Daze & Nights IIa
"Moving Uptown" -- The Mime Troupe lays the foundations
for interstate and international exposure.
Right) McCune Mansion and its carriage house in an aerial shot circa
two blocks uphill from the famous LDS Temple.
The front of the McCune Mansion as seen from North Main Street
Matthew Child, Stuart Curtis, Katie Appenzeller, David Carrillo, Evy
Tessman, and Paul Blackwell on the stage in the carriage house of
the McCune Mansion.
the Mime Troupe moved to the carriage house of the McCune Mansion,
I rejoined them and rented one of the
studios in the building, along with Tom Tessman, and my friend Sparry
Daughterman from the Art Department. Daniel Robert took on the job
of manager, and everything was done with a greater intensity. We opened
a whole new chapter in our mutual histories.
first few weeks in the Hillside Studio are still a blur in my memory.
We were mostly involved with cleaning and painting a two story building
that had been neglected for an indefinite number of years. Rehearsals,
workshops, and jam sessions occurred, of course, becoming more frequent
as the place got presentable. There was an anteroom opening onto Hillside
Avenue to the north, which led to a small stage, and then hundreds
of square feet of sprung wooden floor on the top floor, along with
a raised alcove at the south end, where we set the piano. A borrowed
set of drums appeared one day, thanks to Dave Fagiolli and the Nameless
Uncarved Block. Downstairs was a bathroom, a broom closet, and
three artist's studios -- mine was farthest eastward, Tom's was in
the middle, and Sparry's was nearest to the door westward. Since we
were on a slope, we were able to walk in and out at ground level,
and there was plenty of light. Sparry discovered a secret room behind
her south wall, and lost no time opening it up. She made tea every
evening and always visited me, cups in hand, when I was there. Tom's
space was mostly unused, especially after Evy left the group.
-- get to work! Is this WORK? Sure -- it's
Matthew, and Evy (below)
Family and job responsibilities soon took Evy away.
Matt and Patsy
were both well-trained dancers. They kept pace with Katie, and brought
their own ideas.
main job with the Mime Troupe was videotaping classes and rehearsals,
so that the dancers could see what was working -- and what wasn't.
I also drew pictures, took photos, and created graphics for publicity
purposes. Yes, I was still working nights at the railroad engine house
twenty miles away, but I slept in the mornings, and joined Katie and
Paul for their classes midday in the Ballet Dept. at the University
of Utah. It felt great going to the University as a professional,
instead of as a student, but I was also learning about my new chosen
field from people who had been dancing since they were small children.
Scary, but fun! Katie and Patsy also taught private classes at the
Hillside Studio (see my digital sketch of the upstairs floor below).
In between these times, our dancers would work on creating new material
while our musicians jammed along, or composed original music for them.
Matt Child was
one of the first people I met from the Dance Dept. He had awesome
skills and instincts.
This was the
SLC Mime Troupe's basic poster during early 1974 -- Clockwise from
the top: David, Patsy, Katie, and Matthew. The photo was shot on Hillside
Avenue by Daniel's friend Pete. (Click to
Mime Troupe had a whole new professional focus, with a common goal
of somehow creating a unique dance company, and making it succeed
in the marketplace. We were lucky to have the personable, but aggressive,
Daniel Robert guiding us, and speaking with artistic sponsors. He
was alert to opportunities others surely would have missed in our
came on board after serving time in the U.S. Navy and Dance Dept.
was from New York City, possessing the professional experience, courage
and drive we needed.
Katie was our
choreographer and lead performer. She also taught at the University.
Katie's classes at the Ballet Dept. and wore glasses for a little
while, especially when creating graphics.
hath charms to soothe the savage breast ...
to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak -- so sayeth, uh said,
William Congreve (16701729) in The Mourning Bride, Act
I Scene 1 -- Unlike any other dance company, we had our own band.
Paul Blackwell had been with the group since the beginning, and wrote
his own music. His friend Stuart Curtis moved all the way from Michigan
in the summer of 1973 to work with him. Stuart was particularly talented
on reed instruments like clarinet and saxophone, plus he played a
powerful flute, and was a better than average pianist. To the west
of the Hillside studio was a high-rise apartment building where a
big band musician from California named Hal Schaer resided. He heard
Paul and Stuart play from his balcony, came over to visit them, and
encouraged us all to persevere. He'd played with Bob Crosby's well-established
orchestra, and had high standards. Hal became a mentor to Stuart in
particular, and they stayed friends for a decade or more.
