Lasts

The past week and a half has been all about lasts for me. Last city. Last load-in. Last sound check. The goodbyes have started, the packing has started, the cards from the creatives are arriving. Its weird. But, I’m also ready for this journey to be over, as I think most everyone is. I will miss a lot of things about my life out here – the people, the job, the travel, the paycheck – but it’s time to move on to something else. This is by far the most performances I have ever done of one show – I think I’m at around 11oo performances now. Before this, the most I had ever done of a show was I think about 200 performances. I would be lying if I told you I would miss “Spamalot” the show – I love it, but after 1100 performances, I am pretty bored. I’m ready to be challenged by something new.

So, the Costa Mesa stop, for me, has been all about tying up loose ends, readying my trunk for shipping, gathering all the items I think I’ll need over the next few weeks before I see my trunk again, including my winter coat and snow boots! I think by the time I get back to New York I will have missed fall entirely this year. I have a feeling I’m going to be going straight from the summery weather of California and Texas, to winter in Wisconsin and Chicago and New York. I am driving back to NYC, taking two weeks, and visiting some friends along the way. As of right now my schedule is: Huntington Beach to Scottsdale, Scottsdale to Las Cruces, Las Cruces to San Antonio, San Antonio to Houston. Two days in Houston visiting Fran and Tanya who will be there with the “Mary Poppins” tour. Then Houston to Wichita, Wichita to St. Paul, St. Paul to Sobieksi – where I’ll stay with Ryan for four days at his house. Then Sobieski to Chicago, where hopefully I’ll catch up with Flickr friends Lauren and Carolyn, and then Chicago to somewhere in Pennsylvania, then PA to New York City. All by November 1st. Whew. Had to go out with a bang, right?

So, back to Costa Mesa. We are playing the Orange County PAC where I saw “Jekyll and Hyde” while I was in college, with my voice teacher at the time, Sandie. It seemed like an enormous theater then, and now it doesn’t seem so big to me, but it is nice and spacious in comparison to other places we have played – a nice theater to end with. I was so happy to complete some of my load-in tasks for the last time, namely directional signs – which can be so tedious in some of the labyrinth-type theaters (Orange County PAC is one of those). I will be happy to take a break from killing a tree every Tuesday in copy paper.

Early on in the day, Ken, Jovon and I found some Spam can costumes in a rehearsal hall, left over from a press event, so we absconded with them, and wore them to sound check, to everyone’s delight. They ended up becoming a novelty item, being passed around through the cast, everyone taking turns wearing them during the sound check.

Ben and Merle sound checking "Song That Goes"

Ben and Merle sound checking "Song That Goes"

Find Your Grail

Find Your Grail

Ben Whiteley conducting the final sound check

Ben Whiteley conducting the final sound check

Wednesday was Ken’s (the PSM, my boss) last day. Ken is starting work on a new musical called “Wonderland”, which is doing experimental runs in Tampa and Houston, with an eye on Broadway. It was so strange saying goodbye to Ken, who has been with “Spamalot” since the very beginning. It even seems now like he’s on vacation, rather than really gone. Jovon organized a party for Ken, after the show, at Mastro’s steakhouse. Almost everyone came out to say goodbye to him. Ken got really choked up making a speech at the party about how proud he is of the family our whole company has always been. Its such a rare thing to have a company – from actors, to crew, to musicians, to management, all genuinely enjoy spending time with each other – both onstage and off. Ken was definitely a leader in guiding the company in that direction, and he should be proud of that. I got teary when he thanked Jovon and I. Its been so nice working on a team and in an office that is happy and full of laughter 95% of the time. It makes such a difference in wanting to go to work, and being happy there. I hope I get more opportunities of working with such great teams in the future.

The rest of the week was spent doing more packing, and more reflecting on what a great experience this has been.

Our official closing notice was posted. Carissa threw a farewell, thank you shot night.

The closing notice

The closing notice

Carissa's shot night

Carissa's shot night

Over the weekend I took some more photos of the show – I wanted to try and get some shots of some of our newer cast members, but also just want to get in all the shooting I can while I have the chance! What will I take pictures of when this is all over? Its been an amazing photographic opportunity – and to have had the freedom to shoot whatever and whenever I want has been great. I’m so thankful to all my coworkers for allowing me!

Nikki Della Penta, one of our newer showgirls

Nikki Della Penta, one of our newer showgirls

Can Can girls

Can Can girls

Bows

Bows

In keeping with tradition of “never a dull moment”, the weekend of shows was no exception. We had a number of people out and then Matthew Greer, who plays Lancelot, injured his leg at the Saturday matinee, so we had to put Tera-Lee on one last time (hopefully!) in a male ensemble track, to cover David Havasi, who understudies Lance. Its always fun when Tera is on as a guy, and her husband was in town, so he was able to come and see her “butch it up”. Sunday night was Cara Cooper’s last show (one of our ensemble girls). Cara has a wedding to go so she unfortunately she has to miss the final week of shows. She has been with the company for almost two years and it was sad to have to say goodbye to her early.

On Monday night it was time for a little fun. Mitchell and Paula hosted the second “Hell Party” (the first being in Dallas in 2007). They went all out decorating their rental house for Halloween, and everyone did an amazing job coming up with costumes. It was a really fun night – a great way to let off some stress and be together one more time before the final week of shows.

Angela Dittmar-Lykins

Angela Dittmar-Lykins

Jason Goldsberry

Jason Goldsberry

Roy Turpin

Roy Turpin

Mitchell Beck

Mitchell Beck

Steven Wenslawski

Steven Wenslawski

The weather this week has turned windy and rainy. Its the perfect weather for staying indoors and watching a movie – or in my case, getting my hair done, (which I did on Tuesday), getting a massage (Monday’s activity) and catching up on blogging. I’m hoping the weather is good enough tomorrow for my final hike with Suzanne. Friday will be all about packing and cleaning the apartment, and then we have the final weekend of shows.

