Hop on the Magic School Bus!
As Pippin made its way throughout the mid-Atlantic in March, I had the pleasure of seeing lots of familiar faces at our PA, DE and NJ stops. One of the topics that seemed to come up in most of my post-show visits happened to be our main method of transportation: the bus! On several of our long travel stretches, I made my way 'round the bus seats (AKA apartments) of some of my fellow Pips to capture their perspective about performing and our life on the road. So, put your seat in the recline position, plug in your noise-cancelling headphones, and read on to get to know the fabulous folks with whom I am sharing this magical road trip!
What is your favorite onstage mishap thus far?
“At our matinee in Galveston, TX, “Magic to Do” began and the work lights came on.. Then only half of the kabuki dropped and the sound failed…”–Savannah Sprinkle (Catherine)
“My belt popped open while doing the first section of Bolero. I thought I had secured it when I was hiding behind the bed in between sections. During the second section, I felt it pop open again. When Cassie landed around my waist, I felt her body slowly slide my pants down with each step I took offstage.”-Jerod McCury (Acrobat)
“One time, the red disk of the head came apart during “Capers” and I had to figure out a way to get it off-stage quickly. So, I flung it off like a frisbee through the stage right curtain and heard a loud yelp. I later found out that I hit Mason, with surgical precision, in the right testicle.”-Joel Herzfeld (Acrobat)
“Any time “Simple Joys” balls land in the pit.”- Matt Roth (Drums)
“During my ball slide in “Simple Joys,” one of the balls stuck , which caused me to fly into the air and do an unintentional half-rotation of a flip. Then Joel caught me.”- Tyler Jacobson (Acrobat)
“I was supposed to play the alto recorder when Pippin shows Theo the flute in Act 2. But, I didn’t have any rehearsal prior to our shows and it kept going so terribly. Will now has Alex play it in on the synthesizer.”-Michael Witsberger (Reeds)
“When Rachael fell off the ring curb as a chicken.”- Camden Loeser (Ensemble/Dance Captain)
(PS, it was caught on video)
“When the trapeze didn’t come down for Emilia, she improvised the entirety of the “No Time At All” musical interlude and ended it with a center stage cooter slam."-Reggie Bromell (Ensemble)
“The best had to be when the Berthe trapeze didn’t come down and we were completely unprepared. I never realized how long that section was until I had to watch them improvise the whole way through. I was sitting there trying not to laugh hysterically and was shaking and in tears.”- Eliana (Acrobat/Acro-Captain)
“I recently ended up with the smallest, deflated ball on stage to sit on for the scene before “No Time at All.” . Naysh was towering over me and I couldn’t stop laughing.”-Emilia Brown (Berthe)`
“My costume was put on backwards during a quick change by a local dresser.”-Mason Lewis (Ensemble)
“When Joel accidentally squirted the entire contents of the canteen on Naysh during ‘Ordinary Life.’ Naysh was soaked and there was a small pond by the bed onstage. I tried to keep my cool as a Peasant bystander, but I failed.” –RH
Describe your pre-show ritual:
“Reminding myself of my goals for each performance; I want the audience to have a guttural reaction to the music.” –Matt Roth (Drums)
“Every day, when the orchestra tuning begins, I remind myself, “Living the Dream.” I try to appreciate every show, and remind myself that every audience deserves the best I can offer them that night.” -Joel Herzfeld (Acrobat)
“I usually end up warming up in a stairwell or if there is a storage room in the back of the pit. Somewhere echo-y is the best. Lately my ritual has included learning how to juggle balls with the acros!”—Chuck Curry (Trumpet)
“Fosse walks, a couple push-ups, Pilates 100, some ballroom dance steps to the opening lines of “Magic to Do,” rehearsing the MTD dance break, some ‘Crunchy Granola’ por de bras and a bevel with Mason, Jenni, and Rachael on the opening chord of MTD.” Svetlana Khoruzina (Ensemble)
“I do some “Magic to Do” choreography to get myself into the style of the show.”- Camden Loeser (Ensemble/Dance Captain)
“When I get to the venue, I warm up just in case I need to go on.”-Ishma’el Edwards (Male Swing)
“I use my steamer, do yoga, and warm up my voice.”- Housso Semon (Leading Player)
“I have to do my voice and speech warm ups, or else I will stumble over my words.”-Erica Cianculli (Fastrada)
I love rituals so much they might as well be called Rachuals. Before I do any physical activity, I need to make sure that my core and lower back are in balance, so I start the day with Pilates. Getting my body aligned before a long day on the bus prevents me from getting too stiff or sore from sitting. When we get to the hotel, I like to warm up my voice and check in with my body . During sound-check/spacing at the venue, I like to improv and find my groove for the day while feeling out the space. Lately, I've been jumping rope with our newest acrobat, Cameron. I think it helps get my body ready to coordinate my breathing for simultaneous dancing and singing. Then at half hour, I am using the cage as a ballet barre with my “Pre-Pip” playlist in my ears and getting in the zone.”- RH
What was your favorite venue?
