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!

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The Final Chapter of the Alaskan Adventure

Our last week in Anchorage was an abbreviated one. We closed the show on Friday night in order to give the trucks the weekend to make the drive down the Al-Can Highway to Eugene. With that, the week went by very quickly.

I spent the majority of Monday working on my final self-portrait for my 365 Project. It was kind of a comedy of errors getting the photo done. I drove up towards the Anchorage Overlook, trying to find an appropriate roadside spot for the shot, and as I pulled over to one such spot – my car got stuck in a snow bank. I spent a few minutes trying to dig it out when another car pulled over. As luck would have it, it was Paula and Matt, two of the actors from the show, who were on their way up the mountain to walk their dogs. Matt tried to dig out around my tire with the ice scraper from their car, but that wasn’t working – so we went back to their rental house to pick up a better shovel. After about an hour and a half of messing around with this (poor Matt tried his best to dig the car out), a big pick-up truck pulled over and the guy who was driving it, hooked my car up to his truck with a chain, and pulled it out of the snow that way. By the time it was all said and done, I had totally lost any excitement or motivation to try and take my photo. Anyway, I finally did get it done, and then I drove back down into town, and Ryan and I went for lunch at Snow City Cafe. I spent the rest of the afternoon processing the photo and typing up my 365 notes.

My final 365 shot

My final 365 shot

I honestly have no recollection of what I did on Tuesday. How sad that without having a 365 shot to look back to, I have no idea what I did. Hmm. I do remember driving out to the water after the show on Tuesday night to take some photos of the sunset. That’s right – SUNSET AFTER THE SHOW! Crazy, right? When we first arrived in Anchorage, the sun was setting at about 9:30pm. By the time we left, two and a half weeks later, it was setting at 10:30pm. It was pretty nutty getting out of work that late and it still being light out. I actually really loved it. I imagine the opposite – it being dark all but five hours of the day during the winter, is majorly depressing though.

Sunset over Anchorage

Sunset over Anchorage

The Sleeping Lady

The Sleeping Lady

On Wednesday, Ryan and I drove back up to the Anchorage Overlook, being careful not to get the car stuck in any more snow banks ūüôā We walked the little half mile trail to the overlook spot and took some photos of the view. Unfortunately it was quite hazy out, so the mountains in the distance were pretty faint. If I had been in a better mood to take some photos up there on Monday, I probably would have gotten some nice shots. Monday was a much clearer day – so clear in fact, that I could see Mount Redoubt and her smoky plume off in the distance.

Anchorage in the distance

Anchorage in the distance

The trail at the overlook

The trail at the overlook

After that, we attempted to hike Blueberry Hill, a fairly easy trail of about two miles in length. There was, however, so much snow up there, that we couldn’t follow the trail – and there was a real lack of signage. So, we kind of walked and climbed around for about an hour and a half and then called it quits. It was also a lot colder up on the mountain than it had been down in town, so we were a little underdressed and getting chilly. Still, it was a nice afternoon and I’m glad we made it up there before leaving town.

Attempting to hike Blueberry Hill

Attempting to hike Blueberry Hill

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On Thursday, we had lunch at the Moose’s Tooth, a delicious pizzeria and brewhouse. We had been hearing about the amazing pizza there for two weeks, and we finally found the time to fit it in – I’m so glad we did! After that, we drove over to Earthquake Park, a small park on the Coastal Trail, that still has evidence of the 1964 earthquake in the form of buckled trees and sunken land. It was interesting to read about the effect of the earthquake, and the tsunamis that followed. Being from California, I do find it kind of funny how much the 1964 earthquake is still talked about in Alaska. I mean, I know it was a big deal – but it was a long time ago – it just doesn’t really seem like it should be news anymore. We walked around the park for a bit, sort of hoping to see a moose – there were lots of fresh droppings and tracks in the snow – but no luck seeing the actual animal.

Sunken ground at Earthquake Park

Sunken ground at Earthquake Park

We got a tip from Jovon that there were Dall sheep down at Beluga Point, so we jumped in the car and drove down there hoping to see some sheep on the cliffside, but alas, no dice there either! We had spotted some moose in Potter’s Marsh on the way down there, so we drove back to try and get some photos – but it was raining by the time we got there. We had no wildlife luck that afternoon!

