Good morning from plane 2 of our LAX bound trip and my second nap next to my flight companion, Jo-el! As I come back to life, my Delta flight tracker indicates that our plane is hovering just above Denver, CO—the last airport we flew from and just about where I left off. If you recall, I prided myself in starting off the tour with an extra ten pounds of wiggle room in my suitcases.Today, I’ve exceeded the weight limit by a whopping 12 pounds. Yes, I did do a little shopping in Canada due to our American 30% off of everything—but not THAT much. My only explanation for growing such a hefty bag is that A. Delta is full of lies or B., the scale actually weighed the memories made, friendships grown, and lessons I’ve learned throughout this journey. And for that, my suitcase might be a little heavier, but my heart is a lot fuller.
Just about a month ago, we spent a wonderful weekend in Fort Collins, Colorado. Our bus trip there was a breathtaking tour through the most majestic mountainous views. The area boasted a health and environmentally conscious attitude and that was evident just about everywhere. When we arrived, the air felt crisper and the water was described as the cleanest in the country. The theater was one of a startling few that had an organized recycling system and greener backstage lighting, I received one of the most intense but highly effective acupuncture treatments and visited the most notable Whole Foods to date. This WF was filled to the brim with fresh, local products—some of which I learned were my staples I had been purchasing from other parts of the country. I am convinced there is not a more delicious bottle of Kombucha than the local brand I picked up called “Rowdy Mermaid”—made from Colorado snowmelt; a truly stunning slurping experience. The views and healthy chews had me strutting through FOCO’s snowy streets on cloud 9, but it came with a small price to pay. At a mile above sea level our dear Pippin was a little harder to execute. A few days in to our Colorado series of performances, I remember coming offstage gasping for air in parts of the show I would normally feel winded, but not near death. The locals said it was normal for the altitude to effect everyone differently. Some people would feel the effects instantly and adjust, and others like me, would feel fine at first and then discover the altitude catch up with them a few days later. They recommended we drink a ton of water, beet juice for its circulatory system benefits, and absolutely no alcohol.
After a great weekend in which my per diem was spent a few times over on all of my favorite things, we were slated to leave Colorado for Kansas at 7:45AM. That morning, we gathered in the hotel lobby for a meeting with Corinne who alerted us that a snowstorm in Kansas had stranded our crew on the highway and the show would most likely be cancelled that night. After an exhausting weekend of mile-high Pippin, none of us were disappointed about having a night off, though we were bummed for our trapped techies. So that we could stay on our tour route, we headed to Kansas anyway in hopes the roads would clear.
They didn’t. We spent that day stranded at a rest stop in the middle of Burlington, Colorado for about 4 hours. There, we ate at a disappointingly greasy Denny’s (I am sorry, Den, that skillet was gross), and proceeded to have a beer at a Pizza Hut. When we found out that the roads would not clear until 7 or 8 pm that night, Chuck discovered a bowling alley a short distance away. We all piled back on the bus and proceeded to the alley—which was more like a bowling hut in the middle of a deserted field. While its exterior left a bit to be desired, our time there did not. The alley gang was incredibly accommodating and recalling the memories of bowling and dancing with my cast for hours on end will never cease to make me laugh.
When we finally learned the roads would not be clearing in Kansas that night we turned the magic school bus around and headed to Denver for the night. Our final plan to get back on route was to stay in Denver for a day and fly to Philadelphia to put us en route to our show in Shippensburg the next day. We unfortunately missed two performances due to the storm re-routing and we even made the Ohio news! Our crew, however, was stuck for about a day and a half. 😞
Minutes after our surprise golden day in Denver was confirmed, I was on a hunt for ballet class. Collin, our new male swing and fellow class fanatic, joined me for an open morning class at Colorado Ballet and then for a smoothie and stroll around downtown Denver. It happened to be a beautiful day and also our dear Svet’s birthday! The cast gathered at an outdoor bar with a fire pit that night... and more sports. Adjacent to the bar was a volleyball court and the setting at which we all learned just how atrocious we all are at volleyball. My lack of skill was so comical, I spent most of the time bent over from shame and laughter and missed most (all) opportunities to volley.
