Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Costume considerations

Sitting just outside a coffee shop in Chapel Hill, NC, we are preparing for a city-wide Halloween celebration tonight. Most of us on the tour have our costumes ready. We've got Shaggy, a vampire, Twiggy, and Clark Kent. I will leave you only one guess as to which costume will be mine. I had given thought to my costume before we left on this leg of the tour, and I knew that I wanted to bring a costume that I could wear as normal street clothes. Knowing I was going to dedicate room in my bag to any books or other products I would pick up in my travels, I did not want to dedicate any room in my bag for a costume.

So I grabbed a thick-rimmed pair of glasses, a Superman t-shirt, and a button-down shirt, and I knew I would help piece it together on the road. In Chapel Hill, I bought a new pair of pants and the perfect tie to complete the wardrobe. Another company member volunteered to help me get the perfect Superman S-curl in my hair, and I promise that many pictures will be taken of the event. We're heading back to our hotel in less than an hour so we can shower/nap/dress/prepare for the party, and then we'll be fortunate enough to catch a shuttle service into town. It should be a wild night.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Up, Up, and Away

Just across the border between Kentucky and Illinois, a small town lies almost forgotten by the rest of the country. That town is Metropolis, Illinois, and it is the home of the Super Museum, the only museum in America dedicated solely to the adventures, career, and history of Superman. Now, those of you who know me are fully aware that I am a huge Superman fan, and I’ve heard about this town before in many capacities. But knowing how close I was, I knew that I had to visit this museum.

So Friday morning, some of us piled into the van and headed to Metropolis. After weaving through the gift shop, we headed into the museum. The collection was extraordinary! While primarily pictures, photos, and movie posters, they also had a collection of props and costumes from various versions of Superman. In glass cases on mannequins, they had an original costume from both Christopher Reeve and George Reeves. The George Reeves costume is one of the only complete ones known to still exist. They had the wigs that both Chris Reeve and Marlon Brando wore in Superman: The Movie, and Dean Cain’s first Superman suit from Lois and Clark.

While the museum could have been a little more organized, it was a stunning collection. More explanation of certain items or areas would also have helped; as it was I played tour guide to the people who were with me. I could go through the history of Superman for them, following the actors and artists who have interpreted the character.

The next morning I went back to the museum for the chance to take some more pictures. And then on the way back to the hotel so we could pack up and leave, I stopped by and met Chuck, who was the first man to portray Superman at the week-long street fair Metropolis hosts every summer. He was a lovely, generous, friendly man who talked with me for about fifteen minutes about Superman in general, and his experience in particular. He told me how he got the job, why he did it for a decade, and what it was like to wear the red cape. At the end of our interview, I thanked him for his time, and I asked him to sign a postcard I had picked up at the museum gift shop. I’m almost 26 years old, and one of the highlights of my life is meeting Superman and getting his autograph.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The much-anticipated Paducah

Paducah is fantastic. Our hotel has a very unique feel to it. It looks like it was built in the late sixties, achieved fame in the early seventies, feel out of vogue, and has turned into a ghost town. It was a huge building that was far too large for the amount of people that we saw wandering the halls at any given time. The town was very kind to us; on our first afternoon, we met two local musicians who play in a band, and they took us around and showed us some good restaurants and coffee shops, and they generally gave us the lay of the land.

The Carson Arts Center where we performed was very new and very beautiful. Two balconies adorned in deep red velvet draperies helped it resemble a movie house from the 1940s, and it had one of the largest fly spaces that I’ve ever seen. The crew was very helpful and all around wonderful, and the kids were very enthusiastic about the show. When Cinderella started to make her broom fly in circles, I heard a small voice cry out “How did she DO that?” The crew has also told me about a place 15 minutes away called Metropolis, Illinois, which is home to a giant Superman statue and a museum dedicated to the Man of Steel. I had no idea that we were ever going to be that close to the museum, so I’ll have to make the time to head out there.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Are You Watching Closely?

Another great day in Nashville, even if it was pretty cold. A front came in and dropped the temperature 15 degrees below the average, but we still managed to have a good time. We split up, and we managed to find a great Japanese restaurant near Music Row. More exploring of the city followed, including a trip to the Great War Memorial, the library, and a full-size replica of the Parthenon. But a large part of the afternoon was spent in a shop on Broadway where we all bought a pair of cowboy boots. So now all the Snakes on a Tour have a pair of authentic Nashville western-style boots. Appropriate for barn dances, ho-downs, trips to malls, and everything except black-tie events and load-ins.

