The clowning and comedy duo Coventry & Kaluza were the first participants in the "Keep on Truckin'" series in early April.
The clowning and comedy duo Coventry & Kaluza were the first participants in the “Keep on Truckin’” series in early April.
(Courtesy Tandy Beal & Co.)
City Life

The Joy Truck Club: Tandy Beal leads caravan of free performance art to Santa Cruz’s neighborhood parks

As part of Tandy Beal’s new Keep On Truckin’ program, every weekend through mid-June a highly accomplished professional artist will entertain audiences for free in a neighborhood park near you. So how do you follow along? Read below.

Tandy Beal wants all of us to know two things: A new day is coming as this maddening pandemic ebbs, and performing artists are going to lead the way to that new day.

Beal, the luminous dancer/choreographer and guiding light behind the Santa Cruz-based Tandy Beal & Co., has called in many of her staggering roster of friends in the performing arts for a uniquely community-friendly project called Keep On Truckin’.

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If you were around the early 1970s, you might remember the catch phrase on T-shirts and bumper stickers. In Beal’s part, the phrase is meant literally.

On weekends, for the next couple of months, Beal and her production collaborator Rebecca Blair will be bringing a 16-foot rented truck to a series of neighborhood parks throughout Santa Cruz.

Once parked, a professional performing artist will put on a quickie show on the back of that truck for whomever happens to be around.

Then, just as quickly as they showed up, they’ll be off again to the next park.

“We’re going to have about 20 different artists who are coming out to do this, both from the Bay Area and from here in Santa Cruz County,” said Beal. “What’s been cool is that not only are the artists thrilled to have a live audience and a paycheck again, but also people have come up to me and said, ‘Oh my God, I feel like we’re a community again.’”

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Beal and her collaborators tried something similar last fall in the teeth of the pandemic as a kind of “pilot program.” They decided to do it again for the spring 2021. The Keep On Truckin’ series began last weekend, April 3, with the Bay Area-based clowning/comedy duo Coventry & Kaluza.

Tandy Beal & Co. has been one of Santa Cruz County’s most visible and most popular signature performing-arts companies for more than 45 years. Over the years, Beal has expanded her modern-dance sensibilities to embrace acrobatics and circus arts, turning the traditional Christmas-classic “Nutcracker” into a uniquely circus-centric extravaganza called “Mixed Nutz.”

She’s also produced the holiday-themed show “Joy!” with Cirque du Soleil vets Jeff Raz and Diane Wasnak, and has collaborated widely with the celebrated Bay Area a cappella group SoVoSo.

Keep On Truckin’, Beal said, harkens back to her dance troupe’s early years in the 1970s when she and her dancers aspired to creating a Chautauqua-style traveling troupe of performers, bouncing around for impromptu performances from town to town. “Just as we went from town to town, in this case, we’re moving into one neighborhood after another.”

Beal said she and her performers will observe the proper pandemic protocols, will insist on masks (though the performers while on stage won’t be masked because they’ll be working solo or with someone in their “pod” or “germ circle.”)

The performers are not volunteering, but are being compensated for their time. Many could and often do command considerable ticket prices for their performances. But this program is free for audiences.

“I keep telling (the performers), ‘Y’know, we could have two people (in the audience) or we could have 40 people,” said Beal.

The program is being funded by donations from Rowland and Pat Rebele, Carolyn Hyatt, Jennifer Spinach, and a bequest from the late Roberta Bristol, along with foundation grants from . “These people have been supporters of our work from the beginning, and their belief gives me belief,” said Beal.

For even more information on Keep On Truckin’, go to Tandy Beal & Co.’s website.