May 18, 2011

Most Awesome Photo of the Tour

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:56 am

Now that the tour is over, I’d like to declare this the most awesome photo. It came from the last week of the tour — we were in Ft. Pierce, FL. The theatre was in a cute little downtown area by the marina, with lots of shops and restaurants. There was one shop in particular we loved: it sold beer and candy! But not just any beer and candy, lots of microbrews, and candies that you don’t usually find in most stores.

I was shocked to discover that they sold candy cigarettes — I figured they had been banned sometime in the early ’90s. When I was a kid I loved candy cigarettes, mostly because of the sugary taste, and a little bit because I thought it made me look cool. So of course I had to buy a couple packs.

We got back to the venue and headed to the bus to show those who had remained behind how cool the store had been. I showed Meaghan my purchase, and she wanted one as well. So we each took a cigarette, and headed out of the bus, to stand in front of the truck “smoking,” as that seemed like the appropriate thing to do. We got some strange reactions initially, from our colleagues who know very well that neither of us smoke. But we decided that we needed a picture to document how “cool” we looked smoking out by the truck.

It’s definitely my favorite “Team Stage Management” picture of the tour, mostly because it’s completely at odds with who we really are.

NOTE: Candy cigarettes are cool. Real cigarettes are not.

March 25, 2011

Drinks of Tour

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 5:25 pm

If I have a reputation for anything in this business it’s my love of fruity beverages. I drank so many appletinis on my first tour that at the end of the run the producer (who was not even on tour with us, mind you) got me a big bottle of Absolut and a big bottle of Apple Pucker as a closing gift.

This year I’ve had many photo-worthy drinks, and we the crew have collectively decided that I need an entire post dedicated to pretty drinks I’ve had around the country.


We began the spring tour in Minneapolis, where we finally went to the Japanese place near the Guthrie, which is called Wasabi. There, my martini was on fire, which is probably a good way to stay warm in Minneapolis in January.

Then we left Minneapolis, on a rare daytime drive to Brainerd, MN. Along the way we found a steakhouse at a truck stop, that was actually very good. I don’t remember exactly what this was called, but it tasted like cough syrup, and yet was still tasty.

Our next stop was Poplar Bluff, MO, where we went to an establishment known throughout the Acting Company (even among the office staff) as “the Mexican place next to the hotel,” where we had GIANT margaritas. While I’m a martini drinker, this is known as “The Margarita Tour” for reasons that are rather complicated to explain, and still wouldn’t make any sense — but especially when eating Mexican, one is expected to have a margarita. Jackee and I had the large, everyone else got the medium. The large was, well, large.

A word about the margarita. Some people think that it’s the margarita tour because there’s a margarita in Comedy of Errors. This is not the case. There’s a margarita in Comedy because it was the company joke.

A few stops later, we were in Clinton Township, MI. It had been a long load-in day, so we searched out a place to have a nice dinner. Bart managed to get us a reservation at P.F. Chang’s, where I had this concoction, known as a “bomb pop martini.” I don’t remember what was in it, but how can you turn it down with a name like that? It was awesome.

The best sushi place we’ve hit so far this year was one I picked in Fairfield, CT, called Wild Rice. I don’t remember what this was called, it was a blueberry something-or-other, and it was delicious and messed me up. I could have stayed there forever eating sushi and blueberry martinis.

Time passed, the schedule got busy, we weren’t around a lot of nice restaurants, we drank a lot of beer on the bus, and finally we arrived in Fairfax, VA, where we stayed at the Fair Oaks Mall. On the day we arrived we had lunch at Champps, where I was reminded of their ridiculous Rockstar Martini, which I discovered last year. The main thing you need to know about it is that it has a rim of Pop Rocks. It’s a very interesting sensation! I didn’t even feel like having a drink that day, but I had one because it clearly needed to be included in this post!

