Friday, July 16, 2010

An Epilogue

I'm sitting in a Barnes and Noble on the Upper East side as I pen this remembrance, which seems like a rather appropriate place to reflect on nearly six months of touring. After all, Theatreworks actors are incredibly adept at locating free internet wherever we may be, and I spent many an afternoon in Barnes and Noble's across this great country typing away at my aging BlackMac to bring the memories documented in this blog.

Tour ended as it should have. Our final performances in Vermont were preceded by a wonderful meal, the "Click Clack Moo Awards" (see Colleen's blog for the results) and an evening of heartfelt reminiscing. Our last two shows were as energetic and fun as anyone could have hoped, the drive home smooth and the goodbyes tearful. I arrived back at my apartment in a state of moderate shock, still unused to the fact that I was now sans-tour, a state I had not found myself in since November of 2009. The security guards in my building inquired where I had been all this time. "Everywhere," I told them. And it was true.

Click Clack Moo
was one for the record books, in the best way possible. Theatreworks tours are famous for creating both lifelong friendships and bitter enemies among their cast members, but this one was an anomaly. I can honestly say that I truly miss all eight (yes, Shaun too!) of the smart, talented and funny actors I got to see the country with. I miss our long dinners, our daily cow jokes, our camaraderie. It's still odd to wake up every morning without seeing Aaron in the next bed over, or eat breakfast without Alaina a table over enjoying her daily bagel. Claire's "claire-ogrophy" has worked its way into my daily life (come up to the zoo and see the new Captain Cocoa entrances; it's all Claire), and the wonder that she and Grace were able to find at the smallest moments still remind me stop and smell the roses. Thanks to Kristen (and a really big hole in my jeans), I now have a new wardrobe, and Colleen and I already have a Bikram Yoga date (something we were planning all throughout tour). And Shaun pops up on Twitter daily, reminding me that, no matter what we all shared together, life goes on, and everyone is bound for new adventures. They are still all a part of my life, perhaps more than they even know.

A few days ago, I had an audition for another Theatreworks tour, one based partially on a sequel to Click Clack Moo. When I entered the audition room, Molly (Theatreworks' casting director) smiled and asked me if I was ready for another few months in a Sprinter van. While I'm always eager to tour (this one would mark number five for me), I think the last six months will retain a very special place in my memory. I made dear friends, worked with outrageously talented performers, saw spectacular places, ate incredible food and performed in venues I could only dream about. This show in particular pushed me to grow as a person and a pro and, together, we created a magical experience for our audiences every single day. I could not be prouder to be a member of the "barnyard family," and to forever be linked to the world that is Click Clack Moo.

Oh, and what did I sing at that Theatreworks audition? "Loretta's Anthem." Of course. And they loved it.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Click Clack Moo Memorial Day Cookout 2010

Memorial Day. A day for trips to the shore, bbqs and the celebration of the impending summer. Unless you're the tour of Theatreworks/USA's new Lucille Lortel- and Drama Desk-nominated hit show Click Clack Moo. (Oh, did I forget to mention those nominations? Yeah. They're all for the Off-Broadway production. But still. We're kind of a big deal.) If that's your current gig, you're headed for the New York-Canadian border, which is roughly a six hour drive, in preparation for a week of shows. Thankfully, traffic was light. However, our rustic inn (The Stone Ridge in Ogdensburg, NY) provided fodder for some unexpected fun: a propane grill inside a gazebo, overlooking a lake. And thus, I present the results of Click Clack Moo Memorial Day Cookout 2010:

Call tomorrow: 7:00am, Stone Ridge Motel, Ogdensburg, NY. We have a 9:15am show. That's early.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Lights Out

The day started like any day of Theatreworks touring should: we trundled out of our hotel (a lovely Hyatt) and into the waiting vans, groggy and gripping our caffeinated beverages of choice. Yet, today was not like any other day. Today was our fair Stage Manager Alaina's birthday!! A day for celebration and jubilation!! Or at least a nice dinner in the evening. Either way, we were headed for George Mason University, where we had two shows to get through in their lovely space before any festivities could begin. We loaded in, set up, sound checked, ventured out for more coffee and headed into the dressing rooms to get ready, as over a thousand children filed into the auditorium. It looked like it was going to be an awesome show.