Potter's Marsh

Potter's Marsh

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Friday was all about buying presents and souvenirs. Ryan and I had our final Snow City Cafe lunch – I had the Crabby Omelet – so good! Then we drove over to the Ulu Factory to buy some knives. Ulu are traditional triangular knives that the Inuits use for a variety of things (even cutting ice for igloos!) – but would be good for someone like me for cutting up herbs in the kitchen – that sort of thing. We ran into Jovon, Ken and Wayne at the Factory, and we all stocked up on knives and other souvenirs. After that, Ryan and I did some more shopping around the downtown area for other presents to take home.

The Ulu Factory

The Ulu Factory

After the show that night, the crew began the load-out. It was not without some drama – again a good number of locals did not show up to the call, making things harder for our guys. And then as the trucks got to the weigh-in station, it was found that the sound truck was too heavy to make the trip (the weight restrictions on the Al-Can Highway had recently changed because of the thaw). So, a couple of our crew had to re-load part of the truck onto a seventh trailer to lighten the load. They barely made it to the airport in time for our flight.

And with that, the Alaskan adventure was over. I had a great time, and I know that I only scratched the surface of things to do and see there. I definitely want to return during a summer at some point and spend some more time seeing other parts of the state. It is such a beautiful place with so much to see and do – definitely plan a visit if you can!

And now – back to the lower 48!

Chicago, Week One.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Chicago. I had been here a couple of times before en route from California to New York, or vice versa, but never longer than a couple of hours. My limited experience with the city was pretty much confined to the blocks surrounding the train station, and the restaurant, Italian Village, which for some reason is where I have always eaten while I’ve been stopping through town. I was just happy we were leaving Peoria and heading back to a big city. I was craving good restaurants and good shopping.

We took the bus from Peoria directly after the Sunday matinee and drove three hours to Chicago. It was nighttime by the time we arrived, and after getting settled into our hotel, I only really wanted to get some dinner, and then spend the rest of the night in the hotel, getting rested up for an actual day off the next day.

On Monday, the crew began load-in at the Auditorium Theater, but the rest of the company enjoyed a day free of work and travel! I had a number of items that I needed to pick up, and so I started my long day of shopping. I first went to Ritz Camera and ordered a new Lensbaby – Ken had given me some gift cards for Christmas, and they needed to be spent! Then I headed up Michigan Ave to the Magnificent Mile. Oh how I had missed good shopping! I went to Sephora, Nordstrom, Macy’s, the Apple Store…it was so nice. I picked up all the things I needed and managed to control myself from buying anything frivolous on top of that.

The frozen river

The frozen river

I had a really nice time walking around town – it was freezing cold out, but I was just so happy to be back in a real city that I didn’t care! I recognized Union Station from my many train rides across the country, and the river, which runs close to the train station. It was also so awesome to be in Chicago just in time for Obama’s inauguration. Obviously the city is uber-proud of their former senator, and the banners all along the streets illustrated just that.

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After a long day of shopping, I went out for Indian food for dinner, and ended up talking to Tanya for about an hour on the phone while eating. Tanya is in Chicago, as well, rehearsing “Mary Poppins”, which starts its national tour here. Tanya is one of the stage managers for it.

Our load-in into the Auditorium went pretty well. The loading dock only allowed for one truck at a time, which can be slow-going, but all the stagehands are so good here in Chicago, that they made up for the lost time. My biggest challenge during load-in was all the directional signage. There are so many fire doors in the basement of the theater, its insane. You have to go through seven doors to get from stage left to our office. It took me FOREVER to do signage this week, having to clearly label each door and each route. I was bummed about it, too, because of course Tuesday was the inauguration, and I didn’t want to miss it while I was posting signs. Ken made us all take a break, though, and go back to the hotel to watch the proceedings on TV. He said it was more important than load-in. I think he was right about that.

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Mr. President

I watched the inauguration in my room at the hotel with Tallulah. It was a very happy, but emotional event to watch. I am just so hopeful for the future now, and so excited about what is to come. I’m so grateful to Ken for making sure that we were able to witness this history!