Then we went for some dinner and an hour’s worth of games at Dave N Buster’s near the Grand Ole Opry. And since our show is all about magic, we went to catch a late night showing of “The Prestige.” The movie was pretty good; I’m not always the biggest Hugh Jackman fan, but I think he did a good job of giving the movie what the script called for. Christian Bale gave an excellent performance, but he wasn’t really given much to do in the film. And we could see the ending coming; the movie mystery didn’t stay far enough in front of the audience to keep us guessing. Tomorrow we’ll be arriving in Paducah, KY, and we’ll have to go back to being a touring theatre company. I have to admit, I’ve really enjoyed these few days of vacation. I hope we get some days like this again.

Adventures in the Music Capital

We had a wonderful night in Nashville. We started in the Wildhorse Saloon, a famous landmark in Nashville for both barbeque and country music. We had some excellent food with some excellent music, and then we meandered our way down the street to Tootsie’s. It’s another famous bar in the city where many country legends have either played, or they were discovered there. The one name we could come up with was Gretchen Wilson (Redneck Woman, etc.) After a few over-priced drinks and some pretty bad music, we walked back to the van. One of our girls then realized that she had lost one of her earrings. So we went back over our track, and she eventually found it in Tootsie’s. Someone literally kicked it out the door to her feet when she went back inside to look for it. Talk about luck!

But now I’m back in my single hotel room, and we have plans to go crash the continental breakfast at another hotel in the morning. At the very least, we’re going to steal their free wireless internet. Then we get another day in Nashville. Who knows… maybe I’ll get a Stetson hat.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

We're in Nashville

Writing from the sub-par desk at a Motel 6, I don’t even have the internet access to post this. It’s been uploaded at a later date. We drove almost all afternoon just until twilight, passing many delightful accommodations that had spas and free internet, and now we’re faced with the prospect of two nights in this place. But we are a mere breath away from Nashville, and we’re going into the city to check it out later tonight. We also have all day tomorrow to explore, and a trip to the Zoo might just be in order.

We’ve spent the last month traveling through lots of different states, and we’ve notice that each one has its own landscape and topography. Today, for example, we went around rolling hills and drove along steep cliffs, whereas other states has large mountains, and others were long expanses of nothing but flat terrain. We’ve also found lots of different types of hotels (and unfortunately motels,) across the East Coast. We’ve found nice ones, bad ones, and ones that fall right in the middle. This one, for example, is completely functional and would be fine, it they would provide wireless internet. I can’t really understand how a chain hotel could NOT provide that; it seems to have become an industry standard. But now it’s time for dinner, and to figure out what to do tomorrow. We get to be tourists for a day.

Our Most Challenging Show

Yesterday at the Lincoln Theatre, we successfully performed our most challenging show yet. We had a third of our usual stage space, coupled with very little space in the wings. As soon as we made an exit and left the stage, we literally had to climb over props and other set pieces. Add to that a very small crossover, and we have our show. But we came through it with flying colors, due mostly to the fact that we managed to break down one of our set pieces during the show. The large boudior was in the way, so we took it completely apart while others were acting onstage. Go us!

After the show we dined at Macado's, a Virginia chain restaurant that is wonderful. The desserts alone made the meals, and we're looking into finding more of them as we hit the road for the next few days. We have three days of travel before we get to Peducah, so we're having a meeting this morning to discuss what we want to do. We're also going to go over some basic driving stuff, like the duties of the driver and the navigator. We've been doing pretty well at those things, but I want to have an official meeting where we specifically set down the duties of each position. That way there's no confusion in the future.

Last night we played Cranium again with Dwayne, our contact at the Lincoln Theatre. We offered him a spot on our touring company, but he had to turn it down in favor of a finance committee meeting on Monday. Although, he freely admitted that he would certainly have more fun with us.

Friday, October 20, 2006


We are currently in Marion, Virginia, at the Lincoln Theatre. A converted movie house, it is a beautiful theatre, but it is only about 10 feet deep from the proscenium arch. So it's another very small stage, but we think we can make it work without putting up the set. It's a shame not to use so beautiful a theatre, but we would never fit otherwise. This is two spaces in a row where we have had to really adjust our game plan, and I'm looking forward to the next two large, full-size theatres.

After dinner today, we went bowling at the local lanes. The boys bowled their frames, and then sped away to play video games at the arcade. Sometimes, they didn't even stop to see how many pins the knocked down; the ran off, sometimes vaulting chairs or other obstacles in their haste to encourage Ms Pac-Man to eat the ghosts. We have a full day tomorrow (load-in, performance, load-out) but we have had a nice and relaxing evening. So those kinds of days balance themselves out in the long run. For every day we run around, there's a day we get to lounge.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Say What?!