Or so we thought.

It was just around the time where the cows present me with their first letter. I reintroduce the duck to the audience, review the sounds that some of the other barnyard animals make and then prompt the cows to "moo" (which, of course, they don't; they're too busy typing). Or that's what's supposed to happen. Because, about halfway through the duck's quacking, all the power went out. Not just in the theater, or on campus, but in the entire town of Fairfax, VA.

And does anybody remember what happens when about a thousand children are unexpectedly plunged into darkness? They start screaming. Loud.

Emergency generators quelled the deafening noise, but there still appeared to be mass confusion among the munchkins and their keepers. Seeing that it was clearly going to take a while, we congregated backstage, awaiting instruction from Alaina. When it came, the answer was clear: first show canceled, and we had to evacuate.

Not wanting to disappoint our loving fans, we headed to the lobby (where there was lots of natural light) to greet the kiddies and apologize for the power outage. Thankfully, teachers and parents were more excited than frustrated, and our time was spent taking pictures and giving high-fives. Between photo sessions, individuals from our sponsoring organization showed up to keep us updated on the status of our second show. Police and firefighters were fixing the problem, and it seemed we would indeed have a 12:30 performance.

After 30 minutes of meeting and greeting, the time came to reset and return to the dressing rooms. I, for one, was a little sad to leave the kids. If nothing else, it affirmed to me that the kids both understand what we're doing and appreciate and enjoy it. Theatreworks keeps a strong separation between audience and cast, which is good, because it maintains the sense that this is a professional production and not some sort of "assembly" or "kiddie show." However, breaking that fourth wall and meeting the kids, particularly while still in costume, reminds me of the impact we are having. That sense of trepidation before meeting us that some of the younger ones display seems indicative to me that what we do onstage is extraordinarily real for them. Which is quite cool

We reset, prepped, and got ready for our 12:30 show. Which, of course, went off without a hitch. Yet, for me, I think I was a little more enthused on that stage than I have been in a few weeks. Getting a little thrown during a show is good for the brain, and I was feeling pumped to give these kids the show their predecessors never received. After weeks and weeks of shows, it's nice to have a reminder of why we do what we do. Even if it requires a city-wide power outage on your stage manager's birthday to do it.

Call tomorrow: 7:30am, Holiday Inn in Baltimore.

Kid Quote of the Day: When the Duck yells "Duck!" and the cows hit the ground, one little boy leaned over to Alaina and informed her that "the duck killed the cows."

Colleen Tractor Quote of the Day: (Remember our proximity to Washington DC) "Ethan Marc Angelica!! Our forefathers would be very disappointed in you. George Washington never told a lie, and he always put away his tractor."

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Week of Snafus

This has been a week to remember, both for the good and the bad. After two glorious days off, we headed out for a make-up local show in Montclair, NJ, a school that was a snow-out for us way back in March. It was a very exciting show for me, because my mother was to attend, the first time she had seen me in a Theatreworks show. However, Montclair also began our week of snafus, which I have detailed below:

Montclair, NJ: During the first of two shows, right in the middle of the opening number, the lights went out in the auditorium. But not the sound. We muddled through the rest of the track in darkness (only about five seconds), and then waited. From somewhere, an expectant "Moo" was uttered. After what seemed like an eternity, the lights returned, but the music did not. Claire, Aaron and Grace looked at me expectantly from the barn. Suddenly, music appeared and I continued on with the show. Later, Colleen reported that some crew members had been messing with circuit breakers backstage. Good timing, guys.