After our next stop, Hampton, VA, we spent a few hours parked in the parking lot of the hotel the cast was staying at, right next door to a Hooters. I had a key lime pie martini, which, when done right, is actually my favorite martini. It was OK, but I’ve had much better.

Then we moved on to Maryville, TN, where we spent a couple days off. At a brewery near our hotel they had an orange dreamsicle martini, which sounded like something worth trying, if it could be done right. Unfortunately it wasn’t. I can see such a thing being really delicious, but however they made it was not the way I would have chosen. For one thing there was too much vodka, and it tasted more like alcohol than a creamsicle, which is all wrong. I later overheard the waitress advising the table next to us that it wasn’t very good. Thanks, lady!

We ended the tour with a few stops in Florida. In Ft. Pierce we ate at a tiki bar on St. Patrick’s Day, where I had this amazing concoction. I don’t remember what it was called or what was in it, but it was delicious, and I had two, which messed me up!

The night before the tour ended, I had an appletini at the hotel bar, but sadly didn’t think to take a picture of it.

March 17, 2011

The Thing About Touring

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 3:23 pm

Yesterday I had a revelation. We had a show at the Sunrise Theatre in Ft. Pierce, FL, with a great crew and a really fast load-in, leaving us with several hours to kill along the Florida coast before our 5:30 show call.

I had lunch at a seaside restaurant (literally ON the water), and then went back to the theatre for a short time before the crew was released until show call. Then I took a leisurely walk by myself up and down the marina area, until being invited to dinner at the same seaside restaurant. Then on the way back we visited a cool store that sold lots of different microbrews (I’m not much of a beer drinker, but we have several beer snobs on the bus, so I’m learning by osmosis).

Over the course of this day, which despite being a 16-hour work day, still felt suspiciously like a vacation (and I’d like to point out, that is not normal), I realized what it is about touring.

Sometimes we get to spend our days in places where it would otherwise be expensive to live or hang out, and we get to do it as part of our job, with paid travel and subsidized housing and food costs. Yesterday I could have been sitting on a beach in Florida where it was 80 degrees, or I could have been working in New York where it was 40 and raining, fighting to get up and down the subway stairs. Now the flip side of that is that when it was 30 below in Brainerd, MN, I was wishing I was in New York where it was 20 degrees and sunny. But the other thing about touring, especially with as many one-nighters as we do, is that you’re never in the same place too long to get really sick of it. Don’t like something about the venue or the hotel today? Tomorrow you get a whole new set of living and working conditions.

I think that’s really what I find so fun about touring: it’s annoying at times, but it’s constantly changing, and every once in a while you end up someplace really cool. Maybe it’s because I never travel for fun, but I feel like I get to experience things that I couldn’t afford to do the way most people do — while on vacation — but I can have the same experiences while being paid to be there.

March 10, 2011

Gonna Miss Touring

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:39 am

With the tour almost over, this morning I’m reminded of one of the things I’m going to miss most.

We just checked into a hotel this morning. We always arrive early in the morning after driving overnight, so early check-in makes our whole day. At this particular hotel we knew the manager, so when the rooms of the correct size weren’t ready for check-in, we got upgraded to suites because they were vacant. Regardless of the upgrade, this has been true of plenty of the hotels we’ve stayed at this year, many of which have been suites.

My bedroom is the size of my living room back home.
My bed is only slightly smaller than my bedROOM back home.
And my living room is the size of my entire first apartment.

It doesn’t help much when we rarely stay more than one night, and can’t really settle in. But still, it’s nice.

The one thing I will say is that at $89 a night, this particular hotel would be much more expensive to live in on a monthly basis than my apartment. So there’s that. I remember being on tour in 1999 and spending a week in a 1-bedroom suite with full kicthen that was huge and cost the same as my studio apartment. That was depressing.