I didn’t realize how much my heart missed Philly until I got there. Touching down in the PHL had me nostalgic, bursting with Philly pride and excitement out the jawn. I was so excited that I woke up and wrote a list of restaurants and other Philly destination recommendations to post on our company Facebook group that most of the cast admitted was overwhelming. Whoops! Too many favorite jawns to visit in one night. I did enjoy playing tour guide for the night and trotting all around center city with the Pips. I sent a few of them to my favorite Mediterranean place and took another set of the crew to my favorite Italian spot—Giorgio on Pine.
Capping off the night was a visit to my sister in North Philly. Hugging her felt too good to be true; a magical surprise visit to Philly it was indeed.
Being there had me taking a birds eye view of my years there and the incredible training ground it was for me. It shaped me as an artist, brought some of the most important relationships into my life, and gave me a place to call a home away from home. I made a mental note to visit more often to submerge myself in memories, gratitude and brotherly love.
Fast forward a few weeks to our highly anticipated two-week sit down in Niagara Falls. After a 10 hour day on the magic school bus and a check of each our passports, the border patrol welcomed the Pips to Canada. We arrived at our hotel which faced the theatre adorned with screens projecting images and pictures from Pippin. The casino/theatre overlooked the falls, and we could settle knowing the beds we turned would be ours for two whole weeks.
The only catch to our stay in Canada was that our show needed to be shortened. To fit in to the casino’s 90-120 min production guidelines, we would need to do our show without an intermission and sans a few scenes and song verses. Basically, the show needed to squeeze into a pair of skinny jeans when it normally rocks a comfy boyfriend cut. To make this happen we had to create a new 6 minute entr’ acte to be performed in front of the curtain and in the audience while the crew made our intermission shift happen with ten minutes less time than usual. Miraculously, our assistant choreographer/director and problem solving magician, Mark Burrell, was visiting us. Since we only had four hours to complete this mammoth task before our first Niagara performance, he stepped in and helped us combine a variety of material from the show into a very exciting and interactive segue into act 2. Bless him!
The casino version of Pippin required a bit of getting used to. Without an intermission and transition scenes, we were running from one greatest hit to the next. Our shows were shorter, but felt like a sprint instead of their usual marathon. I will continue to marvel at how Housso managed to go directly from “Glory/Manson/Glory Tag”to “Simple Joys” with about a 30 second break in between. She and Naysh were machines for those two weeks.
Luckily, we had plenty of downtime to decompress and well, shower (they were some very sweaty shows!) Our hotel was the nicest yet and walking by the falls never got old. Each minute spent gazing at the falls seemed to evoke more of its vast view and beauty to bask in. Since we had several days of only 3pm shows, we enjoyed spending some quality time off together. We visited a bar called R5 multiple times, complete with cozy lounge chairs, fun cocktails, a waitress who became our friend, fire pits, and a view that overlooked the falls. Soaking up the scene with my dear Pips was a definite highlight.
Another highlight was having the opportunity to perform as Fastrada. While exciting, going on for one of my principal women comes with the unfortunate undertone of illness. It was disappointing for all of us to see Erica under the weather for the weekend, especially since she has been such a warrior for 6 months. Needless to say, I was grateful for the opportunity and after experiencing it first hand, I admire her even more for making the queen happen with effortless grace every night. Performing some of my favorite choreography in the show was such a rush, and feeling the support from my cast soothed my nerves and warmed my heart.
From stepping on as an understudy, I’ve learned that there is really no time for second guessing, over-thinking, or negative self-talk. There is truly no time to come back from any of it, so I just have to dive in, listen and respond in the moment. I am a worrier at heart with some obsessive tendencies, so being presented with this challenge to conquer my fears and live some wild dreams has added another layer of gratitude on to this experience.
Say it Ain't So
It’s hard to believe and even sadder to admit that the topic of my next entry will be about the finale of Pippin on tour. Perhaps when the tent comes down for the last time on the road, I will be able to articulate the magnitude of what this journey has meant to me. I am already starting to replay some scenes from my favorite memories on the road, and when I take into account all that we’ve experienced in these past 6 months, I am in disbelief. I’ll look forward to recapping our last few weeks, but until then, I am planning to soak up all the magic that’s left with my fellow Pips.
Sunrise at he Falls 📸: Tyler's Mom!