Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Swingtown in the Motor City

Dudes.  We have a situation.  Call in the backup.
Oh wait, I am the backup.  I'm a swing.

For those of you who aren't theatre peeps, a swing is a person who understudies several ensemble tracks and sometimes one or more principal roles.  We are supposed to be ready to go on at a moment's notice when a member of the onstage cast gets sick/injured/vacation time, etc.   ROA has four kick-ass offstage swings (2 guys, 2 girls) and one equally kick-ass offstage male standby to cover the 14 people who rock on the front lines every night.  When one is offered a swing track in a show, there are always mixed feelings.  First you feel iffy because you don't know if you will ever REALLY go on (an internal battle for any performer ego, let's be honest).  Then you get stoked because you get to learn and potentially perform different roles, hence upping the challenge and excitement in a long contract.  Next you tech the show and get overwhelmed with notes, numbers, and traffic that you can only document in your swing book and not feel physically until who-knows-how-long later, when the lights hit you for the first time and it's full tilt boogie.  Finally, you come to contentment with being the one who is trusted with this difficult yet important job, and you are sometimes just as grateful to hang in the dressing room and knit during the show as you are to take your turn on stage.

This week in Detroit, a 24-ish hour flu bug has reared its ugly head, and is running rampant through our cast.  In the past 5 shows, three of the swings (present company included) have been onstage.  Last night three girls called out with the flu, and one had to muscle through (as there are only 2 chick swings to cover).  Tonight we started the show with a full cast, but by "Dead Or Alive" I was hastily getting into hair and makeup to take over for one of the girls, who quite suddenly fell prey to the pesky virus mid-show.  I took over after intermission, and finished it out with what I hope was nothing more than minor inconvenience to my colleagues onstage and off, as it was my first time on for that track.  All in all, I felt pretty good!

As a swing, we always hear about these circumstances, an old story being rehashed in post-show dramatic fashion at a bar.  But tonight was the first time it happened to me.  I consider it a rite of passage to have experienced and survived that last-minute emergency scenario, as if I earned a hardcore swing badge I can now wear with pride.  It feels like going from brown belt to black belt.  Writing that makes me sound borderline crazy, but the point is, even though it was far from perfect, it's always nice to be reminded of a few things:
1.  We know more than we think we know.  We just have to remember to trust ourselves.
2.  People will always be there to help you when you need it.
3.  Being perfect isn't the point.  Your best is good enough, and you CAN thrive under pressure.
4.  Sometimes it's better to just jump in, instead of letting anticipation get the best of you.

Ironically, I was already set for my debut in that particular track tomorrow night.  I am excited to do Act One, which is more challenging than Act Two.  But I won't be stressing it now as much as I would have, had I not been thrown on tonight.  So again, as a swing, I am grateful.....

...and quarantined in my hotel room, armed with antibacterial spray, my neti pot, a strong mouthwash, and comfy candles.  Soon I will go to bed, surrounding myself with healing, flu-preventing love.  I'd rather save the day than call in sick.  And so it is!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pack it up, pack it in, let me begin... Again...

Today is Sunday, which, when on tour with ROCK OF AGES, means one of two things: 1. SHOT NIGHT, or 2. Time to pack up and move to the next city. Today is a packing day. Tomorrow we move to Detroit, which is only the fifth city on the tour, but we are already growing weary of the mobile lifestyle. I miss my dresser, and my bed, my closet and my towels and shower curtain. Silly things. My kitchen table. The way the light hits my kitchen in the morning.
For those readers who have never been on tour, here’s how it works. We live out of 2 suitcases and one small trunk, the latter of which travels with the show trucks and stays at the theatre. Our total belongings cannot exceed 200 pounds (100 in the suitcases, and 100 in the trunk). One must be strategic about where to store our items so as not to exceed the baggage weight limit when flying. Sundays force us to mentally take stock of everything we own, categorize it into trunk vs. suitcase vs. trash can (sad but true), and then use remedial physics to fit it where we need it to go. We do-si-do between the theatre and hotel, swapping out black boots for brown, fall jackets for puffy coats, until it all fits, and we can go for that end-of-city drink to take the edge off (shout out to Nicholson’s Gastropub in Cincinnati, who created a custom ROA drink menu during our stay here!).

There is something charming about living with less (I recently picked up the book Radical Simplicity, written by Dan Price, who lived his entire adult life in a tipi with a sleeping bag, hotplate and an outhouse—a little extreme but refreshing and oddly inspiring), but every once in a while I have a mild freak out. Last night I had a dream that I returned to my hotel room to find that the sink and toilet had been removed (which I interpret to mean that my creature comforts and needs are at a bare minimum and I’m not happy about it). I woke up, checked to make sure the toilet was still there, and stumbled to my single serve hotel room coffee maker. I unwrapped a disposable coffee cup from the ever-present plastic wrap that seems to cover every dish and utensil have used since September, and longed for my favorite coffee mug (a white ceramic mug with a picture of a red-lipped, mean faced bee that says “Bee-otch”). And I got a little cranky.