The other thing about staying in such nicely furnished places is that I’m more inspired about ways I can make my apartment feel more like home. I’m out of town so much, and so often unemployed when I’m home, that I never really bothered to furnish it beyond the basics of bed, desk/chair and shelves. It really is more welcoming to come into a hotel room that’s nicely set up. So I’ve been observing things that make hotel rooms feel cozy and useful to me, in the hopes that I can inexpensively improve my own dwelling when I get back.

February 15, 2011


I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 3:38 pm

My job is sometimes hard.

I have a lot of responsibility, to make everyone happy, even when some people’s desires are in direct opposition to each other.

Sometimes I’m more-or-less asked to do the impossible, without the things I normally need to do my job.

I do a lot of physical labor in unpleasant weather conditions.

I don’t always get enough sleep.

I don’t always have access to a shower or a bathroom when I wake up.

Sometimes I just don’t get a day off for a while.

But when I do find myself in a place with a shower and a bathroom and a few hours before I have to go back to work, sometimes it has a private deck that looks out on this:

February 14, 2011

Eyewear and Touring

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 3:13 pm

Sometime over the summer, probably while it was sunny, I had a revelation: I was sick and tired of wearing glasses. They make it really inconvenient to wear sunglasses, they get tangled up in your hair, if you wear a headset for many hours a day, the headset can squeeze the ear hook on the glasses between your ear and head, which gets really annoying after 10 or 12 hours. If you’re really unlucky and have long hair, every time you remove your headset you’ll pull your glasses off, as well as yanking part of your hair out of place.

Not to mention you have clear vision through part of your field of view, but if you need to move your eyes but not your head, you have something blocking your view, and then blurriness on the edges. If I have my head down looking at my script and glance up, my script is clear but the stage is blurry, which is totally bass-ackwards for someone who is nearsighted. After wearing glasses with varying degrees of necessity since 3rd grade, I was fed up.

I was like, that’s it, when I get home I’m getting contacts! Then I was like, “that sounds expensive.” But then I was like, “wait a minute, my insurance gives me a free eye exam and glasses or contacts every 2 years!” And it had been 3 years since my last pair of glasses. So that was it.

I researched this the way anyone should: just before I returned home I posted a message on Facebook saying I was looking for a good eye doctor in Manhattan (preferably west side) who took the Equity insurance. I got 2 recommendations within a day. A well-known Broadway actress with a family, who lives in a classy neighborhood on the Upper West Side seemed like the most reliable source for a good doctor, so I started there. I was able to get an appointment with her doctor within a week, and got myself a new prescription for contacts. My last one was when I was 18, so I hadn’t worn contacts at all in years, because my prescription was so out of date.

I talked to the doctor a bit about touring to get his advice about sleeping with them, and how long I could safely leave them in. Since he’s a doctor, it was basically his job to say that some people leave them in a really long time with no problems, but if I sleep with them in or shower with them, I might be fine, or I might go blind. So… I’ve been pretty cautious.

Touring with Contacts

I’ve really enjoyed the switch to contacts in general. I’ve forgotten how much extra stuff you end up carrying around in your bag in exchange for not carrying glasses on your face. It’s not a problem if you’re living at home and put them in in the morning and take them out when you come home, but for touring (especially for someone like me who’s obsessive about carrying unnecessary things) it adds a couple extra items to the toiletries bag, and you will have to have access to drug stores to replenish your cleaning solution before it runs out. Plus, you still need to carry a pair of glasses as a backup (unless your job doesn’t require good vision — unfortunately mine does).


For the fall tour (which was all in California and Arizona) I brought along an old pair of sunglasses that I rarely get to wear, and had a great time being able to slip them on and off at will, without losing clarity of vision. I was so excited that during the hiatus I bought myself a nice pair of Ray-Bans. Unfortunately, sunny days have been few and far between since November — generally the only thing they’ve been useful for is preventing snow blindness when walking to the Guthrie, but I trust by the time we end the tour in Florida, they will be awesome.

