Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Deep South

The Riley
We spent some time toodling around the south. Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee... Our first stop thataway was the lovely Riley theatre in Meridian, MS, a lovingly restored Grand style opera house. Their lambrequin (spelling may be off...) curtain was the original one that hung in the 1890's and had a portrait of a woman everyone just calls, 'The Lady' and a light is left glowing dimly on her during every performance.

Prettiest building on the block!

If you look to the right hand corner you can barely see the Lady there on the curtain...

It was a good day. We had local volunteers, kids from the college (who preferred to stand some ways off discussing computers rather than lift walls) and four young men from the Navy who were wonderful. My favorite part of the day (in keeping with my Epiphany) was to see how the city had given the money and effort to restore their beautiful theatre.

Next favorite stop was Baton Rouge! That's right. One night only, though. Our venue was the local university theatre. Not much to speak of there. A typical load -in and show, but I was able to acquire some tasty craw fish ettouffe, gumbo and regular ol' boiled and spiced craw fish. It was something that had to be done while we were in the proper region, don't you think? And they were delicious.

Our hotel room in Baton Rouge was really the topper of the day. A bit cozy size-wise but goodness were they beautiful! It's stops like this that wake you up and make you remember that you're in a different place almost every night. It's so easy to coast through without taking everything in. But this place had some style and we wallowed in luxury for the evening:

We were scheduled to remain in Baton Rouge for the next couple of days, but J.R. proposed a more adventurous plan...

Sunday, March 04, 2007


A sunset from...Utah(?)

I rode in the Green Van today. Lauren and I sat in the back like kids on the bus with Lordan ahead of us, then Libby, and J.R. and Suzy at the helm. That was like a little play all in itself. I didn't have to drive today, which left a lot of time for reading, sleeping and pondering.

It occured to me today that as we're going through random towns that no one would pick out on a map and say, "I bet they have great theatre there," there is always something. There is always a group of people determined to make art somewhere. Sometimes the community loves, supports and nurtures its artists and performers and sometimes it takes them awhile to come around if they ever do.

But while we humans don't always feel the need to experience art, I have seen that some of us never stop feeling the need to create it.

It certainly isn't a new realization, but it was interesting to experience it now and think about in relation to our travels and the hoops we see people leap through in order to create.

Think about it...

and happy trails for now.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

From Orange to Here... or 'After the Hotel Tried to Eat Me'

Down Home

I run out of poetry in homage to places like Orange. They treat us like gold and we love them for it. The space is huge, well equipped and and an easy load in. Their volunteers are generally good and the food they cook us is a little bit of Southern love. We got turkey and sausage gumbo, oriental salad, fruit salad, a vegetarian pasta dish, corn bread, bread, and an array of rich desserts that just make you feel a little bit better about the world.

What else can you say about that? It was a good day.

My time in Orange after that was fraught with peril and adventure. The morning we were to leave Orange my bathroom door mysteriously locked me into the bathroom. There was no actual lock mechanism on the door for me to mess with, and it wasn't just jammed shut. The knob wouldn't turn. So I was locked in the bathroom with no phone, no tools... The odd part was that I almost did take my phone in, then figured I didn't really need to keep track of time in the bathroom.

A very weird panic set in. I know I wasn't in imminent danger, but the feeling of being locked in with no real way out was disturbing and scary. I probably could have waited until people started wondering and calling and knocking but that was a long way off and the panic would not let me wait.

I remember once in a fit of temper I slammed one of the light weight doors in our house and it hit so hard that it opened and stuck in the wrong direction... I gave this door a good kick to see if that might work here too.. or at least maybe knock it open. It gave a little and, still weirded out and claustrophobic, I got encouraged and kept kicking, determined not to stay in there any longer.

Needless to say, I got out. Dramatic maybe, but I can't even describe how not-fun it was to be locked in.

After realizing what I just did, I called Libby and... she sorted everything out for me. Apparently people have complained about being locked in that bathroom before. Well. Now maybe they'll fix it.
So ended my adventures in Orange. We'll just sum on up here so that I'm no longer states behind myself in the way of blogging...
Next stop was College Station, home of the Texas Aggies. Most of the town was clean and full of money, and we spent our time in the theatre at the college and along a strip filled with food and shopping opportunities for all.

The theatre itself brought to mind a Greek amphitheatre and I had the urge to fill the space between audience and stage with..something. A moat, maybe. Don't ask me why. I enjoyed the space but I know some of the actors felt seperated and distanced from the audience.

The Rudder

It was here we managed to tighten up the show a bit. Things have been going beautifully, there's just always that time when things started to breath out a little. Here everyone tightened up the belt again (so to speak) and trimmed up the show to our snappy, crisp comedy pace. The pattern of such a long run of tour goes through different stages and the show changes every couple of weeks in slow progression...we've just come upon another wave and I can't wait to see what happens next. We had a talkback at this venue..one man asked if anyone ever got so into their role that they had to hold themselves back from punching Grandma...but my favorite question was from a little boy wanting to know what was really in Uncle Louie's black bag. Ah, the deep mysteries of the theatre..next up:

Texarkana..."It's twice as nice!"

