Farewell to the Deep South

Last week was our final week in the deep South. We arrived in Raleigh, North Carolina in the early morning hours on Monday via the sleeper bus. It was a bumpy ride getting to Raleigh, without our regular driver, Cookie. This time we had a guy named Skippy driving the bus (what’s with the funny bus driver names?). It felt like we went off-roading through the mountains to get to Raleigh from Greenville – I don’t know if we did or not, but none of us got much sleep, and I for one fell into bed once we arrived at the Candlewood Suites, and slept for a good couple of hours before rising around lunchtime.

The Candlewood was about six miles from the theater, but across the street was a really great mall (the Crabtree mall) that provided plenty of dining choices (a Cheesecake Factory AND a PF Changs – what more do you need?) and of course some good shopping. Ryan and I did decide to rent a car for part of the week, though, since we were getting a good deal on the hotel – and that way we were able to see a bit more of Raleigh than just a shopping mall.

The theater in Raleigh, the Memorial Auditorium, was a bit of tight squeeze, but as usual everything crammed in somehow. The stagehands were a nice bunch, with funny names like Cheddar and Fruitcup. I think with North Carolina School of the Arts being not so far away, it provides a surplus of fairly good and enthusiastic stagehands, which is always a nice surprise for us, coming into a smallish town like Raleigh with not very high expectations for good personnel.

On Wednesday, Ryan had a work call to mend the forest drop, which had a couple of nasty rips in it, and I had to come in for a couple of hours of rehearsal. After we were both done with our respective calls, we drove around some of the outer  neighborhoods to check out some of the beautiful houses. There is just something so relaxing and pretty about some of the homes in the south – large and sprawling with bright paint and large wrap-around porches. Most of the houses we saw also had enormous yards with beautiful blossoming trees and dripping willows. It almost makes you want to move to there. Almost.

Thursday was another work call for Ryan in the morning to continue work on the forest drop. I took the car and went exploring in the Oakwood Historic neighborhood, taking pictures of some of the old houses (so old that most of them have a plaque outside saying who lived there in the 1700’s). I also stopped at the Oakwood Cemetery and took some photos. It may be a bit morbid, but I love taking photos at old cemeteries. There were only a few areas of the Oakwood cemetery where the headstones were REALLY old, but there was a plot of all headstones of confederate soldiers, which was very cool. I just love the historical-ness of the south. (I just made that word up!)

Old house in Oakwood Historic neighborhood

Old house in Oakwood Historic neighborhood

Old house in Oakwood Historic neighborhood

Old house in Oakwood Historic neighborhood

Gravestones of Confederate soldiers

Gravestones of Confederate soldiers

Self-portrait

Self-portrait

After that I drove over to the Raleigh Farmer’s Market, which has a permanent space not far from the theater. Unfortunately there weren’t many vendors there as it was the middle of the week, but I imagine that on the weekends it is really busy. I also stopped by one yarn store, Great Yarns, which had a nice selection, but I kept myself from buying anything as I am still in the midst of a project and am not sure yet what I want to work on next.

I met up with Ryan for lunch and we drove over to the City Market, which is a couple of red brick buildings that house a few restaurants and shops. We ate at an Irish pub there – we both had boxties, which were delicious. 

To burn off our lunch, we then ventured over to Ulmstead State Park for a hike. It was a beautiful walk – not too hard, only about a two-and-a-half mile loop over easy terrain. We saw two deer along the way, which got close enough to be photographed, and we also walked along the lake, which was very pretty. We also made a pact to walk (or ride bikes) for an hour, three times a week. Let’s see if we keep up with it. 

Ryan at lunch (beard progress is good)

Ryan at lunch (beard progress is good)

Deer at Ulmstead Park

Deer at Ulmstead Park

People fishing at Ulmstead Park

People fishing at Ulmstead Park

That night, although we were tired from the long and full day, we had to stop for a pint at the Flying Saucer. The Flying Saucer is a chain of bars – I think there are about ten locations, mostly in the south. The Flying Saucer in Houston kept us sane as one of the only redeeming qualities of the downtown there, so it was nice to re-visit the chain in Raleigh. The Flying Saucer is known for its selection of hundreds of beers, and also for its delicious cheese plates. The location in Raleigh has a nice outdoor area, kind of like a beer garden, with picnic tables. It was a bit cold out, so we stayed inside at the bar, running into Patrick, Nigel, Angelina, Piper and Adam.

Friday was the put-in rehearsal for Rick Costa, who is taking over Jonathan Brody’s track in the male ensemble this week. After rehearsal, I went for fancy asian food with Ken and Karl – it was kind of like Chinese tapas – at a place called the Duck and Dumpling. It was very good.

Friday night, Ryan and I, along with Justin, Jen, Terry, Cuz and Maggie, went to The Bar – a local watering hole, that is partially owned by one of the carpenters, CJ, who was on our local crew. The bar has amazing chicken wings in about twenty different flavors, and is the place to be if you want to play Cornhole (a game where you team up and basically have to try and land bean bags into a hole cut out of a wooden board that is propped up like a ramp). Jen and I were a team against Ryan and Justin, and although we lost, we held our own and did pretty well for a couple of girls! It was also nice to talk to some of the local stagehands. One of the flymen had baked a delicious chocolate cheesecake, which he shared with us. They were all a really friendly bunch, and seemed genuinely excited about their jobs and upcoming shows. Like I said before, I think there are a lot of schooled stagehands in Raleigh, being close to NCSA, and a lot of them have design backgrounds as well. Its not just another job or a way to make money, a lot of them are doing it because it is also a passion. It was nice to see that.

On Saturday between shows, the company got together for Cajun food at a restaurant called Zydeco at the City Market for Jonathan’s farewell meal. It was a great dinner – I had crawfish etouffee –  and as always, it was fun to dine with everyone. I sat at a table with Ryan, Piper, Ang, Nigel and David Havasi – it was nice getting to talk with David a bit, as he is one of the new cast members, and I don’t know much about him yet.

Jonathan’s final show was Sunday and he wrote a very sweet poem, which he hung on the callboard, recalling his memories of each town we’ve visited by the food that he has eaten in each place. It was very clever, and also more than a bit bittersweet, as he mentioned so many names of past company members who have long since left the show, and who are missed very much.

Unfortunately Jonathan’s final performance was a bit upstaged by some fantastic mal-functioning of the scenery. The automation in track two got stuck as the mountain and grail lift were coming on for “Find Your Grail”. The mountain and grail both stopped stage left and wouldn’t budge. We finished the number with the scenery in that position, and Justin managed to get the pieces off manually in time for the French Taunter scene, but not before injuring his ankle quite badly. Intermission lasted a half hour while the guys fixed the automation, and with the exception of Justin’s injury, Act 2 went off without a hitch. Nate and Berg pitched in on deck while Justin iced his ankle. He ended up coming on our bus – the early bus – instead of doing the load-out, and this morning his ankle was much better.

So all of this sort of trumped any shenanigans planned for Jonathan, unfortunately, but the cast did manage a few onstage jokes, and Ken came onstage during the curtain call reading a newspaper, as Jonathan is never known to be without his beloved New York Times.

We had a long bus ride last night to Dayton, Ohio. I imagine it will be a quiet week as it doesn’t look like there is a whole lot to do here, and then its on to the Wisconsin trio – Milwaukee, Appleton and Madison. 

Enjoy your week!

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