Tuesday night was Richard’s first performance with the company. He did really well, and the audience loved him. Our general manager was in town, so we all went out for drinks after the show at the hotel bar, and celebrated Richard’s opening, and also the inauguration. All the TVs in the bar were on, so we were able to watch the inaugural balls while celebrating the great day!

Tuesday was also Merle Dandridge’s first day with us. Merle is our new Lady of the Lake, succeeding Esther, whose last day was Sunday. On Wednesday I had rehearsal with Merle for a few hours, and then had some time to kill before the show, so Ryan and I ventured over to Millenium Park, and took some photos by the infamous Chicago Bean.

Me in the Bean

Me and the Bean

After the show on Wednesday, we had our “official” opening night party at the italian restaurant, Petterino’s. It was a small, nice gathering. Jaki, one of our former wardrobe supervisors, was in town, helping us out for the week, so it was great getting to spend some time with her. I miss her so much – and I never really realize it until she comes to visit, and then I remember how much awesomer my job is when she’s around.

Jaki

Jaki

On Thursday, Ryan and I did some more shopping. Gotta make up for all those weeks in small towns! We went to Barnes and Noble, Old Navy and Macy’s, and then back to Ritz Camera! That night I took advantage of my new wide angle lens to take some shots of the theater. The Auditorium Theater is a really impressive building. Over 4000 seats in the house! There are two balconies very far away from the stage, and very high up. I climbed all the way up to the top to take some snaps. The prop guy told me that the upper balcony is slowly sinking, so they don’t sell the seats anymore. The whole time I was up there, I hung on for dear life. Not only was it very vertigo-inducing, but I was afraid the old, wooden, sinking floor would collapse at any time (talk about an overactive imagination!). I was also terrified of dropping my camera over the balcony. None of those things happened, but I did get some cool photos:

The view from the upper balcony

The view from the upper balcony

 

The view from the stage

The view from the stage

On Friday we had a put-in rehearsal for Merle.  She seems like a really fun girl and is a powerhouse singer, so its great to have her as part of the company Рdespite the fact that Esther will be sorely missed.

We had two shows on Saturday, followed by Shot Night, hosted by Erik Hayden, where we enjoyed vanilla vodka and ginger ale.

Sunday was Esther’s last day.

Tanya met me for dinner between shows – we ate at Flaco’s Tacos near the hotel, which has AWESOME fish tacos. I was able to hear all about her first week of rehearsals for “Mary Poppins”.

After Esther’s last show that evening, the company gathered at the wine bar, Bin 36, for her going-away party. Esther is an original company member of this tour. She’s been with it for three years now. It’s hard to imagine the tour without her. Her party was a success – Jonathan Hadary showed up (he was vacationing in Chicago last week) and so did Jeff Dumas, our original Patsy, who assumes the role again in Detroit. The wine was tasty, and aside from having to say goodbye to Esther, it was a great night.

Esther as the Lady of the Lake

Esther as the Lady of the Lake

It was a fantastic first week in Chicago. I really like this city – much more than I expected to. The few short hours I had spent here in the past just did not do the city justice. I only wish we had even more time to spend here – and that the weather was warmer! The cold really makes it hard to spend too much time out of doors.

Luckily, there was one more week to be spent in Chicago, including a Monday off – a luxury which we haven’t experienced in a while! But more on that in the next post –

Hope everyone had a great week!

Snow, snow and more snow in South Bend

The flat lands of Indiana speed by my window on the bus

On the bus, the flat lands of Indiana speed by my window.

It snowed from the day we arrived until the day we left South Bend. Snow, snow, snow and more snow. We took a bus from Cincinnati on Monday and arrived at the Residence Inn in South Bend in the mid-afternoon. The Residence Inn was the perfect home for the week – Ryan and I shared a two bedroom loft, which was quite spacious and came complete with a fireplace. All I wanted to do all week was hang out in front of that fireplace.

