Staunton VA - This will undoubtedly be the last post I'll write from Staunton. After writing this, I have to get down and start packing my stuff. We begin the final weekend of shows tonight, starting with Planet and ending Sunday after noon with Planet. Then I get checked out of my room, and early Monday morning, it's homeward bound.
The past few days have been filled with activities which are all signposts of the approaching conclusion. Tuesday I spent the day completing much of the writing I had left to accomplish. I am trying as hard as I can to get rid of any food I have left over. One of the things I had to write out was my exit questionnaire for AD Jim Warren. We have the choice of filling out the questionnaire, a sit-down interview, or both. I chose to do the questionnaire only, much as I like rapping with the head dude, because I can better organize my thoughts that way. I also finished getting all my past posts from this blog into a Word document so I can hand it in as part of my "historical record" for the tour. The final form won't be done until I write this post and a concluding post from home, then I'll get it into final form and send it in. I also took in a dress rehearsal of MacBeth by the resident troupe. On Tuesday night the troupe did a workshop for some middle-school kids who were actually quite bright. I started out the workshop by asking anyone if they knew a line of Shakespeare. I expected maybe one reply, so I was pretty surprised when ten hands shot up in the air, and all these kids had whole monologues they had memorized. Turned out they had been working with the Bard in class somewhere and were quite well-versed in WS' plays. The evening was a little chaotic and unorganized, and I wish I had known a little more about the students themselves, but I think they and their parents had a pretty good time.
Tuesday night was a wonderful evening spent "on the town," such as it is. There is a local bar called Marino's, and every Tuesday night is "bluegrass night," when many of the local bluegrass musicians come down to the bar and simply jam on old bluegrass standards. Mandolins, banjos, guitars, upright bass, washtub bass, fiddle - it's all there. The bar fills up with locals of all stripes as well as many young people. Some musicians actually come from over 100 miles at times to take part in the jam. Our acting companies have taken to going down there almost every Tuesday night, and it's great fun because it's so authentic. There are usually two jams taking place, one in the front room (the "lunch counter") and one in the back room (21 and over only). There's a woman who must be about 80 or so who is one of the two waitresses. I've been there a number of times since returning in April and also late into the rehearsal period last summer when Daniel first discovered it and told me about it (if there's something happening musically Daniel will know about it). Over the past few sessions some of us have worked up the cohones to join in the jam. Chris brought his harmonica set and ended up playing the harps. Daniel has been bringing the concertina and is now the squeezebox player. I've brought a set of spoons and play spoon percussion for the songs (new nickname - "Tommy TwoSpoons"). So on top of listening we also get to jam a bit. I brought my guitar but never played it because bluegrass rhythms are actually hard to strum, and I can't play any lead breaks at all. But the whole evening is a good time.
Usually the jam ends by 11:00 PM, so after Marino's we continued on to Luigi's, which is a pizza joint/bar and is essentially the "after hours" bar in Staunton. By midnight in Staunton just about every other bar stops admitting people inside and serving booze, except Luigi's. Tuesday was "Open Mike" night, and a number of the troupe members signed up to play. Greg led off the evening with his tunes, although we were a tad late getting there for his complete set. Then Chris took the stage, but he was a bit worn out after Marino's, and the sound system was going a bit haywire, so his set was a little short. Then Kevin busted out some of his tunes, but he had to calm down a house band that wanted to play behind him but couldn't follow his chord changes on his songs. But he did get a good version of "Gorgeous Lies," a great song we've been playing during the R3 pre-show. He was backed up on vocals by Olivia and Sarah, and Chris on the harmonica. Then a young lady named Brooke did two numbers, and she had a fine voice.
But I think the star of the evening had to be Sarah. She got up there and began to play a few numbers, and the house band was easily capable of staying with her, as her songs were pretty standard 1-4-5 stylings. She did a tune called "Chocolate Jesus" to start with, and she really cranked it out. You travel all year with a person and you think you've seen everything, but I had never heard Sarah sound so hot as while she was up there singing away. From sultry to belt blues, she was terrific. There was one really funny moment during that first number. The stage at Luigi's in in the front of the bar, and actually splits the front entrance in half. So while she's singing, a fairly intoxicated but very happy black dude makes his entrance by dancing through the doorway and playing to the crowd with a lot of soul. I flashed back to Chicago and Sarah's evening with bluesman Lindsey Alexander. It was some scene. Sarah did two more numbers, equally as good, and she had two different guitar players who could play a lick or two. She got a great hand from the crowd and a lot of love from all of us there. She also called up Olivia to premiere her brand new song Stone Hard Heart, which Olivia in country-western style dedicated to "her baby's daddy." It was a great tune and very funny - and Olivia can also really belt out a tune! A pretty great evening all around.
So since Wednesday morning it's been pretty much all business. We did the last matinee on Wed., had the last Q&A last night, information about strike has been posted, people are making arrangements to check out, I did my last tour yesterday. Tyler has been learning his lines in the dressing room, and occasionally I've been helping him. We busted on him pretty bad during the Q&A last night about that. After my last dig he went offstage, got a drumstick, and threatened to hit me over the head with it. A very light-hearted Q&A it was. I made a copy of my DVD for eveyone, and still have some production work to do over the remainder of the summer to make a better one than the cheesy commercial product available from Flickr. But I think I'd better wrap this up right now, because there's still much to do today before my family gets here later to see the shows this weekend. It should'nt take long to pack, but getting started is what it's all about. So I will see you all next time from the comfort of my recliner - that is, if I can tear myself away from all the Yankee games I'll be watching on TV! -TWL