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Week 1 [Aug. 13th, 2007|11:30 pm]
[Current Location |TN, KY, VA]
[Current Mood |excitedexcited]
[Current Music |Fiona Apple from Meg's iPod]

Week 1 Tour Log
As promised, here is the first of many tour blogs.

The 2007 Barter Players tour began this past Monday, January 8. I didn't know quite what to expect, and I came out of the week with many different impressions of the touring experience. More on that later; I'll begin at the beginning.

As it happens, the beginning began at approximately 5:30 a.m. on a Monday morning. I dragged myself out of bed (having placed my cell phone and accompanying alarm several feet from my bed to ensure/coerce awakening, instead of on the windowsill right next to my bed, as has been my usual custom), got my bags ready to go, and hopped into the back seat of the Barter Players' large, burgundy van (whose parking space in the Barter Inn lot is marked with a sign reading, descriptively, “burgundy van"). Ben Greenstone was our first driver of the tour, since, having been a Barter Player last year, also, he is the resident tour expert. Once we were all situated in the van, we made our way an hour down the road to Johnson City, TN. Our first stop was Woodland Elementary where, terrified, we warmed up and set up in a large, acoustically horrific gymnasium. We then went into the audience and talked to the little kids for about ten minutes before performing American Tall Tales for the first time. The show went surprisingly well, and all of the children laughed and cheered and seemed to have a good time. Phew. So, all in all, it was a very smooth first performance.

Our second performance of the day, which happened at a school about ten minutes away from the first one (Lake Ridge Elementary, also in Johnson City), was even more successful than the first. The space, which included a stage (rather than a gym floor), was acoustically superior to the first space we'd been in, and the children seemed even more attentive. We conducted an acting workshop for some of the kids in the after school program (grades K-5) following this second performance, and this was a wonderful experience. Having worked at a daycare for a few months a couple of years ago, I have some experience working with little kids and really enjoy interacting with them, and I found it fascinating to watch all of the different personalities in action as we played improv games with the different-aged children. It was especially interesting to see how self-conscious the older kids were in comparison to the younger kids and also just to observe the individual differences between kids (some were very shy and reticent and reminded me a lot of me at their age, and others were very extroverted and eager to engage the workshop-givers (us) ). We all came out of the second performance and workshop energized and excited. So, after a very successful first day of tour shows, we hopped back in the van and began the drive to Lexington, Kentucky, our second day tour stop. We spent the night at the Lexington La Quinta, where I unfortunately had to share a bed with another player, which translated into little to no sleep for me (I can never get comfortable when I have to share beds; luckily, most of our other hotel reservations for the tour consist of 1 room and 2 beds—1 per person).

Tuesday, January 9 was an eye-opener. First of all, we had traveled from the suburbs of Johnson City to the more urban environment of Lexington, KY (my friend Bill was certainly right when he informed me that, upon arrival in Lexington for grad school, the predominant background noise in the area consisted of sirens, sirens, and more sirens). The urban atmosphere seemed to translate into reduced affluence for many of the students at the two schools where we performed. A couple of my fellow players noticed that some children at the Lexington schools looked kind of unkempt and that one little boy appeared to have very serious dental problems, which made us all kind of sad. The two school buildings were older and less well-kept than the other schools we had performed in, too. For the morning performance (at Cassidy Elementary), we performed in a gymnasium and changed in a tiny boys' bathroom which smelled very strongly of little boy urine (ewww). The show went well, but we began it a bit frazzled, since we had gotten lost on the way to the school and had arrived only very shortly before the show was scheduled to start (also, upon arrival, the first thing we had heard/seen was a little girl throwing a temper tantrum and begging her mother to not make her go to school). After the show, as we were taking down our set and re-loading our props, we encountered a very bored-seeming gym teacher who was reprimanding the children for something-or-other and then lecturing in a monotone about definitions and examples of locomotives. This incident made me rather disgusted with elementary education, but happy that we had (hopefully) been able to at least temporarily brighten these kids' days with American Tall Tales.

After the first show, we walked around Lexington (in the freezing cold) and found a Quizno's and Starbucks for lunch. During our lunch break, we also encountered an urban bum, who alternately stared (creepily) at the girls in our group and talked/mumbled to himself. Interesting. Then, we headed to the second Lexington school, where we had a VERY interesting experience. The teacher (principal?) who gave the introductory ("curtain") speech for our show literally barked at the children and treated them with utter disrespect: imagine a thinner version of Roald Dahl's The Trunchbull (from one of my favorite childhood books, Matilda). This woman was unbelievably harsh and self-righteous. It made us all really sad that she seemed to like and respect the children so little (after the show she even told one little girl, in an inordinately harsh tone, that she would have to wait because she was "speaking to an ADULT right now"). Had I been a child in her "care," I'm quite sure that I would have been thoroughly and permanently traumatized. So, when we left the gymnasium of this school, we were also happy to have left the clutches of Mrs. X/ Nazi educator extraordinaire, though we were very sad that we couldn't take all the children with us. We quickly hit the road again and headed back to Abingdon for the night, hitting a few patches of snow on the way.

Early Wednesday morning, we drove about forty minutes from Abingdon to Kingsport, Tennessee, where we did back-to-back American Tall Tales performances at Jefferson Elementary. This was a new and very nice school, and the teachers and students were enchanting, and we had wonderful, fun, energetic performances. We had a brief scuffle with an unauthorized and nervous-seeming young newspaper photographer who had snapped shots during our performance (which Barter does not allow), but we interacted with a lot of seriously cute kids (a couple of whom told me I looked like various people in t.v. shows ;) ), and were given a nice pitcher of ice-water (plus a re-fill) by the very kind teacher/coordinator person. All in all, it was a fun morning. The 8 + hour drive to Virginia Beach that followed it was not quite as fun, however. This was my first time driving the van (we each do 4-hour shifts: the rotation goes Ben, Meg, Ezra, me, Rebecca, Maxey), and I happened to be the one driving on the terrifying Richmond bypass at rush hour, after dark, in the rain, but my trusty navigator, Rebecca, got me through okay by helping me check the right side mirror (we can't see out of the back of the van at all, since it is piled ceiling-high with the sets, props, and costumes for all of our tour shows). Exhausted, we stopped for dinner at a really fancy gourmet grocery store in Williamsburg, happy to eat some healthy food after 2 + days of McDonald's. Finally, we arrived in Virginia Beach and spent the night at the beach-front Howard Johnson's, waking up to the beach at sunrise, which was pretty awesome. :)

Thursday started out rather badly. We arrived at the first Va. Beach school, Windsor Oaks Elementary, a few minutes late, and set up and got dressed for American Tall tales, only to discover, ten minutes before the show was supposed to start, that the school had, without telling us, switched the order of the two shows we were doing. So, completely unprepared to do Jamestowne in the morning (we had planned a lunch time review/line-through), we suddenly had to rush to put up the other set and change into our settler/Indian costumes. We were a bit frazzled, but the show came off pretty well (thankfully, since my parents had decided to come to Va. Beach to see it). Then, we all went out to lunch at a good local pizza place with my parents and some friends of Ben's who lived in the area. Exhausted and frazzled from 3 days of early awakenings, long drives and multiple performances, I decided at lunchtime to spend the night at my parents' house following the second performance. The afternoon ATT went pretty well and we packed up the van and had our usual "so how was that show, anyway?" meeting, and then I headed to Newport News with the parents, where I got to see Emily dog and where I got much more sleep than I would have gotten at the hotel.

Friday morning at about 6:30, my parents drove me to a drop-off point in Newport News, where I got picked up by the burgundy van, and we headed to Gloucester for our morning Jamestowne performance. We had a very nice auditorium (as opposed to a gymnasium, cafeteria, or gymnatorium/cafetorium-- the usual performance sites), but we were faced with sullen middle school kids instead of our usual cute little ones. For this reason, the mandatory audience "warm-ups" were rather painful-- most of the kids didn't really want to talk to us and generally regarded us with disdain.  It was okay, though. I hated middle school with a passion, too, and I’m glad that we could maybe reach some of these kids through theater. Following this show (which actually went off fairly well, we decided), we drove back through the tunnel to Virginia Beach for an added ATT performance, and  one which the elementary school kids seemed to enjoy very much, despite our exhaustion (which I think we did a fairly good job of hiding—it really is energizing and fun to perform for children, even when you’re really, really tired). Then, we began the long drive from Virginia Beach back to Abingdon, stopping at Sheetz along the way (which Ben had been begging us to do for days) to experience the wonder that is a super-fancy gas station (I was even able to use a milkshake machine to make an EGGNOG milkshake).;) Then, at around 11:30 p.m., we arrived in Abingdon, and I fell asleep very shortly thereafter.

So, all in all, it was an interesting and exhilarating (though also tiring) first week of tour. This coming week promises to be a little less hectic, as most of our tour stops will be a maximum of 1.5 hours from Abingdon, so we'll be spending all of the nights next week here in our own beds.

The detailed schedule for this coming week is:

Monday, Jan. 15: 10:00 a.m. ATT in Elk Park, North Carolina (Freedom Trail Elementary)

Tuesday, Jan. 16: 10:00 ATT at JW Adams School in Wise, Virginia; 1:15 and 2:15 ATTs at Wise Primary. (3-show day)!

Wednesday, Jan. 17: 9:00 a.m. ATT at Norton Elementary in Norton, VA (1:00 and 2:00 back-to-back ATTs at Powell Valley Primary School, also in Norton. (another 3-show day).

Thursday, Jan. 18: 9:00 ATT at Appalachia Elementary (Appalachia, VA?) and 12:15 HAMLET (our first Hamlet performance) at Mountain Empire Community College.

Friday, Jan. 19: 9:00 ATT at St. Paul Elementary in St. Paul, VA; 1:30 ATT at Coeburn Primary in Coeburn, VA.
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Week 2 [Aug. 13th, 2007|11:28 pm]
[Current Location |NC, VA]
[Current Mood |amusedamused]
[Current Music |Coldplay, X & Y album, from Rebecca's iPod]

Tour update

This morning's performance in Elk Park, North Carolina went fairly well, although the space (a huge, echoey gymnasium) was not so great, acoustically-speaking. We all had to try really hard to project but not over-project (as this would produce too much of an echo and make all of our words unintelligible) and to hit our consonants hard but not too hard. It was a rather crazy technical acting exercise for everyone involved. We learned a lot from it, though, and the kids seemed to have a good time, tooo (K-5), and the lead teacher who introduced us was very nice. Okay, I'm off! Got to go check on American Tall Tales laundry!


Week 2, Day 2
Well, it seems that, as long as I'm in the Abingdon area, tour updates will be daily rather than weekly. So be it. I'll probably remember more things this way, anyway.

Today was our first three-show-day of tour. Our first stop was JW Adams School near Wise, Virginia (way out in the hills). The space we performed in was, surprisingly, impressive: the stage was huge and the arena bigger than Barter's main stage. Acoustically, it was wonderful, too, so it was a nice respite for our gymnasium-weary voices. After this performance (of ATT), we followed our hired SW Virginia Pro-Arts Association area guide (that's a mouthful), whom Rebecca affectionately nicknamed "The Squid"--the idea behind this being that the woman had the personality of a squid; ergo, no personality at all-- to Downtown Norton, VA for lunch. We ate at a Chinese buffet and got to coo and oogle over the adorable baby daughter of the restaurant's owners. :)

 Our second two shows (back-to-back American Tall Tales performances) were at Wise Primary School, which was about a fifteen-minute drive from our prior location. Although we had a minor disaster (one of Ben's guitar strings broke mid-performance and right in the middle of the Elvis Presley/"Purvis Wesley" sequence), the shows went really, really well, and we all experimented with new character things, too. The kids were also incredibly cute. This one really smart, poised kindergartener informed me that the little boy sitting behind her was her boyfriend, and when I asked her how long they'd been "dating," she replied, straight-faced, "seventeen years." All in all, it was a really nice day. We even had some light, pretty snow, or "sparklies," as Ben called it.  The mountains looked really beautiful with the dusting of snow, and the drive back was nice and uneventful, and now I have the evening off! Ciao for now, my friends.


