Someone is ready to go.
Day 8: St. Paul, MN to Sobieski, WI.
It was an easy drive on Monday to Sobieski, where Ryan lives. Of course, I HAD to stop on the way in Wassau, WI. for a soft-serve cone from Briq’s. I discovered this place a couple of years ago driving to Ryan’s, and I just love their soft serve. It is the perfect balance between creamy and icy. Yum!
I arrived at Ryan’s early in the afternoon and we hung out around the house for the afternoon. All the improvements that Ryan has made on the place since he came home in April are fantastic. The house is looking really great, and he had just gotten a bunch of new furniture the week before, which really made the house feel like a home. Unfortunately it was dark and kind of dreary weather all week, which made the house interior really dark, so I didn’t really get any good pictures of the inside.
That night, we had dinner in downtown Green Bay at a restaurant called Cafe Espresso, which is one of Ryan’s favorites. I had to laugh because it seemed like everywhere we went over the next couple of days, starting with Cafe Espresso, Ryan knew someone. I asked him, “do you know everyone in Green Bay?” Hilarious.
Day 9: Sobieski, WI.
On Tuesday we went for a walk at Baird’s Creek – a wooded park in Green Bay that has skiing hills, a frisbee golf course, bike paths and hiking trails. It was so pretty there – it had rained, so everything was wet and lush. It was so nice to see all the beautiful fall leaves.
Before we left the house, we made an Irish stew and put in the slow cooker, so when we got home that night, we had a delicious dinner waiting for us. Yum!
Day 10: Sobieski, WI.
On Wednesday I took Tallulah for a “kitty hike” around Ryan’s property. He has about six acres of land around his house, so there is quite a bit to explore. Tallulah did so well! I had her on harness and leash, and she actually walked and responded to the leash tugs and led the way! We were out for about a half an hour.
In the afternoon Ryan and I went to a couple of yarn stores! I bought some yarn for a sweater in one of them. We also did some shopping at Kohl’s, where I bought a slow cooker on sale. I really don’t like to cook at all, but I think the slow cooker might be a good way for me to go – throw everything in in the morning and then you come home to dinner! We’ll see how it goes.
That night we got together with a group of Ryan’s friends – Neil and Tara, Kris and Steph, Dan and Rick. We had drinks and dinner at a local bar – it was two-for-one perch plates, and they were super good! It was really fun meeting all of Ryan’s friends – they all seem like really nice people.
Day 11: Sobieski, WI.
On Thursday, we met up for lunch with Ryan’s dad and sister, Renee, and her two kids. We went to a yummy Mexican place and had a nice time catching up.
After that Ryan and I did a little shopping – I went and looked at some furniture and we went back to Kohl’s to pick up some more things for Ryan’s house.
That night we had dinner at Jake’s Pizza, Ryan’s favorite pizza place. It wasn’t as good as Cicero’s – but it was definitely a close second – really yummy crust. I was glad that we had leftovers so I could enjoy it for lunch the next day as well!
We went home and watched a movie and lit a fire. We actually had fires every night in the fireplace – so nice!
Day 12: Sobieski, WI. to Chicago, IL.
It was with great reluctance that Tallulah and I left Ryan’s house on Friday. I had such a nice few days there in his cozy house. Hopefully I’ll get back there soon.
I drove on to Chicago, which took longer than it should have, thanks to traffic. I checked into the Hotel Indigo in the afternoon, and met up with my friend Kevin, who used to be in “Spamalot”, for coffee. Kevin is currently in “Jersey Boys” in Chicago. It was so nice to see him and catch up. We’ve kept in touch through email, but I hadn’t seen him in person in about two years. We had a nice visit before Kevin had to leave for his show, and I went to meet up with friends for dinner.
Carolyn and Lauren are both friends that I got to know through Flickr, an online photography website. I met up with Lauren the last time I was in Chicago, but this was my first time meeting Carolyn. We met at Carolyn’s apartment in Belmont and made pizza and sat around and knit. It was so fun! Lauren and Carolyn’s friend Sara also came over and we just had the best time chatting and knitting and drinking beer. I’m so glad I was able to get together with those girls while I was in town.
Day 13: Chicago, IL. to West Middlesex, PA.
Nothing much to report for Saturday. I got up and drove to Pennsylvania. I saw cornfields. I had dinner at Red Lobster. I went to bed. The end.
Day 14: West Middlesex, PA. to New York, NY.
I could not get to New York fast enough on Sunday! By then I was completely sick of driving. It was actually a beautiful drive through all of Pennsylvania, through the Poconos, but I just wanted to get there! My leg and foot were falling asleep by the afternoon. Finally, finally, I reached the George Washington Bridge! And of course, traffic ground to halt. I discovered that Sunday was NYC marathon, so lots of streets were closed off, making for traffic jams around the island. It took a while to figure out how to get to my sublet with all the street closures, but I finally did – and then had to carry all my stuff up four flights of steps. Argh! A rude awakening back to New York City living!
Seriously though, it was great driving across the bridge and into the city. I always get such a rush when I see the Manhattan skyline. It is such an awesome, awesome place to live. I’m really happy to be back.
