Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Ready for Turkey Time

We had one more week of one-nighters before our Thanksgiving break! Needless to say, we were all pretty antsy and anxious to see family, friends, and get a break from doing the show and traveling. To cap off our week in Austin we had a 5 show weekend right into shows on Monday and Tuesday. Our day off for the week wasn’t until Wednesday, so we ended up doing 11 shows in 8 days. Those first two shows were in College Station, TX, home of Texas A&M. We pulled in the first day and just had time to run to the Applebees across the street for dinner and headed to the show. The next 24 hours included 2 more meals at Applebees, spending a portion of my Best Buy gift card, and a game of shuffleboard on a terrible board. Thrilling.

Off to Pearl, MS, which was just a stopover in our travel, but it meant a night off. We bided our time with dinner at Ruby Tuesday’s and catching up on the Sing-Off. One thing that was funny was that we quickly realized another tour was staying right by us and a lot of us had friends there that we were able to catch up with! What a small world! Our experience at Ruby Tuesday’s that night was also a bit of a mess. Quite often we have found that people are thrown off when 50 of us come in, all with ID’s from different states, all traveling together… it is understandably confusing. However, this restaurant refused to take a NY state ID that was valid! We quickly pulled together more NY id’s to clear up the situation, but the manager was very confused by our teaming up from tables all over the restaurant. Ha ha! Oxford, MS was a nice stop just because we really got a taste of the South. Pretty girls wandered around the immaculate main town square and there were plenty of shops to peruse. The show was in a really nice concert hall on Ole Miss’s campus. We went out for my roommate, Jake’s, birthday that night and enjoyed Square Pizza afterward, a great late-night snack.

The next day we had a show in Baton Rouge. It was a little bit of a tricky theatre backstage, but all went smoothly. I was able to get a small taste of Louisiana (enough to get me excited for New Orleans) with some red beans and rice for dinner. The following morning we hit the ground running, traveling again to Galveston, TX. We were all THRILLED when we pulled up to our hotel that sat right on the beach. It was GREAT to get a nice walk on the beach, an automatically calming and rejuvenating environment. The show was in a really pretty Opera House that was pretty tight for our show, but very charming and we played a PACKED house that night.

Our last 2 shows of the week were in Orange, TX. It was a really long, but rewarding day. We had to wake up and travel to Orange on the bus, heading straight to the theatre and into sound check. Our first show was complete and we had dinner provided for us. Little did we know that it was going to be a Thanksgiving FEAST! With 50+ people in our company it’s not exactly easy to feed all of us, but we all ate to our heart’s content and were filled with good ole Southern goodness! This certainly got us ready for the last show, which was one of our best! It included an intermission dance party thrown by the kids’ dressing room and subsequent celebration as we went to the hotel to pack up and head to our families for the holiday!

Heading back to tour now, refreshed and ready for 3 weeks of hard work before Christmas!


Monday, November 28, 2011

Finishing up Before Thanksgiving!

A long weekend in Colorado is always welcome to me. I have quickly learned that I love the mentality of the people in this part of the country and there tends to be great food. We were in a really nice little theatre in Fort Collins and I had gotten some great recommendations from my friend, Maddie, so we were set to go! We enjoyed going on the main strip right in town and found some great spots there. After Mongolian grill for lunch, we did two shows and I had dinner with Katie’s family at Austin’s, a really fantastic bistro. For dessert I had to take up Maddie’s tip for dark chocolate crème brulee at the Chocolate Café. Oh. My. Heavens. I don’t even know what to say. We also loved the bread pudding and tomato soup there.

That night we went out to a couple bars, which was particularly fun because Colorado State University is in town and we had fun mingling with all the students. Ha ha! Our hotel was a little ways out of town so we figured we would just take a cab back, but thankfully we made friends with a guy named Bill who volunteered to drive us in his pickup truck. 6 of us piled in and made the trek, but it was pretty funny to see all of us piled among his fly-fishing gear and everything!

The next morning a group of us guys walked in to get breakfast at the well-known spot, Snooze. We had heard that there would be a long wait, but that it would be worth it, so we went ahead and put our names in and got coffee for the hour-long wait. Thank goodness we did! Our brunch was just over-the-top. The servers and hostesses were so great and our food was out of this world. At the table we ended up having pineapple upside down pancakes, red velvet pancakes, sweet potato pancakes, plus eggs, bacon, corned beef hash… it never seemed to end! That just made my Sunday and my time in Ft. Collins. We went to Chocolate Café for dinner that night and ended our time back at the hotel playing Celebrity. What a crazy couple of days in Colorado. It was great to just gorge over those two days. Little did I know what Austin would hold! Oh gracious.

I have heard for a couple years how great Austin is and I was excited to discover it for myself! Our hotel was outside of town, so a few of us decided to chip in and share in renting a car for a few days to have the freedom to get around town as we pleased. We got in early on Monday and hit the ground running! First we had dinner at Trudy’s, an Austin Tex-Mex staple. From Mexican Martinis to stuffed avocados, we weren’t disappointed in our castmate, Ben’s recommendation! From there we decided to explore 6th street a bit. 6th street is the Austin equivalent to New Orleans’ Bourbon Street. Lined with bars and live music, we had a fun time trying to find the best spot. We heard some fun music and even ended up riding a mechanical bull! Getting into the Texas spirit was proving to be easy for our group, for sure! We ended up finding a fun spot called Buffalo Billiards where we played table shuffleboard for a bit. The night ended at Mozarts, a charming spot right on some water that was open late for coffee and locally made ice cream. There was even a fun Christmas light show set to music that capped off our night! All in one night we had fallen in LOVE with this city.

The next day a group of us went to the shooting range. It was a really fun time just having shooting competitions and trying out different guns. We all had a great time and ended up meeting some really nice people along the way. That afternoon I had Rudy’s BBQ. Ben actually used to work there and gave us the inside scoop on what meats to order, sauces to use, etc. Nothing like a great BBQ meal outside under the sun to get you ready for a show! We performed for the week at the Bass Concert Hall on the University of Texas campus. It was a big theatre and reminded me a lot of Whitney Hall in Louisville. The audiences were just so generous to us the entire week, having so much fun and enjoying the show out loud! That night an opening night party was thrown for us at a local spot and we headed back to Buffalo Billiards for another round of shuffleboard. We quickly realized our addiction to the game and a competitive spirit was born around the shuffleboard table among our cast. Ha ha!