Week 2, Day 3. Warning: vulgar hilarity in the fourth paragraph.
This one will be brief, because I'm sleepy.  So, we dragged ourselves outside in the freezing cold to the burgundy van at approximately 6:10 a.m. this morning. Meg then drove us back to Norton, Virginia, where we were supposed to do another three performances of "American Tall Tales" at two different schools. When we arrived at the first school, however (at about 7:30 a.m.), we noticed that it was something of a ghost town. A lone secretary was inside the building, and she informed us that school had been delayed two hours due to a sprinkling of snow. After calling our tour manager back at Barter, Rebecca then discovered that the second school we were supposed to go to was closed all day. Initially, we were excited, because we assumed this meant that we could do our performance at the first school (Norton Elementary) an hour or so late and then get back to Abingdon in the very early afternoon. Not so. Apparently, the school has a three-hour-long lunch period, and we had to wait until the whole thing was over-- 1:30 p.m.-- to perform.

So, we were stuck in Norton for a good six hours before we got to do our one out of three planned performances. This actually turned out to be okay, though, and somewhat restful (which is always nice). We stopped by a Hardee's and got some chicken biscuits and oj, and then looked around Wal-Mart for a bit. I also dipped into a Hallmark store in the same complex and found myself a really nice cloth/quilt-material purse to replace my recent string of deficient, zipper-and/or-strap-breaking models. Being in the Hallmark store was, unexpectedly enough, a neat experience, too, as the woman working at the counter (a pleasant-looking and intelligent-seeming woman probably in her early thirties) was singing along (very well) to the Michael Buble jazz soundtrack that was playing in the store. We had a little conversation at the counter about jazz, and it was just really neat. I mean, here we are in this little coal-mining town in the middle of nowhere, and the Hallmark clerk is a classy wannabe jazz singer. I am quite sure that this tour will erase any and all "backwoods" stereotypes or prejudices that I might have unconsciously held.

So, anyway, after our Norton shopping break, we headed back to the school, where we still had about two hours to kill. We filled part of this time by eating cafeteria lunches with some first and second graders. The food was rather disgusting (watery, cheesy potato-thingies and corn dog bites, accompanied by limp broccoli and canned pears), but eating at a table with kids was a crazy, enlightening experience. It amazed all of us how "in-the-moment" they all were: quick to react, hugely, to anything that happened. For example, there was an extended, robust chorus of ewwwwws when a corn dog bite fell to the cafegymnatorium floor and was, in their eyes, magically and immediately transformed into a thoroughly repulsive thing to behold, not unlike a rotting, oozing worm or a fly-and-maggot-infested-four-day-old doggie "gift" on the sidewalk. The kids were also eager to engage us in conversation about anything and everything, including "Junie B. Jones," which apparently they had taken a field trip to see a couple of months earlier. They couldn't really separate us, the actors, from us, the Junie B. characters, so I answered to "Lucille" all throughout lunch, which was fun. :) It was just a neat experience to be surrounded by, as the ever-quotable Rebecca described them.... oh, gee, now I can't remember the exact phrase she used, but it was brilliant, as usual: something like "larval souls" (but better than that). Anyway, lunch was fun (if repulsive, food-wise).

Finally, it was time for our performance. It went well, and the kids really seemed to enjoy it. Afterwards, as we were changing behind the stage curtain, a 40-something-year-old teacher with the personality, presence and timing of a professional comic suddenly ran onto the stage, burst through our privacy curtain, and began to talk, excitedly, about how much she'd liked the Elvis sequence in the show. She presented Ben, who was standing there in his tighty-white-ies and nothing else (well, actually, they were greenish boxer shorts, but close enough), with a blue-silk Elvis scarf-thing, which had apparently been presented to her by an Elvis impersonator somewhere in Tennessee at some point (why she happened to have this with her at the school I do not know). She informed the partially-unclothed Ben that he was MUCH cuter than the other Elvis impersonator and that she therefore wanted him to have this special gift from her. All of this was wacky, wild, and hilarious, although I guess Ben was just a little bit embarrassed . . .

So, after a fun and more-relaxing-than-anticipated day, we returned to Abingdon, where we have just finished a line-through of Hamlet and some sword-fighting practice (we perform our very first Hamlet tomorrow at Mountain Empire Community College-- wish us luck)! Okay, that's it for now. That was a long entry after all, and I'm still sleepy. Have a nice night, everyone! :-)



Week 2, Day 4: Hamlet, crazy dude, et al
Whew. The level of exhaustion increases exponentially with each passing day, but tour still manages to be a lot of fun! We got up this morning at about 5 a.m. again and drove, again, to the Norton/Wise, VA area for two performances. The first was pretty standard: "American Tall Tales" for elementary school kids. We had some interesting questions at the talk-back following the performance, the most memorable of which was: "what's your middle name?" So, we went down the line: (Ezra) Emil, (Ben) Saul, (Rebecca) Ruth, (Megan) Elizabeth, and (Anne) Elizabeth. After this, another kindergartener raised his hand and "asked": "My sister's name is Elizabeth!" It was hilarious and cute. :)

Performance two was the nerve-wracking, exhilarating, long-anticipated opening of Hamlet. We traveled to Mountain Empire Community College and set up on a fairly decent stage and did our warm-ups and such. As we were getting ready, our local arts association representative of the day, a scrawny, congenial older man named Phil, asked  if it would bother us if he flew his mini, remote-controlled airplane around the auditorium. Thinking he was joking, we laughed and said okay. A few seconds later, a very annoying, small-winged-bug-like buzzing sound began, and a model airplane about the size of my hand started zipping around the room. Seconds after it became airborne, it dived, kamikaze-style, towards the stage and nailed Ezra first, right in the face, and Maxey, next, smack dab on the arse. This was quite a tragedy, as Hamlet and Polonius, respectively, became victims of an airliner disaster before their story could even begin.

Compared to the duck-and-cover exercises and collisions of the pre-show, the actual show, with its grappling, sword fights, and multiple deaths, was kind of a walk in the park. Actually, it was quite intense and well-received by the audience. I think that Ezra and I were adequately kick-ass in our grave-side fight as well as in our duel to the death, and everyone in the cast managed to stay "underwater" (Katy Brown’s term for being completely in the world of the play and not distracted by "actor thoughts") for the entirety of the piece, despite our first-performance jitters. The only thing that I, personally, had a bit of trouble with was my nose, which was dripping incessantly. Oh, well, I guess Rosencrantz and Laertes would have had their snotty days, too. My prolific sinuses did result in one brief and rather embarrassing situation right at the moment of my (Laertes') death, however: as I was reaching into the pocket of my black Matrix/Jedi/judo costume (we have an Asian theater production concept for the show, which is actually pretty cool) to pull out the red scarf that is representative of my death, I instead showed the audience a torn, twisted, snotty piece of toilet paper that I had stuffed into my pocket pre-show. Pretending that this hadn't happened, I continued with my dying words, gently put the tp back in my pocket, and managed to find the red scarf. No one in the audience laughed, thank God, although some of my fellow cast members later informed me that they came very close to breaking on stage. Me and my nasal issues. Ugh. Anyway, I do hope that my death was more tragic than my toilet paper. Note to self: next time, put kleenex/tp/snot rags somewhere other than in death scarf pocket.

The humor does not, I am excited to report, end here, although the post-show craziness had nothing to do with me or my snot, for which I am very grateful. The model airplane guy, Phil, you see, offered to take us all out to lunch after the show, which we were very excited about (being starving artists and all). So, we piled into the van and started following him to his restaurant of choice. On our way there, he suddenly pulled his car off of the highway. Not knowing quite what to do, we, too, pulled our "metal coffin" (as Rebecca affectionately calls the van) over into the roadside gravel. Rebecca stuck her head out the window and asked Phil if he was all right. We weren't sure whether this was a heart attack or a pit stop. Actually, it was something else entirely: we watched, stunned, as Phil began collecting rocks by the side of the road. He then, excitedly, skipped towards our car and presented us with three rather large rocks, which he said were fossils. He explained that this area of Virginia had once been the ocean floor and that there were a lot of fossils in the mountains (and by the highways, apparently). It took all of our willpower and acting ability to avoid engaging in raucous laughter until after Phil had hopped back into his own vehicle, but boy did we laugh when he had left our presence. It was quite a day, indeed. :-)

I almost forgot...!!!!
While on tour a couple of days ago, we had lunch at a Chinese restaurant in Norton (as I think I mentioned in a previous entry), and I received the following fortune in my fortune cookie:

"An alien of some sort will be appearing to you shortly!"


Well, I am an X-Files fan. J

P.S. I'm getting really, really dorky about this whole tour logging thing, to the point where I have actually started e-mailing cut-and-pasted copies of my tour logs to relatives and friends who don’t have access to my blog. I think this may be the beginning of yet another obsession, although perhaps this one is healthier than some. I’m just really finding our Barter Players tour to be an amazing adventure, and I’m eager to share it all with anyone and everyone!


Week 2, Day 5
I'm sorry to report that nothing terribly hilarious happened today. We did two performances of American Tall Tales, one at St. Paul Elementary and the other at Coeburn Primary. The second performance, in particular, went really well (we're all coming down with colds-- Meg already has a full-blown one-- and exhausted, so the early morning performance was a bit trying and tiring, though mostly successful). I guess that the only semi-humorous thing of the day occurred during the second performance's pre-show audience warm-up. As usual, I sat down with a group of kindergarteners and started talking to them, and I told one little boy that I liked his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles shirt. This was apparently a bad idea, because this kid (who had a shaved head and a strong accent and therefore kind of looked/seemed like a Young Skinhead of America type) then refused to let me talk to any other kids. As soon as I would start asking some other child his or her favorite color or t.v. show or whatever, Little Skinhead would leap over to me and yell in my face and start hitting me (hard) on the arm and/or leg. I tried to discourage violence towards me, so he then began hitting the sweet-faced little boy next to him (which I also discouraged, to no avail). All the while, he went on and on about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and assorted violent video games he liked to play (greeeaaaat). Fortunately, we had to get up on stage and begin the show before extremely prolonged contact with the little bully-5-year-old could occur. Anyway, the OTHER kids at both schools seemed very, very sweet. I should mention here that I absolutely love talking to the kids, especially the little ones, before shows. Children are amazing human beings, and I feel so blessed to have a job where I get to interact with them and do plays for them on a daily basis. :-)

So, things went pretty well today. It was my turn to drive the van, and that worked out fine, too. (I'm finally getting used to the navigation of our massive metal "home"). After a pleasant evening of cafe/bookstore-going, grocery shopping, room cleaning, and reading in Abingdon, I'm warm, happy, tired, and ready for bed (must fight off impending cold)! Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

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Week 3 [Aug. 13th, 2007|11:25 pm]
[Current Location |VA]
[Current Mood |coldcold]
[Current Music |Paul Simon (courtesy of Ezra's iPod)]

Week 3: 1/22-1/24
Yes, I have slacked a bit of late in my tour logging. This makes me just a little bit sad because I know that I will miss some hilarious details that I will later want to remember. Oh, well. Here is my short-term memory workout for the week:


We traveled to Clintwood, Virginia, which, again, is kind of in the middle of nowhere. Our first performance was at Clintwood high school (and, in fact, it was our first high school performance of the tour), and let me just say that my own high school experience came rushing back to me, and it wasn't pretty. There were a few added details, of course: my own high school did not reek of sulphur (most of the schools in the area near Sulphur Springs seem to-- funny 'bout that), nor did its bathrooms contain dishwashing-liquid-containers-full of NEON pink soap, but the "inhabitants" of Clintwood High were just slightly less preppy (and therefore probably much cooler) dopplegangers of the people I went to high school with. Therefore, "mingling," or "warming the audience up," as we do before every show, proved exceedingly uncomfortable. One might even describe it as painful, and when I say painful, I'm not talking about zit-popping painful; I'm referring to the kind of unrelenting, searing pain one might experience while chained to a stone table in a dungeon and tortured with medieval medical instruments. All hyperbole aside, the truth is that, suddenly, sitting there in the moldy gray and yellow auditorium wearing my Jamestowne colonist/Indian outfit (complete with baggy stretch pants, bright yellow leg straps, a puffy "colonist" shirt, pigskin, and beaded shoulder patches), I was catapulted right back into ye olde out crowd. I am so glad that high school is over.