Because I am a Taurus and into Things and home and hearth and all of that earthy stuff, I have to create a home in my hotel room. If you ever come to visit me on tour, here’s what you’ll find in my room:

*Lavender vanilla room spray, purchased on my honeymoon
*A very handy and extremely functional CVS brand mini-humidifier. It is compact, good for the ol’ voce, requires only an upside down water bottle, AND combats that dry hotel feeling. Love this and cannot live without it.
*my 6-inch tall Buddha statue
*at least 2 books (right now I am reading The Girl Who Played With Fire and Awakening into Oneness: The Power of Blessing in the Evolution of Consciousness. A little intrigue, a little spirituality. I like this combo.)
*CANDLES for ambience and a nice scent- an absolute must to transform any space!
*My portable iPod dock (nothing like old Craig David in the fall to stir up cozy memories of my crock pot and couch)
*A photo of me, Brian, and our dolphin friend Ladwani, taken on our honeymoon
*My netbook, which I use to skype with Brian and connect with the outside world, as well as watch The Event on Hulu.
*My favorite soaps, shampoo, and lotions (no hotel samples for me… I need my stuff)
*Assorted scarves to drape over uninspired furniture

It’s not luxury, but it feels that way, considering the weight of the statue, candles, books, and ipod dock! But I need these things to stay sane.

So today, in between shows, I’m heading back to the hotel to pack. I do, by the way, always unpack when I get to a new city. I like to hang my clothes up and see what I have. I take comfort in having a sock drawer. On tour, it’s the little things that bring joy. But the re-packing. Not fun. Especially when you’ve been in a city that doesn’t offer much in the way of things to do (ahem, Cincinnati…) besides go shopping. In the last two weeks, I’ve acquired 2 pair of shoes, a new pair of pants, and a new bottle of perfume. But I NEEDED them. ;) I mean, a girl can’t get through fall without a pair of brown flats. What else would I wear with that new Michael Kors sweater I picked up in Minneapolis? Sheesh!

By tomorrow evening, I will be setting up my little home in Dearborn, MI. I am so excited to venture to Ann Arbor for a few days, and even guest teach a few classes at my alma mater, The University of Michigan, for the Musical Theatre and Performing Arts Management students! And even with all of the packing, un-packing, and re-packing, it’s most valuable to remember that, as I mentioned in my last blog, home is not necessarily a specific place. It’s in my husband’s touch, the electricity of a Steelers game day in Pittsburgh, the taste of chipati at Pizza House in Ann Arbor, the reunions with old friends along my travels. I am so, so lucky. Wishing you a cozy Sunday in your home sweet home, until next time!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Every Rose Has its Thorn

I am sitting alone in my hotel room in Cincinnati, catching up on a few of my fave blogs (you MUST check out the best running blog I've ever read, Michelle Hates To Run), and I realized that my blogger profile still read "soon to be married woman."  I got married on September 25, so I changed my profile to read "wife" instead. 

My husband was here last weekend and got to see me in the show for the first time.  I was excited, and he was loving and supportive and proud, as he always has been, and always will be.  When I first saw the show Off Broadway in the fall of 2008, he was there, and he turned to me and said, "You HAVE to be in this show."  He not only supported my dream to do ROA, but also shared my dream as if it were his own.  He wanted it because I wanted it.  And when I got it, he insisted that I sign on, despite the fact that the contract conflicted with our wedding, honeymoon, and that sacred first year of marriage.  It's the relationship you dream about, the marriage that skeptics say isn't possible, and it's mine.  He is my perfect match, my best friend, my soul mate.  And those pecs... whew!  ;)

If this dream job of mine has any downside, it's that I have to live my life away from him.  Aside from our Saturday morning coffee talk over skype, we see each other every two weeks.  He patiently endures the endless commuting, delays, and drama at the NYC airports for a quick two night stay anywhere I am.  He brings me my mail and waits for me at the stage door, always with a silly grin and open arms.  He banters with my new friends and sings along in the audience.  And, no matter what city we're playing, when we crawl into bed at night, we cuddle up, look at each other, and say, simply, "home."

I don't know how to express the magnitude of my gratitude for him.  So I figured a blog shout out wouldn't be a bad place to start.  I love my life and I adore my job, but I miss him every day.  I am, however, grateful for the feeling, because I'd rather miss him than not know what it feels like to have that Great Love.

The point of this entry is this:  We are all worthy of Great Love.  And we should all experience it.  If I can, you can.  Please don't settle for less.  Be specific, hold out for your dream, communicate, and enjoy.  It is possible.