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But, alas, I did have to go in to work. Load-in was great – the guys were done in no time. It was a bit of a squeeze to fit everything in backstage, but everything did JUST fit. The local show crew were not the brightest bunch, and I was doing cues for the prop people up until the day we closed, but after seventy cities now, even the worst crew (and these weren’t the worst) doesn’t really faze me anymore. ¬†The two prop locals were just kind of clueless, and on the lazy side, which just gets on my nerves. I mean, really, do you have to sit down between each cue? And it bugs me when the locals sit on the scenery backstage. I wouldn’t walk into someone’s house that I just met and put my feet up on their couch. And that’s just how it feels sometimes when they lounge all over everything backstage. We also had this creepy guy on the rail, who always wore a shirt or jacket that had a skeleton on it. Even his gloves had skeleton hands on them. Over the weekend, he brought in a set of skull throwing knives and gave them to Keith, our head carpenter, as a gift. He also brought in these metal sleeves that you slide over your forefinger that have a sharp metal “fingernail” on the end of them, and a sharp curved blade that juts out of your knuckle. They looked like some kind of crazy weapon you would find in Chinatown. He gave one to Mike, our pyro guy, and one to our prop guy, Scott. Weird!!

The biggest thing that happened at work this week was that Richard Chamberlain joined us. Richard will be taking over the role of King Arthur in a week’s time in Chicago. He seems like a very nice man, and all reports from rehearsal (I was lucky enough to not have to do any rehearsals this week), say he is going to be great in the role.¬†

The snowy Spamatruck during load-in

The snowy Spamatruck during load-in

The Morris Center, where we played this past week, is a pretty theater. The front looks like an old vaudeville house, while the backstage is more modern. The house and lobby are really beautiful.

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From that last shot of the theater’s auditorium, you might be able to tell that my new wide angle lens arrived! I am so excited to play with it some more – unfortunately with the weather being what it was last week, I didn’t have much of an opportunity to get out and about. Hopefully soon! (Although it is still snowing as I type, even though I am no longer in South Bend, but have moved on to Peoria. Ah well.)

Because of the snowfall (we must have gotten over a foot last week), I honestly did not do much with my week. On Thursday I went to Best Buy with Ryan and Terry and then Ryan and I drove over to the Notre Dame campus for a little walkabout. The campus is really pretty and it was quiet, as the students had not yet returned from the Christmas break, but it was about 15 degrees out, and so we could only bear to be outside for a little while. I snapped a few pics, though.

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On Thursday night after the show, Jonathan (King Arthur) treated the company to beer and wings at a place around the corner from the theater, as a thank-you and going-away treat. He finishes with us at the end of this week in Peoria. It was really fun, and the wings were awesome! There were tons of different flavored sauces to choose from – it was fun sampling everything. And so nice of Jonathan for treating us all.¬†I will definitely miss him – he’s a knitter, too – we stick together!

Suzanne, sharing a laugh with Karl

Suzanne, sharing a laugh with Karl

Cheers from Darryl

Cheers from Darryl

Gurr and Matt

Gurr and Matt

Candy and Alexa

Candy and Alexa

Friday was spent indoors watching movies, and then the weekend brought four shows.

The highlight of downtown South Bend, for me, was the Fiddler’s Hearth, a cute Irish pub across the street from the stage door. The food there was delicious! I filled up on bangers and mash over the weekend, which is my favorite thing to eat when it’s cold outside. Aside from Fiddler’s, though, downtown South Bend was pretty dead. There were a few restaurants and the South Bend Chocolate Factory, but I expected more – ¬†seeing that it is a college town. If you drove out a bit from the hotel, there was a mall and grocery stores and all the normal chain stores, but I never saw any “college area”. There wasn’t strip of bars and shops where the college kids hung out. I was really surprised by that.¬†

On Sunday night, the Broadway company of “Spamalot” closed. There were a lot of friends in that company, a lot of tour alumni. It’s sad that the show (like so many other Broadway shows) fell victim to the economy this year. They’ve had a great run, though. And now we are the lone “Spamalot” company. “And then there was one.”

If you have the opportunity this year, and the means – please go and see a Broadway show (or, if you can’t get to New York, see a tour, or ¬†a local production) – please help keep our livelihood going! And, more importantly, help keep live theater alive. Its scary how many shows have closed in such a short amount of time, how many future shows have cancelled plans due to lack of funding, and how many regional theaters are shutting their doors. Luckily my beloved Shakespeare Santa Cruz was saved at the last minute by an outpouring of donations, but it was looking like it could be the end for them, for a while there.¬†

Thankfully, for now at least, our tour is one of the lucky ones. We press on –¬†

And so, as the Sunday night show came down and load-out started, the snow was STILL falling. If I remember anything about South Bend, it will be that. All the snow, snow, snow.

