Migrant Musings

This week began the sixth week we have been out on the road.  I have seen the great beauty that America has to offer and also the simple pleasures of small kindness.  I have also come to some conclusions about being an actor on the road and I have some random thoughts as well.  Blogging is fun, I write what I want.  No structure needed :p

The Beauty of America

America is such a diverse country in its landscape and cities.  This leg of the tour has allowed us to see some of the most famous places in the country.  We stopped off first in Santa Fe, NM, which while not be famous to some, the place pops up in many a musical song and is a personal favorite of mine.   The center square is filled with trinkets on colorful carpets.  I loved browsing these blankets thinking of what I could buy if I didn't choose to be a poor actor.  The architecture looks like it comes straight out of Mexico and I found myself lost in a labyrinth outside a church near the square.  I took a moment to take in the red that surrounded me and I could understand why Georgia O'Keeffe found so much of her inspiration here.  We then made our way to the Grand Canyon, which confirmed my fear of heights.  Standing at the precipice of the canyon, I could feel the pit of my stomach churning as I imagined the fall.  However, in this fear, there is a great sense of wonder and beauty.  I watched the sunrise over the canyon and as the sun rose, the light revealed the depth and colors.  The trail was marked so you could see exactly how many millions of years old the rocks I was sanding on were.  I was sad to leave the canyon after 24 hours but we were headed off to Las Vegas.  The juxtaposition of going from the natural beauty of the Grand Canyon to Las Vegas almost put my body into shock.  Everything in Vegas is bright, glittering yet with a twinge of sadness behind the colors.  Vegas was an experience, between running through every lobby to drinking and dancing the night away in a club at the Bellagio.  While I had fun in Vegas, I don't think I ever have a need to return unless it is to see Brittany Spears live.  We headed off to San Fransisco which may be one of my favorite places in the country.  There is plenty of beautiful hiking trails near the hilly city, with a national park only 20 minutes away.  Within the city, at Pier 39, there are wild sea lions that are right by the walkway.  I spent hours creating narratives for the sea lions, observing their behaviors, their relationships and their undeniable adorableness.  Walking the pier, playing old carnival games and drinking wine overlooking a beautiful sunset is a great way to be introduced to a city.      

Food

A lot of the planning on the road involves the next place we are going to eat.  We have a lot of different tastes in the cast which makes it difficult to find places on the road.  We have two vegetarians, one who doesn't like Asian food, one who likes everything, and I'm gluten free.  On the road, Subway has become a cast favorite.  Giving us the beautiful paradise of spinach on the road.  When have parked the van to stay the night or on our days off, google reviews have become our best friend.  This can be a blessing or a curse depending on some of the towns. When a place has 5 stars but only one person has voted can be like flipping a coin. I once got a fresh cut turkey salad and the server handed me a plate about 2 pounds of what tasted like two day old deli meat.  However, sometimes we come across some diamonds in the rough.  Sweet Potatoes, in Winston Salem, gave me the best cocktail and curry chicken salad of my life with a very cute waiter to boot.  Galveston Texas had amazing seafood gumbo.  Santa Fe had the best New Mexican food ever.  Colorado became a food heaven for me because the amount of gluten free options that exist in this beautiful state have me euphoric.  

Kindness 

Actors are simple people, we like to sleep in and be fed.  Since sleeping in is an impossibility for this trip, when we are fed it give us the greatest joy that can only be compared to getting your first puppy as a child.  Remarkably, getting fed by a theater is very few and far between.  Then there is Texas.  I did not know much about this state until visiting and I am happy to say that Texas Hospitality is a real and lovely thing.  We were fed in between shows at most of the theaters and they made us feel cared for and like stars.  There is also the kindness that I was shown personally on this tour by friends and family meeting me on the road.  On this trip I have met up with 10 different people who have offered me support, advice and friendship.  The fact that these people went out of their way to visit me and see my show touches my heart and reminds me of how lucky I am to have people in my life who care about me.  


The Travel
When on the road the days tend to run together and it becomes very hard to keep track of where we are coming from and going to.  ArtsPower does a really great job in planning out our schedule and every morning, we tumble out of bed into the van to our next destination.  Traveling in Galveston Texas was a personal highlight because it was the first time I had been on a Ferry.  We were all talking about how odd it was that google maps and our Garmin were so off on their arrival times when we got the end of the road and saw that the only way to get to Galveston was to get on a Ferry.  We drove onto the Ferry and were allowed to get out of the car and walk around.  The Ferry was followed by hundreds of seagulls because people were throwing bread up into the air for them.  Of course, not a few minutes later, I saw a woman get pooped on which was the coming of Armageddon.  Another Travel Highlight was passing through New Mexico and Arizona.  There is nothing like heading west on the prairie. .

Questions
At certain performances we have question and answer sessions.  Here are some of my favorites.

How old are you?
We have all graduated from college
Is that a real gun?
Nope
Why didn't you include the dog?
No room in the van.
Why don't you see the baby?
It's Fake
5.   Are you really blind?
      1.   No
6.   Do you all really kiss each other?
      1.   Yes, the kiss on the cheek is real.


Actor on the road

At this point in the tour, I have done the show so many times.  Laura Ingalls Wilder is a 55 minute show that moves quickly and is extremely emotional.  However, no matter how many times I do this show, I find that I am still being surprised by moments by focusing on the other actors.  It can become so easy for your brain to anticipate the next line, facial expression or to memorize another part.  These bad habits disappear with concentrated listening to your partner.  Even repeated facial expressions, lines and motions change every time when you take the time to stay in the moment.  I was originally struggling because halfway through the show I go blind.  I lose my ability to connect with the other actors via sight.  I felt unconnected, almost as if I had an emotional lag behind my partners on stage.  I began to focus on my hands and touch to ground me to the moment.  Feeling an actors hand and how they touch mine to understand how they are feeling, embracing the feeling of awkwardness because that is also a moment to utilize, and to truly listen.  Now this sounds easy writing it down but putting it into practice is extremely difficult and this show has brought out my weaknesses as an actor.  I feel like I am getting better every day and I know that my desire to push myself to be better every day contributes to that. 