“The Kravis Center in West Palm Beach, FL.” –Naysh Fox (Pippin)
“For Pippin, The Oklahoma Civic Center, but of all time, the Academy of Music in Philly on the Beauty and the Beast tour."- Michael Witzberger (Reeds)
“The Van Wezel Center in Sarasota, FL and Cape Girardeau, MO. The bass drum sounded both deep and sexy at those venues.” Matt Roth
“I like any venue where they give us free food in the green room. Also, when there is enough room for me to take apart my wheel before the show is over.” –Joel Herzfeld (Acrobat)
“The Van Wezel Center in Sarasota, FL. I liked having a raked audience.”-Camden Loeser (Ensemble/Dance Captain)
“Columbus, GA. The photo of it is the background on my phone. It was so beautiful.”-Mason Lewis (Ensemble)
My favorite will probably forever be the Capitol Theatre in Yakima, for its beauty and its memories. I also loved The Playhouse on Rodney Square in Delaware. It felt like the perfect balance of a large enough stage space with an intimate house, plus many people I love visited the show that week.–RH
What was your most challenging venue?
“You know what I hate? I really dislike when the dressing rooms are labyrinthine and really far away from the stage. OR when there is no nearby water fountain to fill up and clean out the canteen. OR when I can’t jump out of the pit. If I can’t jump out of the pit, F*cK that venue.” –Joel
“Any place we can’t hang any of the aerial stuff. But at the same time, being close to the audience is a highlight for me.” –Camden
I hate to diss on a venue in my home state, but The Community Arts Center in Williamsport was inopportune for several reasons. There was no wing space, the floors were uneven, and it was FREEZING.- RH
Edamame from Target-Tyler
“Definitely the California Style SteamFresh protein packs that they sell at Walmart. They were really tasty, not too high in sodium, and obviously easy to make!”-Imani Williams (Ensemble)
Favorite Bus Activities:
“Editing my friend’s dissertations and sticking googley eyes on things.-“ Tyler
“Eating Peanut butter” Naysh
“Listening to podcasts- “Reply All” and “This American Life.” –Michael
“Watching interviews with musicians”-Matt
“Playing table games with the musicians such as, Sushi Go and Card Games, Red Flags, Wits and Wagers”- Joel
“Listening to my Spotify and reading Russian news websites.”-Svet
“Harmonizing and singing.”-Ish
“Watching the show and taking notes. Also sleeping.”-Camden
“Annoying people and instigating arguments.” –Emilia
“Sleeping. I can sleep like a boss on this bus.”-Mason
Writing this blog!- RH
What are you reading or listening to?
“99% Invisible (Podcast)”-Tyler
“The F*Ck Hunters and Pumpkin (music”)- Jerod
“Amy Winehouse” –Erica
“Listening to Whitney, today.”-Matt
“Reading Harry Potter in German to practice my German skills.”- Joel.
“Listening to Lionel Cole because I am writing arrangements for him today. But, I am always listening to Steely Dan, Al Jarreau and Adam Larson.”-Chuck
“Instrumental arrangements of Bach and classical music.”-Svet
“Reading The Four Agreements. ” –Reggie.
---“NO HE HAS NOT. He has not opened a book in two months. He’s been watching “House” and SLEEPING.”-Ish
“Reading Big Little Lies and listening to ‘The Ensemblist’ podcast.”- Emilia
“Reading Harry Potter IV, Anna Kendrick’s autobiography, and listening to a lot of John Mayer and Lorde’s oldies but goodies.”-Mason
“Reading Doom by Frank Herbert. I also listen to a lot of ambient space jams on the bus. The book is like a space epic so the music is kind of like a soundtrack.”- Eliana
Reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (recommendation from Jay Oatis), Fosse by Sam Watson and falling down all kinds of funky, soulful slow jam rabbit holes on Spotify. -RH
Where was the most memorable audience?
“Manhattan, KS and opening night in Lexington, KY.”- Savannah
“In Columbus, Georgia, there was a man in a green shirt sitting front row stage left and was cheering loudly and laughing throughout the whole show.”-Svet
“Manhattan, KS and Lexington, KY”-Cam, Emilia, Reggie.
“Manhattan, KS. They were cheering for everything!”-Naysh
Impt Note: While Manhattan KS, will always be remembered for its super fans wearing bedazzled Pippin t-shirts, I asked this question before we visited New Brunswick, NJ last weekend, where both Stephen Schwartz and Chet were in the audience. I think we'd all agree, that night was pretty unforgettable. -RH
What do you miss most about home?
