Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sailing away from the South Pacific

During my week off I had made final negotiations for an exciting offer. My "'S Wonderful" family had called and I had the opportunity brought to me to help set the show at a theatre outside of New York and I couldn't pass up such a great chance to be part of a creative team. This business is so hard. You have to make such big decisions in such a quick time-frame it seems. My heart was torn from trying to be loyal to the contract I was already involved with, working in a new position, working with people who had been so loyal and wonderful to me, etc. So many things go into these decisions, but I ultimately had to decide to say goodbye to the "South Pacific." I had only a couple weeks left, though, so I knew I had to live it up!
Our first week back was in Nashville, TN. Since it was so close to home I was able to have my car, which was such a treat. I felt like I could really get around and see friends, eat at great restaurants, etc., even with some pretty nasty weather. The week was spent drinking vats of sweet tea, fried green tomatoes, cheese grits, and biscuits. Haha! I made sure to take a group out to the Grand Ole Opry where we did a backstage tour and had fun exploring. More than anything, though, just going aroudn the grounds of the resort was so interesting. That hotel is CRAZY! Around every turn even I was blown away, having been there before, to see ANOTHER giant atrium, indoor waterfall or giant tree!
We also spent some time at a trendy area with some great restaurants in East Nashville. I LOVED Noshville, Fido, and a Frech cafe place. Broadway is always fun downtown, too. I had a really fun night meeting up with my elementary school friend, Ashley Herod. We literally hadn't seen each other since 6th grade, but had so much fun catching up in a honky tonk and she was so generous to come see the show with her family. Then Katie Reid and I were SO excited because our 'S Wonderful friend, Katie Mitchell came to see us, also! We had a great night going to a couple honky tonks and dancing with her. Seeing any of the cast from that show is just special. We can catch up right where we left off like it's only been hours since we've last talked. The highlight of my tie in Nashville had to have been my family coming to visit! Berry, Donna, GG and Grandaddy, Debbie, and Paul all trekked down to see the show. It was an incredibly special time. We ate a Puckett's Grocery and stayed up late after the show chatting. In the morning before they left we had a great brunch at Fido. I am so grateful that they could come down and see the show. Donna and Berry always know how to bring me back to earth, encourage me, lift me up, settle me down, humble me... whatever it takes. I always just feel a little more like me when I have them around.
The last week I was on tour was a week in Chicago! I haven't spent a ton of time there, but it was great fun getting to explore and we played a beautiful theatre. Other shows were playign in town at the same time so I got to meet friends of friends in American Idiot and Million Dollar Quartet. I was really excited to meet a fellow Stephen Foster alum, Colte Julian, who is in MDQ and hooked me up with tickets to see the show! Those guys were insane! They are ridiculously talented, playing instruments, singing, and looking just like their iconic counterparts they are playing. What an awesome show. I also enjoyed seeing the Bean in Millenium Park, having good food, Chicago pizza at Giordano's with Katie Reid, and drinks on top of the Hancock Tower. As a finale to my time on tour a big group of the cast went out after my last show to get ice cream sundaes at Ghiardelli and then to party and celebrate the wonderful time I've had on tour. There were some ups and downs along the way, but I will say one thing: I would have NEVER gotten through this tour without losing my mind if it wasn't for my friends (who became family) on tour. If I wasn't able to vent and laugh with all of them I would have become so bitter and jaded.
On South Pacific I learned so much. Mostly about the kind of person I want to be in theatre. I learned that I want to be a teacher, an encourager, and a positive force. Too often I think the art of play is lost and theatre becomes work. I learned more about respecting people and treating people how you want to be treated. I learned that even in a business of actors and artists and all types of people, honesty is the best policy. Most of all, I learned that there is no point in doing theatre if you aren't able to have joy doing it. There are so many people in love with the arts and music and dance and storytelling that there shouldn't be room for those who are are jaded and tired of it all. Smile, people! It's not rocket science! It's theatre! Have fun! Live rejoicing!