Wednesday was our last full day with the car so we all piled in and headed to South Congress, a quirky street lined with vintage stores, great restaurants, local flavor and fashions. Austin is known for its food trucks, a trend that is growing in cities. Not just your typical street meat, these carts are parked in pods and groups ALL OVER the city and serve gourmet quality food. Everything from cupcakes to bbq to Thai… you can find ANYTHING. We explored those and then started filling our bellies. We had Home Slice pizza, Sugar Mama’s Cupcakes, and tacos at Polvos Mexican all in a matter of a couple hours! Oh my heavens!!! That kept our tummies full while we shopped at some fun vintage stores and a great men’s store called Stag. We also went to Barton Springs Pool, a really unique watering whole right in Austin where a spring has been controlled and used as a big public swimming hole. That night after the show a group of us went to play shuffleboard and I ate an incredible burger at Casino el Camino, a dive bar that was famous for its burgers, featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.”

The next day we knew we had to really take advantage of the last few hours of car access so we drove all the way out to Ben’s house and to the famous Salt Lick BBQ. On the drive there I dreamt out loud of tons of meat just smoking over a huge pit and I was NOT disappointed! I had a plate of brisket, ribs, and sausage, but was quickly upgraded to the all-you-can-eat plate so I could enjoy more and more! I won’t even discuss the blackberry cobbler for dessert. All of it was just OUT OF CONTROL! We had some understudy rehearsals that day that were really encouraging and I felt great to have gotten pretty much the whole show as Cable under my belt.

The weekend was exciting because our Nellie understudy, Rachel, went on for the first time! It was so exciting to see her hard work paying off for the crowds in Austin and all of us were just super pumped, watching and cheering on her every move from the wings. We decided to make Friday night a big night out to experience Austin’s 6th street in full force. The bus dropped us off and we walked around a bit to find somewhere we could dance and we ended up at some bar that we ended up referring to as Bali Hai! Ha! It was SO FUN. There was a loose jungle or African theme, but we basically went upstairs to the glass dance floor where a hip DJ was playing GREAT music and mixing it up for us all to dance the night away. At one point, though we all looked up and realized that there was no roof! The dance floor was open to elements and we danced away underneath a full moon and with giant elephant tusks forming a sort of canopy over us. It was so fantastic! We headed to another dingier place afterwards in a basement where we had a funny encounter with some smokers in the bathroom…. Sheldon…. The night was capped off getting late-night food from a food truck and heading home, having conquered 6th street and marked our territory!

The weekend finished up smoothly. I had my last brilliant meal from Hut’s burgers and on Sunday night we celebrated Rachel’s run as Nellie by going out. First, though, I had a surprise up my sleeve. I heard about a place called Tiff’s Treats in Austin that delivered hot cookies by order. At the start of our last show in Austin I put in an order for 2 dozen assorted cookies to be delivered to the stage door at the end of the show. Just as planned, they arrived and were warm and WONDERFUL for a treat to celebrate our AMAZING run in Austin. (My dressing roommates were pretty psyched, too.)

Wow! Hope your mouth is watering by now. Thanks, Austin, for probably my favorite week on tour! Can’t wait to return!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

One Night Only

Milwaukee left us one person short, unfortunately. Jenny Piersol, our precious “Bessie Mae,” slipped in a rehearsal and actually broke her foot! We were all just so upset about her leaving, but the show must go on and though our hearts were with her, we kept on and our swing, Angela, really stepped up to the plate! We had quite the travel to get us to our next show in Grand Forks, ND! We spent one day traveling as far as Minneapolis where we stopped at the Mall of America for the night! It was really fun to explore the mall and we even took the time to ride some pretty great rollercoasters in the mall! Ha ha!

Grand Forks, ND sits right on the border of MN so me and my roommate took the time to walk over the river to say we walked to Minnesota. Ha! The night flew by. These one-nighters are so hard to keep up with because they just fly by so fast! Thankfully, our crew does an incredibly good job of keeping the show running really well, which makes all the shows blend together at times. From Grand Forks we went to Bismarck, ND. On our way to Bismarck we stopped in a mall and I saw a friend I went to college with at NKU. This world is just so small. I say it all the time, but I continue to be astonished by how much we are really all living so closely. To think that we both just happened to be in BISMARCK at the same mall, at the same food court, at the same time of day?! It blows my mind. Anyway- it was great seeing him.

That night we had our one and only night performing in an ARENA. Yup- that’s right. I don’t hardly know how to describe it to you. Basically they sat up a bunch of chairs on the ground floor with a temporary stage set up facing half the auditorium. There are big drapes hanging to cover our “backstage” and we have some other obstacles. First, the sheer size of the building becomes quite interesting. Any sort of quick crossover to get from one side of the stage to the other all of a sudden becomes a long sprint to make your entrance! The biggest difference in an arena show, though, is that we have no flys. That means that anything that is flown in from above is cut from the show. It is pretty interesting, but really becomes a sort of acting exercise to tell this story with our limited resources. I was surprised to see the audience PACKED in Bismarck and you never would have known the show was missing any of our regular set by the way the audience was eating up the show. It was a really fun night and kept us on our toes, for sure! Nights like that make me appreciate non-equity touring experiences and taking these shows to smaller markets like that. Bismarck needed to see this show and have a really great night at the theatre as much as Boston did. The audience was so excellent and we were so happy to be there.

Our next shows weren’t for a couple days in Ft. Collins, but that long travel included a stopover in Rapid City, SD. I was pumped to make it there, though, because Rapid City is home of Mt. Rushmore! We took a full busload of us up to see the monument for a few minutes. It was pretty incredible to think of the people who climbed around those hills and thought, “I know what we’ll do!” Ha ha ha! To have the thought of carving these faces into that mountain is just ridiculous, but it did just what they wanted, bringing tourism to their area. It was definitely a bucket list item marked off and we had a nice relaxing night enjoying a great meal at Firehouse Brewery and playing celebrity.

We didn’t know what to expect from the Dakotas, but what a treat it was! Some crazy country that reminds you of just how much land there is in the world. Just… open space.

