If my internal calculations are correct, I believe that two weeks of touring life is equivalent to six weeks of normal life content. The past month has presented some interesting opportunities to travel log and trouble shoot. I wanted to share a bit about the problem solving that occurs when things go awry backstage, with a side of special sauce and a can of Florida sunshine (they sell those for $5 at rest stops in FL). What follows are some notable recollections, honorable mentions and my most memorable retentions of the past 4 weeks (12 in touring time). 😉
We arrived in OKC to sunny and 75 degree weather—very ready to say TTFN to our bus for the week and planted in one place. Nothing made me feel cozier than sprawling out my boxes of Lärabars, taking shoes out of my suitcase, and hanging up a clothing item or two. Don’t get too jealous.
After settling in our rooms, we were all excited to see the newest member of the circus, Jenni Poole, who would be joining us as our new female swing. I was thrilled a fellow “mut” (a term deemed by our mutual friend Yvette describing a bunhead-turned contemporary improv loving lady-turned LaDuca sporting musical theatre chick) would be accompanying the journey. Did I mention she is a vegan and even more dedicated to high levels of daily vegetable consumption than I? Knowing these things about Jenni, I had a feeling we would get along just fine.
Another wonderful person awaited us in OKC—our beloved acro director, Preston. He visited us for a tune-up and a much-needed dose of his energy. Performing our first of 8 shows in OKC in the presence of Preston and Jenni gave us just the right amount of pep in our steps that we needed to kick off a great week.
Hazing and Grazing
Our first order of business in OKC was to initiate Jenni into the gang. She is responsible for covering Svet, Imani and I, so our presence was needed for most of the rehearsal period to share our traffic patterns and other field notes. During this time, I had the rare but important opportunity to rehearse some of my understudy tracks while Jenni learned my track. While we were all exhausted from the long days, the bonding time with our newest member of the troupe was a definite highlight.
OKC was filled with several charming little jawns for food, coffee and plants (both edible and non.) One of our favorite discoveries was a café/plant shoppe called “Okay Yeah”. A few of us enjoyed their savory tarts, tea latte’s and mini potted succulents and cacti—the first purchases of our real, live, botanical bus garden! My bus seat is now home to an adorable succulent purchased in honor of Nan’s birthday (2/10).
Jenni possesses excellent detective skills for healthy food spots. “The Loaded Bowl,” a vegan café that knew how to properly portion veggies and tofu, was worth the daily uber ride. Speaking of uber, our drivers in OKC are worth a mention. They each had unique quirks, (one of our drivers expressed his hope that we were enjoying the Amy Winehouse on the radio when it was most certainly Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop, That Thing,”), but they all shared a passion for Oklahoma City. Our rides were chock full of information about OKC events and healthy food spot tips. Another driver pointed us in the direction of a Whole Foods, which Jenni and I ventured to the next morning. We left with full hearts, empty wallets and some crunchy granola (Suite!)
And now for a rather eventful ending to our week in OKC. After our two-show day on Saturday, we went straight into another two-show day on Sunday. While clucking around as a chicken in act 2 of show #1 on Sun, I noticed I didn’t feel like my usual, spirited poultry’d self. I hoped that some better food and rest in between shows would be what I needed before my Berthe trapeze rehearsal and the second show. Instead, I was greeted by a fast and furious round of a stomach virus. Right before my body began it's forceful series of digestive retrograde, I remember opening the bathroom door and saying to whoever could hear me—“PLEASE TELL ELIANA AND JEROD I DON’T THINK I CAN REHEARSE THE BERTHE TRAPEZE RIGHT NOW.” I’ll spare you the rest of the details—but I’ll admit that moment in hindsight makes me chuckle.
What followed was a mad dash to get poor Jenni, with just 4 days of rehearsal, on stage for me that night. While I was way down for the count and back at the hotel, the word is that she was fabulous—and I have no doubt. Because Jenni hadn’t learned the whole show at that point, several other cast mates stepped in for me, including Ish (our male swing), Imani, and donning her Berthe wig and an acrobat costume, Emilia. The show must go on ya’ll, and with our amazing team, it did with flying colors.
After my thrilling night, our call for our flight to Miami was a friendly 4 AM. On a few hours of sleep and not a thought of food, it took my angel roommate Emilia to carry my bags and a miracle that I made it on the bus to the airport that morning. Then I woke up in Miami. After an easy and less queasy walk on the beach, a visit and an ice cream with my dear friend Gerard, and about 10 hours of sleep, I emerged into the next day as a new woman.
Good thing, because some VIP’s were on their way to SoBe to spend the Golden Day with me. While soaking up some sun with my fellow Pips, I bounced off of my towel when I received the text that PHIL & DIANA had arrived!! After attempting to catch up on a month’s worth of hugs, we found a lovely outdoor spot to treat their post-travel hunger. That night, they joined me and some Pips for happy hour at our hotel and then we all went clubbing.
Ma and Pa
Kidding about the club—just testing you. The next day, Bear, Dede, and I headed south in our rental car to Key West for the show that night and to meet up with another VI-pair—Uncle Pete and Sue! Here we are hanging at the delicious Blackfin Bistro in downtown Key West before the show.
