Kids Say the Darndest Things…

This week I’ll set sail to Treasure Island for the last time. Time is a funny thing. On one hand, it seems like forever since I was in Missoula ringing in the new year; yet, these past five months have flown by. As I reflect on this first tour, I am flooded with memories of heartwarming moments, and, of course, some hilarious gems. Please enjoy these anecdotes/quotes from children across America.



One week there was a little boy who, for some reason, was convinced he was being cut. He ran to his mom, so my tour partner, Jacob, had to convince him to come back to the circle and finish the audition. He was cast as a seagull (the youngest kids who are adorable and lead the way to Treasure Island), and after we dismissed from the audition, he came up to Jacob and said, “My whole life I have dreamed of being a seagull.” His WHOLE life. Of SEVEN YEARS! There you go, ladies and gentlemen, Jacob and I make life-long dreams come true.

The seagulls don’t have rehearsal until Wednesday, but he was around the theatre the next day because he had a sibling at rehearsal. Before rehearsal began, he walked up to the stage and said, “One more day,” as if he were preparing for battle.

Finally, Wednesday rolled around, and he was a shining star. I put him as the line leader, and before each seagull scene, I would remind him what to do. He would nod, and summon all of the focus a 7-year-old can muster, and prepare for the cue.

In between the two performances on Saturday, we were touching up makeup. During this time, we sometimes like to give the kids an opportunity to give compliments to their fellow cast. It was almost time for the show, so we needed to end compliment hour to give instructions for what to do after the show. All of a sudden, this boy had these giant crocodile tears. I took him out into the hall to figure out the issue, and he informed me, between sobs, that he didn’t get the chance to compliment the cast (even though he definitely had already said something). Being a softie, I told him after Jacob’s announcements, we might have time for one more compliment. It basically turned into an Oscar’s speech of him thanking everyone for making this the best week ever, and everyone was so amazing, and he loved everything, etc, etc, etc. Oh, that boy. I wish he had a social media I could follow so I can see him turn into a star.


Another week during compliment time, the kids once again turned it into their Oscar “thank you’s,” rather than saying, “Sally did a great job!” One girl raised her hand and said, “I’d just like to thank the audience. Without the audience, we would have no one to perform for. Really, they’re the reason we’re doing this. As long as we make people happy, we’ve done our jobs.” Or something like that. I think she went on several more sentences. We didn’t have outro music available.


In addition to teaching Treasure Island, we get to do workshops with kids who may or may not be in the cast. We do various exercises about different elements of acting. One of the exercises involves select students standing in front of the group, answering questions about their characters. The catch is that they don’t know who their characters are, but they figure it out based on the questions asked.

One student was Batman, and a student asked, “Why are you black?”

Another time a student was Olaf from Frozen. “How does it feel having two balls instead of three?” I tried to rephrase the question, saying something about proportions. Whatever I said, I didn’t make it much better. We tried to move the exercise along, but not before a kid managed to blurt out, “I thought he was talking about testicles!” Great… thanks for that.

A different exercise involves one of us being the ruler of a kingdom. The students are the subjects and must make bold choices to earn our favor. They are then either welcomed to stand next to the throne or dismissed. One time I was the ruler for a workshop with a high school theatre class. Someone came up and sang really high, and I dismissed them. Jacob informed the court that the Great Samantha prefers lower voices. A teenage boy walked up and said, “Oh, Great Samantha, I heard you like sultry voices.” He then got down on one knee and PROPOSED! He didn’t earn my favor because I didn’t want a lawsuit. However, I wish I could’ve rewarded him for his bold choice, which was the point of the exercise. 


One dress rehearsal when Jacob was Long John Silver and I was the director, Jacob had his costume on and I was wearing my denim jumpsuit. The kids were excited to see Jacob’s costume, knowing they would soon be getting their costumes as well. They also liked my costume, but they couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to be. A nurse? They simply couldn’t understand that it was a real-life outfit.

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Said jumpsuit, for your reference. 


“Are you married?”

“No.”

“Are you engaged?”

“No.”

“Do you have a boyfriend?”

“No.”

“That’s really sad…..”

(These children should make friends with my grandma)


“Do you two have kids?”

“Haha, no. We wouldn’t be very good parents if we had children since we’re in a different town every week.”

“Just get a babysitter!”

“No, I don’t think that would work out very well.”

Cue a different child:

“So, what do you do with your kids?”


On a Thursday:

“What’s your name? I remember that it was really long on your name tag….”


“Okay, you two sit right there so I can take a picture of you. Okay, now we need to take a selfie.” – A 5-year-old with her iPhone


This story isn’t exactly funny, but it was one of those moments that didn’t feel like real life because everything was spiraling out of control. I was teaching the group of seagulls, and all of a sudden one of them had a nose bleed. I asked the assistant director to watch the kids while I ran to get our contact for the week. When I returned with the contact, it looked like a crime scene. The child had wiped the blood everywhere, and it had spread to the floor. The contact quickly rushed the child out, and I was trying to move the rest of the kids away from the blood. What’s that sound? Oh, a child just threw up at the sight of blood. Now, there was a blood pile, and a puke pile, and a group of frightened children. I moved them out into the hallway to try to salvage any chance of saving the rehearsal. Oh my word.