The afternoon performance at Clintwood Elementary was like a breath of fresh air, although we arrived at our second destination of the day a bit late and a bit stressed, as we'd had quite an interesting Barter Players lunch date following the morning show. At the suggestion of our extremely nice Pro-Arts guide of the week, we decided to have lunch at a local Italian restaurant. This restaurant didn't look like much from the outside; in fact, it very much resembled a roadside shack. When we stepped inside, however, there were lace curtains, candles on the tables, a mirror reminiscent of those at Versailles, and a soundtrack of classical music provided by NPR. One by one, we burst out laughing; this little place seemed so OUT of place in Clintwood, Virginia. So did our waiter/cook/restaurant owner. A middle-aged man with a balding scalp, glasses, and a little ponytail, he looked like an aged hippie/wannabe intellectual/cult member. He seemed very anxious that there were so many of us in the group (the six of us players, plus Vickie, our guide), and we soon found out why: all of his meals were made fresh, and all in only one oven in a tiny little kitchen (all of which Ezra relayed to us, in a characteristically humorous manner, after he had gone back to the kitchen area to remind our host that we had to eat quickly to get to our next tour destination). As soon as our hippie, very-much-not-Italian Italian shack restaurant owner discovered that he had to rush a bit to prepare our food, boy did he rush. We began to hear numerous bangs and clangs, and the absolutely panic-stricken, earnest expression on his face as he literally ran back and forth from the kitchen to our table with each of our meals made us all want to cry a little. Maxey remarked that we should cancel our afternoon show, the rationale being: "This man needs us more than those children do." She was probably right. Anyway, our Monday lunch hour in Clintwood was quite an experience. The food was actually quite good and all paid for by our handy-dandy Barter petty cash (which we later reimbursed), since we found out at the last minute that the poor, harried hippie did not accept credit cards. Whew. The afternoon show went uneventfully, and we headed back to Abingdon for the evening.

Oh, wait, here are two other Monday details that I almost forgot: 1) I drove the van today, on the really curvy roads, in the really heavy fog, before sunrise. It was AWESOME (insert gritting of teeth and praying); and 2) A high-schooler at the first show CONVINCED Rebecca (and the rest of us) that Clintwood was the home of the frying pan and that there was an annual town festival celebrating the invention of this all-important, all-American (apparently) cooking implement. Our bubble was not burst until the next day, when we had a conversation with an area elementary school teacher, who happened to be the mother of this Clintwood High class clown. We were all a bit embarrassed. ;)


Our morning show was cancelled, due to approximately 2.5 flakes of snow (if you had driven on these little mountain roads, you would understand why). So, we all got dressed at 5 a.m. and immediately thereafter put our pajamas back on for another three hours.  The afternoon show (Jamestowne, again-- ALL of our shows this week are Jamestownes), at Nora Elementary School, was quite nice and relaxing, and some of the kids had even dressed up as Indians and settlers in honor of our play. They were incredibly cute in their fluffy white wigs, colonial dresses, and feathers and face paint. :) This school even gave us free lunch: cafeteria hamburgers and chocolate milk! The show went well and, on the way back to Abingdon, we passed two very interestingly-named churches: 1) Lick Fork Baptist Church and 2) The Passion Place.  It was a day.


Today, we traveled to Haysi, Virginia (pronounced Hay-SI, not Hay-see; and, in fact, the first time I heard someone mention this teeny town in the middle of nowhere, I thought they had said "Hayside"), where we performed first at Haysi High and then at Sandlick Elementary. These high schoolers were considerably more polite than the ones we had encountered earlier in the week, so we were happy. Some administrators at the high school even presented us with the most delicious homemade apple turnovers EVER right before our performance, so we began the day well-nourished and happy. The turnovers almost made up for the 5 a.m. wake-up call and the rather sketchy locker room assigned to us for costuming purposes: the bathroom stalls had no doors; there was something closely resembling a worm in the sink; and the gas-chamber-reminiscent shower room consisted of rows of shower-heads--again, with no doors, stalls, or separators of any kind-- and large, curtain-less windows that would put any potential showerers in plain sight of anyone who happened to drive into the adjoining parking lot. Also, everything smelled like sulphur, again. The show went really well, though, and we had some good questions afterwards. One audience member even asked Maxey her shoe size. (Her feet are teeny-weeny, especially when juxtaposed next to Ezra's gargantuan size thirteeners). All in all, it was a fun, entertaining morning for both the audience (I hope) and the performers (most definitely).

Our afternoon performance at Sandlick Elementary went fairly well, too, although the younger kids got a bit restless and giggly. I wasn't feeling too hot by the second performance, as I have come down with a rather nasty cold (and the tylenol had worn off by then), but I managed to get through it all okay. A ten-year-old raised his hand during the talk-back and informed us (a propos of nothing) that he understood stress because he lifted weights. Hmm. I didn't understand the comment (if comprehension would even have been possible) until later because he had a very heavy accent and my ears were very stuffed up, but it was a good thing, because when Rebecca translated/amplified later, I couldn't stop laughing. He seemed like a sweet kid, though: I guess he was just trying to find a way to connect with the cool actor people. :) Meg apparently also got asked if she wanted to "go get a beer in Mexico" by an eleven-year-old during the pre-show audience warm-up. Interesting times in Barter Tour Land. Once we had loaded all of our stuff back into the van, we set out, once again, for Abingdon (I'm getting spoiled by this staying-in-Abingdon-every-night thing of the past two weeks: for the rest of tour, we're going to be on the road and staying in motels virtually all the time), and got rather lost on some very pretty, windy mountain roads. We were all oogling over the strangely, but beautifully, pure green water in the little road-side/mountainside brook (algae? limestone? emeralds?) while going in the very wrong direction. Team BenMaxeyMeg got us back on track, though (Maxey was driving), and we arrived back in Abingdon, safe and sound, at about 4:30 p.m. Now, it's bedtime. Okay, not really, but I certainly could use a nap. Have a pleasant evening, everyone!


SNOW DAY!!! (Thursday)
We got to sleep in and stay in Abingdon all day today because of SNOW! I got some much, much, MUCH-needed rest, and I think my cold is going away! I've been holed up in my room all day, just reading and practicing singing and eating and sleeping and listening to music, and it's been wonderful. I had forgotten what peaceful alone/recharging time felt like. I am happy and rested and ready to set out on the road for a whole week on Saturday! We'll leave Saturday afternoon for somewhere in Tennessee and then stay on the road until the following Friday, staying in motels from Huntington, TN to Chattanooga and Sneadville (also TN), to Gwinnett County, Georgia. We'll also be doing all 3 shows (Hamlet, American Tall Tales, and Jamestowne) at most locations, so it'll be a wild ride! I'm excited! I hope we stay in some places with Barnes & Nobles, too!



We did two performances of Jamestowne today, both in Abingdon. The first, at E.B. Stanley Middle School, went surprisingly well for a middle school performance (not as many laughs and snores as anticipated). The second, at Greendale Elementary, went really well, too, and was also really fun. The little kids were extremely attentive, and we had a really wonderful talk-back after the show, in which teachers and children asked us detailed questions about our job, and we provided detailed and (for once) honest answers about the trials, tribulations, and joys of being Barter Players. It was a nice day, and it was wonderful to be relaxed and back in Abingdon. I should also note that the facilities at the Abingdon schools were much, much, MUCH superior to those found in the coal-mining-town schools where we'd performed during the earlier part of the week. The contrast was actually kind of frightening-- it's amazing how impoverished many areas of the state (and country) are. Something should be done to equalize school conditions and opportunities for kids (though SOLs are NOT the answer).


On the road again!
I am leaving in approximately 20 minutes for a whole 8 days of on-the-road/staying-in-motels touring. Here's a quick run-down of the schedule for this week:

Saturday (1/27): arrive in Huntington, TN

Sunday (1/28): American Tall Tales performance at the Carter Arts Center in Huntington, TN

Monday (1/29): 2 Jamestowne performances at Carter Arts Center, Huntington, TN

Tuesday (1/30: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KIM!!!): 2 Hamlet performances and 1 workshop at Carter Arts Center, Huntington, TN + drive to Georgia

Wednesday (1/31): American Tall Tales and Jamestowne performances at The International Arts Association, Gwinnett County, GA + drive back to Tennesseee

Thursday (2/1): 2 Hamlet performances and 1 workshop in Chattanooga, TN

Friday (2/2): Jamestowne and American Tall Tales performances in Harrogate, TN and Sneadville, TN, followed by a drive back to Abingdon for the weekend.
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Week 4 [Aug. 13th, 2007|11:23 pm]
[Current Location |TN, GA, VA]
[Current Mood |blahblah]
[Current Music |Broadway show tunes from Ben's iPod]

TOUR LOG: Week 4 + Day 1 of Week 5
How I have missed you, my dear friend Tour Loggy. :)

SO, things have been quite busy and crazy for the Maroon Van Pack since last I wrote. Here's a summary of our adventures over the past week or so:


Saturday, January 27:

This was our first non-weekend weekend of tour, but it was only a slight bit of a bummer; we enjoyed cheerful Barter Players camaraderie during the entirety of our long, long van ride to Huntingdon, Tennessee. When we arrived in Huntingdon (with Meg driving and me navigating), we were surprised to see that our Best Western of choice resembled a former church and/or office building more closely than it did a motel. We were also a teensy bit weirded out by the fact that there seemed to be very little else within a ten-mile radius of the Best Western, Huntingdon. To add to our unease was the abrupt discovery that we were the only guests in the inn, and we took careful note of the fact that Ben and Ezra's room was very far away from the two girls' rooms. Someone hypothesized that this latter situation might be explained by the fact that our journey had taken us deep into the angelic clutches of the Bible Belt (indeed, there were brochures in the motel lobby with such titles as, and I'm paraphrasing a bit here, but you get the basic idea: “Abstinence is Next to Godliness” and "How to Avoid the Scalding Fire Pit of Hell by Not Sacrificing Unborn Children to Satan"). We chose to believe that this was a better explanation than our alternate Bates Motel hypothesis. In any case, we had a restful night, and no one was stabbed in the shower by an evangelical school drop-out with (or without) mother issues.

Sunday, January 28:

We ventured outside at around 7:30 or so for a morning performance of American Tall Tales at the Dixie Carter Performing Arts Center (also known as just "The Dixie"). The show went fairly well, although the audience was small (predictably, since it was a Sunday morning and most people were at church). It was strange to perform this particular show to a dark auditorium instead of to the smiling faces of children on well-lighted gymnasium floors. ATT really is an audience-interactive show, so the new set-up threw us for a minor loop, although I think we adjusted fairly well and, of course, learned something from the experience (every day is about learning something new). The show was over quickly (as all of our shows are), and we were finished with theater for the day. We found a rather mediocre Chinese buffet and feasted on some General Tso's and banana pudding. The remainder of the day was spent resting and reading in our respective Bates Motel rooms. I think this was the day that I finished my latest Jodi Picoult novel (there is not one book of hers that I can't finish off in one or two sittings, despite the fact that all of her novels are around 400 pages long. She's a very good writer, in my opinion). I know that this was the day that we four player girls watched a bit of the SAG awards on t.v. and also a hilarious, yet painful, bit of the American Idol-esque show, "You're The One That I want." If you haven't ever watched this show (the aim of which is to cast the leads in the Broadway revival of the God-awful musical, "Grease"), don't.