Blackwell played piano, guitar, and composed.
Curtis played horns and piano.
many times at Westminster College, a private university on the east
side of Salt Lake City.
faced a challenge in finding other musicians who could match Paul
and Stuart's abilities, and would work for what little we were able
to share -- jam sessions helped, plus the word of mouth that developed
from them, and through the grapevine at the Dance Dept. We met talents
like pianist John Fischer, bassist Mark Nelson, and local keyboard
giant Stu Goldberg, who soon moved onward and upward with the Fowler
Brothers. (Later, Katie choreographed a terrific dance to his beautiful
song Lotus Feet.) Former U of U Professor, Dr. William Fowler,
took his Jazz program over to Westminster College, where Stuart took
music courses, and made even more contacts.
Eventually, we coaxed a high-energy hard-rock drum and bass rhythm
section into joining the band with the promise of work on the local
bar scene -- the buzzword going around the artistic community was
THE BARS. There were a lot of them, and business was good, as thousands
of Baby Boomers hit legal age and unleashed a tsunami of beer. Rod
Dankers recruited many fellow Nameless Uncarved Block inmates
into his own bar-band, and they remained a source of good advice on
that front. We kept our promise to Fred and Bud -- the former played
a double-sized drum kit, and the latter had new Peavy bass equipment.
Our musicians enjoyed playing unusual time signatures, and our dancers
were inspired by the un-conventional rhythms, plus found it was easy
(for them) to keep cues straight in odd time signatures like 5/4 and
7/8. After baptism by fire at "Big Joe's," a gig which really
needed the electric band, Daniel asserted we were ready to face the
audience at Salt Lake's most surprisingly successful watering hole
-- The Sun Tavern, one
of the first openly gay discos in the Western USA. Everyone who went
there wanted something out of the ordinary, and that's what we were
about to deliver!
been working in the bar-rooms -- all the live-long night ...
we've been working in the bar rooms, just to get our business right!
Daniel was correct, as usual, The Sun attracted people from all walks
of life, especially our audiences from the University and alternative
communities. Their regulars came from various social strata, but enjoyed
good entertainment, no matter what their origins were. They were already
used to theatrics, because the place presented frequent cabaret shows
featuring impersonations of Marilyn Monroe and other High Camp heroines.
The backbone of the tavern's business, besides the freedom of their
clientele being out openly with their peers, was the LOUD sound system,
and a stock of Soul Music that made everybody, of every sex, get up
and dance for hours on end (and refresh themselves at the bar). The
records I now recall the most included Rock the Boat, by The
Hues Corporation; Rock Your Baby by George McCrae; Kung
Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas, and Jungle Boogie by Kool
and the Gang -- Get Down! Get Down! This kind of scene would
soon be called Disco, and sweep the globe.
The Sun Tavern
evolved from the Porters and Waiters Club in a strip of railroad bars
next to the Union Pacific Depot. It was briefly renamed the Railroad
Exchange before radio talk show host Joe Redburn bought the place
and turned it into an openly gay dance club, pioneering the nascent
Disco scene in Salt Lake.
The Mime Troupe's first bar shows started by utilizing the company's
strength -- dancing. The band worked up a special introduction that
kicked into high gear after a few short measures, once the actors/dancers
made their entrances. It was obvious to even the most jaded barfly
that these people could MOVE. The characters and scenarios which tied
the dances together were incisive, funny, and yet refreshingly respectful
of humanity -- they were also brash and sexy, and the music was GOOD!
The flame of High Culture burned brightly in the industrial slums
of Salt Lake's rail yards among people who were looking for a good
time, which included us.
The ideal of "theater for the people" was a reality, but
so was the desperate side of night life -- RDT lost their great lead
dancer Manzell Senters to an accidental drug reaction in the bar scene.
It wasn't the fault of a particular place, or sub-culture either,
but there was inherent danger in promiscuous "partying"
which should have been obvious to us all.