After what felt like a hectic show to the cast and crew (we were in one of our smallest venues and sans aerial acro), but an exciting night for my fam, we attempted to find a spot to grab a drink, some food and a key lime pie to no avail. Travel Tip: The entire island of Key West closes at 10 PM with the exception of my truest tour friend. Can you guess? Denny! I introduced my fam to the veggie skillet, and we all hung out in one of dear Den’s booths. A dreamy night indeed. *see previous entry for detailed expression of Denny's majesty.
Hart’s to Warm
The next day, we headed north to West Palm Beach. From the smallest to one of our largest houses, the gorgeous Kravis Center, mom and dad would be seeing two different shows for their Pippin double-header. W. Palm brought us to Uncle Jim, Aunt Lyn and Uncle Matt and Angela. Here is the gang eating at Carmine’s before the show. Seeing them all together and having them in the audience was very special.
Saying goodbye to Dede and Phil that night took some wind out of my sails, but we were grateful for all the time we were able to spend together. Our travel days gave me some perspective about how much this lifestyle and the show takes out of me. While my heart wanted to party in their presence, my body needed to rest. I was disappointed in my need for frequent naps, but it was an important realization to note on this journey. When I am alone on the bus, I am used to responding to my body in whatever way it needs. I didn’t feel how much exhaustion I had accumulated until I could compare my desire for daytime energy to my lack thereof. This discovery paired with my OKC episode, were signs telling me to be more attentive to subtle nudges of fatigue.
I was grateful for some friend sightings that eased the post family-visit blues. It was such a treat to see the Johns’ ladies in Gainesville Fl, some wonderful pals from the cast of Anything Goes at the Broadway Palm in Lakeland, FL, Melanie in NC, Paige in Erie, PA in addition to a surprise visit from Nan’s best friend Nini, her daughter Lisa and her husband Nick! Traveling long hours to unfamiliar territory everyday can make home feel like a distant memory, but there is nothing that warms my heart more than a hug from friends/family at the stage door.
Mel Mel ❤
On our way north from Florida, we made a pit stop for a night about 25 mins outside of Savannah, Georgia, to which the majority of the cast Lift-ed upon arrival. While I wished Savannah was still home to Emily Sutton, the enthusiasm for her college town was palpable via her texts with excellent food recommendations. She sent Eliana, Joel, Matt, Will and I to an amazing South African sandwich joint called “Zunzi’s” that had just the right outdoor seating vibe, background grooves, a bop it, and a special sauce called, "Shit, Yeah!" The guys took advantage of the city’s open container policy and walking around the SCAD museum and historic downtown was the perfect antidote to a day spent on the bus.
Shit unfortunately happens. But, the following shit really stunk.
At five mins before our performance in NC, Imani was training to flip through the “Simple Joys” hoop and landed with a bit too much force on an already injured ankle. She was in intense pain and taken to the hospital right away. Svet was out sick that night and Jenni was already covering her. This meant that there were only two ensemble women in the show that night. Cam, Jenni, Ish and I attempted to fill the holes in Imani’s absence whenever we came offstage. Ish had a 10 min warning before he stepped in for her in "War/Glory." Our “With You” duet, which Imani was swinging for Svet that evening, turned into a semi-improvised solo. Every single member of the troupe is integral to the workings of the machine. When we lose someone, the missing gear is felt by everyone, but our jobs are to make it look like we are operating as normal. After making it through a stressful act 1, we received word that Imani had ruptured her Achilles' tendon and would need surgery.
Our hearts were (are) broken.
Imani traveled with us for about a week after her injury until she could be taken home from Binghamton, NY. Despite this unfortunate setback, her attitude remained exemplary. She attended several of our performances and her energy was felt and heard by all of us on stage.We exchanged many tearful hugs goodbye in Bing, and now she is on her way to surgery and her recovery process. We can’t wait until she is back in action.
We all miss her bright spirit and backstage antics! Frankly, I will be out of control without her teasing and shady glances at my prompt insertion of puns and unnecessary abbreviations, in addition to my love of bumping a good mood/activity-themed dressing room jam. Even on our most tired of days, she always revs us up with her humor and a good booty shake before heading on stage. She’s an exceptional talent and a true gem of a human, so please send all kinds of good healing vibes her way. We love you, Imans 💖
We got your back, babe! That's Scottie up there carrying Imani to Applebees on our lunch break. ❤
A very early tech photo of the fan chicks.
Photo taken and captioned by Jenni Poole. We did have to stop the show for this reason, but we picked up right where we left off. 😉
Screenshot of my google maps on our way to our show in Williamsport, PA! Waving a homesick hello, Reading!
Leopold's ice cream on the far left was de-lish!
Our theatre in Sarasota overlooked this gorgeous bay!
What a treat to see Gerd in Miami while he rehearses for "Grease" on Royal Carribean. The gypsy guardians were watching over us!
Just some Pip'ns taking a dip'in Miami!
Svet may have needed to tie me into these silks, but that was a fun way to hang in OKC!
Up Next: A word from my fellow Pips!