Anyway- on to Colorado and Texas!


Monday, November 14, 2011

"Once I visited my cousin..." in MILWAUKEE, U.S.A!

We spent Halloween weekend in Milwaukee, which I wasn’t particularly excited about, just not knowing what to expect. I was glad to be staying in a Hampton Inn (the best beds) and be in one city for 3 days. We arrived to the large theatre and were really able to spread out with our full show and in a fairly large city for the weekend. Unfortunately our booking was a little strange and we didn’t have the best crowds, which we have been spoiled with up until now. It was fine and we still did a great show every night, but wished we were sharing it with more people. Milwaukee was a really fun town, though. I didn’t know much about it, but it was nice to explore and get to know this city.

Our first night in Milwaukee we went to a really cool bar called Safehouse. We had heard from lots of friends that we just had to get over there. It is in the theme of a secret agent/speakeasy sort of deal. We had to find out where the entrance was (an unmarked door down an alley) and then a few of us learned of the password to enter. We arrived at the door and a couple girls greeted us and said we may enter if we knew the password. Those of us who did headed in through a secret door behind a fireplace and down a mirrored hallway into a unique, quirky space. From there we got to watch as our friends struggled to get in. They had cameras for us to watch as they had to complete acts to enter the bar. Some had to act like penguins, others did full runway walks with boas, etc. It was a riot. The place was very cool with all sorts of little nooks and crannies, unique drinks, secret passages, and puzzles to get you into that secret agent mode!

Saturday was a 2 show day, but I was determined to get out and see some of the city (as usual) so I walked with Alex Pepper (our dance captain) over to the Milwaukee Art Museum, which I had heard was a really cool spot right on Lake Michigan. I have always found the great lakes to be really incredible, so I was glad to walk over there. We were pretty blown away by the stunning architecture of this building. It was voted sexiest building in 2010 and I can see why! It has been used in a number of movies and things. The dramatic wings or sails retract around the building a couple of times throughout the day and it was a pretty spectacular thing to watch on such a beautiful day right out on the water. Inside, the light in the main atrium is just stunning. And who would have thought… Milwaukee?!

Sunday I went to church and the Katie and I headed down to Milwaukee’s historic Third Ward and the Public Market.It’s a large indoor market with all sorts of local food vendors and was a great way to have a taste of the local flavor and see a really cool part of town with all kinds of interesting shops. The big event of the weekend was our Halloween party on Sunday night after our two shows. Our party planning committee did a great job planning 2 parties. Since we have kids on tour we had a separate party for them first where we had gingerbread haunted houses to decorate, pizza for dinner, pin the tail on the donkey, etc. You better believe, though that we had a huge time with the kids and parents playing musical chairs, limbo, and dancing down a soul train line! Ha ha! Later that night we reconvened for a “adult” party with costumes, music, etc. I dressed as JFK, complete with Jackie O as my date, but the costumes were really excellent. Some of the best included Liat after the war, twin Christian Marriners, drunk Nellie, our Capt. Brackett dressed as a geisha, our Marcello dressed as his wife, Annelle, and Little Richard!

Liat, abandoned and pregnant after the war. Nellie... "Am I drunk? Yes I am!"

We quickly realized that we all wanted to have our own games of musical chairs and limbo, so you better believe we had 2 vicious competitions. It was a RIOT to see all of us wrestling each other down to win. I won a solid second place in musical chairs and won the adult round of limbo, also! Solid showing! Ha ha!

Tripp Hampton

Ps- The title of this post comes from a Gershwin song from my tour last year.

Monday, November 7, 2011

One-nighters begin!

Delaware was our last week of week-long sitdowns for a while. We have been really lucky on this tour to have this great schedule. Many tours aren’t as lucky to stay in one place that long or go to such fun cities. Most non-equity tours play a lot of one-nighters or “split weeks” where you are in a city for 2 or 3 days. We had been so spoiled so the next week was a real reality check. Ha ha! We boarded our bus for the first time and headed to our first one-nighter in Morgantown, WV! These shows can be really interesting. Our crew goes ahead of us and loads in all 4 semi-trucks of our show, including sets, props, costumes, wigs, lighting, sound… everything. We are completely packed in those trucks, but we come as a self-contained full production to the theatres. When our crew gets to each space, they have done all sorts of prior work to be prepared, but you still can never really know what you’re going to be in for and they really have to work their magic to make our show happen in a day.

We arrived in Morgantown with only a little bit of time before we had to get to the theatre. It was kind of drizzling out, but I was determined I was going to walk a little ways over a bridge, down the road and get to the Target, Barnes and Noble, Dick’s, etc. As I began my trek I was about halfway across the bridge when it just started pouring rain. I had no umbrella so I started to run, made it over the bridge, across the highway and to a gas station where, of course, they had no umbrellas for sale. I had to give in and realize that my trip wasn’t going to happen, but now I was stuck half a mile away and it was still a downpour. This is where Donna Hampton has to stop reading. Go away, mom! I ended up just looking around the gas station and finding someone who I thought would give me a ride. Being a male I knew I shouldn’t ask a woman, but I found a young guy and he was more than happy to help me out and take me over to the hotel. Thanks to Spenser for getting me out of the rain! The show went well, regardless of the quirks in the theatre like having no paging system. Our first one-nighter was a success!

The next day was a real doozie. We had to get to Sioux City, Iowa. Let me just say… there is just no easy way to get to Iowa. It is not exactly easily accessible. From Morgantown we made an hour-long drive to Pittsburgh to fly to Dallas/Fort Worth. There we had a layover to fly to Omaha, Nebraska where we would load a bus and drive three hours to Sioux City. Needless to say, it was a very long day, but by the time we got there, I was glad to be in Sioux City for a couple of days. We had a late dinner at Famous Dave’s BBQ (one of my faves) and saw a late movie that night. The next day I was up and about, exploring Sioux City. I stopped at a local coffee shop, deli, and enjoyed their great local city museum that had some really excellent exhibits.