Monday, January 29:

This was our second day of performing at the Dixie Carter Center. I should mention that the people who run The Dixie are AMAZING. On this particular day, they not only helped us load in all of our stage stuff, but they also bought us lunch at a neat little cafe, gave us free t-shirts, and fed us some Tennessee home cooking (also free) at the annual ushers' potluck dinner, which happily coincided with our visit. Southern hospitality is a beautiful thing, and our two, back-to-back Jamestowne performances went really well. I had some nice chats with kids in the audience, many of whom were familiar with the story of Jamestown because they had seen either the Disney movie of Pocahontas or the more recent non-animated feature, The New World. In the afternoon (after lunch at the super-neat cafe that I mentioned above), we did an acting workshop for some middle and high-school-aged kids in an afternoon arts program at The Dixie. I really love doing workshops with kids of all ages: it's so much fun to see how each individual kid reacts to the improv exercises we do (from a personality psychology as well as a theater education perspective). :) The more kids I have the opportunity to interact with, the more I'm starting to think that I really might like to go into theater teaching of some sort. Hmmm... I'll think on this one some more. Did I mention this evening's potluck dinner? Mmmmmm. :)

Tuesday, January 30:

We left Huntingdon today, which was a bit sad since we'd all really liked performing at The Dixie, but we did leave our nice theater hosts and an audience of school kids with two parting performances of Hamlet. I'm not going to lie: Hamlet is a bit of a tough sell to kids, who tend to laugh raucously at all of the deaths. So, we were all a bit down after our two performances, not because they were bad, but just because Shakespeare is really hard to pull off with young (particularly high-school-aged) audiences. I’m sure that there were a few kids in the audience who appreciated it and learned something from it, though, so our performances were for those kids. It was also a good experience because it was a welcome challenge for us to try to stay “under the water” in the world of the play, despite the laughs and snores in the audience. I do think that my fencing tournament with Ezra went pretty well, and I also think that our Samurai costumes are so neat that even the high school kids appreciated them (go, Meg and Rebecca, our costume designers, and Katy, our director and Asian-theme-setter)!  So, with our performances completed, we hit the road for Atlanta, Georgia, where we spent the night at a rather questionable Days Inn (the pillows were as hard as rocks; someone was blasting music in the parking lot all night; the door locks didn't work all that well; the water in the shower was either freezing cold or scalding hot; and apparently Maxey and Rebecca found some odd things in their bathtub). To top it all off, the continental breakfast in the lobby the next morning was extremely lacking, though we didn't mind all that much, as there was a Chick-Fil-A across the street. :)

Wednesday, January 31:

We performed in an absolutely amazing space today. We stepped into The Gwinnett Centre and were awestruck. This was probably the largest auditorium I had (and have) ever performed in. Last year's players apparently also performed here, and they were booked in between Jessica Simpson and Cher, two artists whom I don't particularly respect (especially the former), but who, nonetheless, are famous and would, I'm sure, only deign to perform in extremely nice, extremely large arenas. I was surprisingly not as intimidated by the size of the stage and the auditorium as I thought I’d be, and I actually felt that having 600 kids there for each performance of American Tall Tales (we did two, back-to-back) made things a lot more fun. I was also proud of myself for finding it strangely easy to adjust to the space and project-- it seems I (and all of us) have learned many practical and freeing acting things over the past nine (crazy and wonderful) months. Anyway, after the fun, satisfying shows and after an equally fun and satisfying lunch break at an up-scale Atlanta-area mall, we hit the road again for Chattanooga, Tennessee. I was driving this time, and the 5-lane Atlanta highways were significantly more intimidating than the Gwinnett Centre had been, but I think I drove fairly well, considering, and we eventually made it to Chattanooga. As soon as we arrived at our nice Ramada Inn (SO much better than the Days Inn of the night before), we discovered that all of our shows for the next day had been canceled due to a predicted snow storm, but we were all tired and decided not to try to head back to Abingdon until the morning. This made for a really fun night on the town in downtown Chattanooga. All of us (except for Ezra, who was the latest victim of the Barter Players plague that Meg, Rebecca and I had suffered through the week before) went out for dinner at a very tasty and more-expensive-than-usual restaurant, and we also toured the campus of Baylor, a college preparatory boarding school in the area, where we had been booked to perform before the snow came. We went to Baylor to pick up one of the students there, who also happens to be the son of our tour coordinator back at Barter. The campus of this HIGH SCHOOL was as nice as a college campus, and we were all very surprised and rather sad that we wouldn't be performing there. Oh, well. I think that we were equally happy that we would get to return to Abingdon early and get some rest. :)

Thursday, February 1 and Friday, February 2:

Thursday morning, we departed Chattanooga for Abingdon and then had the rest of the day off. This was nice, because we got up at 4:30 a.m. on Friday morning and began driving (with me as the driver, again) to our next tour stop, Cumberland Gap, TN, only to discover, when we were three quarters of the way there, that all of our Friday shows had been canceled, as well (snow flurries, again). So, we drove back to Abingdon, and then I made a hasty, but very good decision to drive to Blacksburg for the weekend to see Grandmother et al. and get some much-needed rest. So, all in all, it was a pretty neat week. :)

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Week 5 [Aug. 13th, 2007|11:21 pm]
[Current Location |TN, VA]
[Current Mood |determined]
[Current Music |Judy Collins & Simon & Garfunkel on Anne's CD player]

Week 5 + UPTAs Tour Log
I have just returned to Abingdon after a weekend of auditioning in Memphis. About Memphis, let me just say that I'm very glad that I don't live there. The auditions (a big, national cattle call called the Unified Professional Theater Auditions, or UPTAs) went fairly well. I did my 90 seconds of Squeaky Fromme (a.k.a. a monologue that I love from the Sondheim musical, "Assassins") and "I Got Rhythm" at Playhouse on the Square, the audition venue, and then I rode over to the Holiday Inn Select, a huge, labyrinthine building where the callback lists were posted and where the callbacks, themselves, were being held. Because we are not available for summer work (since our Barter contracts run through August 18), most of us players had fewer callbacks than we'd hoped for, but we still did fairly well. (I also wasn’t pleased with my 90-second audition at all: I couldn’t stop shaking and tripped over a word or two, but I’m trying to forgive myself since this was my first cattle-call). 

I got called back to 5 places: Lexington Children's Theater (Lexington, KY); The Hampstead Stage Company (a touring Shakespeare, etc. company for youth that is based in New Hampshire); The Astor's Beechwood Mansion (a fancy, really cool place in Rhode Island where actors live in a historical mansion for six months and put on murder mysteries and singing/acting shows set in various periods of American history); Madcap Puppet Theater (based in Cincinnati); and Crossroads Repertory Theatre (Indiana). In addition, my resume was kept by The Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati and by The Lost Colony production company in North Carolina (meaning that my availability dates didn't work for them this year, but they might try to cast me in something next year). So, all in all, it was a successful weekend, and there's some hope that I might have a job for next year. I didn't attend either the Crossroads Rep. or the Madcap callbacks (the nice thing about UPTAs is that all callbacks are optional, and you can make your own schedule) because the former is a summer stock company (I'm not available this summer) and Madcap deals with year-long touring puppet shows (enough said, for me at least—this very well might be someone else’s cup of tea, and, in fact, Rebecca and Scott apparently had a very fun callback with them). I really liked the other three companies, though, and a best-case employment scenario would be that I work at Lexington Children's Theater in the fall (doing a show about Holocaust history that they said they were interested in casting me in, as well as a short, local tour of several other plays); Hampstead in the spring (doing a tour of Macbeth!); and Astor's Beechwood in the summer into the next fall (doing all sorts of fun singing and murder mystery-ing and mansion-living: it just sounds FUN, plus it pays really well and gives you 2 days a week off, and is also located right between NYC and Boston, so I could go to those places to audition on my days off).

So, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that at least one of these places casts me. If none of them work out, however, I still have a few other irons in the fire: I've applied for some private school drama teaching jobs and have a phone interview with a Seattle-based one soon, and I'm also considering going up to the D.C. area with Rebecca in the spring to do a cattle-call audition for theaters in that area. So, I hope I'll have some options for next year. Anyway, it was a successful, though crazy weekend. I am very indebted to my year at Barter for making me feel confident enough to do a big audition like this, and also for making me eager to keep doing theater wherever I can get a job next year.


The week leading up to this weekend was also successful, and also crazy. I think I included Monday of week 5 in my previous tour log, so I'll start with Tuesday, here.

Tuesday, February 6:

We got up a little later than the crack of dawn, for a change, and drove half an hour to Marion, Virginia, where we performed Jamestowne at the Lincoln Theater. This was a large and generally neat space (it's a very old building, and we got to tour the lighting booth, where they have some very cool, very antiquated--and no longer used-- lighting equipment), and it was especially fun to perform Jamestowne there, because the walls of the theater were decorated with murals depicting the 1607 arrival of the British colonists in Jamestown. Our audience of third-through-fifth graders was attentive, and we had a very good show, I think. When we got out of the show, we were surprised to see that it had started snowing A LOT. Snow had not been predicted, and it had been perfectly sunny when we had left Abingdon, as well as when we had arrived in Marion. So, with Rebecca driving, we took off and got safely back home (after a lunch stop at Cracker Barrel). All in all, it was a nice day.

Wednesday, February 7:

On Wednesday, we traveled way up into the hills of Tennessee to perform American Tall Tales and Hamlet at the Clinch School in Eidson. This school, although it is public, is located in such an unpopulated area that it educates pre-kindergarten-through-high-school-aged kids, all in one building (with about 7-8 people per grade). The smallness of the school made it a really nice place to perform: everyone was nice and congenial, and we had a FANTASTIC (really) cafeteria lunch that consisted of lots of really healthy and even gourmet-ish things (good barbecue, baked potatoes, steamed vegetables, homemade black bean salsa with chips, fresh fruit, a side salad, etc.). We also had a nice room in which to change (the library), and I got to spend the second half of the lunch break flipping through an illustrated edition of Anne of Green Gables. :) Our two shows also went well, with the day's Hamlet being possibly our best so far (and I was significantly less snotty for this one, too). It was a really, really nice day, and we would have loved to stay around longer and do even more shows, except that we were slightly creeped out by the taxidermy display in the gym where we performed: in a glass display case nailed to the wall was a stuffed wildcat (the school's mascot) with claws extended and teeth bared. It really was rather frightening.

Thursday, February 8:

On Thursday, we traveled about two hours to Morristown, TN, where we did two performances of American Tall Tales at The Rose Center (a community center/performing arts venue). The space was a little challenging, as we had to work around the set of To Kill a Mockingbird (a community theater show that was also using the space), but we managed okay, and it was actually a fun challenge for us as actors to have to work with levels. The audiences (of elementary-school-aged kids) were very responsive and fun, so it was a good day. We also had a delicious lunch (including a piece of scrumptious chocolate and peanut-butter pie that Rebecca and I split) at a cafe in Morristown's neat downtown area. At the end of the day, we once again headed back to Abingdon.

Friday, February 9:

We only had one performance today, American Tall Tales, at Rock Springs Elementary in Kingsport, TN. We performed in a gym for 600 kids, so it was a challenge (as every performance is, in its own way, which is a good thing—each situations helps us grow tremendously as actors), but the audience was wonderful, and we all had a lot of fun. Immediately after the performance, we headed back to the Barter Inn to pick up our luggage and then set off for Memphis and UPTAs (Ben and I rode together in his car, splitting the driving, and having lots of interesting and fun conversations).

So, once again, it was a nice week in Barter Tourland. :)

P.S. I apologize for the lack of amusing details (save the stuffed wildcat thing) this week-- there were many, but, post-UPTAs, my brain is fried. I'll record any funny things that I remember when I remember them. :) Have a nice week, everyone! I'm off to bed very shortly, here: 5 a.m. wake-up call tomorrow to start the upcoming, mostly away-from-Abingdon week of tour. Wish me luck!


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Week 6 [Aug. 13th, 2007|11:18 pm]
[Current Location |VA, TN]
[Current Mood |gigglygiggly]
[Current Music |Michael Buble on Maxey's iPod]

Week 6 (so far) Tour Log

I'm back in Abingdon for a couple of nights after several days in a motel in Martinsville, Virginia, and I'm going back on the road, headed to faraway locations, on Sunday afternoon, so I thought now might be a good time to give a partial rundown of week 6. :)

Before I start that, though, I did remember one humorous detail from week five that I want to share:

While we were at the Rose Center in Morristown, TN, performing American Tall Tales, Meg spoke to a chubby little boy during our usual "audience warm-up," and the first words out of his mouth were: "I'm CRAZY about cheese." He then went on to tell her that he eats 100 slices of cheese a day and that his father says that his arms are made out of cheese. Meg did a really funny impression (which she has frequently reprised this week) of "cheese boy," too. :) Oh, boy.

Now, onto this week:



We began our day, once again, in the hills of Eastern Tennessee, this time in a town called-- get this-- Chuckey. If Chucky (Chuckie?) the Killer Doll had resided in an actual geographic location (and maybe he did-- I'm proud to say that I've never seen the movie(s)), Chuckey, TN certainly seems an appropriate hometown. I'm quite sure, also, that Chuckey's owner(s) would have attended Chuckey Elementary school, the site of our morning American Tall Tales performance and the proud home of the Fighting Midgets. We performed in Chuckey's gymnasium, and on the walls were posters naming two separate school mascots: the older kids (4th & 5th graders?) were apparently the rather benignly-named Pirates, but the younger children were clearly labeled "the boy midgets" and, predictably, "the girl midgets." Apparently, there are corners of America where blatant political incorrectness is tolerated, even celebrated, and Chuckey, Tennessee is certainly one of these places.