My apartment in Harlem is great – cute and charming and comfortable, with a fantastic roof deck with a “West Side Story”-esque view of all the surrounding rooftops. I love it. I am here for a month, and then hopefully I’ll be moving in to my own place!
And – I’m actually going back to work next week! Only for a week though, which is good, because I really do need to focus on looking for a place to live. When my friend Phyllis emailed me (she and I did “BARE” in 2004) and asked if I wanted to do a reading with her of a new musical, directed by Kristin Hanggi (who directed “BARE” and also was nominated for a Tony for “Rock of Ages”), I couldn’t say no – I had such a great time working with the two of them on “BARE” – and it will be a nice way to get back in to the swing of things in New York. I’m looking forward to it.
So, there probably won’t be many “travels” with Tallulah any time soon, but I’m sure there will be stories, so I think I am going to continue this blog to keep at least my parents apprised of what I’m doing (does anyone else read this???). I thought about changing the name of the blog, but I like how “Travels with Tallulah” rolls off the tongue, and plus everyone knows it as that name, so its probably easier to keep it. And… I kind of think leaving it as “Travels with Tallulah” is kind of like positive thinking – hoping and willing that there will be more travels in the future!
But for now, I am more than content to unpack my suitcases for a while and put them away! New York City, I’ve missed you!
So the day after Ryan arrived was unfortunately a two-show day. But it gave him a chance to rest up a bit after the long ride across the country. Val, one of my friends from Flickr stopped by the theater before the afternoon show. She was in town for the day, and unfortunately I couldn’t meet up with her for an extended period of time, but I did want to say hi to her in person – and she had the best surprise for me – a care package put together by a whole group of the girls who I have befriended on Flickr through sharing our photos. It was so nice unwrapping their treats and reading their cards. I was so touched by the gesture! And it was great to see Val’s smiling face again.
That night I had a huge group of family and friends at the show – all my siblings, as well as all my close high school friends. I gave my sister Becky, her friend Nicole, my brother Nick and his girlfriend Morgan a backstage tour after the show. It was a lot of fun showing them around – and I think they all really enjoyed the show.
Sunday was the day of my big BBQ! I took the day off work and Ryan and I spent the afternoon preparing food for everyone. We had a really great spread that included chicken feta burgers, kabobs, a peach, avocado and goat cheese salad as well as homemade mango salsa and pints and pints of Bi-rite ice cream! Friends started arriving soon after 4pm. I had invited all of my siblings and their significant others, as well as all my closest high school friends, and a couple of friends from college. It was so nice to have so many of my favorite people all under one roof for the afternoon! Ryan was a champ at the grill, and we sufficiently stuffed everyone full of food and drink. It was a really nice afternoon and evening – and we spent the later evening hours after most everyone else was gone, hanging with Becky, Nick, Dave and Morgan. I was exhausted but happy at the end of the day.
The next day Ryan and I got up early and rented a car and drove down beautiful Highway 1 to Santa Cruz. We started off our day with lunch at Taqueria Santa Cruz (burritos as big as your head!) and then headed over to Seabright Beach. We napped for a while on the sand and then walked around the lighthouse, taking photos. After that, we drove downtown and walked around the shops for a couple of hours, before heading over the hill (Highway 17) to Sunnyvale, to meet up with my family for dinner at Cicero’s Pizza (my very fave!!). After dinner we went back to my parents’ house for dessert and a bit more hanging out before driving back to San Francisco. It was a very full day, but a good one.
On Tuesday, Ryan and I just chilled out at the apartment, the events of the past two busy days had caught up with us and we were tired! In the afternoon, Mary called to say that she and David (another of my closest friends from high school – and college actually, we both went to UCSD) were headed over to our place. David was only in town for a couple of days (he plays for the symphony in Honolulu) so it was great that I would get an opportunity to see him, even if it was only a short one. They came over and we hung out at the house for a while and then walked over to Bi-Rite to get ice cream cones, which we ate in Dolores Park. It was nice to see David – it sounds like he might be moving back to California in the near future, which would be great – I’m more likely to see him if he’s in California – Hawaii is a little harder to get to!
Wednesday was my birthday. 35! Crazy. I still can’t believe it. I don’t feel 35. We had two shows, so that didn’t leave much time for fun birthday things, but I did have a cake at work – Bi-Rite ice cream cake! (Are you sensing a theme?). It was delicious. Ryan met me for dinner. We walked over to Sotano Grill on Powell and took advantage of happy hour – I had two mojitas with my enchiladas – yum! After work, I went home and we watched a movie. My mom had given me a couple of DVDs for my birthday – one of them was the documentary “Show Business” about the Broadway season a couple of years ago (when “Wicked”, “Avenue Q”, “Caroline or Change” and “Taboo” were opening). Ryan and I watched the DVD that night – it made me miss New York! I especially remember that season well as I went to the Tony party for “Avenue Q” after their surprise win for Best Musical, and “Caroline or Change” was one of my most favorite productions ever – I saw it five times!