In order to teach a show in a week, Jacob and I teach separate groups and then piece the show together later. One day, we reconvened for announcements before dismissal. I asked Jacob’s group how their rehearsal went. “Great! Fun! I loved it!” etc. etc.

Jacob asked my group.

“BORING!”



In case this blog post has you feeling like that poor group of over-worked children, I will wrap it up by saying that I will be boring kids for the next twelve months. That’s right, Treasure Island is coming to an end, but I will soon be traveling to infinity and beyond with Gulliver’s Travels… in Space! Forever grateful for the greatest job in the world.

Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy…

… but let’s spend a very concentrated amount of time with each other, and then see you never, maybe.

On the road again. I began a contract with Missoula Children’s Theatre on December 27 (and am just now getting around to writing a blog post). Anyway, I rang in the new year with what an outsider would call a complete group of strangers – the other tour actor/directors training for the job. Yet, as we were all squished into a hotel room hugging each other and wishing one another a Happy New Year, there was so much love in the room.

One of the people I hugged New Year’s Eve was my roommate, Christina, a fellow tour actor/director. She and I instantly clicked. We would finish a full 10-hour day of work and then, though we were exhausted, would stay up late chatting, crying, and giggling — like we were young girls back in the days of sleepovers. Finally, one of us would cut the other off in the middle of conversation and say, “It’s time for bed!” We would go to sleep maybe ten minutes later. Maybe. Actors have a gift for bonding quickly because we love to study people (and talk about ourselves). It’s also a necessity because we don’t have the luxury of being with our family or long-time friends, so we have the responsibility of filling that void for one another.

Training ended and I drove to Alabama, and she and her tour partner went to California. We’ll see each other when we return our trucks to Missoula, but after that, who knows? (Just kidding, Christina. We’re going to be next door neighbors and I’ll knock on your door when I need to borrow a cup of flour.)

Speaking of the end of training, that marked the beginning of the 32-hour drive from Montana to Alabama. Just me, my tour partner, Jacob, and our truck. Our friendship began during training, and as we drove across the country together, opening up about our lives. I was struck that in just two weeks I perhaps knew him more than most would learn about a co-worker in a year. Maybe I’m wrong, as I don’t have much experience with more traditional jobs, but I’m guessing that normal everyday banter doesn’t include your favorite music, guilty pleasure snack, or details about your childhood.

For those of you unfamiliar with my job, my tour partner and I travel to a different town each week and teach a different group of students Treasure Island. It may sound mundane to do the same show week after week. However, each week a new group of students transforms it to be something entirely unique. As I say goodbye to the students when they turn in their costumes after the final show, it means so much to think how far they have come in just a week. Sometimes I look at some of the younger kids and wonder what they will be like as teenagers or young adults. Many of them may not remember much of the week, but for some it may spark a passion. Either way, I feel lucky to have been involved in what is hopefully a fun, enlightening experience for them.

When we’re in each town, we either stay in a hotel or a family opens up their home to us for the week. My own family has hosted three different exchange students, several baseball players, and then there are my brothers’ friends, who always seem to end up on our basement floor. From my experience hosting, I know the importance of host-guest interaction. So as a guest, I don’t want to just go to my room; rather, I want to take advantage of this small window as life intersects with these people. So far, we’ve stayed at just two different homes, but both experiences have had a deep impact, resulting in a nearly choked up goodbye.

Tour life could be very lonely. There’s only one person that you consistently see, and the majority of the people you interact with are under 15. Yet, by allowing myself to be vulnerable and really connect with these people that I’ll likely never see again, I don’t feel alone. Goodbyes are hard, and sometimes it’s tempting to not open yourself up to such short-term relationships. Why have a conversation with someone who’s basically a stranger and is only in your life for a week when you could instead call home? Maintaining existing relationships is important, but so is living in the present. The heart has no boundaries – it continues to expand with each new connection. I am so lucky that every week I meet so many beautiful, colorful, interesting souls. And, who knows? Maybe somehow the universe will find a way for our paths to cross again.

New Acting Gig!

Blog time! It’s been awhile, as my children’s theatre contract ended mid-August. I haven’t really had much to say in my BFA blog because I have since been spending some quality time at home saving money and searching for the next acting gig. However, when I started this blog I said that it would tell of adventures during contracts and in between, so here we are. In between.

As I mentioned, I am at home saving money. I have been hired as a server, which is one of the only non-theatre jobs I have had… or so I thought.

Here are the ways I’m using my BFA as a server:

Listening

In the first semester of acting, our professor blew our little freshman minds when he said that one of the most important tools of an actor is listening, rather than our own delivery of lines. It is, of course, important to listen to the customer’s orders and make sure that it is right. I also “listen” to body language to know whether the table wants me to interact with them or give them their freaking food and go away.

Makeup

In serving, like acting, it does matter what you look like. I have never worn makeup more consistently than I have for this job. So far, so good.