The biggest event of Sioux City, however, was laundry. When you’re living out of a suitcase, finding the time and space to do laundry can be a real hassle. My roommate, Jake, and friend, Shane also needed to do laundry, so we searched and searched before finding a laundromat across the river in Nebraska where our hotel shuttle dropped us off. When we walked into South Sioux City coin laundry we knew we were in for a treat. Behind the desk sat a bigger lady, probably in her 70’s, leaning way back in her chair. We walked in and said, “Hi there! How are you?” Her response?


Oh boy. After explaining to us that we couldn’t do dropoff, but would have to do our laundry there, she gave us our detergent and pointed us to the machines. She was just as dry and blunt as anything and we were definitely getting a kick out of our worker friend when we asked her name and she responded.


We continued the rest of our visit loading our washing machines and asking Nightmare questions. She cam over and dug through our dirty laundry when she felt we had overloaded the machines and felt no remorse in making us pay for extra machines or telling us that if the machines were overloaded she would become our worst nightmare. What a trip! We left to get a snack and when we returned to switch our laundry Nightmare had left and a younger lady was there working. We transferred our laundry from the small washers into large, industrial dryers. When we began putting 2 smalls wash loads into one large dryer she stopped us. “However many washers you used is how many dryers you use.” After much frustrated discussion she explained, “Mary, who was here earlier is in charge. If I don’t’ follow her rules it’s my neck on the line. She’s wired this place with all sorts of cameras. She even watches and monitors from her car!” We gave up and realized that Nightmare was going to have her way no matter what.

The show in Sioux City was fun because we were playing a restored Orpheum theatre. The Orpheum circuit was home to many vaudeville performers and this particular theatre had been open in the 30’s. Granted, theatres built then definitely have their own set of obstacles because they are generally smaller, but it was a really fun time and the audiences were wonderful.

I woke up the next morning not feeling well and knowing we had to drive to Mason City, IA. I walked to the local Walgreens to get some medicine and left myself a good 20 minutes to walk back before we had to be on the bus. As I was walking back, though, a train came through town. I waited patiently, knowing it would just be a few minutes and thinking of the trains going through little LaGrange, KY at home. I was in contact with my company manager, so he knew what was going on, but this train was SO SLOW!!! It kept stopping and starting and just never seemed to end. I ended up standing out in the cold for 30 minutes and the bus full of all 50 of my company had to wait on me! What a mess. I couldn’t help but be reminded of when I almost missed my cruise ship in France. It was just me running to meet them. Ha ha!

Mason City was a quick stop that I tried to block out because I wasn’t feeling on top of my game. We were pretty cramped, but the show went well. All in all our start to the one-night life was pretty smooth, but it’s certainly tiring to travel and work this much. I’m excited to get back to one place for a week as I am writing this post on my way to Austin, TX. Hope you all are well!


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Jacksonville, FL and Della wear. I mean... Dela where? Delaware.

Week three of tour was spent in Jacksonville, FL. I had been to Jacksonville before when my brother was stationed there in the Navy. I remembered going there and mostly hanging around with family, but I also remembered a really cool waterfront landing area that was fun at night and had all sorts of restaurants and things to do. When we got to Jacksonville we were happy to see our beautiful hotel, a Hyatt with great rooms and a beautiful rooftop pool! It was a great spot, right on the riverwalk and right next to the Jacksonville Landing, that spot I remembered! Our first walk over to the landing showed just what time can do. Unfortunately that hopping place I remembered had sort of dwindled into a few generic restaurants and an abandoned mall. It was pretty sad to see, but it was still nice to have that right near us and right on the water.

The week was really fun. We enjoyed lots of pool time and it was fun to find a couple places that we could return to throughout the week. For instance, I really enjoyed Chamblains Bookshop Café. It had great meals and was a large building busting at the seams with books! On one of my first days out I also found Chew, an incredible restaurant that served up such amazing food. It had a Southern feel, but was so intricately and delicately prepared. It was refreshing to find somewhere so excellent in Jacksonville. We ended up having a group of 13 go one of our last days for a HUGE family dinner there late in the week. It was just too good to not take advantage of! The second day in Jacksonville I had a great surprise when my old friend Ramon, a dancer from my cruise ship in 2009, contacted me to let me know he was in town for one more day and wanted to get together! I hadn’t seen Ramon in years and it was such a wonderful time catching up with him. He has an incredible spirit and is one of the most amazing dancers I know.

One thing that’s been a little frustrating is that our show gets out around 10:30-11:00 and by then usually the pools in the hotels are closed. This week we had to get around that! The Hyatt was kind enough to keep the pool open late one night just for us! We had so much fun having the space to ourselves to just relax and laugh and let loose together. We have such a great group, but we sometimes don’t ALL get to play together, so those opportunities are much appreciated. The week ended Sunday going to First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, a very large church that owns 9 city blocks downtown. Their incredible facilities proved to hold an excellent, powerful service. It was nice to go to church with some of the orchestra members and with a couple of the kids and their parents. I think it’s been great to have kids on tour. I know it really keeps my spirits up and keeps me thinking of ways to find fun all the time. Anyway- the service at FBC Jax included a 50-piece orchestra and 200 person choir with a couple soloists that just blew the roof right off the place and straight up, raising joyful noise to the Lord. It was beautiful, exciting service.

Next we trekked to Wilmington, DE. Staying in a Doubltree Hotel, this week was all about those delicious chocolate chip cookies. Ha ha! We joked that we were able to save our entire per-diem that week because we survived solely on those cookies. Wilmington is a historic city with the great Dupont Theatre inside the Dupont Hotel. It was a different space for us because our show was a little tight in there. We quickly figured out how to maneuver in the space and make it all work like clockwork, but it definitely took some finagling. It actually reminded me of a Broadway theatre because of its size and history. The space ended up being really fun to play and our audiences in Wilmington were wonderful. It was also good to have our director come out and see the show after having been gone for about a month. She was thrilled with how well the show was holding up. We had a chance to do some understudy rehearsals, too!

Wilmington was a great place to enjoy the ultimate fall week. Our first day in town a group of us walked down to Brandywine Creek and walked through the park right there. It was great to see the water and the fall colors were at their peak. I always embrace any chance to get out and enjoy some nature time. It is definitely therapeutic for me and completely necessary. Wilmington also had some great food! I found the World Café Live, a really interesting space where concerts are held 5 days a week with all sorts of artists. Everything from coffee house performers to big headliners in a 900-seat theatre: this place can host them. There’s also a great restaurant in the building. After a tour through the facility I decided I had to enjoy lunch and the live music, which proved to be really great! We also found some fun coffee shops in town throughout the week, but our go-to spot was the Washington Street Alehouse. It had great food and we ended up eating there and at their sister restaurant, Presto, a few times throughout the week.

