Daze & Nights IIIc
Rainy Season on THE ROAD in Santa Barbara.
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.
the bus, on rainy Highway 101 heading for Santa Barbara County, carrying
our theater company.
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.
Much Can One Poster Say When One Poster Can't Really Say Enough?
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.
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.
of Santa Barbera hosted several outdoor shows, which brought many
people to the theater.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
The dancers' feet hit the floor, and they expressed their emotions
as they glided towards and away from each other. (See Animation Two
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
Another View from our Audience of the Great Salt Lake Mime Troupe:
Barbara News and Review
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
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
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