“Nature and café’s”- Camden
“My chaise lounge and my French bulldog.”-Ish
“My mom”- Housso
“My mom’s food”-Emilia
“Not being able to be a part of family events. Especially since I just turned 21 before the tour started and could now be going out with my family.”-Erica
“Speaking my language and everything about home. But at the same time, this show couldn’t exist for me in the context of my country. It is a completely American experience. I am excited to bring my parents to see the show and combine these two separate realities I am living in.”-Svet
What do you miss most about New York?
“Having good food at your disposal. And having a consistent season. When living out of one suitcase its hard to keep switching climates and stay organized.”-Camden
“A sense of privacy. Being able to do my own thing.” –Housso
“The thrill of auditioning.”- Ish
Taking class!- RH
What’s your favorite part of the show?
“I really enjoy my King’s assistant parts—none of it is scripted. Adding personal moments and motivations is interesting to me. The king doesn’t notice I am there, so I’ve made up the backstory that I am in on Fastrada’s scheme and am there to distract the king.”-Tyler
“Picking on Naysh during Ordinary Life.”- Jerod and Tyler
“Ordinary Life. All of it.”—Naysh
“The accordion scene with Naysh.”-Savannah
“No Time At All, because I have a nice English Horn solo.”- Michael
“I really like springing out of the pit in the “Entr’ Act.” Every night it’s a surprise to see how the audience will react and what I can do to scare them. If there are gates underneath the pit, I can reach underneath a seat to steal someone’s purse and then shock them by handing it to them when I pop up. ”-Joel
“Probably “Spread a Little Sunshine,” because it has the most exposed trumpet. But, its actually more nerve-racking than enjoyable. My most enjoyable part to play is my improvised solo in the bows.”-Chuck
“I love everything, but I really love, “With You.” I feel that I can make some lyrical magic and bring some feelings/project an atmosphere. I love turning my head and hearing 1,000 people laughing.”- Svet
“When the Kabuki drops in “Magic to Do.” That’s my favorite part of watching the show, and it’s even cooler to be in it.”- Jenni Poole (Female Swing)
“The Finale;” it’s a vulnerable moment for everyone.”-Housso
“I love watching “Right Track” from the wings.”- Reggie
“Watching “Magic To Do” reminds me why I do this. There is something about the moment when Housso raises her arms and the Kabuki drops. I still get excited. Also, when Berthe gets lifted and blows a kiss as she is leaving the stage.”-Ish
“The part when we emerge after Theo’s Corner. It is chilling.”-Camden
“When I make the audience be quiet when they think they are going to keep singing in ‘No Time At All’.” –Emilia
“Dancing “Manson Trio,” and I also love Berthe’s number. We can just sit back and watch.”- Mason
“Capers and “Simple Joys” are fun to do. But, one of my favorite parts to watch is the “War Machine” (the acro/dance choreography at the beginning of “Glory”), and the beginning of “With You.” –Eliana
Anything we refer to as an “ooom-chuck” is my favorite, however, I feel a special surge of excitement/good nerves every night when we enter right before Naysh says, “YES! I’m a soldier!I
And, I’d be remiss if I didn't mention a certain poultry character in Act 2.- RH
Favorite Cities/ Memories/Nights on Tour:
“I'd say Kentucky was my favorite place we visited because of the class Rachael and I got to teach. They were a great audience and the students were fantastic!!”-Imani
“In Lancaster, when Marina, Joel, and I got to the rehearsal space early and ambushed the cast with snowballs.”-Tyler
“Getting alcohol slushies and walking around on the streets of Savannah, GA, taking pictures and eating amazing food.”-Jerod and Savannah
“New Year’s in Yakima!”-Erica
“Karaoke night in Yakima. Singing and playing ‘My Way’ by Frank Sinatra.”- Chuck
“Renting a car to drive from Miami and spending our golden day in Key West, FL.” Michael
“Visiting the “World’s Biggest Things Town” on our way to Missouri. The rocking chair was as tall as the theatre! Both breathtaking and enormous. You see these signs, and you think, wow its going to be a pretty big rocking chair, but no, It’s Staggering!”- Joel
“My favorite onstage memory was at our first preview in Yakima at our bows. The audience was very excited and I got very emotional. I felt the huge impact we made for the first time.