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Quick Stops

At this point on tour we started doing some one-nighters and weekend stops. Schedules are tighter and there's just not as much opportunity to explore, so tour becomes a little less exciting. We drove Bartlesville, OK and I was in some pretty bad back pain. I called around and found a chiropractor that said she could squeeze me in, so I started walking to the office. In smaller cities, walking from a hotel to a doctor's office isn't super easy. It means walking a far way, without sidewalks, among lots of cars, and sometimes (as in this case) not great GPS directions. I ended up calling the doc back because I had walked in the wrong direction and wasn't going to make my appt. Being in Oklahoma was lucky, though, because that sweet hospitality came right out. The chiropractor insisted I shouldn't have been walking out in the cold anyway and drove out to come pick me up! Haha! She was very nice and did a great job fixing my back! If you're ever in Bartlesville, head to see Karen Wallis!
Next we headed to Lawrence, KS. It must not have been too interesting because I can't remember ANYTHING about our time there.
We had a stop-over in Elk City, OK before arriving for the weekend in Albuquerque, NM! We performed on another college campus while in Albuquerque, which is always fun because there are lots of shops, restaurants, etc. around. We had a good time enjoying great Mexican food, good weather, walking around to hipster shops and having great coffee. We also enjoyed Rudy's BBQ again (from Austin) and ate at the famous Frontier Restaurant. Those cinnamon rolls... I can't. We had another stop over on our long travel into California. We stopped in Laughlin, NV, a town that is only there for one reason... gambling. It is the strangest, smallest, dingiest town around. We stayed at a casino where I ate at a gross buffet, smelled a lot of cigarette smoke, and saw Red Tails, the not-so-great movie about the Tuskegee Airmen. Needless to say, I was glad to get out of there in the morning and head to Cali!
We had a quick one-nighter in Bakersfield and then headed to San Luis Obispo. I loved "SLO." It was a very cute town with great shops and restaurants and we had the chance to be outside and enjoy walking in the sun again. We found Firestone Grill and devoured one of the best sandwiches I've ever had, the tri-tip steak sandwich, before the show. After the show we enjoyed a little bonfire on the patio of a nearby bar and embraced being in the warmth of California. We spent the weekend in Palm Desert, CA, a very wealthy community. The McCallum Theatre was so nice and we enjoyed the many amenities for the weekend. There were lots of great shops, fun outdoor restaurants, etc. The highlight of the weekend was getting to see Tina Diaz! Tina is one of my closest friends. We went to Governor's School for the Arts together in 2004 and became fast friends then. Through the rest of high school and all of college and beyond she has been a great friend to me and I was thrilled to see her and her boyfriend Charlie. They drove to see my show and then stayed for a HUGE cookout on the grill and patio at the theatre. With our Emile, Marcello, manning the grill, we had mountains of food to enjoy and send us out for a week off!
For this little break a few of us guys decided to get a trip together to Las Vegas. I had never been to Sin City before, but knew I had to experience it, so I quickly jumped on board for the trip. What a crazy couple of days! That city just EATS your money. I may as well have just thrown my debit card down the toilet for the weekend. But boy did I have a GREAT time! Ha ha! We stayed at the beautiful Cosmopolitan hotel, the newest major resort on the strip. It was right in the heart of it all and from the moment we drove into the parking garage we knew we were in for a treat. This place was jaw-droppingly opulent. From the walls covered in flat-screen panels, constantly changing the environment, to the 3-story chandelier bar in the center of the hotel to our suite over-looking the famous Bellagio dancing fountains, we were set up for success. Our room was over-the-top nice. We had 2 large flat-screen tvs, a bathroom as big as my apartment in NYC... it was crazy.
We only had one night and one full day in town so we knew we had to pack in as much as possible. We started our first night at a tapas restaurant in our hotel. The group was me, Drew, Christian, Shane, Alex, plus Alex and Drew's girlfriends, Morgana and Sara Lynn. From there we headed to 2 shows. First was Jubilee, the famous old-school Las Vegas showgirl show. It was really fun to see that old-school style that is just about gone from the world of live theatre.
Then, on the other side of the spectrum, we went to see Le Reve. I don't even know where to begin. Le Reve is a cirque du soleil-style show at the Wynn Resort. It is a small theatre in the round and the stage is covered in water. The floor comes up and out of the water at times, changes levels, shapes, etc. The show is full of magical moments of people doing synchronized swimming, dance, aerial acts, acrobatics, etc. It is absolutely the most visually stunning thing I've ever seen. I've never sat in a theatre with my mouth wide open and audibly saying "WOW!" so much. It was unreal. If you get a chance GO SEE THIS SHOW!!!
The rest of that night we spent walking around, watching the Bellagio Fountains, exploring the Venetian, eating at the secret pizza restaurant in our hotel, and doing a bit of gambling. I am thankful that I have no interest in gambling at all. I play once to say I did it and then that's it. The next day we woke up late and went and enjoyed brunch at the Bellagio's never-ending buffet. This city is just all about indulgence. There was so much food I almost didn't know what to do! Almost. We continued the day driving out to see the Red Rocks quickly and then came back for dinner and a show at the MGM Grand.
The MGM has a fun lion display to see and we ate before seeing KA, a cirque du soleil show that, again blew my mind. I don't know how the technology of that show works, but it was the craziest beast of a technical marvel I've ever seen. I couldn't believe it. The sheer size of the theatre, built especially for this show, was incredible. After that we had indulged enough and it was time to drive out of town and head home in the morning! We had a great time, but I was so thankful for a break to spend time with my family and gather my thoughts away from work and away from the road.