An overcast day at the Huntington Beach

An overcast day at the Huntington Beach

Not much time left now – just trying to savor every moment. And gearing up for life back in New York!

A Week in the Desert

This past Monday was the final official travel day for the “Spamalot” tour! Because we have a lay-off coming up next week everyone will be coming in to Costa Mesa from different places, so the travel to Tucson was the last time we were all (for the most part) traveling together. It was sort of bittersweet, actually, as much as I hate the air travel and airports and the hassle of travel day. You couldn’t ask for a better-natured group of people to travel with. We always have a lot of fun, even in the most tedious of travel days.

Vanessa Sonon at the airport

Vanessa Sonon at the airport

We arrived in Tucson late in the afternoon on Monday – I picked up my rental car and headed downtown to my rental apartment in the Armory District. It is an old apartment building – built in 1903 when everything in that area was military housing. It is charmingly decorated and bright and cheery. I have been very happy there this week – so much better than staying in a hotel! Tallulah has slowly been getting used to not having her LA patio. She has been very happy lounging in the sun room and has not been crying at the front door (like she did in San Diego).

Tucson living room

Tucson living room

Tucson bedroom

Tucson bedroom

I really didn’t do anything on Monday evening except go to the grocery store. I was so tired after the travel day that I crashed early. Tuesday was load-in. The theater, the Tucson Music Hall, is part of the big convention center, which is conveniently located only a couple of blocks from my apartment. The theater is spacious enough, although the dressing room space is quite cramped. There’s not much theatrical work in Tucson so our local crew has been quite a mixed bag. There were a few melt-downs during the opening night performance, and our two local prop guys still have not learned their cues (as I type this on the day of our closing performance), but otherwise the shows have been smooth and uneventful. This marks Christopher Gurr’s final week as King Arthur (he has been filling in for John O’Hurley who has been on hiatus from us for the past three weeks. He rejoins the show in Costa Mesa) – Christopher has played Bedevere since the tour started and has been covering the King all that time as well. We are extremely lucky to have had such a strong, dependable cover who has stepped in for many a vacationing or ailing King.

We had a little opening night party next door at the Hotel Arizona. The flyer for the party reported that there would be “heavy hors d’oeuvres”, so you can imagine the surprise and delight when we discovered that full-on turkey legs were provided. It was hilarious watching everyone gnaw the meat off the bones – all decorum just went right out the window.

On Wednesday I walked around downtown for a bit and took some photos. I love the Southwestern architecture, especially against the blue, blue desert skies. I followed the Turquoise trail for a while, which runs by many of the landmarks downtown. I saw the St. Augustine Cathedral and the Presidio – then I headed over to 4th Avenue, which is just south of the University of Arizona campus and is filled with funky shops and restaurants. I had lunch at a little cafe, and then went over to the college campus to the Center for Creative Photography, to see a Robert Mapplethorpe portrait exhibit (which was very good).

St. Augustine Cathedral

St. Augustine Cathedral

The Presidio

The Presidio

On Thursday I got up early and drove out to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which was kind of a mix between a botanical garden and a zoo. I was pretty awestruck as I drove out of the city into the hills, at the shear number of Saguaro cacti everywhere. They are so alien! And they are just everywhere – hundreds and hundreds of them. I enjoyed walking around the Desert Museum, seeing all the animals and plants, and just taking in the very different and unique environment. After that, I drove south to the San Xavier Reservation and visited the San Xavier del Bac Mission. The mission is such a beautiful, beautiful building – and the whiteness of it against the blue sky made for some very dramatic photographs.

Saguaro cacti at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Saguaro cacti at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Flowers at the Desert Museum

Flowers at the Desert Museum

Saguaros

Saguaros

San Xavier del Bac Mission

San Xavier del Bac Mission

Chapel

Chapel

In the chapel at San Xavier del Bac Misson

In the chapel at San Xavier del Bac Misson

On Friday I picked up Suzanne at 8am and we drove out to Saguaro National Monument for some hiking before it got too hot (Ha! It was still 90 degrees!). We did a five mile round trip hike to Bridal Falls, which were, of course, dried up – but it was still a beautiful hike and we saw some jack rabbits and deer.

Taking a break with Suzanne at the base of dried up Bridal Falls

Taking a break with Suzanne at the base of dried up Bridal Falls

That afternoon we met up with all the girls on the tour for a goodbye lunch for Jen Mathie, one of our ensemble ladies who is leaving at the end of the week to go to India to study yoga. It was so nice to spend the afternoon with such an amazing group of women – I will miss them all when the tour is over.

Jen's goodbye lunch

Jen's goodbye lunch

On Saturday between shows I drove to the airport and picked up Ryan who flew in to hang out with me for our lay-off next week. We went out to dinner and then Ryan came and joined me after the evening show for Shot Night. He is off today on a rental Harley-Davidson to explore the area. We leave Monday for Sedona, where we are spending two nights, then we meet up with Suzanne on Wednesday at the Grand Canyon for a few days. Then we go to Las Vegas for the weekend. Should be fun! Its my last “vacation” before the tour is over and I have to tighten up on the spending 🙂

It was a great week here in Tucson – I looked at the calendar last week and realized that this is my first “new” city in four months (and my last of the tour) – all the places we have been since Spokane have been familiar to me. It was so nice to get back to a new place and feel the excitement of getting to explore again. It sounds weird, but Tucson reminded me a lot of Anchorage in a way – except of course it is the desert as opposed to tundra. It is a city in the middle of the frontier though, and you don’t have to drive very far to get to the wilderness. I think the heat would kill me if I lived here, but it is definitely beautiful country and I really enjoyed my week here.

So, onto my lay-off adventures, and then my final city of the “Spamalot” tour – Costa Mesa! I can’t believe after three years that it is all ending. I wonder what my next adventure will be?