Centereach, Long Island: This was our most recent school and, while the shows went great, the day was fraught with some peril. Not only was the show repeatedly announced as "Click, Clack, Moo-Moo" (we've requested a version of this show to be written by our artistic staff to compliment "Moo" from Alabama), our already-long drive was plagued by rain, severe rush-hour traffic and more construction than I can recall of late. We got in to Delaware just after 9pm, and collapsed into bed.

Wilmington, DE: Two days of shows at the charming Dupont Theater. Great crew, cool space, nice dressing rooms and a lovely coffee shop nearby for refreshments between shows. The problem? As I made my way across the stage with my one-dimensional tractor during our final performance, the music just cut out. I looked out into the audience and saw Alaina scrambling with wires and the minidisc player. My knowledge of this technology has taught me one thing: there is no "fast-forward" or "rewind" in situations like this. Suddenly, the rooster crowed, I shuffled back to my entrance position and began the show all over again, as a very confused audience stared me down.

Annapolis, MD: We performed at Maryland Hall, which has received a nomination in the upcoming Click Clack Moo Awards (known as the "Clickies") for worst load-in. Why? Well, it required that we carry all of our set pieces up three flights of stairs. The snafu? Our green room turned out to be some woman's office, and she was quite surprised to find a few of us in various states of undress when she arrived to start her day.

Did I mention that this was also an 11-show week?

Annapolis also held a decidedly more pleasant surprise for us. Unbeknownst to me (at least), there's more to Annapolis than sailors and a naval academy. We enjoyed a lovely evening in the historic downtown area at the Docks Bar and Restaurant, where we feasted on all manner of crabs. A few of us followed the contingent of sailors to a local ice cream shop, where we continued our evening of mid-Atlantic pleasures with pecan fudge ripple on a waffle cone.

Ah, the joys of touring.

Call tomorrow: 10:10am, 108th and Amsterdam. We have two afternoon shows near Trenton, NJ (which finishes our 11 shows), and then we start heading for the DC area.

Kid Quote of the Day: When the cows began playing with the computer, a little kid clearly couldn't make out the sounds. He shouted, "They farted!"

Colleen Tractor Quote of the Day: I'm pulling from stock here. I had been talking up Asheville since it first appeared on our schedule. Thus, "Ethan Marc Angelica!! We are not going to Asheville until you put away your tractor!!"

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Farmer and the Law

After a long day of shows and driving, we finally arrived at our cozy Days Inn in very small town in Tennessee, which bills itself as "The Sweetest Town in Tennessee." Maybe. Problem was, our location seemed to be very far away from all this "sweetness," as the only food options available to us were a McDonald's, a Burger King and a scary-looking little restaurant called the Family Waffle Kitchen, which boasted about the "big salad bar" and was missing four letters from its sign. Alaina and I ventured across the street to BK for burgers and sodas, and then headed back to the hotel, for there was little else to do on this strip. The internet was slow, so I headed out of the room for a phone call to my friend Diane, whose recent return from nearly three years in Rome meant some serious catching up.

My general M.O. when chatting with folks over the phone is to go wandering. I am definitely one of those people who will stroll up and down the sidewalks of New York, BlackBerry in hand, yapping about my day or whatever turn the conversation happens to take. And touring is no exception, except that, often, those sidewalks are replaced by hotel hallways and lobbies, or country roads.

My wandering this evening took me up and down the rural highway on which our hotel was located. I passed a Comfort Inn, a truck stop, the "Hill Top Motel" (guess where it was located?) and, finally, wound up in the parking lot of the Micky D's (which happened to be right next door to our Days Inn) as the conversation continued and continued. I found myself strolling the lot, sitting on the steps that led to the hotel, laying in the grass and just generally keeping myself moving. Night had fallen, and I didn't want to get too far from the hotel.

