Tuesday, March 17, 2009


As we wrap up our travels around the state of Texas, a couple of things stick with me. The first is to realize that I haven't really spent a winter in Montana for six years. I have a wonderful yearly migration that takes me to the warm south, when Montana is still getting frost and freak snowstorms. So thank you, Texas, for being warm -

..except for those three days of rain. But, no matter. They did need it.

Two stops will stick in my mind most from our meandering in the Lone Star State. I think this is the most time we've ever spent here...


The last time I was in Lufkin, TX, was on the Trip to Bountiful tour. The theatre sponsors leave personalized gift bags in everyone's hotel rooms, greet us like old friends and generally show us a good bout of southern hospitality. This was the first stop where we experienced some pure sunshine and heat. Most of the gals broke out their sundresses, we had a cookout behind the theatre and some even braved the swimming pool.

The evening before our shows almost everyone gathered onto the outdoor balcony of the hotel (exterior entry doors were never so comfy), played guitar, drank and performed some gymnastics in the grass lawn across the parking lot.

The second day we performed the one hour version, then an evening performance of the full show. On the third day we had two one hour shows, then load out, then leave town - so we had to check out of the hotel. There is a kind of fun, half exhilarating feeling having nowhere to go - that is, no hotel room, no house. It sounds bizarre but there's something exciting in just having the venue and the vans. It really brings to mind an old, old kind of traveling theatre group where everything was mobile and home was really where you laid your head. (Granted, it's fun because we're safe, have money and know we'll be moving on to another hotel, but still..)

When you can curl up and nap backstage or in the vans, there's a kind of vagabond feeling of freedom. On the road in this way, home is where the company is... or the show.


One of my favorite stops (city-wise, at least), has always been Galveston, TX. I have fond memories of an unforgettable skinny-dive into the Gulf on the Steel Magnolias tour, as well as deep sea fishing, eating the best oysters ever, and performing in one of the most beautiful old opera houses in the country.

This year, the damage hurricane Ike wrought on the city broke my heart. In 2005 our comapny traveled through Florida and saw the devastation of Katrina, but there was something even more cutting about walking down the street from the Grand in Galveston and realizing that the windows of my favorite coffee shop were boarded up. The Oyster House. The antique store. Everything, washed over and wrecked.

The theatre itself suffered eight feet of water that destroyed the underground dressing rooms, the stage, and the first five rows of seating in the house. That was in September, 2008. They made a vow to reopen by their birthday in January - and they did. Nothing had to be perfect, just open.

When we arrived they had replaced the stage floor, and had a temporary surface of black MDF down over it, replaced the rows of seating with beautiful new pine wood floors and seats with velvet cushions and polished wooden arms. The dressing rooms below are all still bare dry walls, but they're there, up and functioning.

There are many reports and writings out that you can judge or measure a civilization, community or culture by their artistic achievements. The basic Table of Needs that you learn about in psychology 101 states that you cannot think about higher purposes before basic needs are taken care of.

I'm sure that's true. I'm also sure - by seeing the efforts of the Grand staff to get their doors open and their curtain up - that art, like religion, might very well be a basic human need. It feeds something in us. I applaud the people of Galveston and the Grand Opera house for seeing that and doing everything they could not only to save and nurture a precious historical place, but looking out for the soul of the city by saving and nurturing its art.



Monica said...

Do you love it? Being a Vagabond is kind of exhilarating. Booby must really love it! How many tours has he been on? And you? This is your sixth? You must love it.

PS a comment from you appeared under the movie review section--was it about the movie or Oedipus?--Curious, I was confused.

Jess said...

Oh, that was supposed to be about Oedipus o_O

Lauren said...

Yay Galveston. I would say I'm jealous of you and your warm weather, but I'm not really. I'm actually glad to come home to the snow and cold for a change. I do have fond memories of Texas though, and that I am a little jealous of. ;)

LIZZIE said...

Waiting for more on "this Theatre Life. . . " Hooray for Jess. You can do it!

LIZZIE said...

Okay, now is the time to begin writing again!