Twice as nice as what, precisely, we're not sure yet. The Perot theatre has a pretty house, old opera style again, but the key word for the stage itself is just 'old'. We had a very early leave, almost six hour drive and then load in and show. Our van arrived with plenty of time to find lunch and get to work, but I made the mistake of forgetting that there really isn't anything to eat around town. I got peeved, drove a little frighteningly around the town until we gave up and went to Taco Bell and rolled in just in time to start. We were a little rough around the edges by the time we got there. I was, anyway. For some reason I've become a very irritable driver but...I'm working on it.


The hotel in Tex-Ark was lovely, at any rate, had a first rate breakfast, and from there we traveled on to the fine state of Mississippi...from where, if you can believe, I am actually writing now.

On the Ferry

Our next stop was Orange, Texas, which for many of us is like coming to a second home. We get hugs when we walk through the door and they feed us a home made feast.
But first, we got a little adventure! Taking the ferry from Galveston is a novel way to get off the island, commune with the sea and some gulls and get some good photos that make it look as if we're doing interesting things.

So long, Galveston!

Marie and Lauren venture from the van...

Now, this is the oddest thing ever. I got my usual 'Here's me on tour!' shot. The one on the top is from this year. The one on the bottom is from last year. Does anyone else notice something spooky? If you spot it, you win a prize.

..I think it's time for me to buy some new shirts.

The Grand 1894 Opera House

Galveston is generally a good day. With loads of good seafood to eat in town, the ocean crashing so close we can feel it and a beautiful theatre, there's a lot to look forward to. This year their Union crew seemed particularly...well, particular about their safety regulations, which is a good idea, but they seemed less particular about the way they handled our set. When we unloaded in Orange we found several bits of small damages that no one informed us of back in Galveston. There were some other complaints but.. at least we got to enjoy some seafood.

And now..I think the Grand is best summed in up with the series of photos taken obsessively by me...

What a joy to work somewhere so beautiful.

The Lone Star State

We spent a couple of quality days in the vans after leaving New Mexico. We hit I-40 and zoomed across the Panhandle of Texas toward Wichita Falls and then on to Crockett, our next venue. I was able to fulfill a personal mission during that first drive day.

I spent about half of my formative growing up years on a ranch 9 miles north of Amarillo and I was determined to see it again. I came close during the Steel Magnolias tour but it didn't work out, but this time nothing would stop me. Not even construction. The road to my house was blocked so we meandered around the neighborhoods nearby until we came out on the other side of construction and drove on to the house. We parked at the top of the hill and I got to see that the ranch is prospering! Old buildings that I remember from my childhood were replaced with new; big bales of hay were set everywhere and whoever owns it now has named it the Bended Knee Ranch. It was gratifying to see it still going strong.
I'm not sure what the need is to Go Home. I also saw my old house in Albuquerque a couple of years ago. There is something about going back to a place that we've known, that meant something and helped to form us. Maybe it's just wanting to remember or.. be able to see it with our grown up eyes. I'm not sure, but the pull is very strong.

After my reunion with the Ranch I took Marie and Lauren to the experience of a lifetime...eating at the Big Texan steak house. The restaurant is painting in garrish yellow and blue and adorned with stuffed animal heads and other trophies. There's a souvenier shop and a little 'shooting gallery' where you can try your hand at shooting targets on various animatronic creatures to make them do amusing things. If you can eat their 72oz. steak and meal in an hour you get it for free! ...I had chicken fried chicken, myself.

The next drive day our adventures centered around trying to meet up with a friend and actor from the Bigfork season who's in Dallas... but it turned out his acting class was headed to Fort Worth to go to the zoo and study animal movements. Rather than give up, we took ourselves on down to the zoo! It was an excellent, sunny afternoon spent with the wildlife, we got our hugs from Jon and drove on to Crockett, where the rest of the company had been playing in the court yard of the hotel all afternoon near the pool and were having beers and playing guitar by the time we arrived.

A lovely fountain in the courtyard of our hotel.

But anyway, back to work...

As you can see by the photo, Crockett was an interesting day. The space was originally built for events like the tractor pull, but they eventually put up a stage area and seating and called it a theatre. We fit our set in with the help of a big invisible shoe horn threw a few lights on it and called it a day. It's the adventerous venues like this one that make you feel the most accomplished about getting it and making it work, but sometimes it makes for a long day. I do love to see all the smaller theatres out there working and striving with every ounce of resources that they have to get shows together and bring in companies like the Rep.

Next stop.. Galveston