22 Weeks, 22 Cities

This week marks the end of a very, very long stretch of one-week stops. Twenty-two to be exact, making the last day off – free of travel and work, way back in January when we were in Boston. I went on vacation that week, so my Mexico trip was the last time I had any time off. That was six months ago!

Traveling to a new city every week has had its ups and downs. On the one hand, we were able to explore a variety of cities that we may not ever had had the chance to visit, if not for this tour schedule. We were also able to play at some amazing theaters around the country, and meet some really nice people along the way. We were able to experience a true touring gypsy life – which some accustomed to better than others, but I think  in the end, we all feel pretty proud of ourselves, regardless, from having made it through.

On the downside, packing every Sunday got to be a drag – both packing up the show, and packing up our own suitcases. The travel between the shorter jumps was fairly easy – the overnight bus rides were fun and convenient. But in the last few weeks, when the stops have been further apart, all the air travel has been a drag. The schedule has also been unfortunate in that you can never stock up on groceries (well, too many groceries), because you can never finish them all on a one week stop. That is one thing to really look forward to on the longer stops – a stocked fridge – that you might actually finish!

Tallulah has been a sainted kitty throughout all the moves. She only had one spiteful episode (peeing on my suitcase in Nashville), but other than hiding under the bed every travel day – she has been the best-behaved, most adaptive and loving little puss on the planet. She is a rock star.

So to recap – here are some of the highlights of Spam Tour’s “Trail of Tears”:

PROVIDENCE: We said goodbye to Michael and Jeff, our original King and Patsy. The girls sent them off right with a hilarious game show-edition shot night. We also enjoyed the diner truck which parked late night behind our hotel.

Jeff and Michael's final shot night

Jeff and Michael's final shot night

HERSHEY: Brad Bradley made his debut as Patsy, with Chris Gurr assuming the role of the King. We had a blast at Chocolate World, and were welcomed with open Italian arms at Fenicci’s.

Waiting to see the 3D movie at Chocolate World

Waiting to see the 3D movie at Chocolate World

NASHVILLE: We visited the Opry, hung at the honky-tonk’s on Broadway, and celebrated Patrick’s birthday. Julie Barnes made her debut as the Lady of the Lake, as both Esther and Lyn were out. Cara Cooper joined us to take over Sabra’s track.
Julie's debut as the Lady of the Lake

Julie's debut as the Lady of the Lake

JACKSONVILLE: Hometown of Patrick and Keith Reese. Was lovely seeing Keith’s smiling face around the show again. Adam Souza assumed the maestro’s baton as Ben began his leave of absence.

Also, Gary Beach joined us, and began rehearsals to take over the role of the King.

Adam as Ben at sound check

Adam as Ben at sound check

FORT MYERS: Where we were re-introduced to “Crawdaddy”, a strange crawfish-loving keyboard player who had first played with us back in Naples. Most of this week was spent doing taxes with Trudy!

Crawdaddy!

Crawdaddy!

MIAMI: Gary made his debut as the King, we had an awesome anniversary party for the show at the Raleigh Hotel on Miami Beach. It was a generally happy week spent on the beach – oh, and quite a few people got tattoos. Sadly, we said goodbye to Jeff Klein, our associate company manager, and welcomed his replacement, David.
Original Spam Tour members at the 2-year anniversary party

Original Spam Tour members at the 2-year anniversary party

WEST PALM BEACH: We had a big photo call at work, and spent much of the week around the gorgeous shopping center near the theater. Ryan and I stayed at a very cute pool house, as did other members of the company.
Gary and Esther - one of my shots from the photo call

Gary and Esther - one of my shots from the photo call

CLEARWATER: One word – O’Boobigans! We sent Lee Appleton, our drummer, off in style with a party at an Irish bar/Hooters called O’Boobigans. Crawdaddy returned, and great controversy began when one of his lobster puppets mysteriously disappeared…
Lee, Ryan, Lobster Puppet, Keith and Crawdaddy

Lee, Ryan, Lobster Puppet, Keith and Crawdaddy

ORLANDO: We said a tearful goodbye to Julie Barnes, whose going-away party was at a fun tiki bar downtown. Some people ventured to Disney – I enjoyed our Extended Stay Deluxe and stayed in most of the week, with the exception of a walk around the cute shopping area of Winter Park. This was Vera’s last week before her leave. On our final Sunday in Orlando, some clean-shaven faces showed up to work to kick off the Beard Contest!
Julie at her going-away party

Julie at her going-away party

BIRMINGHAM: Probably one of the least favorite stops on the tour. Sort of a depressed, run-down city. There was the trolley that took you to Five Points where you could get pancakes at the Original Pancake House, otherwise you were stuck with Subway. I think everyone ODed on Subway that week. Bree Branker made her debut, and David Havasi began rehearsals. We also had a visit from Casey, our choreographer. Probably the highlight of the week, was the man-o-vator at the theater…
Patrick on the man-o-vator

Patrick on the man-o-vator

GREENVILLE: A surprisingly cute town! We all ate our faces off at the myriad restaurants on Main Street, a vast contrast from Birmingham the week before. There was lots of hiking and park-going, and Brian O’Brien’s farewell pub crawl was truly awesome. We also had the best stage management office we’ve ever had – walls lined with windows overlooking the river. Lovely.
Brian makes a new friend on the pub crawl

Brian makes a new friend on the pub crawl

RALEIGH: It was Jonathan Brody’s final week – we had a cajun dinner hosted by Piper to send him off. Not too much doing in Raleigh – some shopping at the mall across from the Candlewood, and some photo-taking of all the old, old houses. There was also an evening of Cornhole at a local bar, which was quite fun. David Havasi made his debut in Brian’s old track. There was a big blow-up among the chorus boys over some ridiculousness that sort of clouded this week.
Taking pictures at an old cemetery in Raleigh