A few hours (yes, hours) in, a strange white SUV arrived in the parking lot, and started revving its engine at me. A gaunt, pale-white guy was seated behind the wheel, brow furrowed, staring directly at me. Unsure what this could be, I decided it was best to head back towards the hotel as casually as I could. I climbed the stairs between the two buildings and sat myself on the top, ensuring I was in a well-lit area, within eye-shot of the room I was sharing with Aaron that evening.

Next thing I knew, there was a flashlight in my face, held by a guy wearing a vest that said "POLICE" in reflective letters. A gun holstered at his side.

"Diane, I think I'm going to need to call you back."

And the questions started flying. Apparently, the McDonald's employees had reported a "bearded figure" hanging out in the parking lot near closing time and wanted police protections for... well, any number of reasons, I suppose. Anyway, the officer seemed moderately unconvinced that I might just be on a phone call with my friend. "No, Officer, I'm an actor from New York," I said, as I produced my ID, Equity Card and Days Inn key-card. "I'm doing a touring children's show about striking cows. See that big white van? That one's ours."

For future reference, pointing out an oversize, white, windowless van and telling a police officer that it belongs to you is a bad move.

Without actually asking to see the van, he grilled me on the details of our show, our travel itinerary and our past whereabouts. Where were we going? How long had we been on the road? And how was he so sure that I wasn't up to anything fishy? Finally, after as much sincerity as I could muster (and another close look at that Equity card; I guess union membership is good for more than health insurance), he decided I was OK, apologized for the interrogation and suggested that I head back to my hotel room for the night. I watched the SUV until it was sufficiently out of sight before scurrying back to the hotel, recounting a barely-intelligible version of the events to Aaron, and diving under the covers to go to sleep. Not sure if I mentioned this or not, but police officers have ALWAYS made me uneasy.

The next morning, Aaron and I recounted the tale to the rest of the cast, who laughed and laughed. At lunch, I learned that the vote was a close race among burglar, child molester and terrorist, with terrorist just barely edging out the other two. Because only terrorists have beards.

Call tomorrow: 7:50am, 108th and Amsterdam. We're back in the Northeast, y'all!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Good Eatin'

I think I've probably mentioned a few times before that we are a decidedly "foodie" cast. The charge, led primarily by Claire, took a deliciously interesting turn come Birmingham, and boy are we grateful for it.

The Vegans (my nickname for Grace and Claire) spent most of our time in the South seeking the perfect soul food. We're talking collard greens, mac and cheese, corn bread and sweet tea (and maybe some chicken or BBQ for the carnivores among us). Anyway, we'd tried many a spot on our venture. A BBQ joint in Dothan, AL had incredible pulled pork, but did not answer the call for collards. There was some good "fried corn" and turnip greens at a lunch place in Montgomery, but The Vegans were not satisfied. There had to be some place that would give the authentic, tried-and-true soul cuisine.

And it came, not a moment too soon.

With our time in the south coming to a close, Claire got serious. Our Birmingham show marked the last show before a long trek back to the Northeast, and Claire knew she had to make it count. At the vans that morning, she announced, with her usual bravado, that she had discovered "an amazing place" (this is a typical refrain, but always accurate) that had "the real thing." A little skeptical from the rather sketchy photos on the very-1990s website, Aaron and I reluctantly agreed to join in (Grace and Kristen were on-board from the get-go). Out came an iPhone GPS, and we followed the blinking blue light out of downtown Birmingham, and into a downright depressed neighborhood. Nothing nearby showed any signs of life, except for a line of cars outside of the little shack that held Eagles Restaurant. We hopped out of the car and, staring down bars over the windows, started to wonder what we'd gotten ourselves into.

But, one step inside, and we knew Claire had done it again!

The people behind the counter initially looked at us with minor suspicion (this is very much an in-the-know spot), but they served us up their decidedly-exceptional fare with a smile and grace. I went for their "three vegetable" plate (where Mac & Cheese was an option, so you know things are good) and a sweet tea, which was beyond-sweet. My total? $5.75. The guys got chicken wings, which looked exceptional. The Vegans gathered heaping plates of veggies, and we began. And it was exceptional. The food was perfectly cooked, and precisely what you want when you want soul food. It was likely some of the absolute best food we've had on the entire tour.