Anyway, our performance went okay (although we were all exhausted after having gotten up at 4:30 a.m. to drive to Chuckey, right after having driven 18 hours, round trip, for the weekend's Memphis auditions), but I can't really say the same about our normally uneventful pre-show costuming ritual. Our dressing room on this lovely February Chuckey morning was a little boys' locker room, which reeked of little boys' quite pungent urine. We had a rather philosophical discussion about why boys' bathrooms smell so much worse than girls' bathrooms, but we didn't reach any satisfactory conclusions. Anyone have a theory? In any case, we happily left Chuckey and drove two hours to Wytheville, Virginia, for a make-up performance of Jamestowne (our original date in Wytheville had been snowed out).

There were, I am pleased to report, no Fighting Midgets at George Wythe High School. Also, our changing room smelled, comparatively-speaking, like a bed of roses, and they even gave us free lunch (including chocolate cupcakes)! The show went well, and we hit the road, again, this time headed for Martinsville, Virginia. After a meal at a Japanese restaurant where the background music was, oddly, techno, we settled into our Martinsville Best Western for the night, where I quickly discovered we had no wash cloths and sought the help of a disgruntled New Yorker at the front desk, who attempted to (and eventually did) solve the mystery of the missing wash cloths (apparently there were none in stock, either). That sentence just reminded me of The Second Mathnet Mystery Club that my first-grade-Montessori friends and I were once members of. Nice memories. :) Anyway, onto the next day...


P.S. My friend Pete, with whom I'm currently conversing (on AIM), just informed me that he knows of a mascot that beats The Fighting Midgets: Apparently, The University of California at Santa Cruz is home to The Fighting Banana Slugs. I kid you not).


We woke up, as usual, at the crack of dawn, and drove to our first Martinsville-area school for a performance of Jamestowne. This show was in a smallish gymnasium, and the audience was also smallish, and the kids were great. This situation was quite different from that of our second performance of the day, another Jamestowne, which was presented for 600 + very rowdy children in a very large, very acoustically lousy auditorium. It was kind of a struggle, though we were glad that we had been able to reach so many kids. After the show, many came up and gave us hugs, too, so they were, in fact, very appreciative, if noisy. In any case, exhausted, we all crashed as soon as we got back to the motel (at about 5 p.m.). I woke up at about 8:00, though, to go hang out with Decker, one of my college friends, whose hometown happens to be Martinsville, VA. She drove up from Durham (1.5 hours away) for the night to show me her parents' house and re-introduce me to her dogs and cats. It was pretty nice. :)


Happy Singles' Awareness Day, everyone! This holiday is rather horrible for most people, and it was definitely not the best of times, outside of work hours, for most members of the player company. However, all of the daytime events of February 14 were quite nice. We started out our morning with a low-key and fun Jamestowne performance at a public elementary and then drove on many windy roads to The Carlsile School, our first private school gig of tour. The grounds of Carlsile were beautiful, and they gave us a FABULOUS cafeteria luncheon, and the teachers and students all seemed very nice. Our show also went well, and the kids asked really intelligent questions (a couple of which we didn't answer too successfully-- I didn't know Pocahontas' son's name, for example; Ezra, however, in reference to another historical question, managed to pull the name Amerigo Vespucci out of the seventh-grade-explorers-unit archives of his brain-- go, Ez)!

After the show, most of us went out to dinner with Decker's parents at a local restaurant and had quite an interesting time. The place had nice decor and a live pianist (neato), but the waiter was kind of incompetent and it took us almost 2 hours to get our rather mediocre food. Still, the dinner conversation was fun; Meg and I enjoyed analyzing the body language of all the Valentine's date couples in the restaurant (most didn't seem to like each other all that much, we concluded); and I think we were all glad to get out of the Best Western for a little while. The highlight of the evening occurred as we were leaving the restaurant. Our rather rude, previously disinterested-seeming waiter tapped Ben on the shoulder as we were leaving and picked up a piece of paper from the floor, telling Ben that he had "dropped it." Written on the paper were the waiter's name and phone number. So, on Valentine's Day, Ben received his first (attempted) pick-up by a man. When he called her later, his girlfriend was quite amused. :) February 14 really turned out to be a pretty decent day, after all. (Although Meg, whose Valentine's chocolates were stolen by the Best Western maid, might not agree).


This morning, everyone was in a bad mood. I was starting to feel a bit annoyed at all of them and depressed, myself. We all love performing for the kids and are very glad we are doing it, but touring does become physically and emotionally exhausting at times.  The shows went surprisingly well, though, given the collective emotional state of the Barter Players company. After our two shows, we hit the road for Abingdon, with me driving. On our way there, we passed through a windy, mountainous stretch of highway 58 where everything (except the road, thank goodness) was coated with beautiful ice: every branch; every tree; every blade of grass; every rooftop. It was the most beautiful thing I think I've ever seen. It was a true winter wonderland and a true Narnia (we all did a production of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe at Barter this summer, and I think we all wished we'd seen this before the show, because it surely would have inspired us and moved us even more deeply into the world of that already magical play). When we arrived in Abingdon this evening, all of us were in much better moods, thanks to Mother Nature. :)


Tomorrow, we have a show back in Morristown, TN, and Saturday we do a library gig in Johnson City. Then, Sunday, we hit the road again for Columbus, Georgia and assorted other places. Wish us luck!


Last 2 Days of Week 6 (Tour Log, Continued)
Here's the rest of the crazy, fun week:

Friday, February 16:

We had only one show today (Jamestowne) at Morristown, Tennessee's Rose Center (where we performed American Tall Tales last week), which went quite well. Rebecca's best friend from college, Katie, came along and seemed to really enjoy the show: she said that we had the audience captivated, which made us happy. :) I really do think that Jamestowne is becoming more real for us and for our audiences. We've found ways to be "under the water" in the world of the play, despite the difficulties of the script, and I'm really enjoying performances, now, and having fun living as Pocahontas, Reverend Hunt, British dude # 2 and Indian # 3. :) After our show, we ate at the Java Garden again. This time I got a turkey reuben (with salad and, again, with peanut butter pie). I wish I lived in Morristown so I could eat at that place all the time. :)

Saturday, February 17:

Today, we drove to Lebanon, VA (about forty minutes from Abingdon) for our final Jamestowne performance of the week, at the Russell County Public Library. They gave us free food (including some surprisingly delicious grocery store chocolate donut holes), and we set up and performed for an audience composed primarily of adults. This was quite a difference from our other shows, and the talk-back was particularly interesting and more in-depth than it sometimes is. There were also a few kids there, though, and they seemed to enjoy the show and be as "in it" as the adults were, so I think it was a good performance. Our return trip home, however, was not so good. We were struck by a flash snow/ice storm and spent a couple of hours sliding around on route 19 in the very-much-not-equipped-for-snow-driving burgundy van. Luckily, Ben, who, being from Pittsburgh, is accustomed to snowy and icy driving, took the wheel from Rebecca (who was doing a good job, herself, but we were all freaked out about the inevitable slipping and sliding) and got us home safely. I must say, I certainly don't want a repeat of today's road situation, and I hope that we aren't surprised by any more wintry weather during this tour.

Tomorrow, we supposedly leave for Columbus, Georgia, although it looks as if we might wait until Monday morning to go, since snow and ice are predicted everywhere from here to Northern Georgia for tomorrow. Keep us in your thoughts.

Oh! P.S. I'm not sure if I mentioned this in an earlier tour log, but a couple of weeks ago, driving in Tennessee, we passed a lodge that was named "Christ The King Motel." :-) Today, we also passed a church with one of those creative signs. This one said: "Pray. It's free long-distance."
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Week 7 [Aug. 13th, 2007|11:16 pm]
[Current Location |GA, WV, KY, TN, VA]
[Current Mood |exhaustedexhausted]
[Current Music |Old Crow Medicine Show on Rebecca's iPod]



We left slightly after noon on Sunday and began the 6-7-hour-drive to Columbus, Georgia, where we were scheduled for a Monday evening performance at Ezra and Meg's Alma Mater, Columbus State University. Columbus also happens to be Ezra's hometown, so we had a nice, home-cooked Puerto-Rican dinner at his parents' house (topped off by a New-Orleans-style king cake with a slightly creepy plastic baby hidden in it—Maxey got the piece with the good-luck-charm baby). Ezra's mother is possibly the kindest and most effervescent woman alive. His father and brother are very nice, as well (as is his sister, whom I met several months ago when she visited Ezra in Abingdon), and his dog, Mia, a boxer mix, is perhaps the sweetest-tempered canine I have ever had the pleasure of encountering (though my Emily Dog is pretty darn sweet, too). :)

After dinner, we settled into our Motel 8 for the night. We had rather tight quarters, as we had a somewhat limited lodging budget for the day, and so Rebecca, Ben, Maxey, and I all shared a room. (Ezra was staying with his family and Meg with her college professor). Rebecca and Ben even shared a bed. This was not, I must say, the most restful of nights. The Motel 8 was infested with frat-boy-like military men who were apparently on a weekend break from their posts at nearby Fort Benning, and we all lost some sleep,  but we managed okay. Ah, tour.


We woke up, dragged ourselves out of bed, and got in the van with Meg for a tour of Columbus and the Columbus State University campus. We spent most of our morning and afternoon time in downtown Columbus, the site of the new, recently-opened dramatic arts facility of CSU. Meg and Ezra enjoyed catching up with some college theater friends, and the rest of us, trying not to act too awkward, did our best to enjoy the beautiful weather (spring seems finally to be on its way). Unfortunately, Rebecca had yet another acid reflux attack following a lunch date with Meg and her theatre professor, but Ben, Maxey and I managed to have a nice lunch at a little downtown cafe, and we then spent some time in an extremely neat used bookstore, where the owner knew everything about every book in the store and gave us many good recommendations to boot. I love bookstores. :) Columbus (which is in southern Georgia, right on the border of GA and Alabama) seems to be a nice city, too.

After lunch, we set up for Hamlet, and then gave the first performance ever in CSU's new theater space. The show went quite well, and Meg and Ezra's families, friends and college professors all seemed pleased, so it was an especially nice night for them. It was wonderful to perform Hamlet for college theater students, too, instead of for our more typical crowds of scornful high school athletes. Our talkback was, predictably, rather emotional, but very, very good and honest. After the show, we piled into the good old Burgundy van and hit the road for Abingdon, Rebecca nursing a battle wound (hurt toe—theater is so dangerous sometimes) from the Hamlet performance. It was definitely a day.


On Tuesday, we had a VERY early start. We hadn't left Columbus until about 8:30 p.m. the night before and had therefore arrived in Abingdon close to 2:30 a.m. Our Tuesday morning van call was, horribly, 6:00 a.m. Sleep-deprived and not in the best of moods, we piled, sulkily, half-asleep and sick (we all have chest colds, thanks to the ever-circulating van air), into the van and took off for Princeton, West Virginia for back-to-back performances of "American Tall Tales." The shows went surprisingly well and uneventfully, and the kids were cute, as usual. We ate in the cafeteria: pepperoni pizza rolls (which contained an absurd amount of pepperoni slices), chocolate milk, baked beans, peas, and neon-pink yogurt were all on the lunch menu. There was a large, orange exercise ball in the gym class storage room where we changed into our costumes that appeared to be endowed with something resembling cow udders. I really don't remember anything else about this day. We drove back to Abingdon and went promptly to bed.


Our call this morning was not until 8 a.m., so all of us were, for a change, well-rested on this beautiful, springy day. We drove into the mountains of far western Virginia and eastern Kentucky and were awed by numerous gorgeous vistas along the way. Our destination was Cumberland, KY, a tiny mountain town in coal-mining country. We did two performances of "Jamestowne," both at Cumberland Elementary (which was actually an elementary school and a middle school combined). The first performance, for the little kids, was lots of fun. We also enjoyed, as usual, talking to the kiddies before the show. During this "audience warm-up" time, several children, in succession, informed me that they had been bitten by bears in the past. I wasn't (and still am not) quite sure what to make of this. One little girl had such a strong mountain accent that when she told me she had a "Seestayh" (sister), I asked her, "what's that?" The kids seemed to enjoy the show, and immediately after it, we were presented with a huge vat of sliced cheese (courtesy of the school cafeteria), so we were happy.