The big event of the week, though, was a large group outing I planned to Ramsey’s Family Farm. I just knew we needed something like this, especially for the kids on tour to get out and be in the outdoors during fall. We ended up (after much struggle) getting hotel shuttles to take us out to the farm and 30 of us spent a few hours on the beautiful property with farmer Stewart. He took us on a long hayride, stopping to explain all sorts of info on agriculture, energy, farming today, etc. I found it pretty fascinating. Afterwards we had time to pick pumpkins in the patch and run around through the corn maze. It was a great day and ended up all working out really well for everyone!

Finally, Shane and I spent a day in Wilmington working on carving our pumpkin for the NETworks company-wide carving contest! I walked all over town to find just the right tools to use and we created a masterpiece: a portrait of NETworks CEO, Ken Gentry. I just thought it was a great opportunity for humor and to see what we could really accomplish! It turned out pretty well. In fact- we just found out that we WON the whole contest! I am so pumped to see what I will get with my Best Buy gift card! Ha ha! What a fun week. Who knew?... Delaware!

Love to you all! Miss you bunches,


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Just a thought...

Over the past few days I’ve been confronted over and over with the idea of control. It hasn’t been easy issues, either, of trying to control my life or worrying about things or trying to keep things in line just how I like. I’ve been contemplating bigger issues that have been at the forefront of my mind through a couple sermons and essays I’ve happened to read over the past couple of days. I’ve been thinking about the way we, as Christians, try to control God. We sit through sermon after sermon of “3 ways to…” or “5 keys to…”. This is not to say that pastors are wrong in structuring their sermons this way. We like lists as a means of organizing thoughts to understand them better and remember them, but it does seem that this fosters a formulaic kind of Christianity that can become very dangerous. We use all sorts of buzz words and terms like having a relationship with Jesus and being in community with people and I think that is all totally correct and great, but it’s hard. Relationships are way harder than formulas. Here’s what Donald Miller writes:

“To be honest, though, I don’t know how much I like the idea of my spirituality being relational. I suppose I believe it is true, but the formulas seem much better than God because the formulas offer control; and God, well, He is like a person, and people, as we all know, are complicated. The trouble with people is they do not always do what you tell them to do. Try it with your kids or your spouse or strangers at the grocery store, and you will see what I mean. The formulas propose that if you do this and this and this, God will respond. When I was a kid I wanted a dolphin for the same reason.”

What happens when we push toward formulas and steps in a process is that God becomes more and more like a machine that we have built and less like a person with whom we interact. This continues in a manner of us controlling God. What happens when we put ourselves in a place of controlling God? We become god. The person in control is above the person being controlled. Suddenly we think we are putting God first, but all the while we are putting ourselves first. God becomes a sort of vehicle for our own desires, opinions, and agendas. We are manipulating ourselves into believing that our own desires are His, that our own ideas are from Him, and that our own agendas are in line with His plans for us.
I’ve been trying to see how in the world to fight this and it’s so hard. I feel like all we can do is pray and approach God begging for humility and for Him to intercede in our selfish desires. I am just feeling challenged to get out of the way. He is so much better at this whole thing than I will ever be.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Baltimore or Less

Our second week on the road was spent in Baltimore, MD. We stayed downtown in the Radisson Lord Baltimore, a really beautiful old hotel. I didn't realize that this city is so dangerous, but apparently there is a very large and quite aggressive homeless population in the city of Baltimore. We learned quickly just to be smart and walk with others, especially after dark. That being said, we played the Hippodrome Theatre, which had great crowds and we felt so welcomed there. It was also fun to have a bunch of people from our home office of NETworks come to see the show and we were able to have a big party one night with them.
I loved the inner harbor area of Baltimore. We had great food there and I found it to be a great place to relax and take in the great weather we had, enjoy being by the water, people-watching, etc. Once day a group of 5 guys all took a car and drove down 30 minutes to Annapolis, MD. Having been there before for my brother's graduation, etc. I knew that it was a gorgeous seaside town and with the Naval Academy being there I thought it would be a great excursion to take. We wandered all around, taking in the campus and pondering what life would be like to actually go here or what it may have been like in WWII, when our show is placed. It is just a remarkable thing to see all those young men and women and know the sacrifice they are willing to make for their country. We learned a lot on the campus and enjoyed the history of the whole thing very much. At lunch time we knew we had to find some great crab somewhere so I started searching and found a gem for us. We drove out to Cantler's, a restaurant right on a creek/inlet. It was very unassuming, sitting back past neighborhoods down a tiny winding road, but I knew we were in for a treat, and boy were we happy! The crab was just out-of-this-world fresh and the atmosphere and company only added to the day. What a great time!
We also did a big outing to the National Aquarium in the inner harbor of Baltimore. It is a fantastic facility with so many incredible species. I forget how amazing creation is sometimes, but watching the jellyfish, sea turtles, and octopus definitely brought me back to that place of wonder and curiosity. How God could create such things, but then not be satisfied still and decided to make man... in HIS image... is just ridiculous. I find it humbling and flattering and wonderful all at once. Makes me feel loved that he sees those creatures, but wants us to have relationship and communion with Him.
Baltimore proved to have some really nice weather, too. We walked all around and went to a great art museum in town called the Walters Art Museum. Hidden jewels like that in towns are always so surprising. It was a really large museum with a great collection. Afterward we headed over to an area called Fell's Point that had really fun shops and restaurants and just enjoyed meandering near the water. I ended up meeting up with Katie Reid and her parents for a GREAT dinner that night, too. Having the Reids visit was so fun and kind of made up for the fact that I haven't gotten to see my own family in a while. Anyway- the Reids treat me as their own (Sometimes better than their own! Ha ha!) and I'm always happy to see them.
That just about wraps up Baltimore, I guess! Tour is going well overall. We are just heading to our first stretch of shows traveling by bus and with fewer sitdowns after being spoiled with such a great schedule. This year of tour has already been so different than last year. Much better in some ways, but harder for me, I think. I'm having a hard time finding my life on tour. I don't feel like I know exactly what I'm doing. I don't know how to put it other than that. It sort of feels like I'm just floating around doing shows with these people and for what? Of course I believe in the work and know we are bringing a great show to audiences, but I miss my family and friends on the road so much. I think that it actually gets worse and worse. It's not something that I get used to, but I just crave them more and more the longer I am living this strange vagabond life and seeing them all living in community with each other... in houses... and with cars... hmmm- what a thought! I'm definitely having fun and making building great friendships, I just have to also find my own life on the road; maybe it's time to create something like choreographing a piece or arranging a song or learning something new or something. Maybe I need a project. Ha ha!
I miss you all tons. Call me!