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See ya South Bend!

See ya South Bend!

Goodbye to 2008! Part Two -Travel.

2008 Travel Highlights, originally uploaded by francescarussell.

In 2008 my adventures continued with the “Spamalot” tour. I visited 41 cities with the tour and 7 additional cities on vacations – Playa del Carmen, New York City, Sunnyvale, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Green Bay and Great Barrington. I visited 21 U.S. states with the tour, plus 3 Canadian provinces, and 1 additional state on vacation (California). I saw three countries – the great U.S. of A., Canada, and Mexico. It has been a busy year!!! My cat has traveled to more places this year than most humans! And I have been on more planes and buses than I care to remember (for someone who HATES flying, I sure picked a strange job to take!). I spent over $5000 this year on car rentals, which I drive all over most of the country. Thank god gas prices have finally gone down!

The above mosaic features some of my favorite places that I visited over the year. If you click on it, you will be taken through to Flickr and given more information on where each of the photos were taken.

2008 was a year of constant movement – we had a TON of one week stops, and I saw more of the country than I ever thought I would see. I was also lucky enough to catch up with lots of friends and family, starting with my vacation to Mexico in January with Katherine and continuing with some time with friends in New York City, getting back to California for Fin’s wedding and having the opportunity to show Ryan San Francisco and Santa Cruz while we were there, to spending a week in New Mexico this winter with Tanya.

Favorite stops this year: Vancouver, Philadelphia (although getting my purse stolen sucked), Banff National Park near Calgary, Albuquerque, Playa del Carmen, Ottawa, Santa Fe, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Nashville, Madison, and of course, good ol’ NYC.

I’m looking forward to a calmer 2009 with longer tour stops, including lots of time in my home state of California close to family and friends (in fact it will be the most time I have spent in California since I moved to New York in 2002). I am also extremely excited about “Spamalot”‘s two-week stop in Anchorage, Alaska this spring! Can you believe my cat is going to Alaska???

Here’s to another year full of fantastic adventures!

Work, work, work, work.

I had so promised a more interesting blog post about Boston than my last post about Norfolk, and then what did I do all week – work! And work doesn’t make for a very interesting post.

We arrived to a freezing cold Boston. I spent Monday afternoon at Windsor Button picking out buttons for my 28thirty sweater (which I still have not photographed – this getting dark at 4:30p thing is really making things difficult!), and also taking the train to Brookline to pick up a wide angle lens (the Tokina 12-24mm for you camera nerds) which I was renting for the week. After that I stopped by the Colonial to say hi, see how the load-in was going, and to take some photos.

The return to the Colonial was sort of a bittersweet one. On the one hand, it is where the Spamalot tour began. There are many memories in the theater. The stagehands in this town love working on our show. For all those reasons it was great to be back. On the other hand, the show has grown since its first stop at the Colonial – there are so many road boxes and hampers and gondolas now. The theater is small and there is not much storage space. Only one truck fits into the loading alley at a time. Then everything has to go on an elevator to get to stage level. There is no elevator inside the building so costumes have to be carried up the stairs to the dressing rooms. Nice as it was to be back, it was also a giant pain in the ass. Load-in was very, very long and arduous. We ended up having to cut some scenic elements in order to fit everything on stage. It was not an easy load-in.

While I was in the building on Monday I took advantage of my new rental lens and took some photos of the theater and lobby. It is a majestic space, totally over-the-top and beautiful.

The view from the balcony

The view from the balcony

Side boxes

Side boxes

The lobby

The lobby

¬†On Tuesday I joined the load-in. It wasn’t bad on my end – the building was easy to navigate and despite the lack of storage space in the building, everything fit backstage okay. The only negative point to my day was finding out that there was no room in the building for our trunks. They were sent away on the prop truck, not to be seen again until Pittsburgh. I wouldn’t have minded so much had it not been FREEZING cold, since my winter coat was in my trunk. Bugger! I had a down vest with me, so I ended up going to REI on Wednesday and buying a fleece to go underneath it. The temperatures were hovering in the 20’s and 30’s all week. I was really missing my coat.