On Thursday, Ryan and I went over to the Haight and walked around for a bit. I left Ryan there when I had to go to work, and he spent two-and-a-half hours in Amoeba Records, coming home with a stack of used CDs. I knew he would love it in there. That night after the show, I hosted a pub crawl in North Beach. I spent so much time there in my early twenties hanging out with Michele (primarily at Tosca Cafe), and love the neighborhood so much, that I really wanted to share it with my coworkers. We went to Vesuvio’s, Tosca, Specs and Tony Nik’s (Savoy Tivoli was also on the list but we got there after last call, so we ended up back at Specs). A lot of people showed up at Vesuvio’s and then after that the crowd began to thin out, but I think everyone enjoyed themselves, and really liked the bars. There were a few people who wouldn’t leave Tosca, which I think is a good thing! It is my favorite bar after all, and I don’t blame them for wanting to stay. Ryan and I finished off the crawl with a slice of pizza before heading back home. It was a very successful night!
On Friday Ryan and I had dinner at House of Nanking in Chinatown – my favorite Chinese restaurant in San Francisco. It has expanded and the digs have gotten nicer since I last dined there, but the wait staff were still mean and curt as always (which is part of the charm!) and the food was as delicious as I remember.
On Saturday I had two shows, and in between Ryan met me for dinner and we picked up a rental car which we used for the next three days for our trip to Tahoe! I took Sunday off work and we got up early and drove to Truckee, where we met up with my family. My dad had rented an amazing house in Tahoe Donner for the weekend, and all of my siblings were there, as well as Dave and Morgan and Nick and Morgan’s two dogs (Tallulah came as well, although she stayed in the bedroom safely away from the two dogs!). We had such a nice weekend, playing ping pong and going in the hot tub, watching old movies from our childhood (“Top Gun” ha!) and exploring the area. On Sunday after we got settled in, my mom and dad took Ryan and I on a drive around the north end of the lake to Incline Village and Sand Harbor (where we used to go as kids). The next day Ryan and I explored downtown Truckee in the morning and then took a long hike near Tahoe City in the afternoon. The hike proved to be more strenuous than we expected – there was still a ton of snow on the ground, so finding the trail wasn’t always easy – but the views from the top were amazing. We had a 360 degree view of Lake Tahoe and Donner Lake. We hiked two and a half miles to a small serene lake called Ellis Lake, and then hiked back – five miles in total, through all kinds of different terrain – snow, rocks, forest…it was really the perfect hike. That night we had a lovely Italian meal in Truckee with my parents (by that time all my siblings had headed back to the Bay Area), and then on Tuesday morning we packed up and headed back into the city as well. It was a lovely family weekend.
Now its back to work for our final two weeks in San Francisco. There’s so much still to do and so many people still to see. I know I’m not going to get around to all of it, so to all of you who I don’t get to see – apologies! I have been trying my hardest to fit everything in, and unfortunately I’m just not going to get around to all of it, or to seeing everyone. I’ll just have to come back!
And the Florida adventure continues!
Since the crew had the luxury of a sane evening load-out in Melbourne (with the absence of an evening show on Sunday), and didn’t have to be at the theater in Tampa until 6pm the next day for the load-in, Ryan and I had a leisurely drive on Monday morning across the state. We had rented a vacation house in Tampa – a cute duplex just ten miles or so north of downtown. When we got there, we settled in, went and had some yummy sushi for lunch and did some grocery shopping for the week. It makes such a difference to stay in a house or apartment rather than a hotel. Being able to cook your own food is such a luxury, and with the warm weather, we were also able to grill outside. So, so nice.
Ryan took the car into town Monday night for load-in, and Tallulah and I chilled at the house.
The next day I joined the load-in at Tampa PAC. This was the third theater I played with the tour, almost exactly two years ago. It is a HUGE theater – tons and tons of space backstage, everyone gets their own dressing room – the stagehands are decent – I remember some of them from the last time we were there. The load-in was really easy.
The best thing about Tuesday, was the reintroduction of Callie Carter to the company. Callie was an original tour cast member and our former dance captain. She left about a year ago to head back to New York, where she joined the Broadway company and eventually became their dance captain. She is with us for a few weeks filling in. I love Callie – she’s funny and down to earth, and has a great energy. It was so nice to see her again.
On Wednesday Ryan and I drove over to International Plaza – the fancy mall in town – to do some shopping. Traffic in Florida is a pain so it was a bit stressful getting back to the house in time to make some dinner, but we managed to squeeze it all in – just in time to go to work.
Thursday we had a matinee and evening show, and then afterwards a group of us convened at the Blue Martini for a going away party for Candy and Angelina. Both girls are in our ensemble. Candy joined us in Toronto from the Vegas company, and took over assistant dance captain duties when Tera-Lee left. Angelina has been with the show for almost two and a half years. She recently was hired as a swing in the new Broadway company of “West Side Story”. So – Thursday night, a party was held for the girls. We had a party at the Blue Martini the last time we were in Tampa, to celebrate Pia’s 30th birthday. To be honest, its not really my kind of place – its kind of a meat market, with overpriced drinks. But for Candy and Angelina, I’d pretty much suck it up and go anywhere. It actually ended up not being that bad – it was nice and warm out, so it turned out to be the perfect evening to sit outside and sip cocktails.
