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California Tour -- Santa Barbara
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Theatrical Daze & Nights IIIc
Rainy Season on THE ROAD in Santa Barbara.

Summary of Part IIIb : The Great Salt Lake Mime Troupe played in Balboa Park every Sunday, many school shows, a private party or two, at least one bar, plus some recreation halls while we toured around San Diego. We also performed concerts at three colleges that rewarded us with full houses and a glowing review. We met pioneering musician/mime Don McLeod, and saw the Alwin Nikolais Dance Company. Road Angels Robbie and Karen let us share their homes.

"Hobart" the bus, on rainy Highway 101 heading for Santa Barbara County, carrying our theater company.

Mark Nelson had gone ahead of the company to Santa Barbara. David Zupan was with him, right after leaving the hospital. People said that the Mime Troupe could actually base themselves in San Diego if we stuck around, but we had other bookings further up the coast. Once we went north, however, the once-sunny weather turned rainy.

How Much Can One Poster Say When One Poster Can't Really Say Enough?

Our 'workhorse' poster for Santa Barbara etc -- I had drawn it for Aspen,
but we didn't use it until we got to Southern California. This is a prelminary draft
before the final version, which featured a sprinkling of musical notes among the juggling balls.

Santa Barbara, between the Coastal Mountains and Pacific Ocean

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art allowed us to put on street performances at the foot of their stairs.

City College of Santa Barbera hosted several outdoor shows, which brought many people to the theater.
Again, our company and show`were totally unknown to the community when we arrived in Santa Barbara, and we had to start the process of unpaid street shows and footpadding for publicity all over again. Mark had arranged performance space at the Santa Barbara Playhouse, but we were also sharing the place with a local children's theater production. Luckily the experienced staff were able to meet our mutual needs, with some effort, and I learned some additional skills which would come in handy down the road.

Once There Was A Theater:
The Santa Barbara Playhouse was set back rather far from the street at 124 West Carrillo. The front wasn't particulary fancy, but the proportions were elegant, and the style was classic Art Deco, California Style, with a dash or two of Spanish-like details.
The reception area was shallow, wide, but comfortable. There was a big, airy back-stage area, and a wide stage that thrust deep into the audience, with a curved front apron which was just above the eyes of the front row viewers.
The seating in the auditorium was broken up in various ways -- there was a side gallery, close-in chairs set along the arc of the stage, and an upper gallery which wasn't uncomfortably high at all. I recall a lot of railings though.
The lighting booth was comfortable, with a great view of the whole house. One day there was an electrical problem at the children's show, and I was solemnly told they had unplugged my lights. I just laughed -- I only used a few specials for the dances, and made do with the other company's set-up, We were back to normal in 3 minutes.

The Santa Barbara Playhouse was an elegant Art Deco building which has now been totally demolished for a commercial development.
The art museum of the University of California at Santa Barbara had a remarkable show on display:
Inside the Rocket Ship -- featuring the art of
Frank R. Paul, Science Fiction's first great illustrator.

We made some appearences on the streets of the Isla Vista neighborhood, next to U.C.S.B.
We first stayed outside of the main city near the University of California at Santa Barbara, in a colorful suburb of the town of Goleta called Isla Vista. A very nice lady named Joanna was our contact with the local Arts Scene, and she found some opportunities for us to perform street shows and conduct some classes, which helped Katie and George especially.
Although it was a fun place, Goleta turned out to be a bit too self-contained for our needs, since we needed customers in the theater we were renting -- an inconvenient distance away. We could put up posters in the small commercial center of the Isla Vista, but they were torn down on the University campus, since we weren't sponsored by any formal organization there.
We traveled back and forth to Santa Barbara in order to perform at the City College, which was a wonderful place to gather enthusiastic crowds -- the views of the beach were fantastic, the students there lived close to the Playhouse, and actually came to our shows! When we played our first concert, the City College students were there, but the audience was otherwise sparse. We needed to do even more work fill the seats, which was getting harder to do when we weren't getting paid to do it.

Katie and Matthew flew like birds during the Dance sequences. These moments of concentrated energy and purpose brought in many repeat customers, and impressed the critics.**

We knocked on every door, and revisited every venue that allowed us to play. We did at least one bad street show out of exhaustion, too -- not for the first or last time. There were other frustrations: I crafted a series of color banners which I had to take down again because they broke local signage rules; George convinced one of the local newspapers to send a reviewer, but the man was a petulant jerk who wrote about the lights being in his eyes -- which they weren't. There were these kinds of things and others, but I'm remembering too many negatives -- our efforts paid off in community-wide good will, and soon-to-be full houses, so we didn't go totally broke. We also won a glowing review in another newspaper (see below).
The best example of Santa Barbara's good spirit was Road Angel Margaret, who invited us to park the bus at her sprawling house right in Santa Barbara. She was a tall, dark-haired lady with a wide circle of friends.She loved Nina Simone, and I did too. Our band included the Jazz standard St. Thomas in their set after hearing recordings from the actual island of St. Thomas at Margaret's house. One of her many friends was a Latin bandleader named Pinche Pete. We met so many nice and helpful people just by going to see him. One of them sponsored a private engagement at the Playhouse after we completed our run there.