Celebrating the Spam!

I’ve got some catching up to do here of my time with Ryan during his visit in LA, but unfortunately I have to pack, so it will have to wait! We leave LA tomorrow, and it really feels like the end of the tour is near, now. We’ve had a couple of long-time beloved cast members leave in the last couple of weeks and everyone is starting to pack up boxes and send things home. The end is clearly in sight.

I wanted to do something for the company before the show closed, and so I have been working on a book of my tour photos, which I put together on Blurb.com. The finished book “Travels on the Bright Side” turned out beautifully and it is now on sale at the Blurb bookstore. You can go there to check out a preview of the book. I’m so happy to see all the photos in one place – these past three years have been quite a ride!

Click on the book image to the right of this entry to be taken to the Blurb bookstore.

One of our cast members, Nigel, who has been one of our swings for almost as long as I’ve been on the tour, is leaving us after our LA engagement. Nigel is a really funny, talented guy, and he is going to stay in LA and give the business here a shot. To celebrate his time in “Spamalot”, he put together a video called “Spamarap” which he premiered last night at shot night. Check it out – it is HI-larious and really well done (be warned, there are some dirty parts – so not for the faint of heart).

More soon from San Diego!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Happy Days

I drove up to the Bay Area last week to be there for my brother Nick’s kidney transplant. Nick was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease over ten years ago and his kidney function has been slowly declining since then. My sister, Becky, who is the bravest person I know, offered one of her kidneys to Nick. I will be forever in awe of her selflessness.

The surgeries were on Wednesday and both went so smoothly – the doctors raved about how beautiful Becky’s donated kidney was, and it started working in Nick immediately. Both Becky and Nick were home by the weekend, and although they are still sore and recuperating, their respective kidney functions are doing amazingly well. We couldn’t have asked for a more seamless and smooth transplant. Please remember them in your prayers for their ongoing road to health.

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I got back to LA on Friday night, exhausted, and just in time for a five show weekend 🙂 The only thing I did of note over the weekend, was to go over to the Grand Central Market in downtown LA between shows on Sunday. The market is primarily Mexican food vendors – there is lots of ready-to-eat stuff as well as booths filled with spices and produce. It was fun to walk around and I picked up some goodies for dinner.

downtown_20090802_0025

downtown_20090802_0027

On Sunday night we bid goodbye to Sarah Lin Johnson, one of our swings, who is leaving to join the “Young Frankenstein” tour, and also Rick Holmes, who was playing a limited engagement with our company as “Lancelot”. We had drinks for them the night before at Kendall’s, a nice bar at the Music Center.

On Monday I ran some errands, and then spent the evening at Chris and Sean’s. Chris made up some of his delicious fish tacos and invited a group of friends over to partake. One of the attendees was our friend Mark, who Chris and I both went to college with. I hadn’t seen Mark in years and it was great to catch up with him and to meet his wife Brooke and their new puppy.

On Tuesday Suzanne and I did a hike in the San Gabriel mountains near Altadena. It was a nice easy trail, mostly covered by shady trees. It followed a creek to a waterfall – the water levels were so low though, that there were a lot of annoying bugs in the air. If we go back, we will definitely take bug spray next time! It was a really beautiful hike, though, and a different terrain than most of other other hikes, which have been more desert-like.

On the trail with Suzanne

On the trail with Suzanne

On Thursday night I went out for drinks after the show with Suzanne, Tom and Vicki Perrin, and Tim. We went to the Dresden Room, an old school lounge in Los Feliz. It was a fun night – an early goodbye to Tim, who leaves at the end of next week to start grad school.

Tim

Tim

Tom and Vicki

Tom and Vicki

And of course, there has been sewing! We are working on sundresses in class now, but in the meantime I have finished two tops – both Amy Butler patterns.

Lotus Cami

Lotus Cami

Anna Tunic

Anna Tunic

I love them both, although I’m thinking of shortening the second top so that is a little less like a tunic, and more cami-length.

I can’t believe I only have about two months left on the road!  I’ve finished all my housing and car reservations for the rest of the tour, and have almost finished my planning for the one-week lay-off we have in October. My car reservation is made for my cross-country trip back to New York, and I have a sublet reserved in Harlem for the month of November while I look for my own place. Its been an amazing three years, and it is interesting to be doing these long sit-downs at the end of the tour. It is totally easing me back into apartment life, and into life in one place. I am actually really looking forward to finally getting back to the east coast, and getting my own apartment, and seeing my things again. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t tour again, because in actuality, I would love to (and soon!), but I am definitely in need of some re-grouping and re-organizing and some centering. I think getting back to having my own “home” again will be great for that. I’m sure Tallulah will be glad for the rest, too!

But in the meantime, I have four more weeks in LA before I have to pack up the suitcases again, and I am going to enjoy them to the fullest!

Finally…home to San Francisco

There was a mix-up with the plane flight to San Francisco, and the day before we were set to leave, I found out that Tallulah would not be allowed to fly on the Frontier flight that I was booked on. Some last minute ticket-changing was done, and as luck would have it, Tallulah and I ended up in first class on a United Airlines flight to Oakland! The ticket was surprisingly cheap, and since overweight bags are allowed (without charge) for first class passengers, it actually ended up being less expensive for me to fly first class rather than coach (where I would have had to pay for my overweight bags). I had never flown first class before, and it was a real treat – lots of room, drinks constantly being served, and a yummy lunch!

Mary (one of my best friends from high school) met me at the airport and drove me to my rental apartment in San Francisco. The lower unit in an old Victorian (my boss, Ken, is renting the upper unit), my apartment is spacious, bright and gorgeous. I love it. After getting unpacked, Mary took me to Trader Joe’s to get some groceries, and then we drove over to North Beach where we had dinner at the Stinking Rose and drinks at Specs. It was great seeing Mary – I have missed her so much!

