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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!