Our second show, however, managed to detract somewhat from our state of contentment: middle schoolers have a way of throwing things out of equilibrium. We knew we were in trouble when, before the show even started, a teacher warned the young adults that if they acted "like they did last Wednesday at the science fair," she would stop the show and punish them severely. Oh, boy. Not surprisingly, our "arrow arrow gun gun" and Indian ritual sequences were met not only by the usual snickers, but by full-out Belly Laughs of Scorn. Rebecca threw up right after the show. We went back to Abingdon for the night and collectively decided that we had not, in fact, caught up on our sleep. Luckily, our call for Thursday was at 8 a.m., so we all hit our beds for a good eight or nine hours.


This was a double-duty Hamlet day, and, rested, we were up to the challenge. I drove us today, first, to Northeast State Community College in Blountville, TN, and then to Tennessee Wesleyan College (in Athens, TN) for our Shakespeare extravaganza. The community college performance was rather nerve-wracking, as our boss, Katy Brown, as well as several other members of Barter's resident acting company, had decided to attend. The show went well (thanks to the massive amounts of adrenaline coursing through all of our veins) and was very fast-paced. According to Katy, who gave us notes (gasp!) after the show, it was even TOO fast-paced. She had notes for all of us, but her overarching point was that we all needed to listen to each other more and communicate with each other better on stage. She told me that, as Laertes, my "emotions were outrunning my words" in places. I guess it's always good to have a director watch a show and point out things that we otherwise would have had no way of knowing. After a pizza luncheon and an interesting acting/performing arts career discussion with theater students, we hit the road for Athens, determined to incorporate Katy's notes into our second performance of the day.

At this, I think we succeeded. At Tennessee Wesleyan, we all experimented with new character things and "let the play breathe" (another of Katy's notes), and Ezra and I had one of our best sword-fights ever, too. :) Before the show we took a walk around Wesleyan's small, pretty campus and then had a nice college cafeteria dinner (which really made me nostalgic for Duke) and talked to some theater students. After the show, we also had a very fun talkback with the audience: I even got to tell my Laertes snot rag story (see week 2 tour log). :) Somehow, our day of doing Hamlet, one of the most tragic of all of Shakespeare's tragedies, lifted us out of our foul moods, personal dramas, and general exhaustion. Strange. The car ride back to Abingdon was relaxed and filled with joking and camaraderie. It was a wonderful near-end to an initially very stressful week. We're all getting over our colds, too. :)


Today, we returned to the Martinsville, Virginia area (leaving at 5:40 a.m. after arriving back in Abingdon at 1 a.m. Thursday night/Friday morning-- ouch) for two performances of "Jamestowne." The first, at Patrick Henry Elementary, went fairly well, although Meg (who has one of the lead roles) was feeling rather nauseated before the performance. She still wasn't feeling well as the day went on, but she nevertheless managed to catch a second wind and pull off a very good, though stressful, second performance at Chatham High School. The performance situation was less than ideal, as performance situations involving high school students often are. Also, it is my personal opinion that “Jamestowne” is not appropriate for audiences over the age of 10-- if Hamlet is a tough sell to "big kids," Jamestowne is an impossible sell. We tried to rationalize the laughter, however, by telling ourselves that it indicated that the kids, while being age-appropriately scornful, were also engaged (despite themselves) in the action of the play enough to react at all. Perhaps there's some truth to that. Anyway, we weren't all that sad to leave Chatham High.

It's time for bed. Goodnight, everyone. (We've got Saturday JT performances in Johnson City tomorrow, followed by an early morning photo call back at Barter on Sunday-- as usual, wish us luck)!
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Week 8 [Aug. 13th, 2007|11:14 pm]
[Current Location |VA, MD]
[Current Mood |productive]
[Current Music |Beth Orton (the singer who sounds like, but isn't, Dido) on Meg's iPod]

Week 8 Tour Log
Here we go. . .


We began the week by performing "Jamestowne" for elementary and high-schoolers (two back-to-back performances in one auditorium) in Council, Virginia. Council is one of many teeny-weeny coal-mining towns in western Virginia, but the particular school where we performed seemed to have slightly better facilities than the other schools in this part of the state that we had previously visited. Speaking to the little kids before the first performance, though, we all picked up on some telltale marks of poverty and poor medical care: several of the children, for example, despite wearing sparkly pink sweaters and the like, had visibly rotting teeth, something that we all found disturbing and sad. The children were very sweet, though, although they didn't seem too accustomed to watching theater, so they made for kind of a rowdy audience. The high-schoolers who saw our second performance were even more rowdy, and we all found it extremely difficult to stay "under the water" in this particular show. I hope that one or two kids got something out of the performance, but I really can't say with any degree of certainty that anyone did. Oh, well. We do our jobs, and some days are more encouraging than others. At the Council school, we did encounter one very positive thing-- or person, rather: the principal seemed well-educated and intellectual and genuinely concerned about the children's education (or lack thereof). During our cafeteria luncheon (tacos, corn—poor Rebecca didn’t handle the corn too well--, soupy rice and chopped pineapple), he showed us his collection of authentic Indian arrowheads and then spoke with genuine regret about how much he detested Virginia's SOL (Standards of Learning) program, and how he thought that it seriously undermined more legitimate and intellectually-stimulating forms of teaching and learning. The fact that this principal had been able to round up funds to sponsor two performances at his school also restored our faith in the educational system (or at least in a few competent and concerned educators who try to bring legitimate learning to the most impoverished of communities; to the children who are in most dire need of it).

After our two morning performances, we loaded the van and took off for nearby Grundy, Virginia, where we got ready to perform our third "Jamestowne" of the day. We arrived in Grundy about 5 hours before our performance, so we had a good deal of time to kill. We toured the small mountain town (which, interestingly, included the in-the-middle-of-nowhere "Appalachian School of Law"), got some lunch at Dairy Queen, and returned to the movie theater where we were performing (a challenging space, acoustically-speaking, with its concrete walls and felt-covered stage). With several hours left before we had to go on-stage, Rebecca, Maxey, and I all crashed in the movie theater storeroom, sleeping on the hard floor amongst old film reels and binders filled with financial records. We didn't just sleep; we were OUT, all of us having the kind of strange, vivid dreams that one always has when sleeping in strange places at a strange times after having gotten up in the wee hours of the morning (and while being extremely, cumulatively sleep-deprived, in general). It was a rather surreal experience. Somehow, though, we managed to awake relatively rejuvenated, and we gave one of the best and most well-received "Jamestowne" performances to date. The audience consisted of a lot of girl scouts and a lot of parents and grandparents of girl scouts. Before the show, I had an interesting conversation with a Daisy and a Brownie about how they had met some Ethiopians who fixed gross food. (Something about rice and sausage)? I just let them talk. :)

After the successful show, we packed up our stuff and were surprised to see several ladybugs crawling around the storeroom. Ladybugs have sort of become our unofficial player mascot: apparently, both Meg and Ezra encountered numerous ladybugs on their first visit to Barter AND at the very moment that Katy called them to offer them jobs, and, ever since, ladybugs have been turning up at odd times and in odd places for all of us. It's very strange, bizarre, and magical. Also strange on this day was the fact that, riding in the van, we passed about 10 dead raccoons. I'm not quite sure of the significance of this (if any, although Maxey did begin an interesting discussion of totems), but we were certainly more encouraged by the live ladybugs. :) We arrived back in Abingdon fairly late at night, and, on this day of strange animal (and bug) sightings, we were excited to come across a deer grazing in the Shakespeare Garden of the Barter Inn just as we were pulling into the "burgundy van" parking spot. It was a surreal, neat day.


This was another busy day. We started it out with a morning performance of "Jamestowne" in Radford, VA. The show went fairly well, and I had an interesting conversation with a middle-school girl whose parents were both English teachers, who was "not a sports person," and who was also the 3-years-running city spelling bee champion. :) Apparently, Maxey and Ezra had a less satisfactory audience warm-up experience: both were insulted and jeered at for their colonist/Indian costumes, but both apparently also had good comebacks-- it seems that we have, at long last, managed to navigate middle school social situations fairly satisfactorily (too bad we couldn't have figured this out this while we were actually IN middle school. Alas).

After finishing our show in Radford, we drove several hours to Winchester, Virginia, where we did a performance of Hamlet at Shenandoah University, Ben's Alma Mater. My parents had driven up to see the show, so I was kind of on the nervous side. We had a nice time roaming around downtown Winchester before the performance, and the performance itself (in a really neat black box theater) went extremely well, I think. We also had a nice talk-back and reception with the college drama kids. It was a nice day.


We began our morning by driving through some of the most beautiful country I have ever seen. I had no idea that the rolling hills and lovely horse farms of northern Virginia even existed (all I had ever seen of the area, previously, was Washington, D.C., which is not terribly beautiful), and I was thoroughly enchanted. Our first performance of the day was at The Hill School in Middleburg, Virginia, which is a very pretty private elementary school. It is also the school where Ben’s and my friend, Dan Miller, teaches, and we were all very glad that he gave us the chance to perform at his really neat school! After talking to some really nice, enthusiastic, and smart teachers (Dan and others); petting an extremely cute cocker-mix dog (belonging to one of the teachers); and watching Rebecca and Scott sort of spin/throw each other around on the slick wooden floor (don't ask), we performed "American Tall Tales" for the kids, who really seemed to enjoy it. We had a fun talk-back, too, although a particularly intelligent (professor-in-training) seven-year-old managed (rather hilariously) to insult me, by saying: "I want to say something that's not so much a question as a comment: all of you look a lot older than in your twenties, except for the girl in the middle [me] who looks about sixteen." Sigh. At least I'll be happy when I'm forty and look thirty. :-P

After our Hill School performance, we hit the road for Hagerstown, Maryland, where we did an afternoon "Tall Tales" performance at Clear Springs Elementary. We were all pretty exhausted for this one (having reached the hump day afternoon sleep-deprivation peak), but managed to pull it off. Afterwards, we headed to the Hagerstown Super 8 Motel, where we settled in for the night (minus Rebecca, who went with Scott to nearby Chantilly, VA, to celebrate his 24th birthday-- Happy Birthday, Scott)!

THURSDAY, MARCH 1 (Rabbit, Rabbit!):

Today, we performed a morning "Tall Tales" and an afternoon "Jamestowne" at the same school, Boonsboro Elementary, in Boonsboro, Maryland. Both shows went well, and we had a rather lengthy break in between them, which we spent reading in the teachers' lounge. Maxey was reading a Jodi Picoult novel (which I also read, a long time ago) called "The Pact", which she said was putting her in kind of a "dream hell" (it is pretty intense); I was finishing up a dark and very well written sci-fi-ish novel that my dad recommended ("Never Let Me Go"); and Meg was chipping away at the latest "Harry Potter." We groggily tore ourselves away from our respective alternate universes and entered yet another one, the world of "Jamestowne." We had a particularly hilarious moment in this particular show: Ezra, as the Indian chief, greeted Meg (Nathaniel Peacock) with "wapook," instead of with the usual "wingapoh." "Wingapoh"(in Algonquin) means (roughly translated) "greetings," while "wapook," said later in the play, means "tobacco." In this moment, we all fought valiant battles against laughter (mine was kind of a losing one: I know that the corners of my mouth twitched, although I did make a futile attempt to make this part of my Indian character, whom I justified would be rather amused by Nathaniel Peacock’s antics).

After the show, we went back to the Motel 8 to find our rooms in shambles and lots of sketchy carpeting men roaming the halls (apparently they had decided to re-carpet our floor that day). Not the greatest motel experience of tour. We did, however, have a nice dinner at TGI Friday's, courtesy of Ben's parents, who had come down from Pennsylvania to see the shows and to celebrate Ben's 24th birthday (Happy Birthday, Scott AND Ben)! We also... drumroll... got to spend some time at BORDERS!!! I have been waiting for a bookstore visit this whole trip, and I finally got one! :) All in all, it was a good day.


On Friday, we did two morning performances of "American Tall Tales" at the same school (Smithburg Elementary in Smithburg, Maryland). Both went well, and the kids seemed really responsive. Afterwards, we went out to breakfast/brunch with Ben's parents at an extremely delicious local diner (I had blueberry pancakes... yummy). Then, we hit the road (with me driving) for Abingdon.


