July 1, 2009

iCal, iChat and Your Parents

I call this: mac,theatre — Posted by KP @ 1:05 am

Here’s a tip that you might find useful:
I live about two hours away from my parents (something like 40 miles as the crow flies, but that’s New York for you), but as you probably know, I’m out of town for a good chunk of the year.

When I was going on tour, naturally my parents were very interested to know where in the country I was on a given day, whether I was traveling or had a performance that night. My folks are Mac users, but they had never gotten into using iCal. Before going on the road I published the two calendars I was using for the tour (one for each show) on my MobileMe account, and set up my Mom’s computer to subscribe to the calendars.

Every morning my Mom could open iCal and see where I was and what my day was like, and it would be updated in pretty much real time as our schedule changed. By using time zone support, it also gave her the correct local time (i.e. if I had a show at 8PM in Colorado, she would see it listed at 10PM on her calendar).

There are several advantages to this. First of all, it automates the process of “So where are you? Do you have a show tonight?” This is not to say that I was avoiding actual human contact, it actually made our conversations more interesting because it would cut to the chase: “How was your show in St. Louis last night? I was looking at pictures on their tourism website yesterday. Did you see the arch?” The other advantage is that they can see at a glance what my general day looks like. Is it a day off? Is it a crazy one-nighter where I probably won’t have a free moment? Are we on the bus all day? This helps them to decide when is the best time to call me.

Now that the tour is over, I’ve kept up this practice with my summer stock schedule. It’s a little less complicated than being on the road and crossing cities and time zones every day, but it still helps to keep them involved in what I’m doing. If having your parents know your every move concerns you, keep in mind that I’m only sharing my work calendar. Parties and other personal appointments go in a different calendar!

While I’m at it, I should also mention how much iChat has helped me to keep in touch with family while on the road, out of town, and even from the relatively short distance when I’m at home. One of my first blog posts was about how I bought a webcam for my parents so we could video chat (mostly to save money on phone bills). Bear in mind the tech specs in this post are way out of date (it references the recent release of Mac OS 10.4.9, and a camera purchased at a store that is no longer in business, for starters.)

Video chat is still my usual form of communication with my parents (when my internet connection allows, which even worked well on the bus, until the bus internet started to suck). It became especially important when I was on top of a mountain in Colorado and my aunt had to go in for a serious operation. In the middle of the load-in day I was able to go to the back lounge of the bus and spend an hour video chatting with her the day before the operation, and that made me feel a lot better about not being able to see her, compared to how it would have been if we had simply talked on the phone. I felt like I had actually been there, which was very helpful emotionally during the five days it took her to wake up after the surgery.

One of the things that often sucks about doing theatre, especially touring, is the inability to take a day off work whenever you feel like it. Often you have to miss weddings, funerals, and other major life events. If you’re going to be in a situation where you know you will be stuck if something important happens, I recommend setting up your loved ones with a web cam if they don’t already have one. Even if nothing dramatic happens, they won’t give you the “we never see you!” thing quite as much if they can see your lovely face!