Annie Goodale bikes to Sturgis every summer on a hog donated by her homies from New York. She's a former accountant who now helps breed mice for research types at Scripps. She's never had a TV. She wraps her beer bottles in napkins, which eventually get saturated anyhow, so what's the point? And she has a totally adorable shirt that says “Wild Parrot Players” on it.
And she totally promised me one of my own. And I totally aim to collect.
It's easy to figure how Goodale, from central Washington state, landed in Ocean Beach 25 years ago. Like Goodale, O.B. is a model of get-your-hands-dirty eclecticism—quirky, worldly, free-spirited and unutterably comfortable in its rough-and-tumble skin. That's to say the place is an ideal breeding ground for live performance. In fact, with Goodale's help, the enclave may be poising for a stab at theatrical success—its second.
The Vagabond Theatre Project of Ocean Beach is mounting its inaugural effort, a staged reading of Eugene O'Neill's
The Iceman Cometh, at Cheswick's West tavern, with acts 1 and 2 on Sunday, June 21, and the remaining two installments the following night. Vagabond founder and local legend Antonio “TJ” Johnson said the group's aim is to “find the best of us in all of us” through the arts, adding that its plans include street theater, acting lessons and youth outreach.
The setting is tailor-made for this piece, about a collection of bar patrons whose hooks on alcohol soundly trump their most noble dreams. The actors will recite from the tavern areas proper.
Johnson calls Goodale “the real workhorse in this deal”—not bad for somebody who knows zilch about theater history and sounds like a foghorn when she cues actors in her work as stage manager. At 49, the frequent prop master is also a late bloomer in theater, normally a lifelong pursuit. All wide-eyed and gee-whiz, she fell for the art at 40, when its “absolutely magical” ways cast a spell over Ocean Beach, if only momentarily. After selling out a four-show program during the 2001-02 season, Wild Parrot (of which Goodale was treasurer) seemed to be on its way.
“We needed a business base,” Goodale explained, “and we didn't have it. To pull off an endeavor like this, you have to have a year to map things out, to get your nonprofit status, to establish bank accounts, to learn where the money is. “It just didn't happen. We didn't take things a step at a time.”
The difference here is that O.B. theater has a past, which means Vagabond has a chance to learn from past obstacles. And fund-raising? O.B.'s a creative old hand at that stuff—its famed chili cook-off raises money for its magnificent Fourth of July fireworks display, and on and on.
Meanwhile, Goodale has collected a franchise worth of costumes, props and furniture over the years. She also cuts to the chase about her take on the theater's mission, and she articulates it with an abandon as childlike as it is compelling.
“So many companies,” she said, “think they have to have a message. The plays never seem to be about [the situational] experience or about good acting or just the aliveness of theater itself—they all have to be about God or women or gays or blacks or some other cause.
“Me,” she declared, “I just want to have fun. I. Want. To have. Fun.”
Iceman is hardly fun, but it certainly is situational. It's also one of the greatest plays in the history of the universe. Beyond that, the fun will take care of itself.
Remember: A step at a time.The Iceman Cometh runs June 21 and 22 at Cheswick's West, 5038 1⁄2 Newport Ave. in Ocean Beach. $15 suggested donation; reservations required. 619-225-0733. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.