The spectrum of joy and sadness is not a straight line, it’s more of a C shape with humor bridging the gap to complete the circle. Joe Goode’s work occupies that bridge. In Irresistibly Drawn, the Joe Goode Performance Group mined past work for pieces that incorporated song. The audience is brought into Joe’s Pub and shepherded through different stories by our trusty barkeep. When Goode tells of his group, “We major in sadness,” some even with PhD’s, you can feel the humor paving the way between joy and heartbreak.
The first character we see is the rambler, the classic cowboy associated with freedom. This fantasy is countered by the productive and responsible woman figure, who calls out the rambler as a gendered and white myth. The moment is charged, but also funny, as Goode is dressed up as that cowboy that she literally comes face to face with. It’s clear from the beginning that fantastical and serious issues are both fair game as topics to be explored and poked fun at.
When Holcombe Waller is welcomed to the stage, Joe’s remark on his “wit, pathos and beauty” could be easily applied to the entire evening. Waller is magnetic, bringing the audience with him through anecdotes as if you’re sitting next to him in a bar, chatting, before he breaks into layered song. His voice changing octaves with the same ease as the dances change tonalities.
Perhaps JGPG’s most immediate strength lies in their interdisciplinary approach, weaving dance, song, theater and storytelling. Those are strong tools, but it’s even more about what they are building with those tools: the bridge to close the loop between joy and sadness, the precarious but nourishing bridge of humor.
Megan Brian is the education and public programs coordinator at SFMOMA.