Illusion of the First Time

We talk about making scenes fresh so that it doesn’t sound rehearsed, but that we are truly saying these lines for the first time. I haven’t been serving that long, but I’ve noticed it is already a challenge to bring this freshness when I introduce myself to a new table and go through all of the usual questions. I try to tailor my “lines” based on the responses of the different guests. Also known as being a real person having a conversation, rather than a robot.

More importantly, I’m getting really good at running into people I haven’t seen in a long time and updating them on my life. Some people are very concerned that I have decided to drop out of school because they don’t know I graduated in May. They are then concerned (or pretending not to be) that I am at home serving. Don’t worry, I’ll be okay. I just don’t want to move to Los Angeles with no money.

Improv

Going along with the old saying, “the customer is always right,” I’ve learned to go with the flow and be a problem solver. For any special requests, I respond with, “yes, and….”

Acting

Here are some of my best acting moments:

  • Hiding the judgment when people order incredibly fattening meals and then need about 7 more sides of ranch. *TANGENT* I never knew how obsessed people are with sauces. Why do you need to dip ranch in everything? I do not understand! One server had a man ask for an entire bowl of ranch for his cheeseburger. Oh, absolutely, have some liquid fat for your fat. Whatever. I love ice cream, so I shouldn’t judge.
  • Acting happy to serve the man who came in with a free appetizer card and ordered an appetizer and water
  • When guests ask for recommendations from the menu on things I have never eaten
  • When I first started and actually had no idea what I was doing
  • When people hear I’m an actor and then try to give me advice on jobs I should look for or say things like, “Have you ever thought about New York?” New York? What’s that? Never heard of it.

Objective

Tips.

I am so #blessed to add this credit to my résumé. Please come out and see the show!*

 

*In all seriousness, despite my sarcastic remarks, I am thankful for this job and am actually having a lot of fun 🙂

 

Acting While Directing

Life with a BFA – the title of my blog. Four years ago, I was getting ready to move into my freshman year dorm, meet a whole bunch of strangers who would turn in to my best friends, and learn that I knew nothing about acting. Acting class consisted of learning about objective, really digging into who my character is, developing an inner monologue, etc. Throughout my training, I studied really complex characters, analyzing their every thought and back story. It was a long way from my audition into the program, when I broke down my monologue by thinking “it would sound convincing if I said it that way.”

Fresh out of my university bubble, I have been given this unique challenge of acting and directing children simultaneously. Every week, we teach an entire show to a new group of kids. Here’s the breakdown:

Monday – 2 hours of audition, 2 hours of teaching one group of the cast everything they need to know for the show

Tuesday – 2 hours of teaching a new group of the cast, 2 hours of another group

Wednesday -The groups that I’ve taught + the groups that Kevin has taught unite, and we have a 4 hour rehearsal to put the entire show together

Thursday – 2 run-throughs of the show

Friday – Get kids fitted into costume, dress rehearsal, dinner break, get them in makeup, and finally a performance

Saturday – Performance #2

So much of my energy goes into making sure that these kids learn the material, remember everything, and, of course, are quiet backstage. Directing is definitely the main part of this job. During rehearsals, my inner monologue during my solo is not about trying to convince Pinocchio to plant his money into a magic field in hopes of stealing his money. Instead, my mind is on the vermin: “TURN – TURN NOW! WHY CAN’T YOU REMEMBER THAT?! SEMI-CIRCLE!!!!!!!!!!!! NO, DON’T SQUAT YET!”

My very first week, my own lines were still fresh in my head and our cast was small in number AND in age. Kevin and I were improv masters for that week, as there were just too many lines for those little ones. There’s one particular scene where I say a line, praising Pinocchio, saying he has “grace, poise, and statuosity.” After, different vermin have lines basically restating mine. The kid who played the head vermin that week was probably 7 or 8. Like I said, a young cast. He couldn’t remember pretty much any of his lines. Because I was so frazzled and I was still new (and likely the scene before had been a train wreck), I somehow jumped over that one line and skipped ahead in the scene. Later, he asked me backstage, “Samantha, when do I get to say, ‘Yeah, grace’?” Bless his heart, there was ONE LINE that he remembered, and I RUINED IT FOR HIM!!! It broke my heart to confess, “Oh… you don’t get to say that line. That scene already happened.” Since then, my lines have been correct so that I don’t destroy the dreams of small children.

Our scripts were mailed to us prior to training week. We were told to come in with our lines memorized so that during training, we could focus on learning the rest of the show. I did my usual actor homework and made all of these plans in my head about the Fox and motives and all of that. Halfway through this tour, I remembered that and chuckled a little. Then, however, I remembered the main note that I received at my freshman year assessment. I tend to over-analyze things, so my professors wanted me to continue to analyze prior to a performance, but then trust that all of the homework I did will be there and simply act. I think it took a bunch of kids distracting me from my own head to really let loose and trust my acting, even if it is children’s theatre. Because, I realized, I have been simply acting. Yes, the dialogue and subtext is a lot simpler than Chekhov, but still…. using that BFA for good.

Tonight is Thursday, which means that tomorrow I will once again be in director mode for the majority of the day, but by 7:00, I will share that opening night with those kids. I will put on my costume, and I get to perform.

I realize that the audience consists of parents coming to see their children and so much of my energy during the week is focused on making said children look good. Still, I share the stage with them. I get to sing a solo and most weeks no one applauds because the parents are probably tired and also because Pinocchio has the next line and he usually goes straight to it. I’m not offended – mostly I’m relieved that Pinocchio knows his line! Last week, however, the audience applauded and I had a moment of gratitude as I realized what a gift it is that every single week I get to sing and act and be silly for a different community. After the show, one of my sweet little “spirits of the enchanted forest” came up to me and said, “Samantha, good job. You’re a really good actor.” I think that’s the best compliment I’ve gotten all summer!

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I can’t neglect to mention that I was lucky enough to one week have audience members there for ME! Much love to my mom, brother, and future sister-in-law!

Today at break in between our two run-throughs, one member of the cast was very confused. She said that she knows we’re directors/actors, so she wanted to know if I’m the actor or the director. Then I was very confused because I had just spent the last two hours yelling counts to her choreography and then appearing onstage saying my own lines. Both, little girl. I am both. And I love it.

Living That Tour Life Part 3: Lodging

As I write this, I’m sitting on a lovely wooden lawn chair outside of my motel watching the sunset over Lake Superior, realizing I forgot to put on bug spray.

Pause to go get bug spray.

Ahh, bug spray, my favorite perfume.

Anyway, this perfect writing spot is on the front lawn of my motel for the week. Confession: I have a fear of motels. I prefer entering through a lobby, walking down a hallway, and arriving at my door INSIDE. As a kid, anytime my family stopped somewhere to sleep during a road trip, I would beg my parents to stay at a hotel. I was convinced that all motels were broken into. You literally park your car right outside your door! I mean, come on! THEY KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE (whoever they is). Pretty princess, Samantha, didn’t always get her way at 2AM, and we would have to stay in a motel. Though I was paranoid and terrified, I was comforted knowing that my parents were there to protect me. Or at least to block the invader as I make my epic escape! I kid… sort of.

I’ve joked with Kevin all summer that if we ever stay at a sketchy motel, he will have to stay with me. So far, so good. This is only our second motel. The first was a lodge in a wooded area, so I felt secluded enough; though maybe seclusion should’ve made me more cautious. This week, I have an extra layer of protection with a screen door that locks, which is probably more for bugs than intruders, but it does help me a little. Kevin is also next door so can listen for any signs of scary. If I don’t post anything later on this week, though, please send a search team.

Nevertheless, it is nice that I simply walked out the door and was able to take in this amazing view. Maybe my motel fear can subside for the week.

This blog post isn’t just to talk about this week’s motel, but to share some of the benefits and struggles of living in a new place each week.

Temperatures

I have yet to be in a place with no type of air conditioner (so #blessed for that), but I cannot, for the life of me, ever get the temperature in the room right. Usually when you walk into a fresh hotel room, the A/C is either off completely or blasting cold air. I immediately adjust accordingly to try to make it comfortable, but somehow I always manage to get it to another extreme. How do I get it to a comfortable room temperature? Last week, I was so hot, so I turned on the A/C. The next day my room was completely damp. That was Tuesday, and the rest of the week everything in my room was slightly wet. WHAT DID I DO?!

Another temperature that is tricky is the temperature of the shower. A fellow tour director, Larren, posted a Facebook status that perfectly captures this dilemma:

“Every hotel shower seems to have such a fine line between ‘Hmm this could be a little warmer.’ and ‘Boiling lava, I’m melting, it’s getting hot in here so melt off all my skin, now I’m a lobster.'”

Finally, there’s the temperature of the mini fridge, assuming there is one. I’ve found that the mini fridge is either so cold that my lettuce becomes little frozen treats and my milk is a slushie, or not quite cold enough for the freezer section to keep ice cream solid. Cereal slushies, it is!

The Beds

Mostly, I’ve been lucky to have beds that are fairly comfortable. Sometimes I immediately strip down the comforter that looks like it’s as old as the hotel itself and replace it with my trusty freshman dorm comforter.

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Note the dated comforter that has since been removed

When you live life in a hotel room, you quickly learn that the bed is not just for sleeping. Yes, there is often a little desk with an office chair, but who really wants to sit there? Therefore, the bed is where I sleep, eat, read, and watch endless hours of Netflix.

As nice as a king bed seems, I have determined I much prefer two double beds to one giant bed. First of all, who needs all of that space to sleep? I’m not that big – I’d much rather have room for activities than have that giant bed! Second, two beds are really nice because I can reserve one bed specifically for sleeping and the other bed for everything else. That way, I can eat and not sleep in the crumbs from my breakfast that morning.

Housekeeping

Do Not Disturb. Nothing against housekeepers, but it’s just me, so I don’t need my room cleaned that often. Plus, I don’t want them to judge me for my dirty dishes that are sitting around. I do wish I could be a fly on the wall when they finally do clean my room at the end of the week. They probably can’t figure out why there’s so much orange makeup on my towels.

Though I don’t need their service during my week, I am lucky to have someone else clean for me. Sometimes the kids bring us candy as a treat, so I often leave extra behind in my room as a thank you.

Living Out of a Suitcase

Or two suitcases. Or two suitcases and a cooler and a toiletry bag and bags of food.

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My possessions for the summer vs. Kevin’s possessions for the summer. Sorry, not sorry. 

Whoops. I have a clothes suitcase and a stuff suitcase. I unpack my stuff suitcase every week, which consists of a:

  • tea kettle
  • box of tea
  • George Foreman
  • mugs, silverware, food containers, lunch box, and plates
  • books waiting to be read (they remain packed until it’s their turn)
  • iHome

My clothes, however, stay in my giant suitcase. It used to be that anytime I vacationed anywhere, no matter the length of time, I would unpack to feel at home. When it’s no longer a special occasion and you travel every week, that just seems silly. I don’t mind living out of a suitcase that much, except for a few things.

  1. The clothes that I packed that I have yet to wear. I look at them and think, “Why the crap did I think I would want that this summer?” I resent these items every time I have to carry my insanely heavy suitcase up or down a flight of stairs, which I’m a pro at, by the way.
  2. The clothes that I left behind in Indiana that I miss and am longing for. Fun floral dresses, I’m talking about you.
  3. Everything is always wrinkled. Always. I’ve become very good friends with Downy wrinkle releaser spray. Sometimes the hotel has an iron that I can use (I’ve busted it out a couple times), but not always. Plus, even if there is an iron available, who irons a t-shirt? That’s just silly.
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    If this blog were super popular they’d probably send me some for free, which would be nice because I’m out….

     

Keys

I’m shocked at how many actual keys I’ve been given, rather than the piece of plastic that you scan. I have a bad history with keys. The key to my house I somehow never can manage to open the door with. There may or may not have been a time when I have stood outside my house WITH A KEY, crying because I couldn’t open the door. Luckily, I’ve had better luck with these.

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The sun has now officially set and the light from my laptop is a meeting place for the mosquitoes that do not care that I loaded up with bug spray. I’m headed in to my home for the week. Hopefully no one follows me in….

Living That Tour Life Part 2: Church

Growing up, I never had to move. The room that was my nursery as an infant is the same room that is now storing all of the years of belongings that didn’t join me for my summer contract. With that, there was a lot of consistency in my childhood, including my home church. I love my home church so much. I love the familiarity of it. I love how beautiful the sanctuary is, and I love the ugly brown stage in the fellowship hall where I got a taste of performing at Christmas programs. I love the tiny storage closet that connects the women’s bathroom to a fancy room with a piano, that I’m told a bride could use for a dressing room if she got married at the church. Though I’ve never used the passageway for that purpose, my friend and I spent many hours sitting in that closet, hiding from our moms after church, talking about boys. The congregation at my church has witnessed me grow as a singer, having had to listen to solos before I deserved a solo. More importantly, they’ve watched me from my infant baptism, to my confirmation at 13, and every step in between and beyond. It is such a joy every time I visit home to experience Centenary United Methodist and once again be with my church family.

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Selfie with my friend Gwen in the church bathroom, circa 2008. We apparently graduated from the closet to the bathroom at this point. I’m not proud.

While I did go to college and experience different churches then, this summer I have been exposed to even more different forms of worship. Each week, I keep my eyes peeled for churches around the area. Then, Saturday night I Google churches around me and pick one to go to according to very important factors, such as how early I will have to get up and whether or not I can walk there. Side note: lots of churches need to work on their online presence. It’s like they don’t want visitors – you would be shocked at how hard it is to find what time worship starts. Rude! I digress… Here’s some highlights of my experiences:

Abbotsford, WI

After our very first residency week, Kevin and I were invited to church by the parents of some of our cast members. It had been kind of a long week, simply because it was our first and we were still trying to translate what we had learned in our training into real life. We worshipped along with what we have deemed the whitest praise band we’ve ever seen. I’m chuckling to myself thinking about it, but there are no words. My home church is traditional and sings songs from a hymnal, accompanied by an organ. A few songs into worship, the whitest praise band ever decided to play an old hymn. We were sitting with the family that invited us and the son asked his mom what song it was and she didn’t know, but told him to just follow along on the screen. It was funny to me because it was the only song I actually really knew. After the service, the pastor said that the band was going to continue worshipping and we could either leave, stay and pray, or sing for a little longer. The family that invited us asked if they could pray for us. The whitest praise band ever was the background for such a beautiful moment as we held hands with this family and they prayed for safe travels, energy, and for the kids we would meet this summer. I can’t think of a better way to start a contract.

Milwaukee, WI

The next week our originally scheduled town re-scheduled for the fall, leaving us with a week to stay with my older brother in Milwaukee. Because trying to park a minivan downtown is the worst, we researched a church within walking distance from his apartment. This church didn’t come up on the original Google search, but after a few searches, we came across a church called Bent Tree. It meets in the Third Ward (Jacob’s neighborhood) in the conference area at a coffee/wine bar. When we walked in, we were instantly recognized as newbies because apparently this church just started up in February and must be pretty low key since they don’t meet in a church. It turns out it is part of a larger church based in Texas. We participated in worship with the jazziest praise band (keyboard, guitar, and SAXOPHONE player!) then were given time to go refill our coffee before the sermon. After intermission(?), a pastor from Texas was live-streamed onto the screen! It was a really interesting experience, but what sticks out the most is how welcoming everyone was. They were so excited to see new people at their church and for us to be a part of something so dear to them. Nevertheless, we dodged out as quickly as possible after it was over because we were a little bit tired of trying to explain who we are, why we were in Milwaukee for the week, and what we do for a living. Also I’m pretty sure they all thought we were a couple and one woman assumed that Kevin was there visiting the drummer (aka the one other black person there).

Wadena, MN

I got a little taste of home when I went to a United Methodist Church (after a few weeks of missing due to a visit from my mother, traveling wedding weekend, and oversleeping)…. Aside from one mom with a newborn, a dad and two pre-teens, and me, the average age of the congregation was about 70. I loved it. It was such a small group and you could just tell how tight-knit they were. After the pastor gave the morning announcements, he let the congregation pass the microphone around and give any announcements or prayer requests they had. It was like they were an actual family. Later on, it was time to pass the peace and the elderly couple in front of me said “Peace be with you,” and then KISSED! Ahhhh my heart melted — they are so in love!!!!!!! I was also feeling a little bit bad, though, because it was the two of them and one other woman. She’s third wheeling so hard. Anyway, after her morning kiss from her hubby, the one woman turned around, looked at me, and said, “I don’t know you.” Welcome to small town, USA.

Baudette, MN

This past week I went to a Lutheran church for the first time since I went with my grandma as a young girl. Now, we Methodists use grape juice for communion, so my little self was not prepared when I took a big gulp of communion wine. I spent the rest of that service consumed with the burning feeling down my throat and the awful taste in my mouth. I also got tired of singing, which says a lot, coming from me. This week, as I sat in this new-to-me church, I  was filled with a bit of nostalgia as I experienced a Lutheran service all these years later, this time more accustomed to drinking wine, less consumed with the taste, and more in touch with the meaning of it all.

There are two main takeaways from my tour of churches. One, as Christians, it seems we often get caught up in trivial aspects of church. Should we sing looking at words on a screen or words from a hymnal? Should we be accompanied by an organ or a praise band? Should the pastor be in traditional robes or look like a hipster at a coffee shop? Of course, the denomination of the church isn’t trivial. However, while I certainly have preferences of where I feel most at home and how I personally connect, despite the many differences, they all preach the same thing. God is present at every gathering. We all worship Christ, and I think in the end of time, God is going to laugh at all of us for all of the wasted breaths worrying about the slight variances in what is really a group effort.

Secondly, it is wonderfully freeing going to a church by myself, knowing no one. Rather than needing to catch up with my church congregation, I am able to really focus on what I came to church for. At first, I felt lonely, but then I remembered, all Christians are my church family. It’s like that old kid’s song goes, “I am the church! You are the church! We are the church together! All of who follow Jesus, all around the world! Yes, we’re the church together!”

Living That Tour Life Part 1: Eating

If you know me at all, you know that food is a very important part of my life. Admittedly, it’s an important part of everyone’s life because if you did not eat, you would die. I am not arguing that my need to survive is greater than others, but my appreciation and interest in food exceeds normal. My older brother gets lovingly frustrated with this obsession. For example, when I heard about his romantic proposal to his fiancée, one of my first questions was inquiring about all of the details of the celebratory meal they shared after. Not of the juicy details of their conversation, but of the juicy food on their plates.

I not only love talking about and eating food, I love cooking it as well. My mom is wonderful and always welcomed me into her kitchen, even at a young age when I thought recipes were for chums (many apologies to my family for being forced to try everything). This past school year was my first time living without my mom’s cooking or a meal plan, and I loved cooking for myself! It is so fun and relaxing having a kitchen and unlimited possibilities.

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So glad this treasure was preserved

Tour life is different. I have yet to master how to buy an appropriate number of groceries for one person one week at a time. Going from hotel to hotel, I never know what kind of situation I will have. One week we were really lucky because stayed at our sponsor’s house and had access to a fully stocked kitchen! Another week we were housed at an extended stay and had a stove, full refrigerator, microwave, coffee pot, and access to appliances and pans. The very next week we were back to a mini fridge and microwave. No coffee pot. That week I discovered coffee concentrate mixed with hot water. Not bad….

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Week 1 on the road, I didn’t have coffee filters, so I improvised with napkins from the continental breakfast. It was worth it to get freshly brewed Mudhouse coffee! I have since bought coffee filters.

In addition to whatever the hotel may have, I brought along my hot water kettle and a small George Foreman, so that helps. Once again, food is important to me. I don’t like to eat simply because I’m hungry or it’s time to eat. My mood is significantly affected by what I eat, the presentation, the quality of the food, etc. First world problems. Whatever.

Anyway, I refuse to eat PB&Js and ramen all the time, so I get creative. Last week I had the typical mini fridge/microwave combination and made a meal I was pretty proud of: turkey burgers grilled in my George Foreman, topped with a slice of cheddar cheese, red bell pepper, and spinach, served with steamed green beans and butternut squash. Those steamable bags are so handy!