Contacts When Sleeping on a Bus

The main challenge I’ve faced with the contacts is what to do when sleeping on the bus. Being in a hotel every night is a pretty straightforward process. You take them out when you go to sleep, leave them on the bathroom counter, wake up, shower, and then put them in. Then you leave the hotel with all your stuff.

Living on the bus means you either take out your contacts before load-out is over, or take them out in the tiny bus bathroom, or take them out in the tiny bus bathroom while the bus is moving, which is an extra-fun time to stick your finger in your eye. Then you need a place to put your contacts case. I use the ClearCare case which holds the lenses vertically, and needs to be kept standing up. So I need a place where the case won’t fall over when the bus takes a turn during the night. Our wardrobe supervisor has provided us with some mesh hanging bags for our bunks, which are awesome for holding phones, wallets, glasses and whatever else, when gaff-taped to the side of our bunks. So far mine has failed at keeping my contacts safe, and I’m not sure I want to put the effort into actually sewing one of the pockets into a smaller size to hold the little container securely (since the whole thing has fallen off the wall a couple times anyway, as I noticed early this morning when I rolled over towards the wall and was like, “why is there gaff tape stuck to me?”) I think I need to come up with a better solution. I can think of a couple (a piece of foam the size of a soda can, with a hole in the middle for the container, which could be put in a cupholder), but will have to figure out which is easiest, most reliable, and least in everybody’s way if it has to be in a public (i.e. non-bunk) part of the bus.

The Insurance / Doctor Stuff

I wound up paying a little more than I expected to, but it was still worth it. My exam was free, which included all the usual checkups (I chipped in a little extra for a glaucoma test, since it runs on both sides of my family and I’d never had one done — I don’t know how old people do it, it was like a very hard video game). Years of Nintendo and Playstation allowed me to pass with flying colors, and I don’t think I’ll do that again for a few decades if I don’t have any problems. The contacts weren’t completely covered, but I did get a discount on them. I was given a trial pair, which I wore diligently every day for a week, and went back for a quick checkup to check that the prescription was still the best for me (the doc said the contacts may sit differently on the eye after you’ve been wearing them for a while). I needed no change. So then I ordered a year’s supply, which arrived a week or two later.

I got monthly contacts, but I do wonder if it would be a better idea to have daily disposables for touring. It would certainly be easier because I’d avoid the whole hassle of figuring out what to do with them overnight when I sleep on a bus and might get to shower halfway through my workday. I don’t want to end up losing a lot of money by switching to contacts, but I think it might be affordable enough if I can find them cheaply online.


Overall I’m very happy with my decision to ditch the glasses. I still wear them occasionally (like yesterday when I sadly dropped a lens into the hotel sink, and was surely not putting it in my eye!), but far more often I’m wearing contacts or skipping any eyewear altogether on a lazy day off. It’s a little more challenging for touring, but I really enjoy not having glasses on my face, and being able to wear sunglasses easily, and the benefits to stage managing — having my whole field of vision clear, and not getting tangled in my headset — have been great.

Typical Travel Day

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:49 am

Today we are in the middle of our first multi-day drive: from just outside Detroit to Vermont. We made our mid-trip stop in Buffalo, for no particular reason. There doesn’t seem to be anything to do here, but we could find equally no other reason to go to Albany or anywhere else that would have made a similar good stopping place (anything to do seemed to involve being outdoors, which we get more than enough of at work).

My day began with several staples of travel days:
1. A partially-pajama-clad meeting of the PSM, TD and lighting director, gathered around the LD’s laptop looking at a Vectorworks rendering of our set in an upcoming venue, scooting it upstage, downstage, left and right until it kinda-sorta fit in a way that made us stop saying, “oh shit.”

2. Showering in a crew room that is nicer and cheaper than any hotel we get to actually sleep in. This pretty much always happens. The room that you only use to shower and poop in is a room you’d kill to have for a real stay. That’s not to say that we don’t sometimes get to stay in really nice rooms (the Hilton Suites in Phoenix and the Towneplace Suites by Marriot in two different Michigan cities were notable awesome hotels so far on this tour), but the crew rooms are usually in the category of insane luxury. This one here is a Comfort Suites, which is one of my favorite hotels anyway.

