Friday, May 15, 2015 – Saturday, May 16, 2015
Good morning readers. In an effort to keep you abreast of all of the tour happenings, I’ll be blogging about days 5 and 6 in this installment.
Friday, May 15th
Winter is coming. Either that or Colorado is experiencing its first typhoon. Skies are dark and look really threatening and it’s raining; pouring actually. This, of course, on the day that we have the longest drive of tour. We have to get from Carbondale to Pueblo. We had hoped to take Independence Pace to save some time (and secretly Brett likes to watch me white-knuckle the drive; not so secretly Taylor wanted to clap for avalanches), but it’s still closed for the season, so we have to take the longer route. Everyone meets up in the lobby to load the car and I am greeted by Leah, Katherine and a furry friend. No, it’s not Brett. Seems we have a hotel mascot. Her name is Tiger and she’s a sucker for a belly rub. But, who isn’t really?
After playing with the puppy for a bit, I sprint to the car to bring it around and manage to get soaked in the process. As I try and drip dry, Leah, packing champion, loads the luggage. We make a quick detour to get gas and then we hit the road – let the drive begin. It’s ladies day behind the wheel at the moment; I am driving the pseudo-Yukon and Katherine is driving the van with Leah and her copilot. That means that I’ve got a car full of guys all to myself – this should be fun!
This is not fun. The weather goes from bad to worse and back to bad again. People are driving like they’ve left their fine motor skills at home. When traveling is like this, I need to talk or sing or something; to find some way to make the drive the least bit enjoyable. Copilot Brett does a great job at this. He’s pulling everything out of his bag of tricks to entertain me. The other guys… they’re sleeping, listening to their own tunes or learning new music. The scenery is still beautiful. It’s incredibly green here too, in the valley as around Glenwood Springs. The clouds are so low; you can’t even see most of the mountains. As we approach Avon, the traffic gets worse, the weather is still bad and I need a break. As copilot Brett navigates us to a local Starbucks, I narrowly miss getting into two accidents because apparently turn signals are factory options. Finally parked, I take a deep breath, and Brett takes the keys. He’ll be the pilot for the rest of this particular trip. I’ve had enough.
We grab a quick cup of coffee and I check on the girls to make sure they’re OK in the van. They’re doing great. We get back on the road. Within minutes Brett has to navigate around people who are hydroplaning (their cars, not the people themselves), a bridge construction project that brings traffic to a halt and, when we get moving again, debris in the road. The back of a truck fell off and was in the road. How exactly does that happen? I assumed when they marked vehicles as ready for consumer use, that all the large parts were firmly attached… The driver of said truck decided it would be a good idea to walk out into the road, in front of us, to pick it up. Today’s drive will be brought to you by the makers of Advil. We trudge on. We turn off of I-70 and make our way up to Leadville. While traffic is better, the weather gets worse and pretty soon, it’s snowing so hard Brett can’t see more than a few feet in front of him. This is also because we’ve gotten behind a semi the size of a blue whale. Brett apparently knows the driver because he keeps referring to him by his given name; Bubba. The roads are still just wet, so it’s slow, but not icy. By the time we get to the summit, we are actually in the clouds. Off in the distance we can see the bridge that spans a ravine we’re about to cross and hear Daniel exclaim, “Oh god.” Not sure if that was out of joy or fear, I ask. It was both. These are some pretty intense conditions for our Florida boy. Bubba pulls off before the bridge so visibility is a bit better.
We make it through the pass and come to the turn to go into Leadville. The weather clears for a bit and we get to see some of the fourteeners that run the length of the valley. It’s gorgeous. For about 5-minutes. Then we get hit with the worst weather yet; white-out conditions with really heavy wind. Thank you Mother Nature but I will save my blizzards for when I go to Dairy Queen. It’s May! In Colorado…
Brett doesn’t miss a beat. He makes sure he has Kathrine (who is also handling things beautifully) right behind him and he gets us safely into Leadville. Time to stop and eat lunch. We park downtown and walk around for a bit. We’re not really wearing appropriate artic attire, but thankfully our Opera Colorado jackets are warm! Six of us choose a local spot called Doc’s, but Daniel takes a diversion and chooses the saloon next door. There’s a sign that calls it the “best western saloon in America,” he couldn’t pass it up. Food and a break from the cars make a huge difference in not only our mood, but the weather. By the time we leave Leadville, the weather has cleared and there’s some blue sky. Andrew takes over driving the van and Leah moves to the tank. Brett, having proven his mettle behind the wheel, drives the rest of the way. We’re now on the way to Buena Vista, then to Salida, then Canon City and finally Pueblo. There’s more weather and more debris (including cans of black beans), but we make it to Pueblo safely. We check into the hotel and after a break, we decide to walk to a local Irish Pub for dinner. It’s a good call. There are pipers! Pipers in kilts! I’m in my element now. The food’s great and after the drive today, it’s nice to be able to just sit and relax. (If you caught that I have now equated listening to bagpipes as relaxing, you will fully grasp what today’s drive was like) Andrew, Leah and Katherine are chair dancing to the piper’s tunes, which is truly something to watch. Andrew’s got moves. Taylor is especially happy, ranking the quality of the food we’ve had on tour this week. This rates right up there.
