One again – how are the weeks going by so fast? I feel like I just wrote a blog yesterday – yet that was a week ago, and our weekly chinese night is already tomorrow! (Yes, we’ve established Chinese Tuesdays – it’s the little things, on tour.)
This past week we had to day goodbye to Florida, as we crossed into Alabama! Dothan, AL was particularly good to us this weekend, as it allowed us a miraculous 4 night stay in a single hotel! We were able to “nest” for a brief time – and in this time we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day, attended a very southern flea market with so many puppies up for adoption (we all agree that we would take wonderful care of a real Toto!), and witnessed Dothan’s annual Azalea-Dogwood Festival. It’s these local flavors that make the travel really interesting – and there’s been plenty of southern flavor here.
All of this travel has also sparked memories in my Father, Jeff Lutz, who had the same type of adventures when he was my age. He toured the country in a Greyhound bus (with a bathroom in the back! if only…) with various bands, and even played several world cruises. It’s so wonderful to trade tour stories with my dad, who also knows this bizarre feeling of waking up and having to take a few moments to remember what city, state, (or country!) you are in. I’m so thrilled and proud to be following in his footsteps.
As for the shows, they just keep growing! Every space is different, and every performance comes with its own challenges – but these experiences just build up our “chops,” as my Dad calls them. Last year it may have phased me that we were in a small space and could only use half of our set, thereby having to re-block the entire tornado scene… now, piece of cake! And, a way to keep us all on our toes.
The meet-and-greets are, as always, a wonderful source of inspiration and entertainment. There was a particular one this past week that included an unbelievable amount of little girls who looked up at me with those giant eyes, and told me how much they loved the show, and how much they loved Dorothy. I still have a distinct memory from my childhood of watching the Disneyworld Parade from the sidelines with my parents (I must have been four years old), waving to Jasmine while wearing my Jasmine t-shirt – and she looked me square in the eyes and waved back. It was magical, and it clearly made an impression on me because I still remember! I love picking out the kids in the audience who look like they’re about to burst with excitement, and waving directly at them. I can only hope I’ll make such an impression.
And then there’s those rare times when I’m asked questions about the show – and by rare, I mean when the kids’ busses aren’t leaving so fast that they actually have time to stop and give me a quick hug and ask “Is Toto real?!” Each actor has a different answer. One of us may say, “Of course he’s real!” – another may say, “What do you think?” Personally, I love taking this moment to reveal the magic of theatre, explaining to them that Toto is a puppet, and showing them how I moved his mouth and tail, and answering their follow-up questions about how he barked.
Is it better to keep the mystery alive, or to pull back the curtain? I would love to think that part of their joy in attending this Theatre for Young Audiences production is getting a chance to see not only what is possible in the story, but what is possible in their lives. Teaching them how the production came together, explaining how the witch melted, and telling them that I am really an actress named Annie who has worked her whole life to make it here to this theatre to perform for them – perhaps they will hear that and wonder,”What can my imagination create?” or “What can I accomplish?” or “What do I want to be when I grow up?” Perhaps it is idealistic to think that in these brief moments I can reach these children in such a life changing way – but I have to believe it’s possible. Fairy Tales are wonderful – realizing that Fairy Tales can come true is magical.