Modern Dance in 5/4 Time -- Motivation For Our Hard Work
Concerts by the Great Salt Lake Mime Troupe made transitions from character-driven comedy to poignant touch-and-go relationships as a prologue to our dances. (See Animation One to the left.)
Katie and Matthew acted out conflict, and then danced it, The pair worked out one soaring dance piece over a Jazz composition featuring Stuart on flute, John on piano, and the rest of the band playing a frantic 5/4 tempo.
The dancers took to the air, and audiences gasped when Katie and Matthew swung their limbs in counterpoint and unison while suspended in the air. They repeated the movement until the crowd, at least, was out of breath,
The dancers' feet hit the floor, and they expressed their emotions as they glided towards and away from each other. (See Animation Two below.)
The action went right to the ground towards the end, as their conflicts created a carousel of circular attraction and repulsion.
5/4 never got a real name besides its time signature, but everybody who saw it remembered the small, intense couple flinging themselves back and forth, forward and back, and up and down onstage.
Matt and Katie's grace brought tears to many eyes as this duel of dance technique and raw emotion unfolded before the stunned audiences,
The two dancers kept the competing energy going in a much sillier number afterwards, which brought the audience back to primordial clowning and white-faced buffoonery, but before they settled down, Katie would uncork another masterful Modern Dance and send everybody to new heights again.

Yet Another View from our Audience of the Great Salt Lake Mime Troupe:

February 14, 1975                            Theater                Santa Barbara News and Review

By Elizabeth Sutherland (Original article in PDF form)
The Great Salt Lake Mime Troupe, now performing at the Santa Barbara Playhouse, is without question one of the most purely entertaining and talented young theatre companies I've seen anywhere. It is exciting to see performers possessed of such an abundance of vitality: not only are they energetic, they are both individually and collectivelly unique. The group consists of 14 members, including the mimes, a fine ensemble of jazz musicians, and three supportive members (the manager, stage and lighting technician, and a fire eater). Although the group originates out of Salt Lake, they now call their yellow school bus home. By traveling through various states, they hope to secure the exposure and publicity which will lead to financial and artistic recognition. From my perceptions and the response of the audience, they should not have any difficulties reaching their goals.
The show began with some extraordinary sounds from the musicians, who remained situated on stage during the performance. I found myself becoming so absorbed with the music that I almost forgot there was more to come. The musicians, who met at the Westminster School of Jazz in Utah, helped to bring about a fine mixture of music and theatre. The actors came together at the University of Utah School of Modern Dance, and they are brilliant. Katie, Matthew, David and George combined dance, mime, vaudeville and circus acts to increase the awareness and perceptive pleasures of each member of the audience. Their exaggerated facial expressions and crisp fluent body movements are the essential -- each member exhibits attributes of a successful mime; totally distict personality and sensitivity. Katie, I felt, was particularly facinating.
Groups like this one need our support, and the best support we can give them at this point is to purchase a ticket for their show.They will have three final performances at the Santa Barbara Playhouse on Feb. 13, 14, and 15. While in town they are also giving demonstrations and teaching classes at UCSB. Tickets are on sale at the Playhouse at 124 W. Carrillo, 966-1061.

Cussing and Discussing -- A Short Break Before Los Angeles
I have avoided writing about our conflicts in the Great Salt Lake Mime Troupe, but anybody who knows about human nature can guess we experienced them, and they'd be correct.
Well, we had a serious discussion overlooking a beach to the west of Santa Barbara about what the group would do next. Los Angeles was on the agenda, but there weren't many bookings right then. "It's a big city, and it's just going to SUCK!" was one canny observation,
L.A.'s importance as a center of entertainment was pointed out by several others, and the goal of Europe reinforced the positive side of the debate. We agreed to split our forces -- Mark, George, David Carrillo, and Michael (me) would work on preparations in Los Angeles while the rest of the Troupe drove Hobart the Bus back to Salt Lake for three weeks. We would then re-convene in L.A. to see what kind of recognition we could achieve, and hopefully attract the attention of an agent to find us some more reliable work.
David, George, and Mark drove down to the city, and I took a Greyhound to meet my hosts there.

( Continued in Part IIId ...)

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Most photos and images are by the Author, digitally reinterpreted from personal memorabilia. **From a B&W photo developed and printed by Matt Child.
PDFs courtesy of Paul and Michelle Blackwell. Public Domain source material scanned from various sources,and digitally reworked by ME.
All Rights Reserved Michael R. Evans 2009  Email Me