We head back to the hotel so everyone can have the rest of the night to themselves. I’m really glad that I planned for today to be all about driving and we don’t have a performance. Tomorrow’s a doozy. We’ve got a double bill of Hansel and Gretel at the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center and I always look forward to playing in new venues. I’ll actually get to do a lighting plot for the shows which will be fun.
Tour blog day 5 – it may not have been the most entertaining day, but it’s an honest glimpse of what life on the road can be like. Days aren’t easy and not always fun. The thing that keeps us going is the belief in what we do. Opera matters, so we’ll keep driving.
Saturday, May 16th
Busy day today! We’re up and out the door by 9:00. We have a double bill of Hansel and Gretel and then a drive back to Denver. Luckily our hotel was just across the street from the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center, so we get to the location quickly. Brett and I go into the theater and meet our crew for the day and figure out the set up details. Andrew gets the van to the loading dock and the process begins.
We actually have stage hands today and they’re a wonderful perk. What is not wonderful is the fact that we’ve somehow left our road bag, with all of our spike tape and other necessities, in Carbondale. This makes for an unhappy Director. At least we’re in a theater where they have some items in stock that we can use. They’re able to help us with the basics and we have the set up in no time. It’s a bit tricky to figure out the piano location and Taylor ends up partially behind the set once the wings are opened. It’s the best we can do though, so we’ll just have to make it work.
While everyone gets themselves settled and into costume and makeup, I work out a lighting plot with our production manager. It’s such a treat to have lighting to work with. We lay out a plot where the colors will change to represent day to night and then use pink to represent the world of the Witch. Lighting set, I go and meet with the house manager to get front of house details organized and then head backstage. Everyone is in costume, but they’re quiet. Morning shows take a bit of getting used to. Once they hear the audience’s response, they’ll have much more energy. As we wait for show time, I head downstairs to use the dressing room area. On the way, I see that there’s a ballet studio and it’s filled with bumble bees. Little girls, probably about 3 or 4 years old in yellow tutus with striped tops. Antenna and everything. They are absolutely precious. Taylor comes up with the idea to have them run across the stage as we change the set to the forest scene. For the cuteness factor alone – I actually considered it.
Time for show #1. I go out to do the pre-curtain speech. There are lots of little ones in the theater. I always tell them about a special word they can say if they like the opera. As I wrap up the comments, counting down 3, 2, 1, I hear a tiny little voice shout “bravo.” It sounded more like “bwavoh.” The cuteness factor just got raised. The first performance is underway. There are some fumbles, but it’s a good show. The energy is a little low but it picks up about halfway through. After bows, I go out and facilitate the Q&A session. We get good questions – little inquiring minds want to know if the candy is real, how they can sing like that and why the Witch is a boy. Seems like the fact that Hansel is sung by Katherine isn’t as noticeable. We wave to the audience, reset for the top of the show and take a break for lunch. We’re being pampered today; lunch is being delivered to us.
During lunch, Andrew does impressions, my favorite being the Queen of the Night, and Katherine strokes Leah’s hair as she ponders what her spirit animal is. She decides on a cat. She says that Katherine is a dog because she is loyal. Now, this is interesting. You see, the group has given Katherine the nickname of Kitty. More specifically, Kitty-cat, which is followed by a meow. It only seems fitting then that Katherine does not wish to be a dog. She has an affinity for horses, which are also loyal, so that works. Brett then teaches Leah how to spray water out of her mouth – you know, the classic spit take. She makes a valiant effort which is displayed on Daniel’s shoes and finally creates the effect she was going for. Hey… it could come in handy. You never know when you’ll need a good spit take in opera.
Enough goofing around, it’s time for show #2. We have a 5-minute hold and then I’m on stage for the pre-curtain speech. We’ve got a bigger crowd for this show, the kids are a bit older and there are quite a few adults too. As things get started, I know right away that this show will have more energy. The audience is responding with more laughter and applause. I watch for a bit from the upper level and, I have to say, this show, under lighting, looks fabulous. Brett gets big laughs for his antics as the Witch and as we reach bows, the audience is cheering. There are some memorable moments during the Q&A; one little guy, who was 3, asked about dinosaurs. He would like to know why there are no dinosaurs in our show. Well my man… gingerbread raptors are an interesting concept and I will keep it in mind. We get asked why we chose this show, which I answer, and then a young lady asks us if we’ve ever “tried frozen.” Now, I have a fairly well-developed ability to decipher the language of children, but this one stumped me. Was she asking me if I wanted frozen yogurt? Maybe she though the show needed to be set in winter. Nope. She wanted to know if we have considered the Disney movie Frozen as an opera.
Double bill completed, it’s time for load out. Many hands make light work and we’re done in about 30-minutes. It’s time to hit the road and make the drive back to Denver. Brett is acting as pilot again today, looking lovely in his leftover eyeliner (he’s failed to get all of the Witch off) and Andrew is driving the van with Leah and his copilot. The weather isn’t bad, but we hit rain around Colorado Springs. We also hit traffic. Our 2-hour drive turns into a 3-hour drive but the others manage to sleep through it. I entertain Brett as best I can, but he’s better at it that I am. Still, we make it back, safe and sound. Everyone grabs their stuff and we bid each other goodbye for all of 24-hours. We’re heading out for week 2 on Monday.
It’s been a good week. A week of taking opera to people who rarely have the opportunity to experience it. Tour is hard work with long hours. Opera is intensely physically and mentally demanding . We’re tired. But… you know what readers? We ready for more. Here’s to week #2!