Chianti bottles at the Stinking Rose

Chianti bottles at the Stinking Rose

Mary

Mary

The next day my parents and my brother Simon came by and had lunch with me at Chow. It was lovely to see them. That evening I joined the crew at the Golden Gate Theater for load-in.

The Golden Gate is dear to me in that it is the theater where I saw my first touring Broadway show – “Fiddler on the Roof” in 1989, starring Topol. There is another tour of “Fiddler” out right now, still starring Topol! The Golden Gate is in a nasty part of town – the Tenderloin – which has gotten so much worse than I remember it. Maybe I was just ignorant or oblivious when I lived and worked in San Francisco a few years ago, but I don’t remember ever thinking the Tenderloin was dangerous – just kind of skeevy. Now I think it’s dangerous. There was a drive-by shooting outside the Golden Gate a couple of weeks ago. Apparently when there is no show in residence, the area around the theater is really, really bad. While a show is in performance there is security, a big police presence, and a lot of street light. I guess when the lights go out and the security and police go home, its a different story. There is talk of trying to clean up the area and make a real “theater district” by opening some restaurants nearby – but two of the city’s largest soup kitchens are within blocks of both the Golden Gate Theater and the Orpheum, so I don’t know how realistic that plan is, unfortunately. I remember after I visited New York City the first time, I was amazed at how few homeless people I saw – only a couple of people here and there on the subway. In San Francisco the homeless presence is huge – it always has been, and sadly, it still is.

We spent the next couple of days at the theater continuing the load-in, and doing a little bit of re-tech and rehearsal. For this engagement and for the next one in Los Angeles, the producers have beefed up our lighting and sound package, and restored our full orchestra (you might remember that we downsized the orchestra last year in West Point). So we spent some time looking at light cues, reprogramming, and on Thursday, we did a full dress rehearsal in the afternoon so that the cast could perform the show with the restored orchestration before having to do it in front of an audience. It also gave Linda Lee, our new wardrobe supervisor, a chance to go through the show with the local dressers. It actually proved to be very valuable on all fronts as all departments had a trial run before the first performance. It made our first preview on Friday very low stress as the local crew already had a clue about what they were meant to be doing.

There were some familiar faces at load-in. I had been wondering if any stagehands who I had worked with previously at ACT might be around. Denise, who had worked as assistant sound at the Geary, is now the house sound head at the Golden Gate – it was really nice to see her. The first person I ran into though, was Paul, my friend Regina’s husband (Regina was a stage manager who I assisted at ACT – now she works for the local producing organization), who was standing at the stage door when I arrived on Tuesday night. Paul is on our crew as one of our local spot operators. I also knew one of the riggers on the load-in, Cheyenne, who I had done “High Society” with in 1997 – and who I hadn’t seen since. I cannot believe it’s been twelve years since I worked on that show!

In between rehearsal and load-in, I did have some time off. On Thursday night I went to one of my favorite San Francisco restaurants, La Mediterranee, for some middle eastern food, and on Friday afternoon I walked over to North Beach and spent some time at Cafe Puccini, and then went to Mario’s Bohemian Cigar Shop, where I had one of their amazing breaded eggplant sandwiches. Of course, I was thinking of and missing Michele the whole time. We spent so much time together in that neighborhood back in the day – I really wish she were here now as well! Earlier that day I walked over to 24th Street in Noe Valley to pick up shampoo at the Aveda store, and I happened upon Noe Knit, a yarn store. I went inside and started talking to Susie, the woman who was working there – and it turns out that she knows my friend, Patty, from when Patty worked in SF on “Jersey Boys” and attended the Chicks with Sticks knitting group. Susie is also a member of the 365 group on Flickr. Such a small world!

North Beach

North Beach

Mario's

Mario's

The best damn sandwich on the planet

The best damn sandwich on the planet

We had our first performance of “Spamalot” on Friday night – and it was an amazing audience – in fact all of our preview audiences were fantastic. It was a four show weekend, with lots of creatives in attendance – we had designers there earlier in the week and then Casey, our choreographer, and Todd, our musical supervisor were at the show on Friday. BT, our associate director, and Eric Idle would arrive on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

Monday was the day off. Mary and Erika drove into the city and we had lunch together at the Dolores Park Cafe. After sufficiently stuffing ourselves, we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge to Mill Valley, and into the hills to Muir Woods. It was Memorial Day, so the park was a tad crowded, but we still had a nice walk through the redwoods. I love Muir Woods – so pretty, and so peaceful – even with the crowds. After our hike we drove back to my neighborhood and got in line for some ice cream at the Bi-Rite Creamery. It was a half hour wait, but well worth it. Their homemade ice cream is DE-licious. I had salted caramel and roasted banana. Yum!

Muir Woods

Muir Woods

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Wednesday was our official opening night performance. It went very well, and was followed by a fun party at the Hotel Monaco. It was nice to feel the rush of a big opening again. Eric Idle and John du Prez got up on stage with the cast during the curtain call and joined in the sing-a-long. We were all allowed one guest to the show and party, and so my college friend Katherine was my “plus one”. We had a really nice time at the party, and I’m looking forward to getting together again with Katherine so that we can catch up properly.

Jeff and Alexa at the opening night party

Jeff and Alexa at the opening night party

Chris and Lyn at the party

Chris and Lyn at the party

I took it easy on Thursday and Friday, catching up on things like laundry and grocery shopping, and restoring my computer after I had a new, bigger hard drive installed. I spent some of Thursday afternoon walking around the Mission district, and on Friday I met up with Julie Haber, a stage manager who I worked with at ACT, for lunch. It was so nice seeing Julie and hearing all about her current show which is playing at Berkeley Rep, and catching up on what we’ve been up to the last couple of years. Julie is also a very talented photographer, so it was fun talking nerdy photography stuff with her.