On Friday Ryan and I decided to spend the day totally at the house, grilling on the BBQ and sitting in the sun. It was great. Sometimes you just need those lazy days. I worked on finishing my knitting project, a top called “Rusted Root” and also took advantage of the backyard and the good weather to get some photos of some of my finished knits. I’ll do a follow-up blog post to this with some of the shots. In addition to having a backyard, the rental house also had a lanai – a screened-in porch which Tallulah spent almost all week on. She would be up first thing in the morning waiting by the sliding glass door to be let out. She would sit out there and watch the birds all day.
On Saturday there was a big arts fair in downtown Tampa. Between shows Ryan and I went and walked around, looking at all the booths. There was some fantastic photography there – I particularly loved the photographs by Todd Lundeen, who had traveled to Tibet and taken some amazing photos of the people there. A couple of our company members bought prints from him – I think I’m going to order a couple from his website. We had a nice time walking around and eating street fair food. The kettle corn was amazing.
Back at the theater, the place was completely overrun with kids all weekend. There was a dance competition in the building and they were running through the hallways with mothers in tow during all three of our weekend shows. It got to be a little much by Sunday afternoon.
Sunday was the final show for Candy and Angelina. It was definitely a bittersweet night – both girls will be missed so much. Candy was a swing, so she wasn’t in the show that night, but she watched from the wings while Ang played her last performance. There were a few pranks pulled – the two best being in “Bright Side”, the four other girls dressed as Ni Knights stayed offstage and Angelina ended up doing a “Ni Knight solo”, and then in the finale, Angelina’s boyfriend Nigel, who is a swing but was not on on Sunday, surprised her by coming out and dancing as her partner in the Wedding number. Very sweet. I wish both girls the best of luck!
We had Sunday night off as we had a matinee on Thursday, so I was able to spend one more warm evening on the porch at the rental house. We were off bright and early on Monday to Austin. Ryan, unfortunately, got bad news on Sunday that a water pipe had burst at his house and flooded his basement, so he left early Monday to go back to Green Bay to deal with it. He’ll meet us in Austin on Friday.
It was lovely to spend two weeks in Florida after the weeks and weeks of cold and snow that we experienced earlier this winter. We are not out of the cold just yet – we still have Wilmington, Cleveland and Anchorage ahead, but it definitely feels like we are out of the thick of winter. Before we know it, we’ll be on the beach in Los Angeles!
I have been lucky enough to spend a few weeks in Florida for the past three winters, thanks to the “Spamalot” tour. When you live in a cold climate, there is nothing like visiting some place warm to rejuvenate your soul. For reals. I am always happy with the cold and the snow through the holidays because it is pretty and cozy and season-appropriate. Come February though, and I’m ready for winter to move on. And since winter has a mind of its own, fleeing it is the next best thing.
So this year, our warm winter stint began in Melbourne, Florida. Where? I know, I had never heard of it either until it showed up on our itinerary. Turns out it is a town on the “Space Coast” – in other words, just down the road from Cape Canaveral. We just missed a space shuttle launch by a matter of days, in fact. Originally there was supposed to be a launch while we were in town, but it was postponed. Bummer! I did see the launch pad though, from afar, while I was on Cocoa Beach. I originally had planned on getting over to Kennedy Space Center for a tour during our stay, but then the sunshine lured me away and I decided I didn’t want to spend a whole day inside. I would rather be by the beach. So that’s pretty much what I did with my week. Spent it at the beach.
It basically took all day to get to Melbourne. We flew through Atlanta and after having to wait for a while for a rental car once we got into town, there was basically only enough time to go to the grocery store before dinner. Load-in the next day was really easy – the theater was big and everything fit – so I had some time in the afternoon to myself before coming back for the show. It was beautiful outside, so I decided to drive over to the beach. We were staying at a Candlewood right next to the causeway, and so it literally was only about a ten minute drive to get to the water.
The closest beach to us was Satellite Beach, and Patrick Air Force Base, which also has a stretch of beaches. I didn’t realize at the time that I was on the Air Force Base, so I ended up going to one of their beaches unknowingly. It was gorgeous – empty and clean. I only spent about a half an hour there – all the time I had on Tuesday, but it was still the best part of my day.
On Wednesday we had two shows, so no time for anything fun. Ryan and I had some good sushi between shows, but otherwise, it was work, work, work.
On Thursday I ran some errands in the morning, then drove out to Satellite Beach in the afternoon while Ryan went to play frisbee golf with Erik. Tallulah had been antsy all morning, so instead of leaving her at the hotel, I brought her with me. You might remember seeing photos of Tallulah on the beach in Fort Lauderdale two years ago. She had a repeat experience! People always ask me “aren’t you afraid she’s going to run away?”, but honestly, she’s been in so many different environments now, that she is more curious about new places than she is scared. She is a very careful, tentative cat, and so she tends to kind of creep around new environments rather than taking off. Plus she knows she has it good. Why would she want to run? On the first night in Melbourne, she accidentally got out into the hall at the hotel. I heard her meowing a few minutes later. When I opened the door, she hadn’t taken off running down the hall or anything, she was sitting outside the door, waiting to get back in. She knew I was on the other side of the door and she wanted to be with me. That’s my girl!