Friday, October 21, 2011

South Pacific Tour has begun... blogging on Beantown!

Our first few weeks on tour are great because we have a really easy schedule, filled with week-long sitdowns. The first two weeks, for instance, were spent in Boston and the Baltimore! I was so excited to spend some time in two cities I have visited, but am not really familiar with. It proved to be a fun kick-off couple of weeks, for sure.
Boston was so exciting. We stayed a little out of downtown, unfortunately, but had week-long passes on the train there to get around, which proved to be super useful. In boston we played the Boston Opera House, one of the most amazing buildings I've ever seen. It was cool to see how many amazing shows had played there and Boston is known for having pretty excellent, smart, and theatre-wise audiences. Because of that it was thrilling to have such full houses and responsive crowds to the show. Our opening night was so exciting! Running up and over that sand dune has to be one of the best entrances to a show I've ever had. It is exciting each and every time and that night, in particular, it was such an energy boost to hear the audience give us sailors great entrance applause! Ha ha! This week was also spent with the show just getting to know our tracks better and better.
In Boston, we made sure to take advantage of being in a wonderful, historic, seaside town! I ate so much seafood it was ridiculous! We spent one of our first days following around our cast-mate, Jess, who went to school in Boston. She took us all over town and helped get our bearings before we had dinner on the water and I discovered the glory of Mike's Pastry in the North End of Boston. This place is famous for their RIDICULOUS cannolis and I would be lying if I said over the course of the week I ate less than 4 of these amazing treats. SO GOOD!!! Boston has so much great food, though. We just stuffed ourselves silly. In that week we had great meals at Quincy Market, Legal Sea Food, Thinking Cup Coffee right by Boston Common, etc. Just so much great food!
I was really happy to have friends to see in Boston also. My great friend of many years is a star in Beantown theatre circles. Kami Smith is always such a great friend to catch up with because she is always the same, wonderful person I have known forever. She is a consistent, hard working actor and loves life. I also love that she is a Southern girl at heart. Ha ha! Anyway- we were able to meet up for dinner and she came to see my show between work, rehearsals, and performances of her own show, which was such a treat! Love ya, Kami! I also had the pleasure of catching up with some people from Ogunquit Playhouse this summer! My son in "Music Man" was played by Colby Stack and he and his family came to see the show and took me out for a great Chinese dinner! I couldn't believe that they came to see me and Colby and his little sister sat through such a long show. They are such great people and I'm so thankful to have them as great new friends.
Another day a bunch of the cast made sure to do the Freedom Trail, which takes tourists in Boston to all the major historic sites in town. It is always cool to stop and recognize the human experience that must have been taking place so many years ago to lead us to where we are now and see the footprint of our courageous forefathers. I also had a great time discovering Cambridge quite a bit one day. We walked around Harvard for a long time and found some good food before wandering by the Charles River. The group I was with headed out to rest and spend time in town before the show, but I was so happy to walk around that I spent the whole day meandering on foot from Harvard, all through Cambridge by MIT, etc. until I walked over the bridge and in to downtown for the show that night. I find it's always important to find time to spend alone and check in with yourself on the road. It's the closest thing to going home that I have found. Just being alone, praying, listening to music that calms you and takes you to a comforting place is irreplaceable therapy as a vagabond traveler. Besides, that day I had possibly the greatest ice cream I've ever had. If you are ever in the Boston area you MUST experience Toscanini's Ice Cream. I had such a hard time choosing what I wanted, but was NOT disappointed. The list of flavors is out of this world and changes all the time as the ice cream is created on-site in their "lab." My flavor of the day was something they were calling B3- brown sugar, browned butter, and brownie. I died. You have to go there. The flavors... oh my heck.
The last couple days in Boston were spent making sure we experienced every last bit of shopping on Newbury Street and had brunch at the Paramount, etc. What a great city! We headed out of town, though, to fly (eventually, as our flight was delayed multiple times) to Baltimore, MD.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

How to Build Magic

I’m now working on the national tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific.” A few years ago while in New York auditioning I was excited to get a student rush ticket to go see the revival of this sweeping show at the Vivian-Beaumont Theatre at the Lincoln Center Theatre. From the moment the orchestra played that epic overture I was off and enthralled in a magical night at the theatre. I was so impressed with the excellence of the production. It was detailed, thoughtful, colorful, romantic, relevant and vital to today’s conversation about war and race. I was blown away.

Fast forward to March of 2011 and find me and my great friend Katie Reid on tour together in “’S Wonderful.” We were on the bus and talking about future plans and prospects for auditions, etc. when we saw that “South Pacific” was going on tour as a non-equity show and I knew I had to be part of it. I certainly believe in the power of positive thinking and, again, as we fast forward to summer of 2011… me and Katie are on the road in the show! I’m so proud to be part of such an incredible production and working with great companies to bring this Tony Award –winning production to audiences across the country.

This is all well and good, but there are so many steps to making this happen. Even after the casting, design, and other pre-production work is underway, we head to rehearsal in New York and a whole slew of other steps begin in the process to open the show.

1) Rehearsals are held in a studio in NYC, basically a big open space with mirrors for us to use to learn the show. There are tables along one wall for the creative to use and slowly throughout the rehearsal weeks we will have more and more props and some small set pieces. Throughout these weeks we will also be called out of rehearsal for costume fittings where the costumers will have us try on our costumes and mark them for adjustments, etc.