I sit here now, writing this blog, on Saturday night – when I should be at work. However, Ken decided that he was going to call both shows today, so he gave Jovon and I each a show off. What a luxury! I stayed and worked the matinee while Jovon took off, and then I was free after the matinee. I walked over to North Beach and then down to the Wharf, and then back to North Beach for dinner, and then home to watch a movie and blog. Lovely! And shortly I will be off to bed as my parents are coming over early for brunch before they go to see the matinee of “Wicked”.

Cable cars down near the wharf

Cable cars down near the wharf

I can’t even express how happy I am to be “home”. I keep running into people I know and I love. I had drinks with Ruth Saunders on Tuesday night (Ruth used to work at ACT) and ran into some of the Geary stage crew as I was walking to meet her. Andrea, who was the wardrobe supervisor at ACT my first year there, stopped by the Golden Gate stage door on Wednesday to say hi. I saw my friend Regina over at the Shorenstein-Hayes offices (the local presenters) when I was there to pick up the mail. It is just great being back in a place where I have so many amazing friends. And I am looking so forward to seeing all of them in the coming weeks! I am trying to savor every moment – I just hope the time doesn’t go by too fast!

Denver Revisited

So after flying from Spokane, I left Ryan at the Denver airport and got in a cab to downtown. Very, very strange and sad to be continuing on without him. Thank goodness it was Denver. We had a truncated week with a Wednesday opening (allowing the trucks to make the long drive from Spokane), and a rehearsal on Thursday, so down time would be limited. And in my down time I had plenty of people to see. Tiffany and Robin, two of my dearest friends from college, live in Denver – as well as Elaine, one of our former hair supervisors on the tour, as well as a couple of other friends. I knew I would at least be occupied throughout the week – and hopefully that would keep me distracted from being too upset about Ryan.

Our flight to Denver was later in the afternoon, so by the time I was checked in to the Residence Inn (a really nice one just a block up from the 16th Street Mall) all I really had time for was some dinner before bed. I walked around a little bit – it was really gorgeous and warm out – finally some summery weather!

On Tuesday I rented a car and did some grocery shopping, and then drove out to Red Rocks Park. Ryan and I had gone there the last time we played Denver and it is such a gorgeous place to go for an easy hike. There is a spectacular amphitheater there – I bet seeing a concert there is amazing. I had thought about going up to Estes Park or something more adventurous on my free Tuesday off, but in the end I just felt like taking it easy and not driving too far. It was lovely to walk around Red Rocks and take in the beautiful surroundings, without having to drive a million miles to get there! It was a very relaxing couple of hours.

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After spending a few hours walking around Red Rocks, I got back in the car and drove over to Cherry Creek Mall. Nothing like a little retail therapy to make me feel better! I bought a dress for our San Francisco opening and I love it!

On Wednesday I joined load-in at the Buell Theater. We played the Buell for three weeks back in 2007 and it is clean, modern, spacious and therefore, a very easy space to load into and play. It was nice to see some of the familiar stagehands – especially Al, the house prop guy, who is quite a character. He is almost 75 and still working – I think he looks like a little garden gnome.

It was a very easy day – we had so much time on our hands after our load-in responsibilities were complete, that we cleaned out our two stage management hampers – we got rid of a ton of stuff – spring cleaning! In the afternoon I was even able to go back to the hotel and relax for a couple of hours before the show.

The big news on Wednesday was that before the show, our general manager, Jeff Wilson, announced to the company that the “Spamalot” tour would be ending on October 18th in Costa Mesa. It really wasn’t a shock to anybody – we had all been hearing rumors for ages – and in fact, its sort of nice knowing when the end will be. We have a great schedule between now and then – all California cities, except for a week in Tucson in September. And the closing isn’t for another five months, so there is plenty of time between now and then to figure out what to do next. What will I do come October? – who knows? Time will tell. It may be nice to actually be home for the holidays!

Jeff treated the company to drinks at the Hotel Curtis after the show. I had a nice time talking to Paula and Matt, although it was a bit weird to be at a “Spamalot” function without Ryan.

On Thursday we had understudy rehearsal, and then following the evening show, John O’Hurley, who plays King Arthur, threw the company a party at Elway’s, a restaurant at the Ritz Carlton hotel. It was a really nice, low-key gathering, with really good food, and an unending supply of wine 🙂 I spent a long time talking with Ben Davis and Carissa, and before I knew it was much later than I had anticipated staying out. Needless to say, I was pretty tired the next morning.

Carissa and Alexa at Elway's

Carissa and Alexa at Elway's

I got up early on Friday to go and get my hair cut and colored. Unfortunately the first salon that I went to (and where I had an appointment), was not a good experience. The stylist seemed very confused and then very antagonistic towards me – so after a few minutes I got up and left. I called my friend Tiffany, who I was meeting later, and she recommended another salon out by the mall – I called them and they had an opening, so I went there and got a great cut and color. Tiffany picked me up there and I had a nice afternoon with her and her two kids – Ava and baby Seamus. We drove out to the zoo and had lunch and walked around for a few hours looking at all the animals with the kids. Seamus is a newborn – only born in February, so he slept the afternoon away, but I had a lot of fun catching up with Ava, who I think is one of the smartest, funniest kids I’ve ever met.

Ava

Ava

I was so exhausted by the time the show was over on Friday night, that I had to call it a night. Piper Arpan, one of our former swings, was in town, and was hosting a party at her fiance’s bar, but I just couldn’t do it. Too many parties in one week! It was a shame, because I really would have liked to have seen Piper, but I also needed to sleep really badly!

I got up early again on Saturday and met up with Tiffany, and our friend Robin, for breakfast. I went to college with Tiffany and Robin and lived with them both in the same dorm our freshman year. Tiffany and I also lived together for a year after college when we both moved back to the Bay Area. I love both these girls so much and I love that we are still friends. It was great catching up with them both.

