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.
the article by Tom Price
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
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.
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.
Merriwhether, Street Legal's Hula Hoop Queen at the re-opening
of Club Axis after the first major tornado in Salt Lake's history.*
the original article, minus this photo, HERE
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
is ready to take it to the stage in the very funky industrial environs
of Kilby Court.
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:
Street Legal Theatre delights in playing with fire.
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.
Tarija (Right, the tall one) greets her friend before she ascends
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: