I’m five days into a two-week tour with the North Carolina Dance Theatre. They’ve choreographed a ballet to some of my songs, and I perform them on stage while they dance. This show debuted in 2005, toured for six weeks in 2006, and is winding up next week. It has been a whole different touring thing for me. And I’ve loved every minute of it. I’m writing this from La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Here are a few snapshots of this tour so far:
– Edna Mae is the tour director and organizer of all things timely and efficient. When she was going through security at the Charlotte Airport, they took away her sliced apples and carrots, claiming that these items had too much water content. (Edna’s theory is that they had taken away someone else’s ranch dressing and peanut butter, and they took her stuff so they could have a snack.)
– We performed for an almost-full-house at Viterbo University‘s Black Box Theatre last night, and the crowd was the wildest we’ve had since Shepherdstown, WV. They were on their feet by the last dance. We got a great review in the paper this morning. It was a fun night. Lots of good energy on stage.
– One thing you might not know about a show like this: the lighting and tech crew are the reason it happens at all. They get to the theatre on the morning of the show and work the entire day. They spend the whole show talking to each other on headsets. They make the lights sit, roll-over, and play dead. They make it work. It’s an art unto itself, and quite fascinating to watch.
– Nate is the stage manger who runs all this stuff. He’s the slightest bit high-strung.
– Sasha, one of the male dancers, found me in the sewing workshop in the basement of the theatre the other night. I had unplugged the ethernet cable of the only computer I could find, and I was on-line listening in RealTime to the UNC basketball game on my laptop. He pointed out that no matter where the company went, and no matter what we were doing, that I always managed to find a way to get on line. This is true.
– A tour like this involves either being completely frenetic, stepping into the spotlight with your heart racing, doing rehearsals, fixing sound foibles, or repairing something as fast as you can — or having absolutely nothing to do but wait until you’re on stage, or wait until the bus arrives, or just wait because you have to wait. It’s a strange back and forth.
– Nate and I were talking about this lifestyle as we sat in front of the hotel this afternoon. He was about to go meet some college students from the stage crew, and talk with them about what it’s like to do this for a living. I asked him what he says to college students about this stuff. He held up his coffee in one hand and his cigarettes in the other. He said, “These are the only two things you will ever need.” (Now you know why life expectancy isn’t so high in the entertainment business.)
– My husband put me on speaker cell phone tonight so I could talk to my animals, and my dog spent five minutes walking around the house looking for me.
– The dancers call these tours “Flat Meat Tours.” The contract rider for the NCDT requests meals with soups and salads and raw fruits and veggies. We usually walk into the green room to find bread and “flat meat.” There is much discussion about flat meat. Last year on the tour, I wrote a song called “Flat Meat.”
– I took a cab to the YMCA at 6am the first morning of the tour in Edwardsville, IL. The woman who signed me in at the Y had quite a Wisconsin accent. And she was “soooo distressed” that I had spent “soooo much for a cab.” So, while I worked out she solicited people to drive me back to my hotel. Which is how I ended up riding in a Honda Element with Bill, who has recently retired from the Air Force. He seemed a little confused as to what the hell I was even doing there. And no, he didn’t want free tickets to go to the ballet that night.
– Our bus driver is the quintessential bus driver. It’s like he came out of Central Casting. (Last year’s bus driver used to shout obscenities at his own GPS system in a loud Texas accent. We’d end up going miles out of the way only to have to turn back around because he had “intuitions” that the GPS “didn’t know what the hell it was talking about.” Edna Mae almost lost her mind.)
– There is a stray black young cat outside of my hotel room. I’ve watched her both mornings. She’s a hoot. (I’ll probably end up going to the food co-op and buying her something ridiculously expensive and spend tomorrow morning trying to convince her to eat it.)
– We get back on the tour bus and go to Kansas on Wednesday. We have to fly to another venue on Saturday morning, so I’ll be sure to make sure Edna Mae has emptied her pockets of all of her organic matter snack plate weaponry.