Robin and Tiffany

Robin and Tiffany

We had two shows on Saturday. In between, I had lunch with Elaine, Jovon and Roy. Elaine was one of our hair supervisors for the first couple of years on the tour, and I just love her so much. She lives in Winter Park, so it was a fairly short trip for her to come down and see us. I really miss having her around, and it was nice to talk to her about everything that had gone on during the previous couple of weeks with Ryan and feel her support. I wish she was still out here on the road with us.

The two-show day was followed by a very festive shot night. Wayne Spellman, our wardrobe supervisor, was leaving to join the “Mamma Mia” tour (which is currently playing Hawaii), so his farewell shot night was a Hawaiian themed extravaganza with leis, palm trees, and lots of embarrassing pictures of Wayne taken over his two-year tenure on the tour (most were from the white trash party that he hosted in Toledo).

Wayne

Wayne

Carissa

Carissa

Darryl

Darryl

Jen and David

Jen and David

After shot night, we all headed over to the bar at the Curtis and had more drinks to celebrate Wayne. I ended up having another late night, chatting with the Suttons and Elaine. It was a fun send-off for Wayne – a couple of the girls and Matthew Greer even wore hula skirts to the bar!

Sarah, David, Alexa and Carissa in Hawaiian wear at the bar

Sarah, David, Alexa and Carissa in Hawaiian wear at the bar

On Sunday, we all wore ties backstage for the evening show in honor of Wayne (who often wears a tie to work). It was sad to say goodbye to him, but we’re all happy for him that he’s going off to such a great gig.

And so after the evening show it was time to pack up and finally head west to San Francisco. I have been waiting so long to finally go back to my hometown with a show – I was beyond excited. Not only was I heading home, but for seven whole weeks! I could not wait to get there!

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Spokane

I spent all day last Monday on a bus from Eugene to Spokane. We left around 9:00am and didn’t arrive until close to 8pm. It was a LOOONG day. Besides the long distance between the cities, we also got stuck behind an accident involving two semi-trucks which put traffic in a stand still for about an hour, and then we were detoured off the freeway to get around the accident. At least the drive was pretty. We drove along the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon for miles and miles – gorgeous. By the time I got in and settled (and had to change rooms once due to a party in the room next to our first room), all I had time to do was eat some dinner before bed.

Suzanne on the bus

Suzanne on the bus

Load-in was fine. The theater was nice and big with lots of room everywhere (well, the dressing rooms were a little cramped, but they were okay) so things went smoothly. The biggest highlight of the day was watching an old building across the street get knocked down. It happened bit by bit throughout the day, and everyone was fascinated by it.

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The opening performance was fine. Can you tell how apathetic I am toward the whole week? It was just totally clouded over for me by the fact that it was Ryan’s last city. Who would have ever thought he would be leaving the tour in Spokane of all places?

Wednesday was all about taking care of business for Ryan – getting a box for his bike and making phone calls. We had lunch at a good sushi place near the theater but otherwise did nothing of note that day. It was Jen Mathie’s birthday (one of our chorus girls), so we went out for drinks after the show that night with some of the cast and crew.

On Thursday we had lunch (well, a late breakfast really) at Frank’s Diner, a really cute restaurant in an old train car. The food was really good, and the setting was just so cool. I loved it!

Frank's Diner

Frank's Diner

Ryan at Frank's

Ryan at Frank's

We spent the afternoon walking around Riverfront Park. Downtown Spokane is really nice. There is a big shopping mall with a movie theater and all the regular mall shops, there are plenty of restaurants and bars, and the park along the river is really pretty. It was the site of the 1974 World’s Fair, and there are still remnants of it – like the big clock tower that stands in the middle of the park. The Spokane Falls are part of the park and at this time of year, they are really high and full. The amount of water rushing through was rather frightening to be honest!

Spokane Falls

Spokane Falls

The Pavilion

The Pavilion

Ryan in the big "Radio Flyer" playground

Ryan in the big "Radio Flyer" playground

After the show that night a large group of people went to play Laser Tag, which I hear was a good time. Ryan and I opted out – we went to Shenanigans, a bar behind our hotel for drinks instead.

On Friday we walked over to Dick’s Burgers, a Spokane institution. Their motto is “Burgers by the Bagful”. The restaurant has been around since the ’50’s (it’s more of a drive through) and their prices reflect that – burgers are only 97 cents! The food was good and bad for you (as most good food is!) – it was fun (not really) being screamed at by seagulls as we sat outside at a picnic table and ate our burgers.

Dick's Burgers

Dick's Burgers

After lunch we went back to Riverfront Park and rode on the Skyride over the Falls. It was a little disconcerting to be over all that water, but a great vantage point to take photos.

The Skyride over the Falls

The Skyride over the Falls

After the show on Friday we had drinks at Shenanigans again. Ryan’s road box, trunk and bike shipped out that day. We both kept hoping someone would tell us that his leaving was all a big joke, but when his stuff shipped out, that sort of made it very real.

Saturday we had a nice brunch at a place called Madeleine’s downtown and then had our normal two-show day. Sunday was much the same. And then Ryan’s last load-out. After he got back to the hotel, we stayed up pretty much all night talking – so the morning bus ride to the airport came all too soon.

I said goodbye to Ryan in Denver. He flew with us there and then connected through to Minneapolis and then home to Green Bay. I can’t even express how weird it is to be continuing on this tour without him. I never wanted to get involved with anyone when I started this tour, but now I can’t imagine it without him. I feel empty.

It’s only been a day but I miss him already.

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Eugene

I don’t really know how to even start writing about last week, because it sucked royally. Nothing against Eugene, but the events that happened while we were there have changed my experience on this tour forever. And that’s a damn shame, because up until now it was one of the best experiences of my life, and although I am so grateful and blessed to have seen all the places I have seen over the last two years and the opportunity I have been given in this job, now I am heartbroken. And I won’t ever forget that, or likely forgive. And I hate that that has clouded over all the good that there has been. Because there has been a lot of good.