So that’s how she was on the beach, too. She didn’t stray far from me. I had my eye on her the whole time – there were dogs on the beach, too, and I didn’t want her to get too close to them. She enjoyed watching the birds. I took some photos and then after a little while it started to lightly rain, so we headed back to the hotel. Tallulah’s beach day!
On Friday Ryan and I drove up the A1A to Cocoa Beach. We took a long walk down the beach to the pier and back. We could see the shuttle launch pad from there. After our walk, we stopped by the ginormous Ron Jon Surf Shop before heading back to the hotel. I bought a bag and Ryan bought a ukelele!
On Saturday we had two shows, but the hotel was close enough that we could run back in between and get some grilling in. Ryan made some salmon and we also grilled some asparagus. So yum!
With the addition of the matinee on Wednesday, we only had one show on Sunday – such a luxury. We were done with the matinee by 4:30p and I had the rest of the evening off while the load-out started. I did a bit of shopping and then hung out and knit in my room, listened to podcasts and caught up on my TV shows. Bliss! Oh, and I packed. 🙂
On Monday morning, Ryan and I drove the two and a half hours to Tampa where we have rental condo a few miles north of downtown. I’m looking forward to one more week of sunny Florida with lots of backyard grilling. And then we are off to Texas for one more warm winter week before heading north again. Lucky me.
I was so overjoyed to get back to Philadelphia, one of my favorite stops from last year. It was a long-ass travel day but we finally arrived in the City of Brotherly Love and checked into our super huge, super plush Rittenhouse apartment. I had found this apartment building a while back, and to rent on our own was way too expensive, but at the last minute the rental company struck up a group rate for our show, and so we are in this amazing apartment for less that what the hotel option cost! I haven’t taken any photos yet, but I will. The best part is the location – we look right down on Rittenhouse Square, which is a small park surrounded by restaurants and shopping, and only a few short blocks from the theater.
On Monday night, Ryan and I revisited our favorite bar in Philly, Monks, for dinner. Monks has tons and tons of beer on tap and in bottles from all over the world for you to choose from. They also have a very eclectic, delicious menu. I had a duck salad. Yum! And of course a side of pommes frites, which are so good at Monks. There was a group of Spam company members already at the bar. Everyone remembered this place and picked it as the first to return to!
On Tuesday I joined Zipcar! How awesome is Zipcar? You reserve a car online and then just go to where it is parked and drive it away – no dealing with showing up at a rental car place and being told they have no cars. It’s awesome. I walked over to the Zipcar office and picked up my membership card, and then promptly reserved a car for the afternoon. We spent the whole afternoon grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, and then DROVE the groceries home! That night, we ate at Alma de Cuba, another amazing restaurant that we had promised ourselves we would return to.
On Wednesday, I woke up early and Tallulah and I drove to New York City. Tallulah was due for her yearly vet appointment, and it was great that we were close enough to the city to go to her own vet, Dr. Ramos. We met up with Andrea for breakfast and then set off for the vet. Tallulah did so well – and she has lost two pounds since last year! Yay for the Catkins diet! Dr. Ramos was very pleased with her weight and overall health.
There was one scary moment when Tallulah decided to check out the space UNDERNEATH the deck, but Patty smartly crafted a kitty toy out of a circular knitting cable and some stitch markers, and we lured her out.
We headed back to Philly that evening, pooped, but happy. Thanks, Patty!
We loaded the show in to the Academy of Music on Thursday. It was nice to see so many familiar faces on the crew – especially the wardrobe staff. Those ladies (and gents) are so nice, especially Pam, who dresses Patrick. It’s great to be working with them again.
On Friday I started the big sort through of my trunk. I am going back to New York next Monday and plan on driving up to my storage unit and leaving a bunch of stuff there.
Saturday we had a visit from our union reps to discuss ratifying the proposed new production contract. This contract governs all Broadway shows and tours. The new proposal is not a good one. I won’t go into all the gory details here, but the per diem rate being offered is horribly behind the times. With rising hotel rates, we are no longer able to pay for our hotels and meals solely out of our per diem. The new contract doesn’t offer any help in that area. There are also some aspects affecting stage managers that have been sorely overlooked. Anyway, to make a long story short, it wasn’t a happy meeting. Although I didn’t speak up at the meeting (there were plenty of other people doing that), I feel I have been very communicative with the union through emails expressing my concerns over the new contract. I feel satisfied that I have spoken up in that way, and that I’m not just sending in a “no” vote and not explaining why. I don’t necessarily think anything can happen now, but maybe three years from now, when the contract is renegotiated again, perhaps some of these concerns will be taken into consideration. One can only hope.
Other than that, life has been all about the Olympics. I’ve been addicted to the swimming and the gymnastics. Michael Phelps is super-human! Go USA!
Hope you all had a great week!