Taking pictures at an old cemetery in Raleigh

DAYTON: Probably second only to Birmingham in general ass-iness. The theater was big and new and nice, and if you ventured over to the Oregon District, there was an area of cuteness, with cool shops and restaurants, but downtown was rather barren. We spent most nights at a bar called J-Alan’s, which Ken dubbed “The Hootennanny”. Terry and Patrick both did open mic performances there. Rick Costa made his debut this week in Jonathan’s old track. Oh, and who could forget Tony’s masterful win in the Beard Contest!
Patrick at open mic night at the "Hootenanny"

Patrick at open mic night at the Hootenanny

MILWAUKEE: Pubs, pubs, and more pubs. That’s how I remember Milwaukee. The art museum building was stunning to see. We said farewell to Piper with another pub crawl, this one in a party bus. Piper and Julie leaving were big blows – it was hard to lose those two girls – I miss them! Milwaukee was also the debut of “Duckie” – Tera-Lee performing a male ensemble track.

Cuz and Piper at her going-away

Cuz and Piper at her going-away

APPLETON: Ryan’s home local! I had fun visiting his house that week. We also hosted a super cool shot night – the ice luge! Even Gary Beach did a shot! I also discovered a great yarn store in Appleton – Iris Fine Yarns. Sarah Lin Johnson took over Piper’s swing track.
Gary taking a shot from the ice luge

Gary taking a shot from the ice luge

MADISON: My love, Madison! One of my top three favorite stops on the tour. That city rocks. We did a lot of bike riding, a lot of eating and drinking (at the Black Dog and Essen Haus), and I did even more yarn shopping. And p.s., the Capitol Farmer’s Market ROCKED! We also had a visit from Jeff Dumas, and Darryl’s family hosted a party for us at their house!
Gurr, Suzanne, Matt and Paula hanging out at Darryl's

Gurr, Suzanne, Matt and Paula hanging out at Darryl's

GRAND RAPIDS: Kind of a letdown after Madison, but it had pockets of cute. I got my hair done at a nice salon. We visited the art museum, and did a little bit of bike riding. But the highlight of the week was having Elaine around to cover Mitchell’s vacation. Yay! And also Bret arriving to cover Ken’s vacation! Scary weather driving to Minneapolis.
Getting drunk with Elaine when I should have been packing

Getting drunk with Elaine when I should have been packing

MINNEAPOLIS: The crazy weather of being in Tornado Alley continued, with thunderstorms peppering the week. We visited the sculpture garden and played mini golf with Ryan’s friend, Brent. In work-related news, Patrick split his head open causing a frenzy of last-minute replacements on the Saturday. I visited the Mall of America, Brit’s Pub (a couple of times), did quite a bit of bike-riding, and had a lovely Monday night meal with Bret.

Brent and Ryan playing mini-golf

Brent and Ryan playing mini-golf

OKLAHOMA CITY: Hmmm…sort of along the lines of Dayton. Not horrible, but not much going on. Crazy windy but hot weather. The Memorial was quite a sight to see, and made the week worth it. We also stayed at a nice hotel downtown called The Colcord, and enjoyed drinks a couple of times at a cool brewpub called Tapwerks. 
OKC Memorial

OKC Memorial

ALBUQUERQUE: Ken was back from vacation, and it was Jovon’s turn for a week off. I was in bliss all week with my buddies Michael and Tanya and Bret all back in my life. I had a great visit to Santa Fe with Tanya, and Albuquerque’s highlights included the breakfast burritos at Frontier, Satellite Coffee and the weather! Gorgeous! Hot and dry. Sadly we said goodbye to our A2, Tony.
With my Ta

With my Ta

With my Bretty

With my Bretty

SAN ANTONIO: Hot and sweaty is how I will remember San Antonio. The Riverwalk was fun – highlights included meals at the Iron Cactus and Boudros. Mi Tierra at the Marketplace was also good, although if I never see menudo again it will be too soon. I had my birthday here, and was treated to a yummy chocolate mousse cake from Ken! I also treated myself to some new camera equipment! Oh, and then there was the Alamo. Eh. Patrick bailed on us this week to go and do “Gossip Girl” for eight weeks, so we scrambled a bit (another couple of gender-bending performances by Tera-Lee), but we had it figured out by….
Tera-Lee doing some gender-bending in Rio

Tera-Lee doing some gender-bending in Rio

FORT WORTH: Where Brian O’Brien re-joined us to help fill in the gap left by Patrick. Kevin Burrows was also around this week to help cover some of other boys’ vacations. Everyone was antsy getting ready for Canada. There was a quick trip to the Stockyards, but otherwise it was all about getting phones, and credit cards and money in order. Vancouver here we come!
Packing up trunks for Canada

Packing up trunks for Canada

22 eventful weeks! I look forward to the next 22, only I am happy to report that we will be spending some quality time in the next few cities with longer sit-downs, just enough time to recoup before another slew of one-weekers begin this winter. 

Bring it on!

Farewell to the Deep South

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

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

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

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

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

Old house in Oakwood Historic neighborhood

Old house in Oakwood Historic neighborhood

Old house in Oakwood Historic neighborhood

Old house in Oakwood Historic neighborhood

Gravestones of Confederate soldiers

Gravestones of Confederate soldiers

Self-portrait

Self-portrait

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

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

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

Ryan at lunch (beard progress is good)

Ryan at lunch (beard progress is good)

Deer at Ulmstead Park

Deer at Ulmstead Park

People fishing at Ulmstead Park

People fishing at Ulmstead Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy your week!