Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Return to the Hectic Day

Going to bed at 10pm seems like something reserved for old people and the unattractive, but we have another hard day tomorrow where we have to start at 5:30am. Our load-in is at 6am, and then we have two performances at 10 and 12, followed by a load-out and a much-deserved return to our Comfort Inn where we can enjoy some well-earned sleep. This is a short stop before we get to Binghamton, where we will enjoy some R&R. But I'll write more after the day is over.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The 14 Man Crew Strikes!

In our load-in today in Burlington, VT, we had 14 union stagehands helping us unload and raise our massive set piece. I don't think we beat our best time, but we didn't have to work very hard ourselves. It was only by the skin of my teeth that I managed to constantly stay a step ahead of the crew; whenever they came up to me and asked what was next, I always had an answer for them. It was rough going, and I had to think quickly more than once, but I did it. And as a result, I had a crew member do a lot of the things that I normally do as a part of the load-in. It was refreshing not to build the pumpkin!

Burlington is a great town. There is a main street in the downtown area that has shops, restaurants, and even a limited mall. We spent some time browsing and Christmas shopping while our TD finished his light focus, and I found three different book shops to browse. In the afternoon, some of our company members went and toured the Ben and Jerry's factory, which is based in Burlington. It was to them what Metropolis, IL was to me.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Our Vermont Adventure

Early in the morning, we loaded into the van and hit the road heading toward Burlington, VT. After crossing the state line into New York, and spending a great deal of time heading up to and past Albany, our navigators took us on an alternate route toward Burlington. This "alternate" route used secondary highways and rural state roads to wind through the mountains. So when we arrived in Burlington, an hour behind schedule from when we thought we would, the company was understandable irritable and hungry. After a grabbed a pizza from an Italian restaurant literally around the corner, and I settled down for Simpsons and MythBusters. Tomorrow we'll be loading into another theatre, continuing down the long line of theatre and work situations.

Battling in Gettysburg

We did our show in the Majestic Theatre, Gettysburg, yesterday, and the theatre itself presented some very unique challenges. The stage was a full story lower than the loading dock, so we had to unload our truck into an elevator, bring the elevator down to the stage, and then unload the elevator again to get everything into place. But in the midst of all of this fun, two items (the lighting towers and a large truss piece) did not fit in the elevator, so we can to carry them around the building and bring them in a side door. And then when we had to load out, we drove the truck down a narrow gravel path near a set of train tracks to make it easier to load those pieces in again. We had a good crew, and they were very hardworking. Erica, our costume maven, actually sewed a new hood to replace the one that was lost, but the material that we gave her to use is a little thicker than the rest of the hoods. As a result, we have one grape-colored hood (the Grape Ape) that is much warmer than the others, with limited visibility. But at least it fits.

After the show, we rounded up the gang and wandered down the street to join the historic Ghosts of Gettysburg walking tour. As luck would have it, we got into literally the last tour of the year; they re-open again in March. For the next two hours, we walked around downtown Gettysburg, mostly across the Gettysburg College campus, leaning about the ghosts and legends of the old buildings. A lot of them were about soliders taken to field hospitals during the battle, but there were a few that had nothing to do with the Civil War.

One legend tells of a star-crossed young couple who planned to commit suicide by plunging from a bell tower together. When it came time to jump, the girl leapt to her death but the boy changed his mind. Now, men claim to have seen a beautiful white whispy creature on the top of the bell tower, trying to lure a young man to join her forever in the afterlife. The legend of the Blue Boy involves a 12-year old runaway from a local orphanage being hidden by girls at Gettysburg College. When a random room search threatened the boy, the girls hid him on the third story window ledge on a cold December night, promising to bring him in when the inspection was over. The head mistress, however, took all the girls to the first floor office for some additional investigation, and when the girls returned to their room and opened the window, the boy was nowhere to be found. They searched the ground beneath the window, but no trace of him was ever found. Over the next generations, people claim to have seen a young boy outside the window, colored a ghostly blue as if from servere exposure to the cold. One girl even saw a message written on the outside of the window - "Help Me."

The tour itself was okay. Our guide wasn't particularly memorable or exciting, and some of the stories lacked a little bit of punch that would have greatly improved them. But it was a great way to spend the night, bundled against the cold and literally clinging to each other for warmth. After the tour, most everyone hit the hay, but I, Andrew, and Erica (who had joined us from the theatre) went out for a quick hot chocolate and some more conversation. We're about to leave for Burlington VT this morning, and I'm still trying to confirm our hotel reservations for tonight. I think I may have spoken to this theatre already, but I have no notes of it. In any case, it'll be quite a drive to get up there.

Friday, November 24, 2006

On the road again

The turkey leftovers are still sitting in the fridge, but we of the intrepid company have hit the road again and currently reside in Gettysburg, PA, a mere two hours from home. This is relatively close to home for us, and one of the only times that we will be perfoming in our own state. But historic towns do have their advantages, and we're staying in the Historic Gettysburg Hotel. While only a nice Best Western on the inside, the outside is really great architecture. We're staying on the main square of the town, and everything that we could want is in walking distance. I've already found two used bookstores that I need to hit up tomorrow in my down time. It's kinda nice to start off with a slow stint, gradually building into the hectic touring schedule again. But on the other hand, I'd much rather be curled up in my own bed, watching the James Bond movie marathon on Spike TV.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving Break

Sure, it's only a couple of days. And, if you were to count the hours, we probably spent more time off the clock in Paducah, but there is no feeling to compare with being in your own house, your own neighborhood, your own bed. I've been cleaning my room and doing laundry, knowing that I'll be leaving again tomorrow night. And this time we're heading to Gettysburg, then Vermont, New Hampshire, and upstate New York. This is the sub-zero leg of our tour, and I have to be sure that I pack enough warm clothing to survive Vermont in mid-December. The worst is coming up, though, when we drive out and perform in Wisconsin in the month of January. I predict that we will see nothing but white as we drive up to the theatre that morning...

