Tuesday, February 26, 2013

2/18/13-2/24/13: Fort Myers, FL

Nothing like a week in S Florida in the winter to A) Relax you and make you feel like you are on vacation and B) Get you prepared to go back out into the snow a week later...

Just finished up our randomly (but welcomed) placed week in Fort Myers, FL. Now, having lived in FL for about 20 years AND not being a beach person (I don't swim much, the salty air and humidity make me feel dirty and I hate having sand stuck to me...and crowds...and I burn by looking at the sun too long...), I was content to hang out at the hotel and ready (in the shade) by the pool (when it wasn't too hot out).  But for the rest of the cast - it was definitely a mini vaca. Beach days, Sanibel Island, Sunburns - the whole works.

We were treated to a wonderful night out on Fort Myers Beach to a party at a restaurant called Junkanoo's on the beach by one of our producers who lives in the area.  That was alot of fun - I can handle the beach at night.  In fact my favorite time to goto the beach, and only time I will willingly is mid December around midnight.  Then there's no one there and its nice and cool...Ah.  But not everyone's a vampire like me. Anyway, Junkanoos treated us right - with an amazing spread of edible beach delights and some delicious drinks to boot.  They had their private beach open for us and a good number of the company played some beach volley ball as well.

In fact, the only downside of our little trip was that someone stole my external hard drive.  BIG PAIN IN THE BUTT!!!!  I had brought it down to the business center of the hotel to print some things out - and accidentally left it there when I went back up to my room.  Sadly, I didn't realize this for about a day and a half - when I went to go look for it, of course, it was gone.  No one had turned it in to the front desk (like I would have done...) so I was just out of luck...People amaze me.  Why stealing is perfectly ok to some people...all I can say is I hope whomever the thief was enjoys all the show videos I now don't have copies of - as well as my edited reels and backup of my website.  And I hope they get a virus from it that eats their entire computer and whomever they bring their computer to to by, overcharges them - causing them to not be able to pay their rent and become homeless....but I digress...

Our company manager, Deb, arranged for us to travel from Fort Myers to Orlando after our matinee show on Sunday.  We stayed at the Disney All Star Movies Resort and then flew out of Orlando to Appleton, WI the next day.  Since we were only going to be about an hour from home, Mom and Dad came up to Orlando for a bit.  My Mom just had her birthday - and their 40th wedding anniversary was 2 days before - so I took them out to diner at the House of Blues in downtown Disney.  It was alot of fun - and nice to see them, since I haven't been home since October when I left for NYC to start How The Grinch Stole Christmas rehearsals last year.  After diner, we came back to the hotel, and I showed them around the resort, which was decorated in the fashion of several Disney films. 

Monday morning, we got up and headed out for the airport under the guidance of our bus driver, whom has been dubbed Wandering Wanda.  Lets just say....we drove up to the departing flights drop off point....then drove by it - Circled around to arriving flights....then circled around to the Rental Car section....sat at the gate for 5-10 minutes until Deb finally got out and called someone at the airport for assistance, then we ended up in a bus drop off...back at the arriving flights section and had to lug all our suitcases back up to the departing flights section that we were at 20 minutes before...and that was just the start to a travel day that I'm trying to forget.   But here we are in Appleton, WI - and I'm (probably the only person here) excited to be back up North in the cold weather and snow again - and looking forward to a fun week of Cheese Curds!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

2/15/13-2/17/13: Scranton, PA

And here we are arriving at the end of our first split week in Scranton, PA - home of the Dunder Miflin and The Office.

The city itself actually turned out to be very nice - and the hotel we stayed in was TO DIE FOR. It was a converted train station from back-in-the-day.  I mean along the lines of Grand Central in NYC - huge and open.  When you walked into the lobby, it just took your breath away.  Radisson Lackawanna - if you're in Scranton...

At first, I had some reservations about the theatre we were performing in - which was actually a converted Masonic Temple.  No stage door - you walked in with the patrons into the lobby... the 'backstage/crossover/storage space/company managers office was actually one large grand ball room - which made the stage itself seem like something ala 'The Best Christmas Pageant Ever'.  BUT once I was assured that there were actually stairs leading to the dressing rooms that were backstage and not in the lobby as we were originally told (I about died), I relaxed into the venue and really had a good time there.  The artwork in the Temple was beautiful and though the stage was a little smaller than we were used to, it actually put us closer to the audience than we've been in most theatres - I really felt the audience could read our facial expressions better here - and so some of our jokes landed better.  The moral being - don't judge a book by its cover.