 

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Cooking with a George Foreman and microwave is easy enough, but hotel room cooking is awkward because of the lack of prep space. I cooked my turkey burgers and the excess juices simply leaked all over the hotel desk (yuck). I cleaned it up, but the maids probably didn’t know what to make of my towel covered in turkey grease. I bought a dish wand so I can clean things properly, but somehow things never seem that clean when you’re washing dishes at the same sink where your hairbrush is sitting. That night, after cleaning dishes that held raw turkey, I was a little bit nervous that I would be brushing my teeth with an accidentally contaminated toothbrush, simply from being around that area.

So far, so good on the contamination issues.

This week our motel only has a mini fridge. There are no microwaves and signs prohibiting all cooking appliances. We’re in a big fishing town, so apparently they had issues with people frying fish in their rooms and stinking up the whole motel. Even though it would probably be fine to make a panini, rule-abiding Samantha can’t bring herself to rebel. Grocery shopping knowing you only have a mini fridge is depressing. Luckily, our sponsor for the week gave us each a $50 gift card to the gas station. Their iced coffee is surprisingly good.

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That brings me to eating out on the road. Yes, I do eat out. I prefer to save my money and cook for myself, but especially weeks where cooking can’t really happen, we turn to the town. I have been enjoying exploring local restaurants and witnessing the connectedness of these small towns. Tonight Kevin and I were clearly outsiders as other patrons didn’t even need a menu to order.

 

Sunday is our travel day, so when Kevin and I make it to our new destination for the week, we like to eat out, get settled into our hotel, then do our week’s worth of grocery shopping. Unfortunately, local restaurants are often closed on Sundays. Sigh, but expected. What is not expected, however, is that we have found that apparently Monday is the second holy day of rest because SO many restaurants are closed on both days. What’s up with that?

In summary, trying to eat healthy, save money, and cook as much as possible is challenging. I’m not a starving artist, but an artist who is hungry for good food.

And one final tidbit: a silly Samantha fantasy is to have a singing cooking show where I cook and then instead of cutting to a commercial while the food is in the oven or cooking on the stove, I serenade the viewers. If you know of anyone who’d like to produce, I’m open to it 😉

Writing In Pencil

The schedule of a working actor is weird. Having just graduated in May, I’m new at this, but I already know that much. I feel so fortunate to be working so soon after graduation, but having a theatre job after graduation is different than landing a 9-5-sign-your-life-away-for-years-and-years kind of job.

Prior to graduation, I had to complete the university’s exit exam. One of the questions was about our employment post-graduation. I hair-flipped to myself about being able to report having a job lined up. They then wanted to know my annual salary…. That’s difficult when I will be working for companies at months at a time. While I’m so thankful for this job, the reality is that this contract goes until August 20th and then I need to figure out what I’m doing next.

During this summer, unless a particular town doesn’t want to have two shows or they happen to cancel a rehearsal, I really don’t have a true day off. Monday-Thursday we rehearse, Friday and Saturday we put on the show, and Sunday is our travel day. So, when my contract is over, I will go from not having a day off to immediate unemployment, unless I come up with something brilliant to do after.

Further, because these contracts are only a few months at a time, each day is so important. It’s not like I can request a vacation day for one of the few days I’m in a town. January of 2015, my cousin Abby asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. I, of course, said yes, but once she set the date for July 2, 2016, I realized that my yes had to be tentative, depending on job offers. As much as I love my cousin and wanted to be there, it was hard to justify turning down a whole job for a day.

Three weeks ago, I found out that our town for the week didn’t want a performance on the 2nd because of the holiday weekend, meaning I was able to go! I quickly made arrangements for my marathon weekend. Friday, we had a dress rehearsal, performance, and striked the set. A taxi picked me up from my hotel at 3:30 AM Saturday, I flew to Boston, went straight to the salon to get my hair done, witnessed a beautiful wedding ceremony celebrating over ten years of love, danced the night away at the reception, and finally went to sleep at 2:15. I woke up again at 7:30 on Sunday so that I could fly back to meet Kevin in the next town. Thank goodness our sponsor gave us the 4th off because I needed a day to recuperate!

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Abby, the beautiful bride!

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The whole family together for the wedding!

 

It was a blissful weekend and so special to be with my whole family, but it got me thinking about this strange life I’ve chosen for myself. My brother and his fiancée (the two with chocolate brown hair above who look like they belong in a magazine) are getting married a year from now, and I have no idea what my life will look like then. I will obviously be there for that one, but what will my employment look like that summer?  I can prioritize family, but it saddens me to think how many of my friends’ weddings I’m bound to miss.

These thoughts were on my mind as I read an essay in Shauna Niequist’s Cold Tangerines. One of my very best friends gave this book to me for my birthday, and it is full of some of the most honest, relatable, and thought-provoking essays, challenging us to choose happiness. In this particular essay, Niequist realizes she should have written her life in pencil, rather than pen. She argues that we make these plans for our lives that seem so set in stone and go about our lives as if they are guaranteed, but God has other ideas. Wow, so true.

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If you need a good devotional supplement – this is it! Whether or not you’re a Christian, she has some wise words on how to live a full, happy life. Thanks again, Morgan, for the thoughtful gift! 

