City Week

Playing Around

"Night of Theatrics"
7 p.m., Friday, Jan. 26
Christ Presbyterian Church, 6565 E. Broadway Blvd.

Have you ever performed a monologue in front of a mirror? Do you sing Broadway tunes in the shower? Or maybe you've written a stack of plays that nobody knows about?

If you answered "yes" to any of the above, it's time you shared your talents with an audience and met others like you. The "others" I'm taking about are the Catalina Players, a nonprofit theater company that's been putting on plays here in Tucson for 24 years. They want to meet you, too! They're hosting an open house of theatrical fun for anyone interested in developing the budding thespian, director or playwright within.

This "Night of Theatrics" will be a casual two-hour get-together at which you can take part in all kinds of scene readings, improvisations, monologues and theatrical games. Or, if you're a writer, you can bring your work and have it acted out. Hosting the event will be Bill Fikaris and Leslie Miller, the Catalina Players' award-winning resident directors, who know exactly what it's like to love theater and not quite know the ropes. Whether you're shy, nervous and have no acting experience at all, or you've acted before and just need a cool new community to perform with, these people will help you out.

"It's energizing to learn about theater," says Priscilla Marquez, the Players' executive director. "This event is for people to learn talents, refresh talents and get rid of whatever makes them scared to audition. ... It'll be a lot of fun, and I think anyone who comes will get bitten by the bug."

You don't need to bring anything--unless you have a play or monologue. "Just come fresh," Marquez suggests. The event is free, and there will even be some food. You can just come to watch, if you wish. --A.M.

The Sound of Silents

"The General" Screening with Musical Accompaniment
7 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 27
Fox Tucson Theatre, 17 W. Congress St.

When composer and pianist Rick Friend was in high school, he rented the silent film The General and screened it for his friends at home. It was pretty boring to watch with neither words nor music, so Friend sat down at his piano and improvised a soundtrack.

"It fit like a glove," he says. "The movie was like an old friend. So I kept doing it."

In fact, from that night on, the pianist has been in love with silent movies--as long as he can accompany them with his own music. Since 1987, Friend's been performing concerts at a variety of classic film screenings in cities all over the country, and now he's coming to our own Fox Tucson Theatre to play along with none other than The General. Not only was this movie the inspiration for his current career, but it's one of his favorites.

"I've played to it a lot of times and haven't gotten tired of it yet," Friend insists. "I still feel like I'm taking part in a work of art."

While The General was something of a critical flop when it came out in 1927, Friend's not alone in deeming it art today. Starring and co-directed by Buster Keaton, it tells of a bumbling, Civil War-era train driver named Johnny Gray who tries to join the Confederate Army to impress his fiancée, Annabelle, but is rejected--by both the Army and by Annabelle. After a year of loneliness, Johnny's train, "The General," is high-jacked by Union spies, who also happen to have kidnapped Annabelle. It's up to Johnny to save the day through a long and exciting locomotive chase. Did I mention this movie is hilarious?

The screening and concert will cost $10 for adults and $8 for students, seniors and military personnel. It's reportedly the first time the Fox has shown a silent movie since its re-opening. --A.M.

Abbey Is 80

Edward Abbey's 80th Birthday: A Memorial Celebration
7 to 9 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 27
Acadia Ranch Museum, 825 Mount Lemmon Road, Oracle
(520) 896-9609

Edward Abbey's 80th birthday is coming up. Unfortunately, he only lived to be 62, passing away on March 14, 1989, after esophageal hemorrhaging due to complications from surgery. His last message to his audience? "No comments."

Besides authoring 21 books, including Desert Solitaire, The Brave Cowboy and the hugely influential comic novel The Monkey Wrench Gang, he was a relentless conservationist, die-hard anarchist and all-around compelling character. He lived in Arizona (in fact, right outside of Oracle) and passionately defended the desert and its inhabitants in his writings and throughout his life. "In the American Southwest," he once declared, "I began a lifelong love affair with a pile of rocks."

To celebrate Edward Abbey and his work, the Oracle Historical Society's Acadia Ranch Museum will be hosting a party in his honor, featuring remembrances by people who personally knew and loved him. Among those to speak will be Dick Kirkpatrick, who traveled cross-country with Abbey while he was writing his last book, and Doug Peacock, his friend and fellow author. In addition, forest ranger and performer Dennis Pepe will read selections from Abbey's work.

"Abbey had a far-reaching effect on the environmental movement and remains to this day something of a hero figure," said Emily Duwel, the Oracle Historical Society's executive director, in an e-mail. "... His writings on nature are unparalleled and inspired legions of people to begin to rethink and re-experience their natural surroundings. ... He was (also) a polemical figure--people either loved or hated him."

If you're an Abbey fan, or if you'd like to learn more about him and what he accomplished, head up to Oracle and hear things you can't get from anyone but those who knew him best. There will be a "pay-what-you-wish" entry fee. And birthday cake! --A.M.

Tuba Beauty

"Tremendous Tuba: Ever Heard of a Tuba Concerto?"
7:30 to 9 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 31
St. Philip's in the Hills Episcopal Church, 4440 N. Campbell Ave.

"When people think of tuba music, they usually think of a lethargic, booming noise like a large, lumbering animal," says Amy Graham. "(In an ensemble), trumpets and clarinets and flutes--they get all the solos. The tubas are kind of left behind to produce the baseline."

Graham, a tuba player in the local musical ensemble Sonora Winds, might sound a little bitter. But that's really not the case. Having loved the tuba since high school, she's used to all the stereotypes about those who play it. "I should be some big, chubby guy," she points out. "But I'm not."

All Graham asks is that people recognize the true musical potential of the tuba. Actually, she says, it's a very versatile instrument, able to play all kinds of sounds--from its typical repertoire of extremely low notes to notes that are quite high and pretty. And this Wednesday, the tubas of Sonora Winds will all get their chance to shine in a special concerto written just for them.

The concerto to be played was written by Edward Gregson, one of Britain's finest and most respected living composers. Since its premiere in 1976, it's been performed all over the world. Tuba concertos are fairly rare, and this one shows off the instrument's lyrical qualities beautifully; interchanges between solos and accompaniment complement the tuba's full range and dexterity. The performance is not something to miss--especially because, in addition to Graham and the other Sonora Winds tuba players, the concerto will feature special guest tuba soloist Dr. Mark Nelson, currently the director of bands at Pima Community College.

Besides the tuba concerto, the entire Sonora Winds ensemble will play some great selections, including, most notably, Robert Jager's "Concert in the Park." The concert is free (though donations are welcome). --A.M.

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