Thanks for reading!
Becca 

Touring Life

As an actor, you find yourself thrown into the abyss of auditioning, callbacks and rejection. You can never plan your life out because you never know where you will be let alone where your career will take you.  I write this to you between performances at a high school in South Carolina.  Little did I think a year ago I would be back in high school in South  Carolina no less, but here I am.  I decided to blog the experience of being a performer on the road as a means for my family and loved ones to know that I'm not dead and for performers who want to get a taste of touring life.  

Booking the Job, The Rehearsal Process and Moving to NYC

In my bedroom contemplating my life and my choices (an actors favorite pastime), my phone rang.  ArtsPower, the national children's touring company, was on the other line.  They had called to offer me a job!! Given the multiple auditions that I had gone on the past year I emphatically accepted.  In the next week, I was to meet the director, writer, cast and SM who I would be spending the next 3 months of my life with.  I took the megabus, a three hour trip with a disgusting smelling toilet, to NYC for my contract signing.  I arrived to a table filled with my cast members and we signed the contracts, barely talking before we rushed out the door to go over our scripts for the next month before rehearsals.  I became consumed with my script.  Little House on the Prairie is filled to the brim with work for an actor.  I had to research life on the prairie, how to be blind onstage and many other things that took over my time.  I had the help of a devoted boyfriend to help me be off book for the first rehearsal.  With a kiss and some tears (from me) I took off to NYC.  Moving in to park slope with an artist and a lawyer.  Navigating the city turned out to be quite fun and when the rehearsal day was done I was so tired I barely did anything else but eat and sleep.  There were 10 Days of rehearsal but everyone in the cast knew their stuff the first day and many days we went home early.  Rehearsals were long 9-5 with an hour lunch break, but fulfilling.  The director, Andy, was very open to ideas from the cast and within no time we were finding our groove with the show and each other.  

The Cast

Laura-  Kelly-  The half pint from Massachusetts, the organizer and glue that holds the show together.
Pa-Matt-  The lone male in the cast with the slight southern accent and king of heavy van lifting
Ma-Micala-  Our beautiful ballerina with the easy laugh and character goddess.
SM-Martha-  Our fearless leader with ever present calm and cool.
Mary-ME!  The post pageant princess with dreams of performing.

The Van

Now that you've been introduced to the cast of characters, the most important one I have left for last.  The Van.  We travel in a white van to every show, meal, and extracurricular activity and mischief.  The van has yet to be named but it has become our home, our refuge and our prison on long driving days.   Some days we can travel over 500 miles in this van but thankfully the agreed two and a half potty/get me out of here break allows us to remain sane.  The van is filled with snacks and drinks given to us by generous theaters or purchased at the many truck stops we visit.  The entirety of our current lives are contained within the walls of the van.  In the back of the truck lies the entire set which slightly squeaks as we ride to remind us that it's still there.  Our suitcases thrown in the back to complete the packing of the van as we travel across the country. 


The Places

We go to many places on the tour and some are very boring outside of the performances so I will focus on the exciting and fun stories.   In Mineral Wells, WV, a sleepy town with not much to do, we stumbled upon heaven.  A Lebanese restaurant that had the best hummus and chicken we've ever eaten.  The owner took a liking to us and gave us free hummus and dessert.  There is nothing that actors love more on the road than free food and it made us go back to the same place twice in that little town.  Nashville. Nashville. Nashville.  While we did not have a performance in this great place, we took a well deserved day off going to bars, eating fried pickles and listening to music.  All of us on tour have different personalities, likes and dislikes but everyone loved Nashville. Madison, GA was a personal favorite of mine because the show took place in a museum and after the show a little girl begged to meet Mary.  I went out to meet the girl out of costume but she was not to be fooled and demanded that she meet the real Mary.  I of course went back in and changed into costume for a picture.  Mary was always my favorite so it was awesome seeing a 4 year old have the same reaction.  


  The Craft

Now for the serious part of the blog, Laura Ingalls Wilder is the first show I have ever been on tour with and it has become such a great teacher.  Every show becomes its own animal with new stages, challenges and feelings.  Every stage we move to has different dimensions which means that you can never get into a routine and I must be vigilant when it comes to making adjustments.  In one scene,  I am placed in a giant sack and tied inside.  I am supposed to not be able to see or move gracefully.  Before each show I must plan my route out in advance because if I run into the set pieces I can endanger the other actors or myself.  There is also the obstacle of the early call time.  This morning we were called to the van at 6:10am.  Then we have to unload the set, warm up and get dressed all in time for the show at 9am.  This is much harder to adjust to because I am not a morning person so I have to prepare for my part while performing my responsibilities.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to do your emotional homework before you begin performing.  There is no room for error.  However, on the road I have found that you never stop working.  There was one show in the beginning of the run where I felt like I phoned in the performance and it felt horrible.  I could not be moved by anything and I couldn't figure out why.  I went back to the hotel room that night and rediscovered what moved me.  More emotional homework.  The next show I was moved.  As and actor, you must continuously work on yourself and your craft even when you are hired.  I was surprised at how quickly I forgot that important truth. 


That's it for this blog post.  I don't know when the next one will come out but it will be whenever the spirit moves me. Thanks for reading!!

<3 Becca