The opening night performance went fine. It was a bit of a challenge to re-train some of the stagehands who had been in production with “Spamalot” as the show has changed so much in two years and a few of them sort of thought they already “knew it all”. It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks! But in the end, all was fine and the show went well. As is usual, when in Boston, the “Spamalot” company hangs at the Intermission Tavern, across the street from the stage door. It’s a pub owned by the head prop guy at the Colonial. Tuesday night was no exception – we all gathered there after the show to celebrate Mitchell’s (our hair supervisor) birthday.

Hanging at the Intermission Tavern

Hanging at the Intermission Tavern

On Wednesday, I made the trek to REI with Ryan to buy the fleece. It was too cold otherwise to really leave the hotel. 

On Thursday, I met up for lunch with Kimberly Mark Webb, one of the stage managers who I used to work with at ACT in San Francisco. He is in town doing a show at the Huntington. It was great to see him! We were able to catch up on who was doing what, and all things ACT. It was so nice to spend the afternoon together. I’m looking forward to all our weeks in San Francisco next summer so that I can see all of my old cohorts again and of course, visit ACT again. I loved the years I spent there, and truly am so grateful for all that I learned while working there, much of which was from Kimberly!

On my way back to downtown, I snuck in a few shots with the wide angle. Of course it was dark already.

Reflecting pool

Reflecting pool

Newbury Street

Newbury Street

Thursday night at the show, everyone was on pins and needles, as Mike Nichols was in attendance to see the show, with our associate director, BT, and our general manager, Wendy. Mike hadn’t seen our company perform the show in about a year and a half so we were all interested in what he would think. We had a note session with him following the show, and it was not an easy one. Overall Mike is happy with our company, but he definitely kicked us in the butt for getting lazy and slipping into auto-pilot and relying on tricks and schtick. Some of his notes were downright brutal. “That was bad. Don’t do that.” On the other hand, he is not Mike Nichols for nothing. Many of the notes were absolutely true and some were downright brilliant. It was a very interesting session to be a part of. I’m very glad that I was not on the receiving end of ¬†those notes though. Mike is a very frank and candid and truthful man – and some of the notes were pretty harsh.

On Friday I had to babysit rehearsal for Alexa – one of our newest female ensemble members. Alexa is taking over Jenn Rias’s track at the end of Pittsburgh. She seems like a really sweet girl – and I’m sure will be a nice addition to the company. In other casting news, Richard Chamberlain is joining the tour in the new year as King Arthur, and Jeff Dumas, who was our original Patsy, is returning to that role. It will be great to have him back. Jeff is wonderful onstage, and quite a character in life too – I’ve missed having him around.

The weekend was the four usual shows, followed by load-out. I wish I had more exciting news to share from the week, but things were so busy at work that I didn’t have a chance to do anything fun and exciting in Boston, unfortunately, except for my lunch with Kimberly. Mostly I spent the week trying to stay warm. Maybe one day I will actually visit Boston when it is warm. This was my third trip to the city – and every time I have been there, it has been butt cold.

We arrived in Pittsburgh this afternoon. Snow is expected all week. And so The Long Winter begins.

Arriving Pittsburgh

Arriving Pittsburgh

 Sending love and good mojo to my BFF Michele whose twins may be arriving in the world this week!

I Got Nothin'

I was in Norfolk, VA for a whole week, and didn’t do anything of interest, and for the first time on this tour, I TOOK NO PHOTOS LAST WEEK! Well, except for my daily contribution to the 365 project. I had every intention of taking some photos down at the beach (we stayed in Virginia Beach), but on the one day when I was not in rehearsal (we had a put-in and understudy rehearsal last week), it poured with rain, so there was no picture-taking for me. Ah, well.

So Р I have nothing to share about Norfolk. There was a decent mall downtown and a street with restaurants on it near the theater which were pleasant enough. Other than that, I was at work, or at my room at the Candlewood in Virginia Beach. The audiences were nice and lively, the stagehands were dumb and lively, and I am happy to have moved on to Boston!

So, in lieu of any interesting tidbits about my week, here instead are some photos of a couple of knitting projects that I completed in the last couple of weeks.

First, my Gretel beret Рthe pattern is by Ysolda Teague. I used one and a half skeins of Blue Sky Alpacas Suri Merino, purchased at Make One in Calgary. I love the hat РIt fits perfectly, and the yarn is so soft and warm. 