3. Changing my shoes in a roadside snowbank. It was a small snowbank this time. But generally we go from having loaded a truck the night before (for which I wear my truck-loading shoes), to a day off, for which I wear my not-loading-a-truck shoes (lightweight running shoes). I keep my spare shoes in a separate pocket on my main suitcase, which rides under the bus. I usually don’t get to wear my not-loading-a-truck shoes, so I try to wear them whenever I can.

4. As I was writing, Matt grumbled from the back lounge that he’s hungry, which I agree with. Figuring out when to eat on these days can be tricky because you need a critical mass of people who have showered and want to eat before anyone will go out. There’s a Starbucks a short walk away. I’m thinking I may go myself, just for an opportunity to stretch my legs and have some alone-time, and see something other than the bus, a hotel, or a theatre.

February 4, 2011

Giant Photo Recap

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 3:12 pm

It’s Laundry Day in Poplar Bluff, MO, so finally I’m going to post some of my favorite photos from the tour thus far. I’ve been saving them, and as you will see, I’ve been procrastinating too long!

From the Fall Tour

Meaghan (ASM) and Tim (Sound Supervisor) are the wall-holders for the R&J load-out from Tucson

I really like this picture of Olivia (our former truck boss) dancing on the ramp during load-out in Tucson

Also from Tucson, Tim, Olivia and Mariela (Wardrobe Supervisor) sit in the sun outside the stage door.

One more of Tucson, where we came across an abandoned lot with a creepy abandoned stroller sitting in the middle of it.

From the Guthrie (tech & rehearsal)

When the truck arrived at the Guthrie, Daniel had everything labeled to indicate whether it should be unloaded. He took this opportunity to continue to rag on me about the weight of my workbox.

Tech tables. Mine is closest to the stage, followed by the director's table, followed by sound (house right) and lighting (house left)

I made a sign in the hopes that I wouldn't have to climb over people every time I wanted to get up. It kinda worked.

The view from my tech table (this was after I moved further up in the house)

This cracked me up. This is the label on the rail for our upstage black drop.

After we finished tech on the day of our first performance, we took a group photo of cast, (some) crew and creative team. I'm on the bottom row on the right.

At the Guthrie (During the Run)

The R&J set in storage upstage during the run of Comedy.

The Comedy set in storage upstage during the run of R&J.

My favorite use for the Comedy set: making a desk out of the Pelican cases that act as counterweights for the towers.

The preset for Comedy, behind the curtain.

The Comedy set, as seen from the down-left corner.

I had a monitor showing the SFX screen at my calling desk. One night I was like, ha, I thought for a minute that cue description said 'peeing!' Of course, given our show, it DOES say 'peeing!'

And the most important thing that happened to me in my time in Minneapolis, I finally got to go to nearby sushi restaurant Wasabi, where my martini was on fire!

From Earlier this Week

The sun sets in Brainerd, MN as seen from our bus.

January 31, 2011

Priority 1: Bus Internet

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 12:03 pm

I have installed myself in my new home. This bus:

I’m cheating a little by using a picture of our bus from last year. It looks pretty much identical from the outside, but this one is a little nicer. Also it’s covered in snow right now, and there are no palm trees. Which is only one of the reasons I’m using this picture rather than going outside and taking one. I will do a video tour later.

The rest of the crew won’t be here for a few more hours, so I got myself settled in at the table. Built-in power strip under the table! I must say I’m impressed because as I was packing this morning I realized that I forgot to grab one of our power strips from the road box for the bus, and I was kicking myself. No need to worry!