The return to the lower 48 from Alaska was great. Ryan and I chose to stay the night in Seattle instead of journeying on to Eugene right away. We had a great afternoon and evening, revisiting some of the places that we had loved when we played Seattle a year and a half ago. We had lunch at Serious Pie, which has some of the best-tasting, most innovative pizzas I have ever eaten. We shared a yummy clam pizza with lemon-thyme sauce. So, so good. That afternoon we walked around the Pike Place Market and bought some pasta to take with us to Oregon. We drove over to the Apple Store so that I could get a new iPhone (my old one was crushed in Alaska). It was nice to have to drive to the Apple Store, because it meant driving past the University of Washington campus, which I had never seen before. What a gorgeous place to go to school! That night we revisited Six Arms, a McMenamins bar that we had spent a lot of time at during our previous three week stay in town. I’m happy to report that there is still a Killer Rabbit sticker in the kitchen at Six Arms!

In the morning we got up and drove to Belltown, our old ‘hood, to meet Bret for brunch at the Boat Street Cafe. We had a delicious meal there and it was so nice to see Bret again before heading out of town.

with Bret at the Boat Street Cafe

with Bret at the Boat Street Cafe

We began driving south on Sunday afternoon, stopping when we got to Portland. We drove immediately over to Powell’s Books, where we spent well over an hour browsing through the shelves and shelves of books. It is literally impossible to get in and out of Powell’s in under an hour, and also equally as impossible to walk out empty-handed. Ryan and I both made some purchases!

Powell's Books

Powell's Books

After Powell’s, we realized it was getting a bit late, so instead of doing any more walking around, we drove over to Sushiville on 23rd, our favorite sushi boat restaurant anywhere. We totally pigged out. Sushiville has the best variety of sushi and they have desserts! And the prices are so reasonable, you can really eat a good meal for under 20 bucks. After we were sufficiently stuffed, we got back in the car and continued the drive down to Eugene. I wish we could have stayed in Portland longer – I love that town so much. We arrived in Eugene pretty late, but just in time to run across the street from the hotel to North Bank, another McMenamins bar, to buy some beer and a bottle of wine to take back to our room. Score!

Tallulah amidst the luggage in the car

Tallulah amidst the luggage in the car

The hotel in Eugene, the Residence Inn, was super, super nice! We often stay at Residence Inns, but this one had just recently been renovated, and so the decor was very modern and colorful and chic. We had splurged on a two-bedroom to have more space, and it was basically a two-bedroom, two-bath apartment. Really, really nice. I like to write about the hotels here to have a record, in case I ever tour again. I’ll be able to look back and remember where the nice places were to stay!

On Monday, we had all day before Ryan had to be at work for load-in. We went to Trader Joe’s and stocked up on groceries for the week, and drove around downtown to get the lay of the land. Eugene is a college town, housing the University of Oregon, and is full of bars, restaurants and cute shops. College towns are the best. After Ryan went to work, I went for a long walk along the river, which was right across the street from the hotel. There is a trail that runs for miles and miles along the riverbank, and I had a great time taking photos and watching people fish in the river and walk the trail. I *might* even have taken a self-portrait to kick off my 2nd year of 365 days 🙂

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Year 2, Day 1 of 365

Year 2, Day 1 of 365

Tuesday was when everything went wrong. Load-in was fine. The theater was a bit on the small side, but everything fit. The show that evening was fine. All status quo.

After the show, Ryan was told his contract with the show was being terminated.

Now I can’t talk about what happened, or what went down, or how messed up the whole situation is, because this is a public blog and anyone can read it. All I can say is that I am heartbroken, Ryan is blindsided and devastated, and that my experience out here will never be the same. Ryan is my best friend. We have both been working our asses off on this show for two and a half years. Its terribly disappointing and hurtful to have it end this way for him.

I want to write more, but I can’t. I thought about not writing about it at all, but how could I not? How could Ryan just disappear from this journey without anyone having questions? And this IS the story of my journey, and this happening is a big part of that story. I’m just so sad to be losing him. And I find the prospect of having to start using the pronoun “I” instead of “We” incredibly hard.

So needless to say, not much sleep was had on Tuesday, and Wednesday was all about trying to clean up the mess. We did get out finally for a walk along the river late in the day, and I’m glad we did. It was beautiful out and it was nice to clear out heads.

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On Thursday I had rehearsal all day, and then after the show we went out for drinks at the North Bank. It was nice spending time with some of our friends from the show. If nothing else, this experience has really made it crystal clear who our friends are out here, and who really are not friends at all.

On Friday Ryan and I drove over to Hendricks Park, a big green space just east of campus. We spent a couple of hours walking the trails there and wandering around the Rhododendron garden. Eugene is so, so green and lush. This was an amazing time of year to be there.

At Hendricks Park

At Hendricks Park

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On Saturday morning we got up early enough to make it downtown for the Saturday Market, which is a farmer’s market/craft fair in downtown Eugene each weekend. It was dreary and rainy outside, which was a bit of a drag, but we still managed to make it through all the craft booths before work, despite having to take cover from the rain here and there. Ryan bought me a bracelet made out of spoon handles, and also a wind chime made out of old pieces of silverware – I love them both!

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Spoon Bracelet

Spoon Bracelet

We had two shows on Saturday and two on Sunday. After the show on Sunday, I drove over to Prince Puckler’s, an ice cream shop that my friend Fin had recommended to me (she went to school at U of O) – I had a scoop of the mandarin chocolate and a scoop of the banana brownie – delicious!!

And with that, load-out  began. I was on a bus all day the next day to Spokane, Washington, where Ryan will have his last week with the tour.

