Since going for a stab at my dream, life on the road's been exciting and exasperating, engaging and enraging, inspiring and insipid, but at the end of the day I get to go on stage and entertain. That's my wandering star, brass ring, and holy grail and there's nothing better.
It's when a travel day turns into a long night with a hotel in the middle of nowhere and we've arrived too late so nothing nearby is open that I've minded. But then there've also been longer days with less sleep, cramped legs and raw nerves that were much better because, after all that, I got to be on stage. Crazy? Maybe. But I'm an actor now, well into my fifties, and I've been able to skirt honest work for over a decade. I guess they're right, "It's Never Too Late". Now if I could get a part in the play of the same name...
I recently booked four months of work in a row: a sit down in AZ then a tour that would rehearse out of Minneapolis. I found myself with some downtime before those hectic months started and it’s great to be able to plan ahead. I had a box ready to be mailed to me c/o the producer with items I didn't need to schlep on a flight to AZ but that I'd need on a bus and for cold weather. I even recycled that box with some things I wouldn’t need outside a desert climate.
As is my habit, I was early for the bus and started setting up my enclave. Contractually, I had two seats and the above space to myself and a seat in the front third of the bus. I exchanged intros and pleasantries with our driver and went back to my work, but he stood staring for a bit.
"My oh my," he drawled, "Y'all sure's hell done this before".
I guess I had. When I got into pursuing acting full time I'd not yet hit forty-five. My better-off friends were buying sports cars but my midlife crisis put me on the stage. The ample-sized, late model Buick in my driveway is good enough for me.
My first gigs were in regional, repertory, summer and dinner theatres where I stayed anywhere from six to fifteen weeks. When I landed my first tour I got in touch with some road warrior colleagues who were glad to let me know how much smarter they were than I and, thanks to them, I was much readier than I'd have been on my own. So thanks, guys for helping me get started. Much they said I still do, but sorry, I can't pull off the gym sweats as bus wear. I look like the Michelin Man in PJs.
If only I'd been smart enough to ask what not to do! I learned that the hard way. But I’ve ironed out most of my mistakes and after spending years on the road and hundreds of hours on tour buses, I’m a well-oiled traveling machine. So maybe I might be able to help here? The road, like lots of this crazy biz is what we make it. And it’s a lot more fun to have a friend along for the ride.