This past week was the start of four one-weekers. It’s going to be a long haul, and I think a true test of who is meant to be out on the road with this show, and who maybe is not cut out for the upcoming schedule. Although, that being said, after these next four weeks, we do settle into a good long stretch in Houston and Dallas, so that’s nice. The twenty-two one-weekers on the schedule for 2008 – not so nice.
So, the first one-weeker was in Rochester, New York. I had been hearing horror stories for weeks about how small and crappy the theater was and how desolate the town was. The stories weren’t entirely true, but also were not that far off, either.
We did another overnight bus trip from Hartford to Rochester. Again the bus was hot and stuffy so I didn’t get much sleep. We arrived in Rochester around 8am and after dropping off Keith, Vera and Steve at the theater, the rest of us headed to the Crowne Plaza to check in. Now you always hear about how cold Rochester can be. Not that Monday – it was 80 degrees out! We got to the hotel, looking forward to some air conditioned naps, and wouldn’t you know it, the air in the hotel was broken (or being changed over from winter to summer mode, as they put it). It took until midnight that night to get the air conditioning working. I couldn’t nap because it was so hot, and definitely was cranky by mid-afternoon. I don’t know how the crew load-out all night, then go directly to another city and load-in all day. I was cranky because of lack of sleep and I didn’t have to do anything all day. I can’t imagine having to work on no sleep.
Tuesday was the usual load in day for us. The backstage at the Auditorium Center (the name of the theater) was pretty cramped. Actually, stage left and right were okay, but there was no onstage crossover and all the quick change booths were out in the hallway on stage left. We are used to the boys changing either upstage or stage right, so having their booth stage left with no crossover was an interesting scenario. We made some adjustments and learned a lot having that set-up for the week. It was good to do, even though it was a little crazy, because now we know we can do it again if there are any other theaters that require that kind of a quick change set-up.
The other strange thing about the backstage at this theater was our calling position. We usually are downstage left, facing onstage. At the Auditorium, we were stage left by the fly rail, facing upstage. The line for the portcullis, which is basically our “main drape”, was right next to us – it was a little disconcerting trying to call cues with a big dude pulling a massive piece of scenery in 6 inches to my right. It took a lot of concentration to not get really distracted. Also, the conductor monitor was on top of the calling console, so whenever the ensemble had offstage singing to do, they would gather around the calling stage manager and watch the monitor, and sing their heads off. Also hard to concentrate and call cues when you have twelve people singing in your face.
The crew were also strange in Rochester. The guys on the fly rail were the only decent stagehands there…well, and “McDreamy”, who was the super-cute head carpenter – he was alright too. But my prop guy on stage right was a freak show. He looked and smelled like a homeless person, was deaf in one ear, and was very angry…all the time. Definitely seemed the kind of person who would just go nuts one day and gun everyone down at work. He freaked me out a bit. And Vera claimed the prop guy on stage left had narcolepsy. I don’t know about that, I think he was just a big stoner.
Rochester as a town is a strange place, too. Maybe I would have had a better picture of it if I had had a car to tool around in, but since I didn’t, I was sort of confined to the downtown area, which is very desolate. There is a mall there that is apparently the oldest indoor mall in America, and it is just depressing. Most of the stores inside are boarded up.
I did discover a kind of cute area near the hotel called “High Falls” – I went out looking for coffee one day and just kind of happened upon it. There are a couple of cute restaurants there and a visitors center with a little funky museum and art gallery. They had an exhibit there of photographs taken by local Rochester photographers, that was actually very cool. Around the back of the restaurants is a bridge that you can walk across and see the “high falls” of the Genessee River that runs through the town. And, I found a funky coffee shop/roastery to satisfy my coffee needs, and also a really cool arty shop that I bought two pairs of handmade earrings and a handmade necklace at.
Jovon organized a group to go and see the Rochester Red Wings play on Wednesday (they are the local minor league baseball team), but it rained out, unfortunately. We all still showed up at the ballpark and ate some hot dogs and drank some beer (at 11:30am!), and because our tickets couldn’t be refunded, we were given gift certificates to use at the gift shop, so we bought a bunch of Red Wing swag. Then a group of us headed over to Dinosaur BBQ, which is the local infamous BBQ joint. We had a delicious lunch, and then we all headed back to the hotel for naps before the show that night.
We hit Dinosaur BBQ again on Thursday night after the show to catch some free blues music and eat some more yummy food. Almost the entire cast and some of the crew showed up – it was great fun. Some of the girls even got up and danced with some of the crazy locals that were there.
On Friday, Ryan and I walked over to the Eastman house for a tour. George Eastman founded Kodak, which is based in Rochester. His mansion is now a photography museum, and you can also tour part of the house and the grounds. It was really neat – we saw a photo exhibit of Viet Nam and one of China, and also an exhibit of all kinds cameras dating back to the late 1800’s. Then we walked around the house and gardens.
The weekend was packed with the shows and then of course, load out on Sunday after the evening show. My favorite moment of the weekend was Sunday in between shows. We had a very short dinner break – only an hour, so Jovon, Ken, Karl and I went and got Wendy’s (there is also nothing open on Sunday in Rochester, so food options were scarce) and then ate it in the back of Ken’s rental pick-up truck in the theater parking lot. It was sunny out and so was a pleasant little tailgate. It was hilarious.
So this morning Jovon and I drove that same pick-up truck to Buffalo, where we are playing this week. Buffalo supposedly is not that much more exciting than Rochester, but already I have scoped out more restaurants and bars here than I saw the whole week in Rochester. Plus there is a really cool coffee shop right around the corner from the hotel called Spot Coffee where I hung out today. I love a good coffee shop. And on Thursday I am going to Niagara Falls, which I am super excited about. That’s about all for now, though!