We, apparently, made such a fuss that the owner (and cook) Ms. Leslie came out to greet us. She was shocked to hear that Claire had found the place, and was clearly tickled when Kristen suggested that the place be featured on Oprah. I chatted up a guy at a nearby table who told me he'd been coming almost-daily for lunch. He told me, "Nobody knows about this place, and whenever they see the outside, they ask me if I'm crazy. But, look at that score." He gestured to her Department of Health rating, which is 100. "Ms. Leslie does not mess around." Having befriended the entire restaurant and staff, we asked for a photo:

(Photo Credit: Grace)

If you wind up in Birmingham, AL, you absolutely must check out Eagle's Restaurant. It's a bit out of the way, but decidedly worth the trek.

Call tomorrow: 11:00am, Days Inn in Sweetwater, TN, or whenever Alaina gets back from the shop with Proud Mary. She needs a little TLC before the long trip back north.

Kid Quote of the Day: When I ask where the Duck went with the laptop at the end of the show, a little kid very excitedly pointed to the back drop and shouted, "He went that way!! He went... oh, there he is." (Guess what happened in the "..."?"

Colleen Tractor Quote of the Day: She caught me with tractor in hand today. "Ethan Marc Angelica!! That's what I thought."

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Our Cast Motto

One of the things each Theatreworks tour I've been on has had is some sort of "group thing." Often times, it is a song. For Max & Ruby I, our "thing" was the Sara Bareilles's song "Love Song." Max & Ruby II was marked with a folksy song about all the different ways you can eat your eggs. Christmas Carol had two: a Hebrew version of "It's a Hard Knock Life" from Annie and Faith Hill's sneaky "A Baby Changes Everything" (long story on the last one). Click Clack Moo, however, has a motto:

I Deserve It.

This one came from Claire. One of our resident vegans (Grace is the other), Claire is a true foodie. We frequently rely on her to find us great restaurants, and she's almost never led us astray. One of the problems, however, with good food, is that you always want that one thing on the menu that you know you shouldn't have. You know, the bread pudding. Or the chocolate cake. Or the warm-peach-cobbler-topped-with-a-scoop-of-ice-cream-and-drizzled-with-a-caramel-sauce-plus-dash-of-Frangelico-to-spice-things-up. Yeah. Claire likes things like this sometimes. Well, we all do. However, Claire's rationalization is the best. When she sees a decadent food item that she must have, she turns to us and said, very calmly: "Guys, I deserve it."

Initially, we teased her about it a little (in that loving, family way, I promise!), but then it stuck. First Grace started it, then Alaina and Colleen and, finally, the guys jumped in. And it's sorta become our thing.

And now it really is.

Alaina is our resident tattoo enthusiast. She's got a few really nice ones, and has been eager to get a few more. Well, whilst lounging on the sand in West Palm Beach, FL, Alaina broached the idea of a tattoo to memorialize this tour. "I've had so much fun with you guys," she said, "I want to get something to remember you with." After batting around a few lame ideas (the tattoo of a Sprinter van and cow got dismissed early on), Alaina had a stroke of brilliance: Get our cast motto, in French, in a whimsical design by it's originator. A quick Google search provided the translation of Alaina's soon-to-be tattoo:

"Je le mérite"

Claire produced a beautiful design and, in Montgomery, Alaina headed off to a tattoo shop for the work. The final result is a real thing of beauty:

She Deserves It!!

Call tomorrow: 7:45, La Quinta Birmingham. Last show in the south, and then we start heading home.

Kid Quote of the Day: When Darlene asked if she actually had to talk to "those obnoxious chickens," a little boy shouted, "Yes you do!"

Colleen Tractor Quote of the Day: Today Colleen caught me in the middle of putting my tractor away. "Ethan Marc Angelica!! As you were..."