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!
Mike and Ryan at the Record Shop
Thursday morning before rehearsal, I walked around downtown a bit. I was struck by the sadness of Birmingham. They have a really rough history, with some really brutal events having happened there during the fight for civil rights. You walk around and see plaques in various locations around the city that tell you about different groups of people who were killed or attacked while trying to fight for equality. The Civil Rights Institute is downtown, and I didn’t have time to visit it, but I did walk through Ingraham Park, which is across the street, and which has many tributes in it to various people involved in the fight for civil rights in one way or another. There was a nice statue of Martin Luther King, but then some disturbing statues of some kids being attacked by police dogs, and then some others being shot with machine guns. Across the street from the park is the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, where four little black girls were killed in 1963 when the church was bombed in protest of the integration of Birmingham schools.
The statue of Dr. King
16th Street Baptist Church
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.
Suzanne in her bunk
Mitchell and Jason being goofballs
It is very charming here in Greenville, with a vibrant downtown. I’m staying a bit out of downtown, but the hotel is so much cheaper than the downtown option that I was able to rent a car for most of the week and it still works out to be less expensive than if I had stayed at the Hyatt downtown. There are a lot of great hiking areas around here so I’m hoping to get out and see a bit of nature this week. I walked around downtown a bit earlier and took a few photos at Falls Park, a beautiful park right near the theater that has a small, pretty waterfall. It looks like there are some good bike trails, and everything looks so green. Spring is definitely here!