2) Toward the end of the initial rehearsal process we have a “designer run” where the lighting, sound, set, and costume designers all come to watch the show in anticipation of adding their respective elements to the show. It is here that other final artistic decisions are made and it’s an important day to showcase the work that’s been done to producers, higher artistic staff, etc. Always an exciting day for the cast, too, because it is the first time to perform the show for some sort of audience.

3) Eventually the show moves into tech process. In a regional or summerstock setting this would mean moving into the theatre for the first time, but on tour, it just means moving into a theatre for the first time. It’s such an exciting moment to step onto the set for the first time. For me as an actor I try to take time to see what our little world feel like on stage. I walk around to find entrances, things that are different than I imagined, spots where I can watch or get away from people, etc. It’s a little bit of a sacred kind of initiation that takes place.

4) Teching is a really delicate, hard, tedious process. Every light, sound, set change, dance number, all has to be tweaked and changed completely to make it all work correctly. The show steps through very slowly from one light change to another, from one dance formation to the next, until the entire show is covered. This whole process can take a few VERY long days. For South Pacific, for instance, (a 3 hour show) we spent 4 full 10 hour days in the theatre before we had gone through the entire show. It is just a super specific balance to make sure everything is exactly as it should be. In the tech process the first layer that is added to make this whole thing a real show is lighting. An average audience member may not realize the impact that lighting can have on a production, but it’s astounding. It transforms everything. We also will add microphones and begin balancing and mixing the cast, getting us used to performing our tracks with wires, clips, and packs attached to us.

5) Next costumes are added a few days before an audience comes in and this is always fun and interesting for the actors. It is that moment where you step into your character’s shoes (literally) for the first time. You have moments where you just get it and panic moments when you realize you may have to shift some of your life on stage or negotiate things differently because of a costume.

6) Next the orchestra will be added, another fun time. Up until this point we have been rehearsing only with a piano, so hearing the full breadth of a score (especially a rich one like this by R&H) is truly thrilling.

7) At this point we are into what are really referred to as dress rehearsals where we work through the show as close to an actual performance as possible for the given amount of time.

8) Finally there will be a couple days of “preview” performances where we will have a paid audience, but will still be adjusting things from show to show and receiving notes from our director, choreographer, etc.

9) Then we have OPENING NIGHT! From this point on the show is “frozen”, meaning that the show should remain the same from this point on so the show that the audience sees on day 100 is of the same direction and intention as on day 1. Of course as actors we have freedom to explore, play, and discover, but all within the parameters and guidelines of the show set on us as a cast. Depending on the length of the run of the show, this is when the real work begins. It becomes a true job in the sense that the excitement and energy and discovery of each show must remain the same. Just as the audience is experiencing the show for the first time, each night we must be discovering and experiencing each moment anew.

There ya have it! A look at what every one of these projects goes through to become the 2.5 hour experience you as an audience member receives. The more and more I do it the more and more I realize how magical it is, and yet how truly NOT magical it is. It is really a bunch of hard work from a bunch of people with passion for what they do. That is how magic is built. Hard work and passion.

Love to you all,


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Acadia National Park Trip

When traveling I have learned that it is important to have goals and big plans and ideas so that you have something to work toward. I think it has something to do with feeling content to experience the place where you are at the moment, but then you end up sometimes really not experiencing much! You get into a groove and think, "Oh I will have time later to try this or that..." but in reality you don't have a lot of time in a place at all, so to make it worth your while it is great to have goals to reach and accomplish. From day one in Maine I said that I wanted to make my way to Acadia National Park.
Before I headed to Maine I researched the state a bit and over and over Acadia was mentioned as a place "not to be missed." I read so much about its overwhelming natural beauty and unique landscape. I knew I had to get up there! With the help of some of the other cast members, especially Tim Grady, I planned a big trip for 8 of us up to the park on one of our last days off for the whole contract. We drove up early Monday morning and checked into the motel that was just perfectly dank and covered in kitschy '70s decor.

Once we made it to Mt. Desert Island we had a great lunch in Bar Harbor and decided to go for a hike. I went to the visitor's center and asked one of the park guides to recommend a hike for us. I said, "We are all young and active. We don't have much time, but want to do something fun with good views." His immediate response was that he would do Precipice Trail because it had some fun rocks to climb over and the top was a gorgeous view of the ocean in front of you and Cadillac Moutain behind you. Cadillac is famous for being the highest peak on the East coast. I thought it sounded great, so we headed to Precipice!
When we pulled up we saw... basically just a cliff face. It was beautiful and high and I thought I had certainly gotten our group into a mess, but everyone stretched and we started on our way. We made our way over boulders, around bends, and up rungs. It was fantastic, but probably more than we bargained for. Ha ha!

We finished our day after our big accomplishment, reaching the "Precipice" by driving around Loop Road in the park and taking in so many gorgeous sights. The next morning I was determined to wake up and head to the top of Cadillac Mountain. If you watch sunrise from there you are the first people to see the sun rise in the USA. I thought that would be so cool, so I drug the WHOLE GROUP out of bed and we drove up through fog and rain to at least try, but it was a failed attempt. I got some major flack for that, but overall the trip was a major success and a big way to finish our contract in Ogunquit. Tim Grady made a fantastic video that is hilarious and accurate and shows some of the highlights of our trip. I've attached it below in two parts. Enjoy!

Heading out on tour with South Pacific soon. Let the antics begin!


Thursday, August 18, 2011

OH!!!!! (gunquit)!