Another first happened here in Scranton as well - we had our first actor call out of a show (colds been making its way around the cast) - so our last two shows in the city were our first two understudy put ins. Its always fun and exciting when one of the understudies gets to go on - of course everyone is routing for them to do well.  But in general, they don't get much, if any, rehearsal as the character they are going in for - so it always adds new energy to the scenes as everyone is hoping that nothing tragic happens.  Our James Michael was a superstar all the way and played a fine Lucas.

As I write this, the windchill outside brings the temperature down to a chilly -2...which is why I am so stoked to be flying to Florida tomorrow.  Sure it means I have to repack my bags and do the 50lbs shuffle...but a week in Fort Myers sounds nice right about now...

Friday, February 15, 2013

2/14/13: State College, PA

Un-Happy Valentine's Day from the Addams Family on the road!

Our 'special day' was spent traveling to and performing our first 'one-nighter' - which are just what they sound like.  You get on the bus, travel all day to the city, go to the theatre and perform, pass out at the hotel, then get on the bus to travel to the next city.  Its more hectic for the crew than it is the cast as they have to build the set, run the show and then take down the set all in one day. But everyone got into the Valentines spirit regardless - a few cards on the bus - some candy - and some of the crew girls dolled up for the show - Addams style!

But here we are - in the home of Penn State University.  Sadly, it seems like a fun little town - with a ton of shops, restaurants and bars that we won't get to see as we're heading out in a few hours.  But from what I've seen, its a typical college town - full of life and young people.  This campus also has a place called The Creamery - which is an ice cream facility where students learn the art of making and perfecting ice cream.  Its where Ben and Jerry went and met before they opened up their little factory.  I'm hoping to get a chance to walk over there before we leave - but may not make it before our bus call at 11...

The show itself went very well - in and out.  Its kinda weird thinking that we won't be there again tonight, but so is the way of tour life - onto the next big thing.  Which in our case is Scranton, PA - home of The Office.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

2/11/13-2/13/13: Utica, NY

Our first split week begins - now it truly feels like tour...

A 'split week' is when you spend half the week in one city then travel to another for the other half.  Technically this isn't a true split week - since we have a one day stop in State College, PA on the way from Utica to Scranton - but its close enough.  When I was touring with Curious George Live! a few years back, we did mostly split weeks.  So that feels like the norm to me when it comes to tour life.  The only way you could tell the day of the week was from your Travel Day - which was always a Monday or Thursday.  Its an interesting way to live (lol).

Speaking of Curious George, our stop in that show was the last time I was in Utica.  It was memorable because one of our cast members grew up here - and his family owned a restaurant in town that catered us a fantastic Italian diner after one of our shows. Oddly enough, one of our cast members in this show is also from here - but restaurantless.

We didn't get to see alot of the town itself - since we were staying downtown and didn't have access to cars.  But from what we saw, the crowning jewel of the city is definitely the theatre that we performed in - The Stanley.  It has been going through some renovations and is truly one of the most gorgeous building's I've ever been in.  The lobby is incredibly - and includes a replica of the staircase in Titanic (where Kate Winslet meets Leo for dinner and at the end of the film when they all die ((spoiler alert))).  But the theatre itself is also breathtaking.  Its obvious that the city is incredibly proud of the venue - and not only that but they seem to really appreciate theatre in general.  Our audiences here were utterly delightful. All in all making Utica a fun stop - despite the lack of adventures to be had exploring the town itself.