My favorite offstage memory was spending time on the beach alone in Miami. The drive from Miami to Key West was also so beautiful, and I enjoyed the cozy venue there.”-Svet
“Sarasota, FL was my favorite. I have a lot of friends and family there and it was warm.”-Max (one of our Theo’s)
“Miami!! I was lit.” –Ish
“There was not a moment I disliked in Miami.”-Housso
(To me) “When you were puking and I had to go on for the first time. Not the fact that you were puking, but when everyone had to come together and make the show happen, it was really cool. And it forced me to perform even though I didn’t feel ready.”-Jenni
“When I went out dancing at the gay bar with Reggie and Ish in Spokane, they put on a show that was absolutely unbelievable. There was a stage and a Beyoncé song came on and I just stood there with my mouth open. It was incredible. Everyone was buying us drinks and we were like celebrities. I’ll never forget it.”-Mason
On 3/24 when David knocked on our dressing room door and said, “Ladies, how descent are you? I’d like to bring Stephen (Schwartz) in.” –RH
City with the Best Food/Favorite Meal on Tour
“Valentines Day sushi in Miami.”—Sav and Jerod
“Chicken and Waffles in Birmingham, AL.”- Erica
“The Loaded Bowl in OKC! That place was a little gem in the middle of nowhere.”- Jenni
“Spokane—the co-op, the park, the Japanese food! Also, OKAY Yeah in OKC!” –Tyler
“Spokane. I had a lot of fun in OKC and wish I could have seen more of Savannah, GA, beyond Zunzi’s. –Joel
“A gastropub in Norfolk with Joel. I had a chicken parm sandwich with pesto and roasted vegetables.”-Michael
“The Conquistador” at Zunzi’s in Savannah.”-Matt
“Coco Bistro in Dayton, Shakespeare and Co in Lexington, KY and hanging out at OKAY Yeah in OKC.”-Cam
“OKAY Yeah!”- Emilia
“We went to a place called ‘Trailer Trash’ in Savannah, GA that had a chicken biscuit. It was heaven.”-Mason
“The Cajun food we had in Baton Rouge was amazing. I had duck and sausage gumbo and an alligator appetizer.”
What are some tour hacks/lessons learned/tips for saving money you’ve discovered?
“Taking advantage of hot bars and grocery stores. Usually the food is good and fairly cheap, and you can get all your shopping done during our one hour lunch break on travel days. Also, using a rice cooker to make your own food.”
“Sticking shower caddies on bus seat windows to use as cup holders or for electronics/miscellaneous item storage.”
“Noise cancelling headphones”- Naysh
“Learning how to manage space in my suitcase. I thought I was good at it before, but now I am really, really good at it.
I only use one suitcase. Tip: roll everything, don’t fold, and get space saving vacuum bags.”-Jerod
“Buying a power strip for both the bus and hotels”-Savannah
“If you are going to order delivery, the address to the hotel is always on the phone”-Savannah
....and if you are planning to order delivery, do it while heading back from the show while you are on the bus so its ready before you’re hangry,”-Savannah, Jerod, Naysh, RH.
“Maximizing complimentary items such as single serving tubs of peanut butter from hotel breakfasts, or honey and tea bags from the theaters. Packing cubes are great. it’s also worth the investment to get decent luggage.” –Michael
“Don’t leave your trumpet at the bar in Yakima or your mutes in PA.”-Chuck
“My rice cooker is the best thing in the world. I cook all of my meals. I make grains, pastas, stews and casseroles. I save money, have the satisfaction of cooking and eat a wholesome diet.”- Joel
“Keeping food in my cooler. I can buy fresh food from grocery stores and keep it on the bus.”- Erica
“I’ve realized that I can’t be a snail anymore (meaning, I can’t carry all of my favorite things with me all the time.) I’ve learned how to be more easy-going and adapt to different cities, which I have grown to love about myself.
I’ve learned that my body can do anything my brain tells it to do. I’ve learned to be more polite, as I am living and working with the same people. I am also learning to be better at taking pictures and documenting.”-Svet
“I learned that it's important to take care of yourself and to listen to your body and give your body what it needs because that's more important than any singular show.”-Imani
“Be prepared to have an alternative warm up and makeup plot, and have rehearsal when we get to the venue. Anything can and has happened.”- Camden
Would you be so kind as to write me a haiku describing the sights and sounds of your current bus experience?
Surrounded by Friends
I reprieve interrupted
I hear the children
There’s not much out there
Brown Grass and Silver Silos
Illinois is dead
Loose screws and plastic panels
Headphones are vital
Head aches and Hurt Backs
Candy may relieve the pain
Harrison does school
Pent up limbs and smells
The promise of a night off
Winter nears its end
Trees and lots of fields
As far as the eye can see
Must be the Midwest
-Alex (Keyboard 2)
Can’t go walk about
But I have to potty
Now I am an acro
Cramped on a bus seat
Facing the wrong direction
The world in reverse
Bodies strewn about
Obstacle Course to Conquer
Restroom is success.
-Scott Cooper (acrobat)
Sleepy bus zombies
Singing through magic handstands
Fosse walk offstage
Burp, sneeze, laughter, song.
Sensing smell of cat urine
It’s been a long day.
Felt and home, children
Hint of perfume from behind.
Purell follows us.