Life on a Traveling Stage: The Glamor(ish)
Hand-painted gold tap heels. Ruffly bedazzled bikinis and hand beaded dresses dripping with sequins. Hats, gloves, props, a boa, a scarf. These make up my uniform. I don’t get casual Fridays.
A black, transportable deck marked with glow tape and spacing numbers, lined with velvety curtained wings and occasionally cut with giant hand-painted drops that fly from the ceiling. Facing out into thousands of pairs of eyes and clapping hands that take in my high kicks and high notes like they take in a movie on Netflix. This is my office.
A mirror bound by a square of hot light bulbs. A black and yellow tackle box full of hair pins, wig caps, makeup brushes, and toiletries. A white laundry bag with tights and show undies and a pink towel. These are the tools of my job. These and a memorized 2.5 hour block of sheet music, lines, and choreography I keep fresh in my consciousness.
The job requires interesting skills: one-handed undoing of quick-rig shoes, confident daily eyelash application, endless pin curling, smiling through mistakes, goofy dances and chatter to boost morale in the wings, the art of the not-too-heavy time step to both achieve the classic style and save my feet from the bunions and bruises of an 8-show week.
There are unique challenges too: getting accustomed to the semi-regular pain of a dig-and-scratch pin in my blonde wig or a skin-in-zipper catch at the back of a super-tight dress, breathing through the heartburn of eating too close to show time, fighting to not break character when someone falls or forgets their line, adjusting to a new theatre every few days, 10 hour bus rides, remembering my phone charger all the 100’s of times I leave one hotel for another, keeping the show fresh and my spirit intact within a traveling social/work bubble, oh and patiently explaining to ever-skeptical non-performer friends and family that my work is truly fulfilling and worthwhile. (“But…are you sure?”)*.
Then there’s the ‘home life.’ As I type this I am cooking my lunch in a beat-up rice cooker, staring at a blue suitcase overflowing with crumpled (but semi-organized) clothes, half cross-legged on my cozy hotel bed. My day involves endless prioritizing: an online acting class, a vocal warmup, journaling, workouts and body care (cold showers/self-massage), agent submissions and audition lookups. Where am I going to live after tour? What should I prep for my next audition? What do I need for a good show tonight (protein, strategically timed meals, coffee, water)? Who do I want to talk to (everyone, and no one)? Am I working as hard as I could be?
There’s a lot of deep breathing and checking in with myself.
All of this might sound crazy, and writing it out reminds me of the craziest realization of it all: I wouldn’t trade any of it.
I wouldn’t trade the journey or the missteps or the toughest days of tour/performer life. Propelled by the indescribable energy of the stage and renewed every day by the challenges and possibilities of show biz, I am living out my dream and there is no end in sight.
No end to what can be achieved.
No end to the places I can go.
No end to the people I can work with, or bring a little joy to.
In the past year alone, I have camped on remote island beaches in Malaysia and Thailand; danced and sung with current and emerging stars of the business; seen 5 coasts on 2 continents/historical monuments in a dozen cities/10+ waterfalls/36 friends or family members from afar; eaten some of the best food of my life in places I had never dreamt of visiting; afforded side trips to Vegas, Kelowna, Guatemala, Los Angeles, Nashville, and Panama City Beach; and been paid to perform happily in over 250 shows for upwards of 250,000 people.
So, to answer the question* above: a resounding YES, I’m sure. I’m sure that this work is worthwhile and fulfilling and exactly what I want to be doing now and as far into the future as can be seen.
Come visit me at my office at any time.