Once we were all actually seated in K-State’s McCain Auditorium, the “dance theater” production “The Rambler” went along easily enough. It was the getting there that was the adventure.
The company, Joe Goode Performance Group out of San Francisco, apparently left their home airport on Wednesday. There was a storm on the Plains on that day and the next. While those of us in Manhattan saw less than half of the predicted snow, the storm itself, or schedulers’ odd faith in weather predictions, caused travel delays. Goode told the local audience that he arrived in town late Friday night.
The company’s performance had been scheduled for Friday evening. I was dressed for the theater and eating at the Hibachi Hut when I saw the notice in the Friday Mercury that the show had been postponed twenty-four hours. I called for my check, went home to change my clothes, and drove out to see a horror movie.
The league-leading K-State men’s basketball team began their Saturday evening game at Texas with a strong surge. I clicked off the radio, walked up the hill, and found my seat in the most pleasing of auditoriums. The ushers warned me that there would be no intermission, no matter what the program said. From then on, though I did have to check my curiosity about the on-going game, my aesthetic life was a lot less stressful.
The Group’s technical specialists and the McCain staff had their cues and techniques down cold, including a certain amount of moving various shaped openings in a curtain half-way up the stage, the use of split—apparently radiant—light thrown on manufactured smoke, and the miking of the performers.
And the on-stage talent was certainly ready. They are dancers. Dancers who sing and talk, but dancers first. Goode was the show’s master of ceremonies and also appeared in one of the many brief and nearly self-contained scenes during the performance, wearing his cowboy hat and giving us his own poetry from memory. But he was also the company’s choreographer.
Their characteristic movements were fairly upright, including lots of long gesturing and leaning, with dancers of the eight member cast performing independently, in series, book-matched, and in unison—usually at least a couple of these schemes was used in each scene. The movements were decidedly Modern, and the proof that the dancers were in top shape was that they spoke while performing without gasping.
In his introduction, Goode told us that critics of the company had often complained that the dancers shouldn’t speak. I think we are used to dancers speaking—in musicals, for example. And Goode’s dancers also sang, performing brief songs by Tillie Olsen’s grandson Jesse Olsen Bay, who apparently writes on an acoustic guitar—the accompaniment for the show was pre-recorded.
It may be that the remarks Goode had heard were about the quality of the words the dancers spoke. They were more abstract and generalized than audiences might like. The show’s weakness was its lack of concern with some of the basics of good writing, including structural development. I’m not certain “The Rambler” seemed to build to a climax.
Nevertheless, the show was fresh and easy to like. The dancers were very good dancers and fair singers, and Goode was a nice avuncular stage personality—who brought a dog to the stage for the curtain calls. I can remember Ronnie Mahler using a dog in a big dance production on the same stage a couple of eons ago.
Too bad circumstances caused the Joe Goode Performance Group’s trip to Manhattan to seem as if it took another eon. But those of us who could make the postponed performance enjoyed it. And the Cats won in Austin. How did they get down there, given all the snow?