Is that venue in Mesa called Nile Theatre or Nile Theater?
This is actually a confusing question. The venue's URL is TheatRE. But the big logo on their homepage is TheatER. Most of the fliers for shows at the venue are TheatER. However, the listings on the site say TheatRE. The venue's facebook is TheatER. Then again, in print, New Times has said RE. We're not consistent, though: Our web listing says ER.
Crazy, right? I know this may seem trivial to non-journalists, but for professionals who try really hard to get things right -- and for amateur grammarians/spelling Nazis who just like to hassle those around them -- this is sort of a big issue.
So I decided to dedicate my Thursday to the slavish pursuit of the definitive answer to one simple question: How the fuck do you correctly spell Nile Theat(re/er)?
Hey, it's a slow news day.
First, in case anyone cares, this is why this situation sticks in a newspaper man's craw: Journalists, even weirdo alt-weekly writers and editors like me, have a certain irrational reverence for this old-fashioned thing called the Associated Press Stylebook.
Yeah, you've probably never heard of it. Don't feel bad, it's an insider thing. Anyway, they make you buy a copy of this little spiral-bound book when you take your first newswriting course (I assume -- I was actually a philosophy major) and everyone at your college newspaper obsesses over this thing, trying to impress others with a working knowledge of the most esoteric tidbits.
It's sort of practical, too. Newspaper people love to argue, and were it not for this book, they'd never be able to print a newspaper because the copy editors would spent so much time fighting over whether the number of years in a decade should be "10" or "ten." No, seriously, the pale, bulgy-eyed future librarian sorts who man the slot at a college newspaper love this shit. There is absolutely no way they'd rather spend their Tuesday night than crammed into a stall in the basement of the campus library, poring over the Oxford English Dictionary for some stray piece of evidence they think might tilt the scales their way.
As an aside, let me note that most journalists don't necessarily like this book. In fact, chances are there are listings in it that they absolutely hate, and for good reason. Until this year, the ultimate example of AP Style sucking was "Web site" as two words with a capital "W." Stupid, I know. Especially since no one capitalizes television, radio, or other mediums of mass communication. But, hey, it was AP Style, so who were we to complain?
ANYWAY, it just so happens that the Stylebook listing for theat(er/re) is a controversial one. Basically, it imposes the modern American spelling -- theater -- on any use of the word that's not a proper noun. Even when the words are in the same sentence or paragraph.
In other words, this is correct:
Phoenix's largest theater, Dodge Theatre, has changed its name to Comerica Theatre. No one at the theater was immediately available for comment.
So how does Nile want to spell its name and why is the issue so confused?
Well, legally speaking, it's Nile Theatre. I'm basing that on the fact that the City of Mesa's Licensing Department says that's how the active business license is spelled. There is, however, also an old and inactive permit for a Nile Theater on file from the venue's former incarnation.
However, if the venue has its way that will be changing soon. Michelle Donovan, a spokesperson for the venue's proprietors, Mantooth Group, says they're in the process of switching over to Theater.
"[It's a] long story," she says. "But everything was set up as theatre (website, logos) then the landlord contacted us asking us to change it over to theater due to the history of the building."
She intends to oblige them.
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"We are in the process of re-branding as "er," she says.
Even though it's not the technical, legal name, and despite the fact that The Nile will become the only proper-name ER theater in town, something that is certain to confuse and frighten some of our writers, we're going to help out.
By the power vested in me as music editor of Phoenix New Times, and with the blessing of our copy editor, Jay Bennett, let the venue at 105 West Main Street in beautiful downtown Mesa, Arizona, always and forever be known as Nile Theater, regardless of what their business license says.
Is that kosher, according to AP rules? I dunno. Screw those guys -- they didn't even know how to spell website until like four months ago.