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The second project I finished while we were in the Berkshires – ¬†the Prairie Tunic, by Veronik Avery. I used 4 skeins of Rowan 4-ply cotton. It’s a very cute summer top, which can also be worn over a long-sleeved shirt in the winter, as I did in my FO shots.

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More details about these projects can be found on my ravelry page.

I have a third project nearing completion (just needs buttons) so look for photos of that soon!

In the meantime, I arrived in Boston this morning, and am looking forward to a more eventful week than last week (and subsequently a more interesting blog post next week!).  Enjoy your week, everyone!

At the Colonial Theater in Boston

At the Colonial Theater in Boston

Changes, Changes, Changes.

We spent last week at West Point military academy re-working the show. As you know, our tour has been out for quite a while now, about two-and-a-half years, and our management is looking for ways to not only make the show more cost effective to travel, but also easier to move and load-in. To that end, some modifications were made to our set, requiring us to go back into rehearsal to work out the show with the new elements.

Paula and Tim rehearsing "Finland"

Paula and Tim rehearsing "Finland"

It was a long-ish drive to West Point everyday from our hotel in Fishkill, NY, but I didn’t mind. Fall is in full swing in these parts, and the drive was gorgeous. We had to take a two-lane highway through the mountains to get to the campus, which was also gorgeous. Our rehearsal room had an amazing view of the Hudson River.

The view from the rehearsal studio

The view from the rehearsal studio

At West Point

At West Point

The first two days of the week we spent with the cast in the studio, re-working “Grail” and “Camelot”, the two numbers most affected by the scenic changes, and we used the remaining time to clean-up the rest of the show with Scotty, our dance supervisor, and BT, our associate director. While we were in the studio, Ken, our design team and the crew were in the theater, loading in the new set, and beginning a “dry tech” of the new elements (running the cues without actors).

The boys rehearsing "Bright Side"

The boys rehearsing "Bright Side"

On Thursday we had a fairly short day with the cast. We worked through “Grail” and “Camelot” and “Laker Girls” onstage with the new scenery. Originally many more changes had been planned for the set, but in the end the changes are quite minimal. We cut our downstage automation track, meaning that the scenic pieces that usually ride in that track – the reeds in “Lady of the Lake” and the trees in the second act, are now pushed on and pulled off by stagehands with very sneaky (not so much) push sticks and pull lines. We also modified Mount Olympus, which appears in “Find Your Grail”. We no longer have the grail lift that pops up behind the mountain with the Lady of the Lake on it. Now the mountain enters in the second automation track (further upstage) and Esther climbs up a little step ladder on the back of it to pop up over the mountain. We also now have a drop with a painted Camelot castle, rather than the castle hanger that we used to have. There are other minor changes such as new reeds palettes in “Lady of the Lake”.

Teching "Camelot"

Teching "Camelot"

King Ni chillin' backstage

King Ni chillin' backstage

The other major change, in addition to the scenery, is that our orchestra has been downsized – I’m not remembering what the exact musician count is now, but it is sizably smaller than it was. This required a completely new orchestration, as the missing instruments had to be accounted for somehow – mostly by adding more effects to our keyboards. On Friday we spent all afternoon onstage, singing through the entire show with the band. It actually sounds quite good – some parts, I think, even sound better!

On Friday night we ran through the show with all the new elements. It was really fun figuring out how it was all going to work and reassigning cues. I love that part of tech – figuring out all the puzzle pieces.

On Saturday we did a dress rehearsal in the afternoon and then our one single performance for the week that night. Then load out!

We got the sad news that Broadway company has been given their closing notice. Their last performance will be January 18th. We’ll be the last remaining “Spamalot” company. So many of our former tour cast members are in the Broadway company now – its really sad for them to be looking at unemployment. Its scary how many shows in New York are closing. The economy is really taking its toll.

Back to load-out. Our poor crew were worked to the bone all week. They were in at 8am and at the theater until at least 9pm each night. They were all fried by the time load-out rolled around. But in the end they managed to cram everything into six trucks – that’s two less than before! It will save the company a lot of money to have two fewer trucks, and the more cost effective we are, the longer we can exist. So…yay!

Now we are on a lovely two week lay-off. More on that in the next post!