I'm currently finishing up a run of "The Music Man" at Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine and, having now spent 6 weeks in southern Maine, I just had to post on the blog about my time and travels here. I didn't know what to expect when traveling up to this part of the country, but was so excited to explore. First, I must say that my experience at the playhouse has been wonderful. It was a joy to work with Ray Roderick and Jeffry Denman on such a beautiful production of this show. My accommodations here have been great, the facilities are wonderful, and the cast has become such a beautiful family. I have been learning so much from pros with multiple Broadway credits and tons of stories of working on monumental productions. I am humbled to share the stage with these folks. Then- I am also performing in the quartet in the show and to sing with these 3 other gentlemen is such a treat each and every day. There are always so many moments on stage where I discover new things and we find ourselves cracking up through the whole show. I have never had to keep myself from breaking so many times on stage, but I am so glad that's my problem! Ha ha!
Beyond having such a wonderful job to go to every day, I also have been able to experience so much beauty and joy up in this area. I just don't know how to cover all, but I'll give it a whirl... The town of Ogunquit (7 min walk from our house) is really charming . It is made up of 3 cross streets (Route 1, Shore Rd., and Beach St.) that form a really nice little square. There are all sorts of cute restaurants, shops, galleries, etc. that make up the main strip of storefronts. There is a great little grocery, outdoor seating for lunch, gift shops, a pizza stop, and my everyday coffee stop, Bread and Roses. It is the greatest little bakery and coffee shop! A walk down Beach Street takes you to.... you guessed it.... the beach. Ogunquit Beach is on a sandbar, so the Ogunquit River flows through as well. The tides here are amazing, making the beach shrink in such a dramatic way. I've never seen anything like it. The river is a great place to float and enjoy a sunny day while the tide is high. I must admit, though... the water up here is FREEZING. There has only been a couple of days when it was even bearable to go in. We'll just keep calling it "refreshing" to make ourselves feel better. Ha ha!

Ogunquit River on the left and Ogunquit Beach on the right.

We usually wander over to the marginal way as often as possible. It's a walking path that goes along the rocky coast of Maine connecting Ogunquit Beach with the town of Perkins Cove. Around every little bend is a view more breath-taking than the last. It's just remarkable to see the power of God's creation at work on those rocks. Perkin's cove is one of my favorite spots in the area. This picturesque town looks like it's right out of a movie set. You wander in and can enjoy the view of all the sailboats bobbing in the cove and then making your way into the tiny loop of the village, there are local candy shops, toy stores, a deli, a coffee shop with jaw-dropping views, and our most frequented meal... Footbridge Lobster. I can't begin to tell you about their lobster roll, but I'll just say for $13.99 you just eat and eat and eat your way through a lobster roll that is meaty and butter and perfect. I love to sit on the dock to eat it and walk along the footbridge over the cove. What a magical spot!

Eating Footbridge Lobster Rolls on the dock in Perkins Cove.

Right over by Perkins Cove is the Ogunquit Museum of American Art, a cute little museum with a nice collection that we enjoyed one day. The real draw of heading to the museum, though, is the property on which it sits. There are great gardens and things, but the rocks behind the building jut out into some beautiful water where you can jump and swim and enjoy the views that just never seem to get old. We spent one day rock-jumping right off those rocks, climbing aroudn and finding our best natural diving board to play on! Here's a video of one of my jumps! It is from "Bulldog Rock", about 15 feet into the water.
We also spent a day in Kennebunkport, the beautiful town just north of us. It is a beautiful stop, very similar to Ogunquit, but with even more stores and cute sites. My favorite part of our time there was the drive along the coast where we happened upon some beautiful homes, a church, and the Bush Estate, where President George Bush Sr. lives. He and Barbara even came to see our show and we got to meet them and the quartet sang "Lida Rose" with the President! What an experience. Another day we went to the nearby town of Cape Neddick and looked at the quintessential lighthouse, Nubble Light. This working lighthouse is practically the symbol of the state and was just as gorgeous as you may imagine! I also made the trek up to Portland one day to look around the Old Port and see what the biggest city in the state had to offer. More of the same... brilliant food, cute shops, ho hum...

The quartet meets Pres. George Bush Sr.!

Probably the thing that has made this contract so great, though, has been the people of this community embracing us so much. We have had so many parties thrown for us by board members, volunteers of the theatre, parents of children in the show, patrons, etc. Some favorites include the barbecue and Greek Feast held at the gorgeous home of the President of our board, Jim Morgan. What a wonderful place to spend an evening and eat GREAT food. Also- the Kingston family just blew us away at the Clam Shack, their restaurant in Kennebunkport. The 3 Kingston girls are three gems in the cast and we have grown to love them and their family so much. They hosted a night for us that I will not soon forget where we gorged on piles of fresh lobster, scallops, shrimp, and ice cream for dessert. They treated us too well!

The barbecue at Pres. of the Board Jim Morgan's house.

One stop after another Ogunquit has been taking my breath away for 6 weeks. I have officially fallen head over heels in love with Maine and I just HOPE that my time here is just the first in a long line of visits to come! There is too much here to see and explore to only visit once.

Love you Maine!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Fears vs. Dreams

I am proud to say I am a dreamer. I am also a do-er. I hear people saying all the time that they would love to go somewhere or be something or try this or that, but rarely watch people take a leap of faith and DO IT. I think I've always been adventurous and willing to try new things, but because of events that happened December 18, 2008... I am now more than willing. I make it a goal to run toward the unknown, the stuff that scares me, and to reach to places where I feel a little uneasy. I learned a lot that night, but one thing is that with great risk comes great accomplishment, joy, excitement, and sometimes tragedy.

I decided in the weeks following that night that I would NEVER operate out of fear. It's not worth it.

Living a life of no risk is living no life. I know my life seems crazy to some people, but trust me... from my perspective it looks even crazier! I wish so much that I could share so many things with my family and friends that I have tasted or seen or heard. These experiences are usually the product of taking a chance. Today on donmilleris.com one of my favorite authors wrote this and I thought it was so fantastic.

"We don’t normally face our fears willingly. Usually, God has to woo us into the desert. We are either chasing love or some other desire, and we find ourselves in the midst of a situation in which we have very little control. And when we lose control, we go into a mild form of trauma. But the good news is the greatest stories are lived in the desert. The great lives are lived in the places we most fear. If we fear being rejected, the great story has us standing at the door with flowers in our hands, if we fear losing love, the great stories have us letting that person go rather than clinging to them. If we fear taking a chance on a dream, the great stories have us quitting our jobs...
So, what is your greatest fear? And don’t you know, the life you want involves taking that huge risk. It’s scary I know, because the truth is it might end in tragedy. But then again, half of Shakespeare’s plays are tragedies, and nobody thinks of him as a fool. He was brilliant.

May half your stories be tragedies too. And may the other half be comedies that work out great. And may they all be beautiful."

Live your story. Take a risk. Dream on. Live on. Live rejoicing.