|Don’t let this be your overweight luggage pile!|
“Any place I hang my hat is home…” The famous lyrics to the old Harold Arlen song ring especially true for actors, who like Broadway gypsies, are often uprooted from their homelands and thrust into parts unknown. They leave behind the comforts of their familiar environments, say goodbye to friends, family, and pets at a moment’s notice, and bring only the clothes on their backs and the essentials in their suitcases, all in the pursuit of a chance to perform.
In the last four days, I traveled with a tribe of female dancers to Buffalo, Toledo, and Cleveland, putting on five performances of Little People, Live! Our show venues included the Fisher Price Headquarters and a giant concert amphitheater in Ohio.
|Tour life allows you to perform on stages of all shapes and sizes, like this amphitheater.|
When one of my fellow tour buddies heard that I was writing a blog about touring tips, he said, “You’re writing a blog with packing tips? I seem to remember your bag weighing 80 pounds!” He has a point. However, having learned from overpacking and other travel faux pas, I offer up this guide to my fellow world-weary travelers.
Pack for all kinds of weather.
Layers are your friend! I made the mistake this time around of packing only summer clothes, as it is a balmy August here in NYC. I forgot that upstate weather is much cooler, and that theaters are often over air-conditioned. No matter the season, be sure to pack lots of extra socks, sweaters, and coats!
Pack evening wear.
Mostly, you will be in rehearsal clothes or comfortable travel ensembles. However, your boss might suddenly appear in a random city to take the whole cast out for an expensive company steak and lobster dinner, or you might be cajoled into going bar hopping and dancing. I recall a karaoke bar in Idaho where all of the patrons were wearing their very best t-shirts while singing country tunes. I showed up in fishnets and a little black dress. The residents exclaimed, “You’re not from around these parts, I reckon.” I was the belle of the ball that evening, enjoying many a free drink. Remember, you want to look good when you are representing NYC!
|Bring at least one sensible pair of dress shoes. These may be less than sensible.|
Pack a bathing suit.
Sure, it might be the middle of winter, but you never know when your hotel might have a pool or better yet, an indoor hot tub! You don’t want to be that person who has to wear a bra and underwear in the water. Underwear is see-through when wet. That’s embarrassing.
Pack snacks and non-perishables.
You do not know when you will pass a convenience store or a vending machine. You need to keep your energy up in between shows. Always stock up on fruit and Balance bars and snacks like popcorn.
Skip the junk food.
Tours are notorious for diets consisting of fast food. Remember, you can always pick the healthier options. Eat the salad at McDonald’s or order the yogurt and fruit at the restaurant. Carbs will always be available, but if you indulge every day, your costume will soon need to be let out, and you may not be traveling with a wardrobe crew.
|The occasional sinful splurge is okay, but don’t make a habit of it.|
Stay connected at home.
Do not rely on hotels to have WiFi. Make sure you have a way to get e-mail, wherever you are. NYC will forget about you if you don’t stay connected. Keep submitting for auditions while you are on the road and continue to let casting directors and agents know when you will be back in town. Or, maybe you just want to be able to Skype with your cat.
Respect and get privacy whenever possible.
Use headphones. You’ll need to drown out the voices of other people’s drama and whatever music they play in the car. If you aren’t a fan of inane pop music, turn up your iPod and rock out to obscure show tunes. (Murder Ballad is my album of choice at the moment.)
Don’t talk on your phone in the van or on the bus, either. Everyone can hear you, and you will probably want to gossip about the other people on your tour. The walls have ears.
Find alone time.
The down side to touring is that you do everything as a group. It’s important to find a balance between being social and having privacy. Take a walk, read a book, make sure you leave some time to yourself to collect your thoughts. It will make you a more friendly person when you need to do group activities.
See the sights but stay in budget
If you have downtime, look around! Check out the aquariums, the museum exhibits, or the dueling piano bars in Minneapolis. Grab some hotel brochures and have some fun! You can sit on Facebook in your room when you return home.
You may suddenly feel wealthy with your daily travel per diem, but it goes quickly. If you buy too much on your trip, you might have to pay the overweight fee for your suitcase upon your return. Set a daily or weekly budget and try to stick to it.
|Shopping in San Francisco is dangerous, when on a budget.|
Be accountable, especially when booze is involved.
Don’t go home with anyone unless someone else knows about it. That way, if you are missing for your call time the next day, someone will know where to find you.
Know your limits. Let’s just say, I once succumbed to peer pressure in San Francisco during a celebratory martini party. The next morning was a two-show day which involved me doing cartwheels across the stage. Looking green, I asked if I could modify the choreography. Stage management was displeased.
Don’t fall in love with a cast member.
Been there, done that. Not a good idea. If things go badly, it’s bad for everyone. Plus, you still have to see each other on stage, every day, all day, and then sit side by side in the van for hours at a time.
|Be civil and professional to your cast mates at all times. Your tour will be over before you know it!|
Feel free to offer your own touring tips in the comments below!