Well, not exactly. Ryan grew up in Green Bay, Wisconsin, but the theater there is not used much these days since a nicer, newer one was built about forty miles south in Appleton, which is where “Spamalot” played last week. Now, when Ryan’s home, he spends as much of his time working at the performing arts center in Appleton as he does working in Green Bay. The crew there are part of his home local, so it was a homecoming week for him.
I drove Ryan’s truck from Milwaukee, where he had driven it to do the load-out after having the week off and spending it at his house in Sobieski. That truck is kind of a beast – its huge! Once I managed to maneuver it out of the parking lot of the Hyatt in Milwaukee, it wasn’t so bad. I was convinced I was going to shear the roof off in that parking lot though.
After getting Tallulah settled in at the Candlewood Suites in Appleton, my favorite tour hotel (The rooms are efficiency studios with kitchenettes; each room also comes with a DVD player which is awesome, and the beds are really comfortable. Best of all, the Candlewood rates are usually fairly inexpensive), I went across the street, rented a car (Ryan took the truck to load-in), and I began running errands. Mostly they were boring – like going to the Petco to get more kitty food, but it was nice to have such a normal Monday – doing normal things, like going to the grocery store! The Woodmans grocery store that I went to was quite a sight to see – it was ENORMOUS, and had every product you could imagine. It was a tad overwhelming, but also great to be able to get everything that I wanted, rather than my usual grocery store run, which generally entails scouring the shelves at the CVS for anything that remotely resembles something decent to eat.
I also went to investigate Iris Fine Yarns – a yarn shop near downtown Appleton. What a shop! It is an old house which has been converted to a shop, and the stock they have is simply amazing! Who would have thought that in such a comparatively small town, I would find such a magnificent shop? I was blown away – they had all the most beautiful fibers and organized in such an attractive and user-friendly way. I came a little unprepared, not really knowing what I wanted to buy, so I just bought some wool to make a case for my new Time Capsule hard drive, and made plans to go back later in the week with a better list of wants.
I also drove down College Ave, the main thoroughfare in Appleton. The performing arts center is there, as well as a ton of bars and restaurants and cafes. It was a really cute little street, and proved to be a great place to hang out for the week.
The performing arts center was big and new and clean, and once again we had a smooth load-in and opening. The stagehands there were very nice and welcoming. On Thursday night we were introduced to real Wisconsin cheese curds and beef jerky, as provided by the local sound guy. I have to say, the curds were good! (and squeeky!)
On Wednesday I went back to Iris’s with a list and picked up some more yarn – two skeins of Malabrigo to make a beret, and six skeins of Rowan Kid Classic to make the Lush and Lacy sweater from Sweaterbabe.
Thursday we had understudy rehearsal, but wound up with quite a long break before the show, so I went and read a magazine at Brewed Awakenings, a really cool independent coffee shop on College Ave. They not only make good coffee and sandwiches at Brewed Awakenings, but also some kick-ass gelato (which I indulged in over the weekend. One of the flavors they have is Guinness!)
On Thursday night after the show I packed up Tallulah and we went to Ryan’s house for the night. Tallulah didn’t know what to do with herself, she had so much space to explore. Ryan is still working on the house, having only really spent a few weeks there since he bought it, so it’s still in sort of a state of construction. He tried to pick up as best he could before we got there, but Tallulah still managed to find various ant traps and things she shouldn’t get into.
On Friday we hung out at the house, then went for lunch at a bar in Sobieski (the small town where Ryan lives has only three bars, a church and a daycare. That’s it!) Then we drove around the area a bit and looked at other houses. It’s amazing how quiet it is at Ryan’s house – I’m so used to traffic noises, or some kind of ambient noise – but at Ryan’s it’s dead quiet. Oh, and I saw a wild turkey in his front yard! Crazy, right?
On the way back to Appleton, we picked up libations for shot night on Saturday, which we were hosting.
On Saturday morning I worked on felting the case I had made for my time capsule. It turned out pretty well, I think!
On Saturday between shows, the theater hosted a cookout. We enjoyed brats and burgers and cheese curds.
Saturday night was shot night. We made “Jamaican Bobsleds”. The shot itself was a mixture of Bacardi rum, Malibu, banana schnapps, pineapple juice and cranberry. Pretty tasty. Ryan and I had come up with this idea (leftover from college party days) to freeze two blocks of ice and then carve “bobsled runs” into them. Someone pours the shot into the top of the run, and someone else has their mouth at the bottom of the run, catching the shot, which has gotten cold by going through the groove in the ice. Unfortunately our blocks didn’t freeze all the way through. We had to ditch one of them, and the other ended up getting quite a hole in it, but everyone who wanted to did end up being able to do at least one shot on the ice block. It was a success in the end, I think.
Here’s my favorite photo from shot night – it’s Gary, our King Arthur, partaking in a shot on the bobsled run:
We closed on Sunday night and today traveled to Madison, which I already love. It is a college town, and reminds me of a little Berkeley. We are staying right near the Capitol (which we have an amazing view of from our hotel window), and steps away from State Street, which is lined with all kinds of fun shops and restaurants. The University of Wisconsin is at the other end of State Street. I think it is going to be a very fun week!
I had another low-key week last week in Milwaukee, but that’s not to say that the town is not without things to do. In fact, quite the opposite. The town is filled, and I mean filled, with brew pubs and bars and museums and shopping…but I’m getting ahead of myself.