Today, we had a show in BLACKSBURG, at the Lyric Theater. It was kind of a surreal, colliding-of-the-worlds kind of experience for me, as my grandmother and several of my Blacksburg friends met my Barter Player friends. The performance went surprisingly well, though (and 450 audience members showed up-- they'd only expected 80), and it was nice to spend some time with my grandmother and my friends and to sleep in my comfy bed in Blacksburg. I also managed to get my car inspected in B-Burg, so I’m no longer worried about being ticketed/arrested, which is always a good thing. :)


It was, as usual, a packed, fun-filled week. Stay tuned for Week 9. . .

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Weeks 9 & 10 [Aug. 13th, 2007|11:11 pm]
[Current Location |VA, TN, GA, SC, FL]
[Current Mood |rejuvenatedrejuvenated]
[Current Music |Bob Marley on Maxey's iPod; The Decemberists on Anne's CD player]



We began our day by driving past the Abingdon cemetery, an event which provoked the following exclamation from the ever-quotable Rebecca: [delivered in an oooh-ahhh-talking-to-a-baby kind of voice] "Look at all the dead people!" Things only got weirder from there. When we arrived at our first destination of the day, an elementary school near Abingdon, we promptly locked the keys in the van, prompting a visit from AAA. Normally, we would have had a spare key, but Rebecca had left it in her car, which was parked at Gwen's house for some reason, and her car couldn't be opened, anyway, because its key was on the same key chain as the van key that had just been locked in the van. Whew. Anyway, by the time our show had begun, the van situation had been worked out, thanks to road-side (or elementary school parking lot) assistance. :) We thought, at this point, that the day's unusual and bothersome events were over and accounted for. However, as we were warming up to do "Jamestowne," a teacher at the school walked over to Meg and began telling her that she had heard so much about her and loved her fish (which-- whom?-- she had never actually met). As it turns out, this teacher was the mother of an Abingdon boy with whom Meg had apparently had ONE date over the Christmas break (and whose fish-feeding services she had taken advantage of while she was in Georgia for a couple of days) and by whom she had been constantly phone-messaged, e-mailed, and otherwise stalked ever since. The situation became even more puzzling when, during audience warm-ups, some of the children Meg was speaking with began referring to her as "Mrs. so-and-so's son's girlfriend." It was an odd situation indeed. Needless to say, Meg was particularly glad when we left Meadowview elementary. The rest of us, however, mostly enjoyed ourselves during our morning back-to-back "Jamestownes": at Meadowview, I got to talk to, among others, 1) a little girl who reminded me that she'd been at "Christmas Tree" (our winter players show at the theatre) wearing a fancy Santa Claus dress (and I vaguely remembered it and her); 2) a cute, smart, chubby red-haired girl who had also seen X-mas Tree; and 3) another girl who said she'd auditioned for "Oliver" (for this coming summer at the Barter) but hadn't gotten a part. The kids were great, and Rebecca entertained them quite well by doing some pre-show cartwheels. Our talkback was a bit lacking-- most of the "questions" were things like: "I liked your show" and "my sister's name is Megan, too" and "I have a dog, a hermit crab, and a tarantula"-- but we had a good (if weird) time at our Monday morning gig.

Our afternoon show ("Jamestowne" again--third one of the day) went well, too, and this one was especially fun because Katy and a bunch of Barter publicity people were there to see us and cheer us on (yay for shows near Abingdon)! We also had a lot of fun before the show: we were changing clothes behind the stage curtain of the gymnatorium while a gym class with a soundtrack of really bad early '90s pop/boy band music was going on (it seems to be a thing among gym teachers to play really, really awful music during their classes--we've run into this at about a dozen schools), and Rebecca, Meg and Ben, all in their underwear, began to spontaneously create and enact an MTV-esque music video right there behind the stage curtain. It was a hoot, inflatable saxophones and all. (These rather strange props were, for some reason, among the other music class things behind the curtain). It was a really fun afternoon, and the show went very well. The only slightly creepy event of the second half of the day was that a little boy (who, incidentally, looked like he could be a member of the Adams Family) informed me, during audience warm-ups, that he wanted to be a tomato when he grew up. Hmm.


We began the day by performing "Jamestowne," again near Abingdon. Rhea Valley Elementary was a nice school, and they gave us a decent free lunch afterwards, so we really couldn't complain. The afternoon, though, was really the highlight of the day. We arrived rather early and therefore had a good deal of time before our JT performance. We warmed up and sound-checked and got into costume, and then we got to watch the most adorable pre-school-aged children on the planet as, led by their teacher, they got rid of some excess energy by running around the gym for about twenty minutes, playing "red light, green light" and alternately running and tiptoeing to the tune of a ridiculous (but cute) teacher-tool song with a chorus that went: "tiptoe, tiptoe... don't talk, just walk... now run!" We loved just watching the kids be kids and just BE. I think it sort of dawned on all of us that, as "grown-ups," we try too hard to always be doing something and being something that we think we should be doing or being. We so seldom allow ourselves to really be in the moment, even though we're in a career where this is the ultimate goal. (Maybe it's harder off-stage than on). Anyway, it was just neat to observe kids in their neat, unselfconscious childhood habitat. :) Inspired by the little ones and still left with some time before the show, we had a little in-the-moment fun ourselves: Rebecca, Maxey and I came across some rubber chickens in the gymnasium (strange, but true) and proceeded to make an improvisational cell phone video involving the theme to the film, "2001"; chicken attacks; and painful-sounding squeals (these were the squealiest rubber chickens you ever did hear). Words really don't do our little artistic masterpiece justice. I'm sure that it will turn up on the internet at some point, though, and I dare you to watch it. Finally, it was time for the show, and I had a nice conversation with two fourth grade girls who informed me that they suffered from a three-month-long stomach virus and ten bouts of strep throat per year, respectively. As the conversation went on, the physical space between me and these very friendly kids became more and more. . . spacious. The show went pretty well, and we went home and re-watched our rubber chicken video. :)


For some reason, I didn't take very many notes for this day, though, actually, this may be because I confused some Monday details with some Wednesday details. I think that the MTV dancing with moroccas and inflatable saxophones may have happened on Wednesday rather than Monday. All the schools sort of look alike, and the days of tour begin to blend together after a while. In any case, I guess Wednesday (or Monday?) wasn't too memorable. I do remember that Wednesday's show (at a school in Bristol) was kind of a tough one—“Jamestowne” is an easy sell to some audiences, and anything but to others. We always try our darndest, though, and if they laugh at the "arrow arrow gun guns" and the Algonquin rituals, maybe it just means that they're really involved in the action of the play. I think I'll keep trying really hard and, in the meantime, choose to believe that.


On Thursday, we woke up really ridiculously early and traveled to the mountains of North Carolina for three "American Tall Tales" performances. The first two were at the very, very nice auditorium of an elementary/middle school in Blowing Rock, NC. The shows went really well (except that a prop that Ezra and I use-- sunglasses-- unfortunately broke during the show: aaaah, live theater), and, after a quick lunch, we headed to Boone, NC for our third show. We anticipated that this would be a tough show, since it was in a HUGE, echo-ey gymnasium and since the performance was attended by the entire, HUGE school, but it actually ended up being really fun, and we were happy that our tour coordinator, Tere Land, showed up to support us! I really enjoyed visiting Blowing Rock and Boone-- both really nice places-- and I'd love to go back and visit and check out all the neat little shops sometime. :)


On Friday, we traveled to Mountain City, TN for another three-show-day of "American Tall Tales." All three shows were at the same venue, a really nice, former-high-school-converted theater called Heritage Hall. So, between shows, we sat in the green room and admired an interesting topographical-map-like mural on the wall of a lake and some animals that had been created by a local prisoner. It was kind of a neat place in general-- very nice dressing rooms, a homey-feeling stage, etc. And they bought us pizza for lunch! The first two performances, in particular, went really well (the audience for the third was much smaller and less responsive-- the after-school, tired parents & kids crowd), and John Hardy came to our second performance, which was kind of cool. After the shows were over, we drove back to Abingdon in the suddenly beautiful, warm weather, and smiled at all the cows and horses along the way. We've really seen a lot of farm animals on tour, and they're really sweet and peaceful-looking, and I think I'm going to have an extremely hard time eating meat after this. I'm not kidding. Maybe the Barter Players tour will turn me into a vegetarian. (Okay, that was sort of a random, weird side-note, but it's true: I've seen more cows and horses and sheep and goats and things on this tour than I've ever seen in my life, and I've sort of fallen in love with them-- I mean, not in a bestiality sense; you know what I mean-- they're neat animals). :) Before I finish this day's entry, here's another random fact for you: the guy at Heritage Hall who introduced all three of our shows made a huge point of calling himself "grampa" and asking all the kids to call him that, too. It was sweet and creepy all at the same time.


Saturday, we took some VERY windy roads out to Independence, Virginia, where we did an afternoon performance of "Jamestowne" in a really neat building (the town's former courthouse). I talked to some 10 or 11-year-old boys before the show who told me all about their games of mud-football (and mud-wrestling?) at their summer church camp, and I also met a woman in the audience who was from Newport News. The show went pretty well, and we ate at a good, cheap, local restaurant afterwards. In the early evening, we headed down the road apiece :) to a really old-looking elementary school (we later found out that it was, in fact, built as a part of the WPA plan) and got ready for a second performance of "Jamestowne" that would cap off a Saturday fundraiser/auction at the school. When we arrived, we were told that we would perform on a creaky, rickety wooden-planked stage with a huge basketball net right in the center of it (which, if we put the drop in front of it, would leave us with about a foot of performance space). We decided to set up on the floor, instead, which was a good decision, as toes would likely have gotten caught in the wood boards, which might not have been a fun or happy thing. This particular show, though, turned out to be really challenging, anyway. Two minutes into the action of the play, a teacher hit the wrong light switch and turned off all the lights. Unfortunately, these were the gym buzzer kind of lights that take about 10 minutes to warm up, so we held the show for a bit and laughed backstage. When we started back up again, the kids were kind of riled up from the blackout, and there were some very little children sitting in the front row (on the floor) who began creeping onto the stage area during the performance and making lots of cute, yet distracting, noises and hand motions (at one point, they began banging the floor with their hands and imitating Ezra's Indian rituals; at another point, they said the "arrow arrow gun guns" with us). During the course of this show, I also had an onstage coughing fit (stupid cold), which I managed to work into the action of the play fairly well (I hope); and Maxey and Rebecca somehow managed to get their legs entangled and almost fall to the ground, tripping over each other. Needless to say, it was a challenging, but really, really crazy and fun and, above all, memorable show. :) After it was over, we were given lots of home-baked goodies from the auction and we drove back to Abingdon (taking a less windy route, this time), taking a minute to relish the spring night air before hopping in the van. It was a really neat day.


WEEK 10:


We began the drive to Jacksonville, Florida, at about 11 a.m. and had a great day on the road and a great day, in general. We stopped for lunch in downtown Asheville, NC. I had never visited Asheville before, and I was enchanted. It's kind of a neat, upscale hippie kind of place, with multiple specialty shops and great restaurants. Rebecca showed us around town, and we ended up eating at a good Cuban place (the wait staff were rather weird: the hostess/owner's wife, in particular, seemed like she might be on something. I really think that Tennessee Williams would be the best person to hire to write a description of her: she was, indeed, the epitome of a "no-neck monster." The food was delicious, though). After lunch, we made a stop at a shop with neat yarn and even neater yarn hats (I really, really wanted one, but the cheapest was $55, which I certainly couldn't afford on my Barter Players salary), and then we hit the road again for Jacksonville, stopping for a very weird dinner in Savannah, Georgia, with some friends of Meg's and Ezra's. They were nice enough (though the girl was kind of a walking sob story: she told us, humorlessly, about an incident where she'd been in a car accident and the impact had caused her nipple piercing to bleed bacteria into her breast, which then became inflamed and required emergency surgery), but we were harassed during dinner by an intoxicated restaurant patron who sort of hovered around our table asking us for pizza and then announced that he had "heard us talking about him." Rebecca's response was, "what? You heard us saying that you were weird and random," to which his reply was: "no, I heard you saying that my face looks like a vagina." I can assure you that none of us had made this statement, although, upon investigation, the "gentleman" wasn't that far off in his facial self-assessment. After our strange and interesting day, we arrived in Jacksonville (at a really nice Best Western that Maxey had booked for us), and Maxey and I had a really fun conversation in our hotel room (during which she told me a CRAZY story about a college friend of hers who discovered a CORAL SNAKE in her DESK). It was a neat travelin' day. :)


We got a bit lost on the way to our first Florida performance (JT), but we managed to find our way there in time, and we loaded into a school that smelled, oddly, like an airport and/or hospital. The show (in the cafetorium/multi-purpose room) went well, and, before the performance, I talked to a little boy who was a rising soccer star. It's so neat to meet all the millions of kids we meet on a daily basis. :)

Our second show of the day was at a performing arts middle school in downtown Jacksonville. The facilities were really nice and the faculty members were really pompous (the guy who introduced us is apparently a good buddy of "Will" Shakespeare). The performance was kind of tough-- I wish we did "Hamlet" more often, because it seems really hard to find flow with this show when we do it so infrequently. It's also difficult performing for middle school kids (even ones at a performing arts school), but I think we made a valiant effort and managed (mostly) to stay "under the water." Anyway, after the show was over, we had another chance to be in (if not under) the water: it was 80 degrees in Florida, and we went to the BEACH!!! (I didn't actually get in the water, because there were multiple jellyfish washed up on shore, and I didn't see that as a good omen; plus, the coast of Florida is notorious for its shark attacks, and we all know how paranoid I am about anything and everything, but I did enjoy walking on the beach). :) After the beach, we played arcade games, ate good food, and drank margaritas at this place called Dave & Buster's, which is kind of the grown-up version of Chuck-e-Cheese's. It was an incredibly fun day in Florida.


