Staunton, VA -
Sometimes the light's all shining on me
Other times I can barely see
Lately it occurs to me
What a long strange trip it's been.
-"Truckin" , Grateful Dead
It's all over, including the shouting. Tonight we opened Planet in the Blackfriars, and last night we did our final official gig at Virginia Military Academy. We actually do have one more travel stop - an added return trip to Veritas Winery in mid-April, where it all unofficially began back in early September. But for all intents and purposes, the tour is officially over. Hardly seems real.
I am sort of at a loss for words, as I don't really think I have fully incorporated the fact that the tour is complete. I've settled into my room at 607 Beverley, been grocery shopping, got my printer and all sorts of kitchen materials out from the boxes. I retrieved my bicycle from the heavens over at the theatre, and everything has been unloaded from the vans. I'm not quite into a routine as of yet, as we have some further orientation to go through in the next few days. Of most importance is learning how to do the tours of the Blackfriars theatre. We have a weighty tome to memorize (although we can use cue cards), but once that's done we're pretty much on a regular schedule. The weather has been lovely - in the high 60s/low 70s yesterday and today. So, there it is - home.
The gig at VMI last night was quite funky. We had not done Richard III since Platteville, back on March 9, and so we had to dust the rust off. The space at VMI was completely makeshift, a large open ballroom, and there was no room backstage, so we had to do the neutral walk thing to the kitchen, which served as the dressing room. At one point one of the platforms in the most upstage row gave way, almost collapsing, and Tyler (corrected 4/4/06) had to go out and fix it up. We were all a little skittish after that, I think. The stage was not very deep, so we had to adjust on the fly with spacing and such. On the whole the performance was serviceable, but not much more. Too much rust for one run-through to dust off, I think. The audience was a mix of cadets and civilians, and they seemed to take it all in. VMI does this as part of their first-year educational curriculum, and Alan, the English professor who organizes all this, always brings the troupe in for this program. It appears, though, that the fund which pays for this is becoming thin. I hope he manages to keep it going.
I did manage to take in a few ceremonies while there. The lowering of the colors at 5:00PM featured the firing of the cannon - a loud boom indeed. I think I have it recorded on my camera. I also caught a little bit of the cadets marching off to dinner in full formation. VMI has been around since 1839, and it just seemed weird to see the name of Stonewall Jackson in the background as the US flag was lowered.
Prior to this stop we traveled to Western Carolina State University in Cullowhee, NC. We traveled on Monday, did two shows on Tuesday (I did a workshop as well), and traveled back on Wednesday. Monday night after we got settled in, I went with Jessica and Andrew for some Chinese food, and it was really quite good. We got a story about this place: apparently the restaurant had been robbed and the owner shot to death a few weeks back. The whole community rallied around the family to support them, and in return the restaurant is throwing a free buffet day for the city tomorrow (April 1). Both shows went very well, especially the evening performance (Much Ado), which was very well attended - about 450 people. They had actually closed their club section but re-opened it because of the attendance. And there was this one guy sitting dead center in the second-to-last row whose full grey hair and beard totally surrounded his face. He sure enjoyed himself. Tyler said he looked like Walt Whitman.
WCU is actually quite a lovely campus, and Andrew, Sarah and I got to stay at the University Guest House, a beautiful old stone house with deep oak interiors and some 1950s furniture. I grabbed the downstairs bedroom while Sarah and Andrew each had a bedroom upstairs. There was a back porch as well, where I spent some time sucking on a cigar after Tuesday's show and meditating on one wandering star peeking through the trees. Andrew bought some groceries and we had a nice breakfast of eggs, juice, coffee and ham on Wednesday morning (although Andrew was getting a bit sick and phlegmy due to the overheating of the house). The view was quite nice; mountains in the distance, the campus down at the bottom of the hill. Apparently this part of NC is big into retirees, and I breezed through a little booklet featuring all these retirement locations within 40 miles of Asheville, NC. Cullowhee apparently has that "earthy crunchy old hippies" reputation (although I did not see any other hippies around), and if the bakery we spent time in between shows on Tuesday is any indication, I could believe it. I had some coffee and a sticky bun while in there, and it was good! I spent time fixing Andrew's computer (he had captured a little worm), but did not get to spend as much time as I would have liked because of the workshop. I did get to talk to one of the acting teachers before the workshop, and unfortunately the theatre program there is suffering from a lack of students and dwindling attendance at plays. But they do have an unusual situation in that their Musical Theatre program is in the music department and not in the theatre department. So they may have to downgrade their acting BFA to a BA, and lose some jobs. Too bad, as the location of the college is so ideal and a nice place to live. Daniel and I had a chat about the possibility he may return sometime to open his performing arts center there, and he even offered me a job! I could be sort of a wandering artistic consultant, pulling down a small salary to supplement my retirement. He has my number!
So that's it for now. At some point I will try to digest the tour and write a little about it. I do know one thing - I will miss the traveling. Touring may not be the most ideal way to travel, as you do lose a lot of independence and you can be sort of cooped up, unable to enjoy where you're at. But I did like seeing all these venues and colleges and traveling through this really beautiful country we live in. I've come to appreciate the south more than at any time in my life, and hope to come back through as soon as I can to really get into the parks and the cities without the necessity of having to go to "work." Wouldn't touring be great if you didn't have to do shows?? Wow! -TWL