We arrived, as usual, by sleeper bus at the crack of dawn, literally – I think it was 6:30 in the morning. We were all staying at the Hyatt downtown, a nice hotel – comfy bed, always important. I slept for a little while after arriving, and then went out in the afternoon for some lunch and a walk around.
I headed over to the lake (Lake Michigan) and walked along it (freezing my butt off, by the way – we had gone from 70 degree temps in Dayton to 40 degrees. Thank god I had the sense to get my down vest out of my trunk) for about two miles until I reached Brady Street, which was lined with all kinds of cute shops and pubs. Unfortunately I was so cold that I didn’t feel like spending time browsing, and so I headed back down Water Street to the hotel.
Downtown Milwaukee is cool – its sort of a mix of new buildings, like the art museum, and old Gothic germanic-looking buildings. I had kind of a picture of it in my head from “Laverne and Shirley”, and expected it to be big-city, Manhattan-like, but it’s not quite as busy and urban as that, and guess that’s what I get for believing everything I see on TV is real.
I got a call from Ryan around 6:00pm saying that they were laying off for the day because the truck with all the deck in it had not arrived, halting what work the carpenters could do. It turns out the driver got confused and thought he was supposed to show up with the truck on Tuesday morning rather than Monday, so he took a side trip the opposite direction into Ohio. Oops.
That meant, though, that Ryan had a Monday night off for the first time in forever. So we went for dinner at the Water Street Brewery, which had some delicious microbrews.
The load-in picked up on Tuesday, as usual, and the guys still managed to cut out early in the afternoon. It’s amazing how much faster they’ve managed to get the load-in – I suppose doing it every week now for 14 weeks in a row will do that. It has made the one-weekers so much more bearable for the crew, though, now that load-in has gotten so much faster.
The theater, the Marcus Center, was spacious and we had another successful opening. We had a party following at the City Grille. Ryan and I had fun hanging with Suzanne and Gurr, and then chatting with Piper, who was leaving the company at the end of the week.
Ryan left the next morning for Sobieski, the town where he lives, for a week’s vacation. I headed over to the art museum at noon to see the building’s “wings” open up, which happens three times a day. It’s a stunning visual to see.
Pretty cool, huh?
I also walked around the museum a bit – they had a photo exhibit on which was pretty good. The lobby was also architecturally quite fantastic, so I took some snaps in there as well.
After the museum I walked over to the Public Market to grab some lunch. It is a cute little market, not as grand as the Eastern Market in Philly or even the Public Market in Columbus, but there were some good-looking stands with yummy things behind the counters.
On the way home I walked through the Historic Third Ward, which is actually a lot like Soho in New York, on a much smaller scale. There were a lot of cute boutiques and shops, housed in old warehouse-y buildings.
Since Ryan was away and since we went out almost every night last week in Dayton, I decided I would take the week to rest and recoup, and so I didn’t do all the barhopping that I could have last week.
I did go out on Thursday night, after a day of understudy rehearsal and a show, for Piper’s going-away shindig. It was also a celebratory evening for Tim, Bree and Jen Mathie, who all had birthdays this past week. Piper arranged a party bus which took everyone around to three bars. I opted to just go to the first bar, the German Beer Hall, which was a lot of fun, but very crowded. It was fun watching everyone do “shotskis” – basically a ski with a line of shot glasses attached to it – meaning that everyone who partakes, has to drink at the exact same time.
Friday’s weather was yucky – heavy rains and wind, so I decided to have a lazy day inside. Which was great. I caught up on emails and things, watched Tom Cruise on “Oprah” and entertained Tallulah.
I got up on Saturday morning and walked over to Marquette University and just beyond, to see the Pabst Mansion. I didn’t have time to go inside, but the outside of the building was enough of a sight to see. It was old and creepy –
Sunday turned out to be quite an eventful day as we had our first ever cut-track show in almost 900 performances! Both Darryl and Rick were out on personal days, and then Patrick (Lancelot) called out sick. We only have two male swings, and one of them (Nigel) is also the only cover we have right now for Lancelot. So Graham, our dance captain and the other swing, and Tera-Lee, our assistant dance captain and female swing, had to figure out how to cover Darryl and Rick’s tracks between them. Which basically meant, Tera-Lee dressing up as a boy and performing in three numbers – “Finland”, “Camelot” and “Bright Side”. In the other numbers, we cut a track and Graham covered whoever’s track was most important.
Here’s some pics of Tera-Lee as a boy (she’s the one in yellow):
Sunday night was Piper’s last show. She had quite a going-away week, with her party on Thursday, Friday was her “super-swing-out show” in which she played a different girl’s track in each number, and then Saturday night she hosted shot night and played us a slide show she had put together about her time on the tour. Everyone was in tears by the end. Piper will definitely be missed. She was the tour’s residence cruise director and party planner. We bonded over knitting and crochet – this last Christmas she crocheted sixty hats for everyone in the cast and crew. She has a great heart and spirit and I will miss her Tuesday load-in hugs!
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!)
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.
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!