So, as I continue on with this career, my plan is to write in pencil and plan for a lot of erasing and re-writing. It really seemed like I wasn’t going to make it to Abby’s wedding, but God took care of that one. I know there will be sacrifices I have to make, but it is worth it for me to be pursuing my dreams and NOT working a “normal” 9-5 job. I just have to trust that He has His hand in everything I do.

 

Casting

My freshman year of high school, the fall musical was Oklahoma! On the audition sheet, it asked for our preferred role. I, of course, put Laurey because she is the lead. This was silly for several reasons: 1) I am not a soprano, nor am I a golden age ingenue, 2) I was a freshman, and 3) I clearly wasn’t that informed, because I spelled it “Lori.” Still, in my mind, I was the perfect person for that role. Instead, I was cast as Aggie and then spent hours trying to find out who Aggie even is!

Today Kevin and I cast our second show, and wow, it is not easy. We have two hours to introduce ourselves, go through the rules of the week, audition the kids, and cast the entire show. The actual audition consists of kids saying their names, ages, and several lines, one at a time in semi-circle. From there, Kevin and I cast the whole thing while they sit and talk quietly amongst themselves. There tend to be a few obvious standouts (easy to spot because they are often wearing shirts from past shows), but aside from those, casting is a little bit instinct of who has the most potential for growth and where I predict their strengths to be.

Luckily, our cast limit is 75, so while I may have kids who are unhappy with the role they receive, unless we have an insane number of kids audition, everyone will get a role. We’ve all heard complaints about my generation being the “participation trophy” generation, so some of you may be rolling your eyes. I’m not a big fan of the participation trophy either, but sometimes kids don’t need to learn rejection – they just need to learn.

In elementary school, I auditioned every year for both the fall and spring children’s theatre plays in town. I was never cast (or even called back), but my mom would still take me to the productions to watch. I enjoyed them, but was always bitter towards the person who played the role I wanted. Finally, the summer before 5th grade I did a summer theatre camp in which we put on a production of Charlotte’s Web in 2 weeks (or was it one?). Like Prairie Fire, whoever showed up was cast. I distinctly remember being in the lobby before the audition and feeling intimidated by the kids wearing their past show shirts. I had no show shirt to wear! They were all chatty and excited, but I was just nervous. During the audition, I’m sure I was trying so hard to get it “right” that I made small choices. My first ever role in a play, and I was Spectator 2. Yet, I loved every second of camp. In the fall, I not only got a callback for the children’s theatre production, but I was cast as the leading female role!

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I asked my dad to find this scrapbook page tucked away in my bedroom closet 🙂 

Even though I was only Spectator 2 in my first play, I learned so much during that camp simply from being a part of a production. More importantly, I gained confidence. Had it been a production where they cast just who they needed, I likely wouldn’t have been cast (again), would definitely not have been cast as the lead in the next show, and would probably not have made the decision to pursue a career in acting.

So, I am thrilled that I am able to find a role for each one of these kids. I am hopeful that the kids who were disappointed in not being Pinocchio or the Blue Fairy or any other ideal role are able to have a week just as transformative as my week as Spectator 2.

Welp, I Graduated

Hello again, internet! I enjoyed blogging so much during my study abroad last summer that I decided to have at it again this summer for several reasons.

First, many of you may wonder: what does one do with a BFA in Musical Theatre? Good question. In fact, at this point I only have one answer, which is my first post-grad job working for a touring children’s theatre. So, initially, this blog will follow my adventures with this first contract. However, I figure that I can keep this blog up through all of my contracts (and likely periods in between contracts) to shed light onto the life of an average working actor, if there is such a thing.

Second, I enjoy writing, and as the title of this blog post indicates, I no longer have assigned writing assignment because I am no longer a student. Even so, I refuse to lock myself in my hotel room every day after rehearsal and only watch Netflix. So, even if no one reads this, I am excited to keep my brain from turning to mush.

Third, what I do for a living is cool, and I think it will be interesting to read about! I’m two weeks in, so here’s a quick blurb to catch you up:

I serve as an actor/director/child wrangler/tech crew for Prairie Fire Children’s Theatre. Technically, my title is Tour Director/Actor, but that doesn’t quite cover all of it. After a week of intensely fun training in Barrett, MN (population 415), my tour partner Kevin and I drove our fully packed minivan to our first town of residency. Each week, we get a fresh batch of kids and audition them on Monday, cast the show, and immediately begin rehearsals. By Friday, we have a full musical production of Pinocchio where I play the Fox, Kevin is Gepetto/Tempesto, and we simultaneously guide the show along as directors. After either one or two performances, we pack up the van and go on to the next town to do it all over again.

We have only completed one show thus far, but I have already learned a very important lesson. Though I will teach the exact blocking and choreography that I have been trained with, each show is going to be different based on the cast we get. This contract is going to be a good lesson in letting go of control. Yes, Kevin and I are the directors and we will do everything in our power to put on Pinocchio as it was taught to us. Ultimately, however, kids are kids and sometimes that pivot turn is just not going to happen. Lines will be skipped, choreography may be funky, but as long as those kids have an amazing week, experience theatre, and get to make their parents proud, I am a happy girl.

More to come – thanks for reading!

Samantha