All the best to all of you!

Finishing up South Pacific

I do this at the end of a lot of my jobs. I just have a hard time keeping up with the blog when I'm traveling at such a fast rate (as I do on tour), and then I end up having to do a catch-up post because I know one day I'm going to be glad I have these stories and memories written down to tell my grandchildren. So here we go... I'm going to try to get all caught up on the blog over the next couple of weeks since I am in one place now... New York City! (More on that as we catch up with the blog.)

After Christmas break tour commenced in Salt Lake City, UT! Adding another state to my list of states I hadn't been to was very exciting and the company was all very happy to see each other. It was really cold and dry, but it was fun to see snow. Our time in Salt Lake was so interesting. Growing up with many friends who were members of the Church of Latter Day Saints, I was fascinated to learn more about their culture in the hub of it all! We toured the tabernacle and were marveled by its acoustical genius. We also went into the convention center and the MASSIVE auditorium there. Along the way we learned so much about the history of the church and encountered so many welcoming, hospitable members of the community. Our Mormon experience was fully realized on Sunday morning when we got to attend service and hear the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing! It was so cool to hear that iconic, pure, clean sound live.
The other big event of the week was that I went skiing! I have only been snow-skiing once, but it was indoors in Dubai! Haha! Finally getting to ski outdoors was so much fun. It was just a BEAUTIFUL day and we couldn't have asked for a better time. I went with Royce, Drew, and Chase up to Alta. They were awesome friends throughout the day, being patient as I jumped in full force. I felt pretty good about it all, skiing consistent blues by the middle of the day. We had such fun. The rest of the week was highlighted by exploring Salt Lake's AWESOME library, a great sushi joint, and great pizza at Pie Hole.
A couple funny things did happen during this week back. At one point the dry air got to me and during intermission my nose started bleeding. I ended up having to sit out most of the second act because it wouldn't stop! What is it with me having bloody noses during shows?! Also- we became major patrons of a restaurant called Bayleaf. There was an eating contest that happened where our great Stewpot, Erik Cheski, took on plates piled high with fried chicken, eggs, bacon, waffles... it was intense. He didn't quite finish it off, but we were super proud of him!
Our next stop on tour was Tempe, AZ! We were welcomed to the beautiful ASU-Gammage, the only theatre designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, by great crowds and a wonderful board of directors who threw us a fun opening night party. Tempe is a really great college town and we were so glad to have some great food and fun places to walk while we were there. One morning we hiked up A Mountain, a small climb that gave us great views over the campus and main strip in town. I was glad to be in warmer weather and spending time outdoors. I quickly realized that my friend Kyle Riggs lived in Pheonix so we ended up meeting up and having a fun lunch from food trucks. I also got to see my elementary school music teacher, Pat Foley! She was so nice to come to my show and we went out for lunch as well. It's always the biggest treat to see old friends along the way during tour. It brings a little feeling of home and familiarity that is invaluable.
The highlight of the week for me was going with Chase, our violinist, and his family out to Sedona! I had been wanting to get out to see that part of the country for years. I've heard so much about how beautiful it is so I had to see for myself. We drove out and spent the morning hiking to the very top of Bell Rock, a gorgeous rock formation. Hiking and that sense of accomplishment makes me feel so alive. It's a connection to God's creation you can't duplicate. Anyway- we had a wonderful day with beautiful weather, good food, and INCREDIBLE company. I haven't laughed like that in a long time. Thank you to Chase, Michael, Chris, and Jenni! The week in Tempe ended with a wonderful party at one of the board members' homes. David Horowitz hosted the company at his home with much food and drink. We had a great time and I was able to get behind the piano and play for a while as the company had a mini jam-session. Thank you, Tempe!
Good luck keeping up, everyone! Love you all!