Wow. Birmingham, Alabama – perhaps the most dire downtown yet when it came to food options and all-around life. It’s sort of a shame actually, that we were staying downtown and at the mercy of public transportation and the two restaurants in the immediate vicinity (I never want to eat Subway again), because driving into Birmingham was beautiful. Tallulah and I road tripped it from Orlando in an amazing car rental deal (I think I’ve mentioned it before – $8 a day, y’all!), and in order to get into the city limits of Birmingham, you have to go through a national forest and some amazing rolling hills. It’s quite lovely, and if only downtown was even a fraction as lovely, it would have been a better stay.
But alas, it wasn’t. The hotel, the Sheraton, was one of those massive convention hotels with like 700 rooms, and when I arrived, it was also the start of some metalworkers convention, or something like that, so the hotel was packed. The first room we had overlooked the freeway, had a TV stand with a big chunk of wood missing, and a strange brown stain on the ceiling. That first night, the water main broke outside the hotel, so we were out of water for six hours. SIX HOURS. The consolation was that we were given free donuts and coffee in the morning. THANKS.
I awoke to find a brown liquid on my computer, having dripped through the ceiling during the night (hence the stain up above). We moved rooms during the lunch break to one in the renovated side of the building, which was much nicer and much more comfortable and had nothing dripping from the ceiling. Whew. I just don’t think those giant hotels can keep up with all the rooms and all the guests. It’s too much. Much better to stay at a smaller hotel which can be more attentive to the upkeep.
The theater itself was quite large, a welcome change from some of the smaller venues we have been in lately. Load-in again went smoothly, the only glitch being that the local production manager dropped the ball on getting us a pyro technician and the appropriate permits, so we had to cut all the pyro effects for the week – a first on the tour.
During sound check we were introduced to the “Man-o-vator” – I’m not sure what the real name of it is, but it is basically a lift which takes the guys up to the fly rail. It is the only one of its kind left in the country, and you can see why – there are no safety cables – you basically have to hold on for your life and hope you don’t lose your grip on the way up. Of course all the guys thought it was the coolest thing ever and took turns riding it up to the fly floor. (That is, it was cool until Ken rode it on Sunday and couldn’t get the lift to stop, so he kept going higher and higher, screaming “Make it stop”, until our flyman, Nate, went and rescued him!).
Here’s a picture of Patrick taking a ride:
One thing that was cool about Birmingham, was their trolley system. You could hop on the trolley outside the hotel for a quarter, and ride it to Five Points, the pseudo “hip” neighborhood (which basically consisted of a Starbucks, a record shop, and an Original Pancake House). Ryan and I did just that on Wednesday. We spent some time browsing the record shop, running into a bunch of the crew guys there, and we also took some photos of the Vulcan, a cast iron statue which stands in a park up on the hill, overlooking Birmingham. We didn’t venture all the way up to the park, but were able to get some photos of the Vulcan just fine from a mile away. We also saw some amazing cherry blossoms. Yay, spring is here!
On Friday, I went with Ryan and Cuz to the Barber Motor Sports Museum. The museum is a privately-owned collection of over 1100 motorcycles and race cars. I don’t know anything about motorcycles or race cars, but I could certainly appreciate the beauty of some of the vehicles there, especially the vintage Harleys and Indians. Ryan and Cuz didn’t know what to do with themselves. They were like kids in a candy store. The building itself was really amazing, too – five floors, with floor to ceiling windows on all four sides, which allowed for some great natural light to illuminate all the vehicles. The museum is out in the woods, twenty miles outside of Birmingham, and is also on the grounds with a world class racetrack. There were some pretty terrific rain and thunder showers while we were in the museum, which we had a prime view of through all those windows.
Here’s a few pictures of some of the amazing vintage bikes:
Tony lent me some of his camera lenses to play with this week. Now I want to buy a 50mm! So much fun to play with. I took some shots of my favorite model:
(No-post processing, no flash – can you believe it??)
The weekend was busy at work as Casey Nicolaw, our choreographer, came for a visit. Casey is a great guy and very insightful and gave some really good notes to all of our new cast members. It was a nice boost in morale for everyone to see him, and to hear how pleased he is with the show.
Now, as I said, the food options in downtown Birmingham were pretty dire, but we did manage to find a few gems interspersed with all those Subway sandwiches. There was of course a visit, actually two visits, to the Original Pancake House – I had Swedish pancakes the first trip, which are like crepes, and then banana pancakes the second trip. Yum. Ryan and I also took advantage of the rental car we had the day we visited the Barber Museum, and went to dinner at a restaurant called The Fish Market, which was near the loft district. You pick an entree of one of dozens of fish choices and then two sides – we ran into Esther and Nate there – and we all marveled over all the goodnesses that we had on our plates.
Backtracking a little, we also had a nice opening night party at a bar at the Tutweiler Hotel, which is an old historical hotel downtown. It was a small event just for us, and the bar was very cute and hip, with yummy finger foods and totally open bar. We closed the place down and it was one of the more fun parties that I can remember as far as opening nights go.
Sunday we packed up shop and got on sleeper buses to Greenville, South Carolina.