West Side Story (book by Arthur Laurents), Maria is allowed to live, albeit without Tony, who dies in the same sort of street violence that Romeo is guilty of.

Why did Shakespeare write other plays besides Romeo and Juliet? Because in art and even in life, there are multiple possibilities, multiple choices we can make. And the freedom to make choices is paramount.

Shakespeare does indeed pave the way for alternative endings. "The quality of mercy is not strained" might allow changes. His comments on roses give us multiplicity: they are seeds, buds, blooms and faded husks, not all at the same time, but potentially. His cross-dressed characters, like Rosalind and Viola, experience reality from both genders.

Humans can change their ideas. The play Immortal Longings is provocative and offers us the chance to consider and reconsider. In the words of my son, "Why not have alternative endings on alternating days and see how they fly?!"

Linnea S. Hedrick, Professor of art history emerita, Miami University, Ohio

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