With not much going on outside the hotel, it gave me a chance to break out my board games.  I had a good solid game of Arkham Horror with some of the cast and crew.  Arkham is probably one of my favorite games of all time.  Its based on the writings of HP Lovecraft (who's works inspired most of the horror genre that we know today) and is nothing less than epic.  Basically you control an character in the city of Arkham, Mass. who is trying to stop the end of world via an Ancient God waking up under the Earth. Its a 'cooperative' game - meaning that all the players work together against the board to stop the Apocalypse.  You all win or you all loose - and the board does a great job making sure you will most likely lose.  Most characters in Lovecraft stories either go insane or die horribly - and the game reflects that.  I also got a few fun rounds in of Level 7 [Escape] - this one is a scifi based survival horror game ala Resident Evil - except instead of Zombies...you're escaping from Aliens.  Its billed as a 'semi-cooperative game', meaning that the players can chose to work together as you all are trying to get the hell out of Dodge - but sometimes its more beneficial to sacrifice one of your buddies to get yourself to the elevator...In my opinion, not a bad way to spend a rainy/snowy day at the hotel.  In fact, I travel with an entire suitcase of games (board and card - as they've become my new hobby) - which hopefully doesn't become a pain in the butt when we have our first flying travel day next week...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

2/4/13-2/10/13: Rochester, NY

It seems like we've been doing this show for years already - funny thing...Officialy this was only our first real week!

Opening week in Rochester went pretty well all said and done.  8 shows that had the audience laughing and clapping - even the reviewers seemend to enjoy us.  Though it was not without its challenges.  It was our crew's first time packing up the show from our Tech space, where it was built and had been living for 3 weeks straight, putting into 3 trucks and unpacking and rebuilding it in a new venue.  They did an amazing job too - considering the adventure started out with their tour-sleeper bus breaking down 40 miles outside of New Haven.  For you non-touring folks out there - the crew generally 'loads out' the show right after the final performance in a city, then gets on a sleeper bus (a bus with about 12 bunk beds built into it) and crashes as they drive through the night to the next city.  When the wake up, they go straight to the theatre and 'load in' the show to the new theatre (possibly having an hour or so...or less between the time they finish and the show that evening which they will have to run) all before they get to see their new hotel room....that is if its not a one nighter and do it all again that evening.  Its a really tough job sometimes and one that I wouldn't want - dont get me wrong...they are paid well for their services...but they definately earn it in stress and long days.  The other issue they have to deal with is working/teaching a new 1/2 crew every city.  It takes more people to fully run a show then could financially travel with the show to every city - so a group of 'locals' from the local IATSE union will come in and learn the show as its being loaded in and assist the permanent crew with all the tasks involved in running the show.  This leaves some room for new 'surprises' every night - as learning a 2 1/2 hour show to perfection probably takes more than the 30-60 mins they have to learn it in.  But thats the fun of live theatre backstage I guess ;)

We hit a few other challenges in Rochester as well.  The Noreaster that snowed in NYC definately hit us.  The last part of the week, the roads were icy and snow piled high on the sides of the street.  Though the folks of Rochester are pretty much used to this kinda thing and it didnt seem to affect our audiences much.  I also went through a bought of (unfortunately timed) food poisoning.  Luckily the brunt of it hit right after a show and throughout the night at my hotel - unluckily - the next morning we were called into the theatre for a 5 hour 'B-roll footage' video shoot.  A 'B-roll' is a collection of vidoe that highlights fun portions of the show - its basically the footage that will be given to all the local TV stations to run promos for the show or to show during press interviews, etc.  I hope the footage I was in turned out seeing as how ideally I'd have been sleeping the rest of the poison out of my body and not singing and dancing...time will tell.

I did get a chance to explore a little of Rochester during the week though - which was great.  We were staying in the downtown area - which is often the case with a touring show becasue thats where the theatres are.  It turns out that we were staying very near to the house were Susan B. Anthony lived for a good portion of her life - so a few of the cast went and took a tour of the house and education center.  It was really interesting, as I actually didn't know much about her life before I went.  I was very interested to find out that she was friends with Frederick Douglas, who also lived in Rochester.  She was also arrested for voting in an election - and fined $1000 (which was un ungodly amount back then.)  She was a very inspring figure in history and I was glad to have visited the facility - if you find yourself in Rochester, stop by - the docents are very knowledgable and are always happy to show folks around.

We also frequented Dinasaur BBQ - a restraunt featured numerous times on the Travel and Food networks...with good reason.  The food was --- grrrreat!  This is the second location though (there's also a third in Harlem that Ive never been to...) - the first being Syracuse.  So we'll be stopping in to compare the original to this one when we're in town.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

1/21/13-2/3/13: New Haven, CT Technical Rehearsals

Much deserved sigh of relief...