We had two shows this morning, and both of them went very well. We had audiences full of very small children for both shows, and we could really hear them laugh and gasp throughout the show. But the adventure in the first show was the music... The sound guy had patched his CD player into his board in such a way that we weren't hearing all of the music and narration. In fact, we weren't hearing any of the narration. Now, this would be important once you realize that a good deal of the show relies on the puppets appearing as if they are saying the dialogue. But without dialogue, we had to be very creative and come up with different ways to express what the lines would have been. As the stepsisters, we had to be very specific when taunting Cinderella, and I rubbed my stomach to express hunger at one point. It was a fun challenge, something to keep the show more interesting after three weeks on the road.

The sound was returned to normal, and the second show went smoothly. And we loaded out in an hour and a half, which is our new record. Apparently, other crews want to know our record speed, because it's a matter of honor for them to beat it. The faster that they want to work is completely okay with me.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Acting on a Postage Stamp

I know I haven’t been blogging for quite some time, but it’s only because we have been constantly on the road. Lots of driving, lots of load-ins, many performances, etc. At the moment, we are in a hotel room in Summersville, West Virginia, with two school performances in the schedule. Tomorrow we hit the road and we start traveling down toward Virginia again (we were down there a few weeks ago.) After that, it’s off to Peducah, Kentucky. We’ve been fortunate enough to have very nice hotel rooms, ever since we had to spend two nights in a smoking room. But for a few nights when we were in Pawley’s Island, SC, we had our own beach house. Yup, a beach house. One block from a semi-private beach, we could go out there any time of day, and we had the time in our schedules to do a lot of swimming in the ocean. Last night in WV, we played a serious round of horseshoes, and it’s been nice to be able to relax with the company members.

We are performing in a high school that is seriously too small for our entire set. We couldn’t even put up part of our set, and we had to reduce it so it’s just the puppets and the set pieces. And the theatre after this one should be even smaller, so we’re going to get really good at acting in very small spaces. In Peducah, we’ll have more space than we will know what to do with, but for the moment it’s going to be semi-tight quarters.

I promise that I will try to keep a better record of our travels on the road, and I might also be able to catch up on some things that have already happened.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

A very full day

Our schedule today ran something like this... Keep in mind we are now in the Central Time Zone.


5:00am - Call to be at the van to head to the theatre
5:20am - Arrived at theatre, began load-in of our set
6:00am - The excellent union crew arrives to work practically nonstop until....
7:15am - The proscenium is raised into place.
9:30am - Half-hour call before performance, the actors get dressed in costume
10:00am - Performance #1 for school groups
11:30am - Lunch at a charming Japanese restaurant in Champaign, IL
1:00pm - The technical director returns to the theatre to focus lights; Actors go to their hotel
5:20pm - Call at the van to head to the theatre
6:30pm - Half-hour call before performance
7:00pm - Performance #2 for the public at large
8:10pm - The actors meet and greet a family that won raffle tickets to meet us
8:20pm - Actors and crew begin loading out
8;55pm - The proscenium is lowered to the ground.
10:50pm - Load out is complete, actors return to the hotel
11:15pm - Some actors head out to find dinner, having not eaten a meal since lunch
1:05am - (on Thursday) I sit typing this up before going to bed.

So, what were you doing today?

Monday, October 2, 2006

Mentally spent, physically drained

Wow. Wow. We hit the road at 9am this morning, and drive straight to Adrian, MI getting into town around 1:30. Our load-in started at 2pm, and we wandered out of the building around 9pm, mostly delirious. Now, granted, our load-in went smoother than the one we did in Greenville, Ohio, but we still have to trim time off the endeavour. We're learning how to bring ths stuff in from the truck, and then learning how to arrange it onstage in the most efficient way. But now we're beat, lodged securely in a Days Inn, and get to grab a good 7 hours of shuteye before another long day tomorrow. We all love theatre, so this is the chance that we get to prove it.

We're performing in the Historic Croswell Opera House in Adrian, which has a long and rich tradition to it. It's the oldest theatre in Michigan, and people like Sousa and Edwin Booth have trod the very same stage that we will in the morning in "Cinderella." We're a part of a great legacy in this building. We've been fortunate to have two gorgeous spaces to perform, and we know we're going to many similar places. It's a great way to tour the country, and I'm looking forward to those days when we can find more local color.