I have a feeling I may be a bit sad for a while, peeps. Sorry for being such a Debbie Downer. It’s weird to think about the months ahead without my best friend with me. I’m just thankful that the cities coming up – Denver, San Francisco, LA and San Diego are filled with so many family members and dear friends from my “real life” – –  I need to escape the bubble for a while.

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The Final Chapter of the Alaskan Adventure

Our last week in Anchorage was an abbreviated one. We closed the show on Friday night in order to give the trucks the weekend to make the drive down the Al-Can Highway to Eugene. With that, the week went by very quickly.

I spent the majority of Monday working on my final self-portrait for my 365 Project. It was kind of a comedy of errors getting the photo done. I drove up towards the Anchorage Overlook, trying to find an appropriate roadside spot for the shot, and as I pulled over to one such spot – my car got stuck in a snow bank. I spent a few minutes trying to dig it out when another car pulled over. As luck would have it, it was Paula and Matt, two of the actors from the show, who were on their way up the mountain to walk their dogs. Matt tried to dig out around my tire with the ice scraper from their car, but that wasn’t working – so we went back to their rental house to pick up a better shovel. After about an hour and a half of messing around with this (poor Matt tried his best to dig the car out), a big pick-up truck pulled over and the guy who was driving it, hooked my car up to his truck with a chain, and pulled it out of the snow that way. By the time it was all said and done, I had totally lost any excitement or motivation to try and take my photo. Anyway, I finally did get it done, and then I drove back down into town, and Ryan and I went for lunch at Snow City Cafe. I spent the rest of the afternoon processing the photo and typing up my 365 notes.

My final 365 shot

My final 365 shot

I honestly have no recollection of what I did on Tuesday. How sad that without having a 365 shot to look back to, I have no idea what I did. Hmm. I do remember driving out to the water after the show on Tuesday night to take some photos of the sunset. That’s right – SUNSET AFTER THE SHOW! Crazy, right? When we first arrived in Anchorage, the sun was setting at about 9:30pm. By the time we left, two and a half weeks later, it was setting at 10:30pm. It was pretty nutty getting out of work that late and it still being light out. I actually really loved it. I imagine the opposite – it being dark all but five hours of the day during the winter, is majorly depressing though.

Sunset over Anchorage

Sunset over Anchorage

The Sleeping Lady

The Sleeping Lady

On Wednesday, Ryan and I drove back up to the Anchorage Overlook, being careful not to get the car stuck in any more snow banks 🙂 We walked the little half mile trail to the overlook spot and took some photos of the view. Unfortunately it was quite hazy out, so the mountains in the distance were pretty faint. If I had been in a better mood to take some photos up there on Monday, I probably would have gotten some nice shots. Monday was a much clearer day – so clear in fact, that I could see Mount Redoubt and her smoky plume off in the distance.

Anchorage in the distance

Anchorage in the distance

The trail at the overlook

The trail at the overlook

After that, we attempted to hike Blueberry Hill, a fairly easy trail of about two miles in length. There was, however, so much snow up there, that we couldn’t follow the trail – and there was a real lack of signage. So, we kind of walked and climbed around for about an hour and a half and then called it quits. It was also a lot colder up on the mountain than it had been down in town, so we were a little underdressed and getting chilly. Still, it was a nice afternoon and I’m glad we made it up there before leaving town.

Attempting to hike Blueberry Hill

Attempting to hike Blueberry Hill

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On Thursday, we had lunch at the Moose’s Tooth, a delicious pizzeria and brewhouse. We had been hearing about the amazing pizza there for two weeks, and we finally found the time to fit it in – I’m so glad we did! After that, we drove over to Earthquake Park, a small park on the Coastal Trail, that still has evidence of the 1964 earthquake in the form of buckled trees and sunken land. It was interesting to read about the effect of the earthquake, and the tsunamis that followed. Being from California, I do find it kind of funny how much the 1964 earthquake is still talked about in Alaska. I mean, I know it was a big deal – but it was a long time ago – it just doesn’t really seem like it should be news anymore. We walked around the park for a bit, sort of hoping to see a moose – there were lots of fresh droppings and tracks in the snow – but no luck seeing the actual animal.

Sunken ground at Earthquake Park

Sunken ground at Earthquake Park

We got a tip from Jovon that there were Dall sheep down at Beluga Point, so we jumped in the car and drove down there hoping to see some sheep on the cliffside, but alas, no dice there either! We had spotted some moose in Potter’s Marsh on the way down there, so we drove back to try and get some photos – but it was raining by the time we got there. We had no wildlife luck that afternoon!

Potter's Marsh

Potter's Marsh

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Friday was all about buying presents and souvenirs. Ryan and I had our final Snow City Cafe lunch – I had the Crabby Omelet – so good! Then we drove over to the Ulu Factory to buy some knives. Ulu are traditional triangular knives that the Inuits use for a variety of things (even cutting ice for igloos!) – but would be good for someone like me for cutting up herbs in the kitchen – that sort of thing. We ran into Jovon, Ken and Wayne at the Factory, and we all stocked up on knives and other souvenirs. After that, Ryan and I did some more shopping around the downtown area for other presents to take home.

The Ulu Factory

The Ulu Factory

After the show that night, the crew began the load-out. It was not without some drama – again a good number of locals did not show up to the call, making things harder for our guys. And then as the trucks got to the weigh-in station, it was found that the sound truck was too heavy to make the trip (the weight restrictions on the Al-Can Highway had recently changed because of the thaw). So, a couple of our crew had to re-load part of the truck onto a seventh trailer to lighten the load. They barely made it to the airport in time for our flight.

And with that, the Alaskan adventure was over. I had a great time, and I know that I only scratched the surface of things to do and see there. I definitely want to return during a summer at some point and spend some more time seeing other parts of the state. It is such a beautiful place with so much to see and do – definitely plan a visit if you can!

And now – back to the lower 48!