The past two weeks have been a dozy. We arrived in New Haven and began our Technical Rehearsals.  If you've ever been a part of a theatre production, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, let me explain.  A Technical Rehearsal period (usually a week to a week and a half), or as we loving refer to in in the theatre world: "Hell Week", is when all the elements that make the performance start to come together.  The crew begins to work in tandem with the actors and directors and creative teams to set and focus the lights, learn the easiest way to make the scene changes happen, see how best to handle the quick costume changes and mix the singing and orchestra and sound effects together so nothing is too over or under powering for the audience - or the actors on stage. With all of the departments now working together - it becomes a long, slow process, especially for the actors - who basically spend most of the time waiting for their scenes to come up or pausing during the scenes so lights can be adjusted.  My big number in Act 2, Moon And Me - is probably one of the most technically challenging pieces in the show.  There is so much going on that the audience is not supposed to see to make the 'magic' happen - and it has to be very precise.  I think after all was said and done, we spent a total of 10 hours just to perfect that 2 1/2 minute number.

At the same time, its very exciting.  As an actor, Tech is the first time you are seeing all of the elements you will be using in the show.  You have a day to learn how to put on the make up that has been designed for your character - and you get to see everyone in their costume for the first time.  Its also the first time you get to hear and sing with the live orchestra - and believe me, most songs sound a million times different when just played on a rehearsal piano in the studio than they do with full orchestrations.  The first day we started to run rehearsals in full costume and make up was absolutely mind blowing - seeing the characters take on their physical personas was so exciting.  Especially with such iconic figures as in the Addams Family.

At the end of our Tech period we began to preview the show.  Basically, that means we were performing for live, paying audiences - but the creative team was still around to make adjustments and tweak scenes/jokes/songs that weren't landing right yet.  Its a great time, because you actually get to see how an audience will react to the piece. After a month of rehearsals, you start to wonder "Are these jokes funny?" "Am I putting the right emotions into my song?"  So its great to have a crowd there to react to what you're doing and give you some assurance that you're on the right track still.  I was very lucky to be able to invite some friends from NYC and the CT area to come out and see one of our Preview shows - so that was an extra bonus to hear their words of praise.

Even with the 12 hour days - we found some time to unwind and explore the city of New Haven.  If you ever find yourself in town...there are tons of restaurants worth visiting.  Some of the ones I'd recommend are: Claire's Cornucopia (a great Vegan place that offers everything from Italian sodas to cupcakes to delicious lunch and dinner entrees), The Meatball House (Meatballs any way you can imagine them), The Noodle House (Some for the best Asian soups I ever had - and HUGE) and Prime 16 (Really imaginative burgers and a great selection of local beers).  There's also the home of the first hamburger: Louis' Lunch.  They make it the same way the did back then, cooking it in what appears to be an 1800s cast iron version of a Foreman grill.

New Haven is also the home to Yale University.  On our day off, a few of us took a visitors tour of the campus.  The introductory video they showed us in the Visitors Center was enough to make me wanna go there - it was a musical - and hysterical.  In fact I was really pleasantly surprised by the tour.  I always imagined Yale, Harvard, those Ivy League schools to be really stuffy places.  But there's actually a really light hearted feel all over the campus - which is just beautiful.  The most interesting thing I saw were 2 bas relief sculptures over the doors to the Law School.  One depicted a teacher yelling at his law students because they fell asleep in class - the other depicted citizens yelling at a judge because he fell asleep in court.  It was really eye opening - I never pictured humor fitting into Yale...especially their law school.  All in all - a very pleasant day...and now I wanna go to Yale.

Finally, though, all of our hard work paid off.  We have officially finished our rehearsal period.  Our previews were a great success and incredibly well received.  We are ready for tour to begin. We are getting ready to head off to Rochester, NY in the morning for our official opening night and start of tour!  Woo!  Plus - its our first real bus ride as a tour (7 hours).  While its sad to leave New Haven with its fun college atmosphere and beautiful architecture - I'm ready to start the next phase of this show and see how it settles into itself.  Its been quite a journey to this point and I'm already incredibly proud of the work we are doing.  It'll be even more fun to see what it becomes as time goes by.  Onward to Rochester and Opening Night!