But it's been nice to come home. I've played with my cats, who missed me terribly, and I had a chance to get rid of all the clothes/books/DVDs I've collected on the road. It's kinda strange being home for such a small amount of time. It'll be different when we are home the whole month of December. We can get a job, hang out with friends, see family, etc. But these few days don't leave us a whole lot of time to do anything substantial. We only had time to relax. It works out, however, because that's what we needed to do the most.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Back to Back

Yesterday and today were pretty much the same day, just in different cities. We started early at 7am and loaded in the show, getting ready for a 2pm performance. Yesterday, we had another performance at 4pm, then we loaded out and travelled to Clearwater, FL. Today, in Clearwater, we could load out immediately after that show, and then head back to the hotel for a much deserved nap. We went for dinner at Shells, a seafood place along Clearwater Beach that we found completely by accident. And although some of the group wanted to go to the mini golf place just down the street, we headed back to the hotel for a relaxing and lazy night.

Which is just as well, since we have a big day ahead of us tomorrow. We will be hitting the complimentary hot breakfast buffet around 6:45, and then we will hit the road at 7:30. We will be travelling over 500 miles, getting ready to load into our space at 6pm. Following that, we will hit the hotel and be back in the morning for two performances. After we load out, we'll make the best time we can to head back toward Glenside and our home base outside Philly. We are planning to be back in town around 1pm, which will give us plenty of time to go out with our families. It will be a great break, that I will be really happy to have.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Look, up in the sky!

Halloween '06 in Chapel Hill

Over the hump

So we're staying in a Hilton Garden Inn, one of the best hotels yet. Jacksonville is a big and sprawling city, and we're a good twenty minutes outside of it. But it's still a great hotel, and some of the company spent some time in the outdoor hot tub tonight after dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. Lucky for us we had fridges in our rooms to hold the leftovers. We have two shows tomorrow, and then we hit the road again to head toward South Carolina. We had a great crew helping us today; they were hard workers and really useful. They were very hands-on, looking for ways to help out when they finished another task they were working on. So at this point, it's just a week or so until we're home for Thanksgiving. It's all easy after that. In fact, we are approaching the halfway point of the tour, if we haven't hit it already. I don't keep track of things like that...

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Walking in Memphis

We spent the last three days in Memphis performing at the historic Orpheum Theatre. It was a gorgeous space, and it had gold stars in the pavement outside listing all the stars who have performed there – Bill Cosby, Louis Armstrong, Helen Keller, Harry Houdini. All the greats were there, and we followed in their footsteps across those stage boards. The band Death Cab for Cutie will play the space in late November, and some members of the company are very excited by that.

We also spent Saturday night on Beale Street, the popular street in downtown Memphis with blues clubs, restaurants, bars, etc. We ate at the famous Blues City CafĂ©, home of the best ribs in Memphis, and then got a drink at a bar down the street where we saw an Elvis impersonator. He did some things really well, but there were other elements of the King that he completely missed. Then on Sunday afternoon, three of us went to the Memphis Zoo to see the pandas. They had a fantastic cat country, as well as a “animals of the night” house where we all saw a lot of animals that we had never seen.

After a nice long dinner break, we went out for some mini golf and Laser Tag. It was a really fun night, and I came in second overall for mini golf and third for laser tag. Running around in a dark room, lit with black light, while firing laser blasts at each other was a lot of fun, and dare I say it, a wonderful form of therapy. We’ve been on the road for quite some time now, and we’re about to head into a very long stretch of time in Florida. We’ll be very busy down there, and then we’ll be home in a few weeks for Thanksgiving. It’s going well, but that break will be just what we will need.

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Referees, Indiana Jones, and Bumblebees, Oh My!

We’re currently on the road toward Pembroke, NC, coming from the Red Roof Inn just outside of Chapel Hill. We had a really good time at the Halloween celebration in town last night. Six of us dressed up and went, and we saw some amazing costumes on other people there. There was a guy with a perfect Sandtrooper costume from Star Wars, as well as a couple dressed as Adam and Eve. There were a lot of men dressed as Indiana Jones, but only one was running through the crowd being chased by a group of aborigines like the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark. A group of young coeds had dressed up as a box of toxic Crayola crayons, and there was a Pac-Man being chased by a group of ghosts. Then there was the normal share of Batmans, cowboys, nurses/doctors, vampires, and the like. Although there were many Supermans who had purchased the bagged costume from Party City, I only saw a few Clark Kents, and I had the best assembled costume out of any of them. There was a trio walking the street as Clark Kent, Superman, and Lois Lane, but I only saw them from across the street.

All in all, it was a really fun time. We headed into town at about 9pm last night, walked up and down the street, grabbed some food for a late dinner, and then continued walking around. One of our company was dressed as Shaggy, so we went looking for a Scooby-Doo, but found nothing. There were several Velmas, but no other member of the mystery machine crew.

We have another load in today in a college theatre, and then the show is at 10am tomorrow morning. We have a day to kill in Pembroke, and then we head off for Memphis, TN. We’ve been warned about the town, but the hotel is very close to the theatre in downtown Memphis, so there will hopefully be some fun stuff to do.