Costa Mesa

Palm trees near South Coast Plaza

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach

Huntington Beach

The pier

Yummy Rubio's fish taco

Tallulah snoozing in the hotel room

Josh, crashing girls' night.

MiG's last week in the show

Rebecca's last week in the show

Gratuitous shot of no-body-fat-MiG

Sad goodbye to MiG and Rebecca 😦

Cross-Country Road Trip, Week 1.

Day One: Huntington Beach, CA. to Scottsdale, AZ.

It was an exhausting morning getting out of Huntington Beach. I had to switch rental cars, which ended up taking longer than I had planned, and I had to thoroughly clean my rental apartment before leaving – which in retrospect, I shouldn’t have done, seeing as I am still only getting half of my cleaning deposit back. Ah, well. I got on the road around 10:30am, and it took a while to get out of Orange County. I couldn’t wait to get out of the city and onto an open stretch of highway. Luckily I eventually did pass through Indio and on through Joshua Tree towards Arizona. It was funny to see the saguaro cacti again – very deja vu. Wasn’t I just here? I reached Scottsdale in the late afternoon and after a dinner at Claim Jumper, settled in for the night.

Arizona, we meet again!

Arizona, we meet again!

Day 2: Scottsdale, AZ. to Las Cruces, NM.

Another fairly easy drive – I left Scottsdale around 10am and headed east. Before too long I was back in Tucson, where I just was three weeks ago! As I drove through the city, I decided to pull over and get some gas, and in the distance I could see the Aircraft Boneyard. Ryan and I had driven by the Boneyard on our last day in Tucson three weeks before, and didn’t have time to stop. The sight of all those thousands and thousands of old planes just sitting there on acres and acres of land was quite stunning, and I really wanted to get a few photos. I decided to drive by quickly and try to get a few snaps. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any good place to pull over and get out of the car, so I had to make do with some shots through the car window. One day I will get back to Tucson and properly walk through the Boneyard!

Parts of the afternoon drive were quite stunning. New Mexico is just so beautiful. In the early afternoon, big puffy clouds filled the blue skies, but as the day went on, the clouds got bigger and darker and lower, and later in the afternoon I found myself driving through some pretty spectacular thunderstorms. It would have been kind of beautiful if I hadn’t been so freaked out that I was going to get struck by lightning! I made it safely to the hotel, though, around 6pm, and lucked out by being given a two-bedroom apartment at the Towne Place Suites as I am a platinum Marriott member. Woohoo!

Airplane carcasses at the Aircraft Boneyard in Tucson

Airplane carcasses at the Aircraft Boneyard in Tucson

Day 3: Las Cruces, NM. to San Antonio, TX.

A long, long drive this day across I-10, which was surprisingly beautiful. I thought it would be barren and dusty, but it was actually quite green with some beautiful rock formations. I was thrilled to see that the speed limit along that stretch of I-10 was 80 mph! Yes! I made really good time in part because of that, and in part because I didn’t see a single highway patrol car all day. In Arizona, the highway patrol were everywhere, and if not a live cop, then a parked car with a camera. I must have seen at least 20 highway patrol cars the day before, so it was nice not seeing ANY once I passed into Texas.

It rained most of the afternoon, but the driving was fine, and no scary lightning! I reached San Antonio around 7pm, having passed through a whole time zone that day! My hotel was on the Riverwalk, but I was too tired to venture out.  I ordered in food and settled in for the evening.

A dreary day in Texas

A dreary day in Texas

Day 4: San Antonio, TX. to Houston, TX.

A nice sleep in and an easy drive to Houston from San Antonio. There was even time to stop at a yarn store before heading to the hotel 🙂 I checked into the Hyatt downtown and had a nice afternoon and evening in, relaxing. That night I met up with my dear friends Fran and Tanya for drinks at the hotel bar. They are both working on the “Mary Poppins” tour which is playing the Hobby Center in Houston. Fran toured with me on “Spamalot” in 2007 and Tanya and I have known each other since our early twenties when we were both working as stage managers in the Bay Area. I love both those girls to death.

Houston skyline, as seen from my hotel room window

Houston skyline, as seen from my hotel room window

Day 5: Houston

A lovely day off with no driving! I slept in and then met up with Fran and Tanya for lunch and some thrift shopping. We had a great afternoon, catching up, laughing and making some good purchases. I scored a handful of vintage dress patterns at an antique store for a dollar apiece! That night I went to see “Mary Poppins” (which was really good!) and then went to the opening night party with Fran and Tanya. They both came and hung out with me after the party in my hotel room while I packed. It was hard saying goodbye to them both – I love them both so much!

Fran

Fran

Tanya

Tanya

Day 6: Houston, TX. to Wichita, KS.

Probably my hardest day of driving so far – it was a long day, 600 miles of driving, and I was tired from staying up late. Now I was headed north from Texas. I pulled over at one point to take a cat nap at a rest stop and felt much better. It was frustrating driving in Texas – there was lots of traffic and numerous road closures – I was very happy to see the “Welcome to Oklahoma” sign! I was also relieved to be off the hugely massive wide Texas freeways and onto the smaller midwestern highways. It was a really pretty drive through Oklahoma and Kansas – the sunset was especially beautiful that night. I got to the Candlewood in Wichita close to 8pm and tumbled into bed early – time to catch up on some much-needed sleep!

A long, long day of driving

A long, long day of driving

Day 7: Wichita, KS. to Saint Paul, MN.

Another long drive – another 600 miles. I began listening to the new Dan Brown novel “The Lost Symbol” and became totally engrossed in the story, which made the day pass fairly quickly. As I drove through Iowa and into Minnesota, the temperatures kept dropping, and the leaves on the trees changed into all varieties of bright autumnal colors – finally, fall! I had to laugh when I recognized a shopping center outside Kansas City with a Cracker Barrel and Walmart that we had stopped at for a dinner break during a tour bus ride from Fayetteville to Des Moines last year with “Spamalot”.  That says something about how much traveling I have done on the country’s highways when I recognize specific Cracker Barrels!

I arrived in Saint Paul around 6:30pm, and had a quick dinner at Chili’s before heading back to the hotel for a restful evening.

Signs of approaching winter in Minnesota

Signs of approaching winter in Minnesota

Tomorrow, a shorter drive to Wisconsin, to Ryan’s, where I will be until Friday! Almost 3000 miles of driving under my belt in one week – whew! I’m ready for a few days off!

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!