Still in Florida, we did a morning "Tall Tales" at a private school. Upon loading in, we were greeted by a friendly, if somewhat misguided duck who was paddling around in the school's swimming pool. :) We had a really GREAT, fun, relaxed performance, and I think this was our best "Tall Tales" ever. The Florida sun must have done something for us. :) After the show, we had a nice lunch at Panera Bread, topped off by an Acai Berry (lots of antioxidants, you know) smoothie at the local Smoothie King. In the afternoon, we performed "Jamestowne" at an Episcopal School, which was fun, although Meg was apparently a bit troubled by a pre-show conversation with a boy who was obsessed with killing carrots. Don't ask. I don't know. After the show, a teacher gave us a nice compliment: she said that she'd had to sit through many other theatrical productions that were no good, but she said that WE were really good and she was so glad that we'd come to her school. :)Yay! After the show, we went to the BEACH again, and I collected about a hundred shells. I also got a phone message from Hampstead Theatre (where I'd had a callback at UPTAs) indicating that the company was interested in me for their spring, 2008 tour, so it was a really good day in Florida, again!


We had our last Florida performance on Wednesday morning: "Jamestowne" at a middle school. It was fine, although we were all a bit troubled by the lengthy lecture by the principal that followed the show. After bragging about his love for history and how he was a history major in college, the rather imposing (think club-bouncer type) principal proceeded to reprimand the kids for anything and everything (dress code violations, not representing their school well, the works). I always hate things like that, because I know that they do no good whatsoever: the kids to whom the lectures apply don't care, and the kids to whom they don't apply get upset. Blah. After the show, we ate at a pizza place and then hit the road for the long haul back to Abingdon (we got back to Virginia at about 10 p.m.).


We drove to Blacksburg on Thursday morning for two "Jamestowne" performances at the same school. There was a bit of technical trouble before the first performance: the power was out in parts of the building, so we were worried that we might not have a show, but everything worked out okay. :) The first show was difficult, as there was a mentally disabled child in the audience who made loud noises throughout the show and distracted other audience members (and us), but we all did our best to keep communicating the story well, both to him and to the rest of the audience, and the show wasn't a total disaster (although we were all really tired from the long drive back from Florida and had a rather weepy "how was that show anyway" meeting post-show). The second show of the day was significantly better than the first, and, after it, the players and I all rode over to my grandmother's house in the van and visited with her a bit before heading back to Abingdon (I stayed in Blacksburg for the evening).


We had two shows in Roanoke, VA today. The first, "American Tall Tales," was at an elementary school (where the kids were all decked up for St. Patrick's Day), and the second, "Jamestowne," was at a middle school. Both performances were kind of weird. They both went well, I think, but they just seemed kind of different to all of us. Maybe that's good, though-- maybe that means that the shows are growing and changing in good ways during these last three weeks of tour. The JT performance was really difficult, though: we had the middle school laughter to contend with, and we had a really weird talk-back, too, where a teacher asked us whether "Barter employed black people," a question that kind of threw us. I guess it shouldn't have been too surprising, though: we were, after all, in southwest Virginia. Ugh. After the shows were over, we headed back to Abingdon for the night.


We have an "American Tall Tales" performance in Rogersville, Tennessee tonight (we're leaving at 4:40 p.m.). Afterwards, there is a St. Patrick's day party at Gwen's place in Abingdon. Tomorrow, we have the day off, and I'm traveling to Blacksburg to visit the the parents, the grandmother, the Danny and the other friends, and the dog (Emily) for my 25th (!) birthday, which is Monday (we have some more shows in Blacksburg on Monday). Afterwards, we'll be out on the road (with no nights spent in Abingdon) for the remainder of tour: a record of 12 out-of-house days. Wish us luck. (I'll update about tonight's performance at a later date, and the weeks 11 & 12 logs will be ready at the end of the next two weeks). Have a great couple of weeks, everyone!
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Weeks 11 & 12 and Tour Make-ups Summary (Rough) [Aug. 13th, 2007|11:09 pm]
[Current Location |TN, VA, WV]
[Current Mood |satisfiedsatisfied]
[Current Music |musical revue of the iPods of Ben, Meg, Ezra, Anne, Rebecca, and Maxey]



I meant to write these last logs months ago (it’s now mid-August, a week before our Barter contracts end), and I actually took notes while out on the road at the end of tour. Unfortunately, though, I can’t find these notes (I think I may have already packed the notebook they were in and sent it home to Newport News with my parents). If I do eventually find these notes, I will compile them and add them to the tour log. Until then, though, here are the things that I remember (not necessarily in order) from the last two weeks of tour:


-- The Rogersville, TN performance was CRAZY: we had to add an intermission to our ATT performance, and during the “second act” (the cowboy tall tale segment), a saxophone started wailing from beneath the stage. Apparently, there was a senior citizens’ singles dance going on below us. J


-- We spent all day on Monday, March 19 (my 25th birthday) in Blacksburg (at Harding Avenue Elementary?), doing JT and ATT performances and workshops for the kids. We had a lot of time to work with the kids, and I remember finding it fascinating to see all of their individual strengths and weaknesses and self-doubts manifest themselves in the creative work we did. One little girl loved making pictures out of jump ropes (she lay them out on the gym floor and made different shapes), and another girl was very shy and kept saying she couldn’t do anything creative (which made me sad, so I tried to encourage her in her enthusiastic jump-roping). A little boy (the fraternal twin brother of self-doubting jump-rope girl) seemed extremely insecure and clingy and made up multiple stories about being rescued from the top of the Empire State Building and such (I THINK they were stories). It was so strange and endearing how all of these kids fought over which of us (players) they wanted to sit next to at dinner, and I wanted to give all of them huge hugs and tell them that they were unique and wonderful and talented and loved.


-- After our Blacksburg performances, we traveled to Farmville, VA to perform “Jamestowne” at Longwood College. We were put up on the night of March 19 at the alumni house, which seemed very fancy, but which proved very rickety, noisy, and uncomfortable. Oh, well. The performances, as I remember, went fairly well, and we had a nice cafeteria luncheon afterwards with some students and with a Longwood professor who was a native of France. Interesting.


-- Sometime during the last two weeks, we performed “Jamestowne” at Wendy Mathis Parker (the playwright)’s church in Midlothian, VA (a suburb of Richmond). This experience was actually quite amazing, as the church had a huge window that looked out on a river (not the James, but an offshoot of it? The Pocahontas River? I wish I could find my notes…) that had somehow figured into the history of Jamestown.  With the back drop of central/eastern Virginia woods and water, I felt really “in” this performance, more than in any other performance of this show, and it was kind of a magical experience. After the show, Wendy bought us all lunch at this beautiful restaurant overlooking the river/creek. This turned out to be the lovely afternoon of what was a rather distressing day, otherwise. A few hours after hitting the road to travel to our next destination (somewhereseville, West Virginia), we noticed that the van was shaking even more than usual (we had all gotten used to the strangely vibrating steering wheel and had dismissed it as a benign consequence of slightly poor alignment), and, when we stopped at a gas station, Ezra noticed that the rubber was almost completely worn off the front left wheel of our burgundy death trap. We wisely decided to stop for the night to have the van serviced, and, after we set up camp in the parking lot of a grocery store in Troutville, Virginia, the Triple A guy who arrived informed us that we had been in serious danger of having a major tire blow-out/crash, had we decided to continue on to West Virginia. So, we hung out in a very sketchy Troutville (population 150 or something) motel for a day (we ran into some frightening characters in the lobby—irate mountain men and drugged-out-seeming people) while the van was repaired and had to re-schedule our 3-show day in West Virginia.


--When we finally did get back West Virginia, we had perhaps the most emotionally draining and frustrating day of tour. After getting lost and being stopped for speeding at several annoying speed trap points, we (if I remember correctly and am not getting days mixed up—I will find those notes eventually) performed Hamlet at an arts high school where the kids were downright disrespectful (repeating and mocking our lines, etc.). Other events in the state were better, though: we had some fun times watching the horrific Sanjaya on the motel lobby television at 6 a.m.; moving gigantic wrestling mats; eating homemade cinnamon buns; speaking in strange voices through the drop tubes; and watching Ezra do his Henry the Eighth (“8”) act in between successful shows. J We also eventually made up our van-trouble day at a school in West Virginia where the drama teacher and his students entertained us with songs from Mamma Mia and Grease. This day (which I think actually occurred after tour was over, as a make-up) was our ultimate challenge: we did ALL THREE SHOWS back-to-back, and, I am happy to say, rocked all three. We are, indeed, rock stars.


--During the final weeks of tour, we also returned to the far western reaches of the state of Virginia, re-visiting some of the coal-mining towns we had previously performed in. We were happily re-united with our nice pro-arts liason, Vickie, and hilariously re-united with our other guide, “Squid.” Good times were had by all.


--I think that it was also near the end of tour that we traveled to Eastern Mennonite University (somewhere in the middle of Virginia) and did an “American Tall Tales” performance for a group of underprivileged/at risk and even abused children. This was an intense experience, and I almost cried while talking to a little girl in the audience who seemed so much more jaded and suspicious than her young age warranted. I think we really gave our all to this performance: we had to for the kids. There were some weird moments during this visit: I was sort of creepily hit on by the rather odd man, Patrick, who had arranged our tour to Eastern Mennonite U. (EMU), and, upon arrival at the campus, Rebecca ran eagerly up to two students to ask for the directions, and when one student said he didn’t actually attend school there, Rebecca said, enthusiastically, “You’re not a real mennonitee; you’re a FAKE mennonittee!” Oh, Rebecca Ruth Reinhardt, you are an amazing human being. Another fun thing I remember from this tour stop is the rehearsal for a jazz concert that I had the pleasure of listening in on before our show. A female vocalist was singing in the same hall in which we were performing (accompanied by EMU’s jazz band), and she was spectacular (sang a bunch of standards that I LOVE). 


--I also remember a trip to Harrisonburg, VA (where JMU is) at some point near the end of tour, the details of which escape me (although I remember a coffee shop and a yarn shop).


--I think we made a stop in the Danville, VA area. I seem to remember a Stratford-style motel, a dinner at a Buffalo wings place, and a sudden downpour that brought Ben and Ezra, shirtless, out onto the motel balcony. Fun times. J


--If I remember correctly, our final day of tour was spent in the Abingdon area. (?)


-- After tour was officially over (on March 31), we had several make-up performances in locations ranging from Wytheville, VA (in JUNE at an outdoor festival, wearing Madonna mics) to Damascus, VA (this performance was legendary, as John Hardy went on for poor Ezra, who had fallen through the roof of player storage—long story-- just a couple of hours before we were supposed to go on) to random other places in Virginia and West Virginia.  I know there are many things I’m forgetting in these last weeks. Did I mention the time that Rebecca told a gas station attendant that she and Ezra (whom she named Bob or something) were getting married? Did I tell you about “use your mirrors?” Or what about the time that R (again, of course) claimed to be from California? I will find my notes when I go home, and my tour log WILL BE COMPLETE. But, for now, this incomplete log hopefully gives you an idea of the crazy time of our lives that was the Barter Players 2007 tour. J  THE END (for now). 

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