So I plugged in my computer and tried to connect to the internet. No surprise, the router needed to be rebooted. I don’t know what the deal is with routers, but they need to be rebooted too often. Depending on where your router is, this is a pain, but especially so on a bus like this where they try to hide the router somewhere inside the panels with the TVs, stereos, etc. So step 1 is to find the damn router. On some of our buses, this has taken days, and was only solved by using an app on my computer that gives very fine indications of wifi signal strength, using a hot-or-cold method to get closer and closer to the probable location, and then unscrewing paneling. This one wasn’t that hard to figure out. So I unplugged the router and plugged it in at the table, so we have quick access to it when it needs a restart.

Should you care, it’s a Linksys WRT54G3G-ST, which takes a PCMCIA broadband adapter. They use Sprint. It’s “meh,” usually. Sometimes it’s utter fail, but that’s usually in the same places that all carriers fail.

Here’s our speedtest.net score. I was hoping for better, but I’ll take that.

Next order of business is to watch TV. We had a fairly limited channel selection at our Guthrie apartments, so it’s nice to have the DirectTV satellite connection with like 500 channels. The only problem is that sometimes the satellite feed is choppy, especially when driving. A major consideration when parking the bus is whether it’s blocked from satellite signal. Sometimes we’ll drive up and down, making small adjustments as we call out to Bart when we go in or out of TV reception. If the bus is going to sit for an entire day (especially on a day off), it’s very helpful to be able to watch TV!

I also figured out which channels are for the front and rear cameras, so we can tune in and watch out the window from our bunks if we wish. Finally we need to know the channel numbers for the two DirectTV boxes. This allows us to be watching two different channels simultaneously — one for the front lounge and one for the back lounge, and people watching in their bunks can choose between whatever either of the two main TVs are watching (or play a DVD or tune to one of the camera views).

After a brief search of the program guide, I have turned on the movie of The Fantasticks, which I expect to be awful and turned off quickly. But I did work on the show Off-Broadway for several years, so it’s amusing to me.

Thus far that’s my day upon the bus.

January 30, 2011

Tis Time, I Think, To Trudge, Pack and Be Gone

I call this: On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:02 pm

Today was a very strangely-arranged day.

We had our matinee of The Comedy of Errors at 1:00.

After the show (2:35) we loaded the R&J set into the truck, so it would be done before the Comedy load-out started tonight. I was asked to direct the loading of the walls, since that’s always been my deal. In less than an hour we had the whole set on. As much as I was dreading it during the show (mostly because I was rather underdressed to be loading a truck in Minneapolis), it was rather invigorating. I haven’t really had strong feelings one way or the other about leaving, but now I’m feeling the drive to move onward.

Also, our buses arrived this morning. Between shows I finally had time to go on board. Wow! We got a really amazing one this year! My understanding is that it’s one of Pioneer’s newest. I only spent a minute walking through it, but my favorite thing that I noticed is a shelf attached to the ceiling of my bunk. Very simple but SO useful!

Also on the break I went home and cleaned my apartment and laid out the clothes I’ll wear tomorrow and packed everything else. I don’t feel too overwhelmed about finishing cleaning and packing, but I’m sure it will take longer than I think, as it always does.

Then we came back for our second and final show, which was immediately followed by the for-realz load-out.

Unlike all previous tours, we didn’t leave town as soon as we were done. Some of our lighting package was delayed in New York because of the recent snowstorm, and we have to wait for the delivery to arrive tomorrow. Thankfully we have a day off before our show Tuesday in Brainerd. I have to move out of my apartment by 11AM, so I’ll be moving onto the bus and waiting for everyone else to get kicked out of their hotel a few hours later. Then we’ll depart around 5PM. It’s only about a 2- or 3-hour drive, so we’ll be in our new hotel at a reasonable hour.

Our time at the Guthrie has been comfortable and productive as usual. I’m going to miss everybody. And my awesome apartment! But Minneapolis has lots of other great theatre (including our across-the-hall neighbors, The Winter’s Tale, who started previews this weekend), and there are other communities waiting for us, so tis time, I think, to trudge, pack and be gone!

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