Press Square (Right)
was a group of bars, shops, and
various businesses across the street from the Salt Palace sports arena.
The Mime Troupe eventually played several venues around this location,
including "Big Joe's," which wasn't owned or run by anybody
named Joe at all.
There once was a club named "Big Jim's" on West 2nd South
-- a man named Big Jim really owned it too, but that's part of a dark
sad story, since the bar was in the middle of Salt Lake's tawdry and
heartless red light district.
A couple of individuals, who shall remain nameless, tried to take
over the company at various times when they saw the quality of our
show, but nothing came from their efforts, which was good -- nothing
would have come from our efforts if the SLC Mime Troupe's name
had became the property of an egotistical flower salesman or unimaginative
-- wasn't that some sort of a building, or was it something we actually
St. Denis filled Kingsbury Hall, and proved that there was a significant
audience for Mime.
of Menagerie Mime Theatre from San Francisco visited us after
a concert at BYU in Provo.
leading Menagerie's workshop at the U of U in Salt Lake, sitting
next to Daniel.
David, Katie, Patsy, and Donlon listen to Francesconi. Anderson would
soon drift away from our scene.
Although the SLC Mime Troupe eventually proved that we could compete
with the vulgar noise of the urban/suburban street, it took a while
before we mounted our own return to the conventional stage. Daniel
enlisted the help of theatrical artists Ken and Barb White to assess
our technical needs, and set up lights at ski resorts, taverns, and
other places we wanted to play. Ken also trained me in the basics
of being a theater technician, and built an ingenious portable lighting
system which we used for a year.
For quiet theater stages, our dancers adopted the characters of children
playing gently -- a whole world developed from their easily-perceived
games. As the show went on, they brought in various combinations of
new material and scenarios from earlier shows, which had been expanded
over time, and refined by practice and integration with their stagemates.
An attentive audience in a darkened hall, with proper lighting, experienced
a greater range of dynamics and emotions than anything possible in
the human hubbub of night spots. However, we acquired a certain edge
from working in the latter places which was unobtainable by other
Instead of an established location, we took a chance on booking our
Spring Concert at a perfectly fine space in Salt Lake's so-called
Central City (see below). Our audience didn't follow us there, unfortunately
-- but we impressed over half a thousand strangers in Colorado about
five weeks later!
of development, we presented our first full-scale independent concert,
but in a venue unknown to the public. The show was first-rate, but
only few dozen people came.
work was not done in vain.
We scored our first out-of-state show at an Arts Festival in Steamboat
at the High School (left oval) and stayed at the Golf Course (right
says "Dance Concert," and that's what we did! The SLC Mime
Troupe was ALWAYS a dance company.
of Steamboat Springs, looking West, with the Golf Course in the foreground.
gut-checking run at Sumner School, Sparry grabbed a hold of me,
and took me out to the annual Art Department Picnic in Millcreek
Canyon, for one last get-together with our mutual friends at the
University. I was proud of what we'd been doing, and she was glad
to see me so involved with a project that pleased me so much (at
least most of the time). Sparry soon moved into a house on Capitol
Hill a very few blocks away from us.
One of the brightest highlights of our experience at the Hillside
Studio was a heavily-advertised week-long workshop that filled the
place up, and even made a little money (!) which came in handy after
Central City. One of the many participants was a handsome ex-Kindergarten
teacher from Seattle named George Kugler, who saw our brochure and
took a chance on trying a new experience. Everybody liked him, and
Katie was happy to have yet another tall man to coach.
Daniel showed George another flier for some event called The International
Mime Festival and Institute, to be held in LaCrosse, Wisconsin a
few months later. They claimed that Marcel Marceau, Bill Cosby,
and Dick Van Dyke were invited. There was an impressive list of
international performers attending -- as well as Mime's biggest
American star Bobby Shields. Daniel had spent his own money registering
Matt, David, Patsy, and Katie for the festival. George liked what
he'd been doing in Salt Lake, and signed right up. After a little
thought, I volunteered to drive Paul and Bud to LaCrosse, and see
what was going on. Stuart and Fred each found a way to get there
too. There was a short blurb about performance space for registerees,
plus it sounded like so much FUN!
( Continued in Part