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Reflections on Street Legal Theatre
Theater X-net
This Thursday night -- as with every Thursday night -- George and his fellow Street Legal Theatre performers will once again lace up their stilts, pull on their floppy hats and costumes, and wade into the crowd at the Gallivan Center ... They'll quickly draw a throng of wide-eyed children and smiling parents. And like the Thursday night before, they're just as likely to be quickly surrounded by police and thrown out. Read the article by Tom Price

My introduction to Street Legal Theatre was actually at a yard sale. I lived on Capitol Hill in Salt Lake City. There is a canyon there with traffic restrictions which makes a perfect route for exercising. I was warming up for a short jog as I passed the house of my neighbor Tamara Cobus. She sewed for a living, and had an amazing variety of clothing for sale. I stopped dead in my tracks at the sight of one of her visitors. She wore a transparent pink plastic coat with white polka-dots painted on the surface, and was "vogueing" up and down the sidewalk. She wore big cat-eye glasses and had bright red hair. She also sported a beaming smile, and a talent for making every gesture hilariously big and bold. She changed hats frequently, but the funniest was a black plush pillbox that looked like a short Kossak cap. She would go inside Tamara's house and change, then emerge on the porch and continue along the front walk and around the corner like she was on a fashion model's catwalk.
I made my run around the canyon, and when I was jogging back the show was still going on. The exuberant lady was wearing the black hat and pink polka-dotted outfit again, putting on a mincing, posing walk that literally stopped traffic.

Amber Merriwhether, as sketched by Michael Evans on Capitol Hill in Salt Lake City 1999. Copies of the final printed drawing are owned by Tamara Cobus and Amber, but I only have this rough sketch left -- digitally enhanced in 2006.

I lingered for a moment to laugh, and then made a couple of drawings when I got home to record my impression of what I had seen.

Amber Merriwhether, Street Legal's Hula Hoop Queen at the re-opening of Club Axis after the first major tornado in Salt Lake's history.*
Read the original article, minus this photo, HERE

A week or two afterward I found myself driving some young friends of mine to a dance club located near the railroad yards. There was a special outdoor show going on, and I was thoghroughly enjoying the warm summer night as the music played, people danced, and costumed characters roamed around on stilts. As designated driver, I only drank water. When it was my turn to buy the drinks, I went inside and waited in line.
There were a lot of interesting people in Club Axis that night, but the person who caught MY attention the most was Amber Merriwhether, one of the bartenders. (I read her name tag.) She was the lady who had done the impromptu fashion show on Capitol Hill.
I was smiling broadly when I stepped up, gave her my order, and reminded her of Tamara's yard sale. She was intrigued when I said I had a drawing for her, so we exchanged phone numbers.
After "Last Call," she came out from behind the bar and performed some tricks of her own -- spinning hula hoops for departing customers.
I gave her a call, and we agreed to meet at my favorite espesso shop, the Coffee Garden. She wisely brought a male friend along named Crispin, but once she saw the drawing we all relaxed and got to know one another. "Crispy" had been one of the costumed stilt-walkers at Club Axis. We had a lot in common. They told me about Street Legal Theatre and the outrageous stunts they did to express themselves.
Fire, stilts, satire, and sexual taboos were the company's stock in trade. Street Legal Theatre's various cast focused a significant portion of their resources and energy on the annual Burning Man festival in the Black Rock desert north of Reno, Nevada. They pulled a spectacle together, and packed off to the 100-plus degree high country every year during Labor day weekend. Water and sunscreen were particularly important items.

Reflections on the Burning Man Festival (Pending)

I met most of the Street Legal regulars at Salt Lake's un-conventional Kilby Court where they'd shown up in costume to experience the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus from New York, who were working their way back from Burning Man. The Bindlestiffs' show, with Sxip, Rocket Johnny, and Vincent Lords was a TRIP -- and merits a whole section of it's own:

Reflections on the Bindlestiff
Family Cirkus (Pending)

I was invited to the after-party at "China Bleu," Street Legal's communal HQ, where I spoke at length with Bub Farrell, another leader of the group, who described some more exploits of he and his theater-mates. Bub was my age, and I was pleased to witness the ideals of the 60's "out there," in every sense of the phrase, thirty years later.
It was an international party -- Rocket Johnny was from Canada, and had worked for Cirque de Soliel. Traija was from New Zealand, but came to Utah after Burning Man. I was surprised to find out she had contacts in Amsterdam, Holland -- especially with the ritualistic, processional Dog Troep collective. Tarija knew about Jango Edwards and Friends Roadshow. "Old school," she exclaimed, and I had to laugh.

Amber is ready to take it to the stage in the very funky industrial environs of Kilby Court.
I saw Street Legal Theatre do a more or less formal show at Kilby Court, climaxing the multi-media Mesh extravaganza, streamed live over the Internet. They were not the only Avant Garde representitives there:
Reflections on Alex Caldiero

Sex, Consumerism, TV, and Theology all took their blows. Tarija's teaching had improved the whole company's circus skills. The piece de resistance was a beautifully choreographed group fire-dance on stilts in the darkness.
(Left) Street Legal Theatre delights in playing with fire.
Tarija (Right, the tall one) greets her friend before she ascends her stilts.

All digital photos and graphic images by Michael
R. Evans, except * which is a colorized scan of a newspaper page personally autographed by Amber Merriwhether for the author. *Original photograper: Angela Brown