A hearty hello from overcast London, Ontario!
My first week on tour with The Hatter has been a whirlwind, strange and dangerous and wonderful and trying. But above all else, I am grateful.
So much to say and so little time to type it out, so I shall be rather stream of thought with this post. Let’s start with the flight from Vancouver to London, with a stopover in Calgary.
PRO-TIP #1: When boarding an airplane, take note of how long they expect the flight will take. Consider that for the first and last half hour of the flight, you will NOT be allowed to go and use the restrooms. For a flight lasting only an hour and a half, this means a relatively short window during which you can relieve yourself. And YES, that turbulence on the way down will make the landing seem awwwwwwwfully long as it plays hopscotch with your bladder, and turn that seatbelts-on light into a demon dancing a merry jig above your head.
I was only in Calgary for a couple of hours, so I stayed in the airport. In the terminal, a magpie (so someone said) was flying about, stealing fries and generally having a wonderful time.
For the flight from there to London, because I was flying stand-by… Westjet gave me one of the nice seats with extra legroom, and I even had the whole row to myself. Ah, economy class luxury. I decided to embrace the moment by watching some Business News Network on the back of the seat in front of me, to celebrate my economic upgrade in society.
PRO-TIP #2: Flying stand-by isn’t difficult! And if there’s a better seat on the plane, they’ll probably give it to you! But if there isn’t a seat on the plane… well, make sure you have a phone number for your ride waiting at the other end.
Upon landing in London, as I waited for my luggage to come off the carousel (PRO-TIP #3: give yourself time to pack. Or you may end up doing it all in a frantic huff the night before and end up accidentally bringing three small towels), I was immediately confronted by another Fringe performer, the lovely Tara Travis, who recognized me from somewhere! Hah! So that was fantastic.
One of my fantastic billets (billeters?), Allister Cameron, who, along with his wife Carolyn, recently had one of their life experiences turned into a play by their son, Ken, picked up Tara and I from the airport, gave us a tour around town, and dropped us by the Fringe office. There, the lovely Kathy Navackas, whom I have never before met in person, immediately exclaimed my name and gave me a hug. Seriously. So much love.
So I went from the worry of traveling on my own to a city where I know no one except the performer I’m sharing my venue with (the marvelous Jeff Leard)… to chatting with a fellow performer at the luggage carousel, being toured around town, and given hugs by near-strangers!
PRO-TIP #4: Hugs are awesome.
On the other side of the coin, throughout the flights and over the first couple of days, I was rather frantically trying to learn all my lines. Apparently speaking for fifty minutes straight is a lot of words. 😛
It really does help when they are YOUR words, but even still, it helps your tech person a lot in terms of hitting lighting and sound cues when you… paraphrase a little less than I was for the first couple of performances. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
When I landed in London, coming off the plane, I had a headache. Ah well, no worries. Three days later, come opening performance, the headache was STILL there. So, half an hour before my first performance, I did the reasonable thing and swallowed a tylenol, washed down with a glass of water, to ease the headache so I could perform without significant head-pain.
PRO-TIP #5: DO NOT DRINK A LARGE AMOUNT OF LIQUID BEFORE GOING ONSTAGE. Rookie mistake.
So here we are, five minutes before my opening performance, and I am doing that two-year-old gotta-pee dance backstage. Unfortunately, the washro0m is located THROUGH the stage, THROUGH the audience, over by the front door. I think I can make it. I’ll forget all about it when I’m onstage. I can make it. I can make it. I can make it.
I don’t think I can make it.
PRO-TIP #6: Water bottles are not intended as receptacles for urine.
Yep. Pee’d in my water bottle before going onstage. Like a boss.
PRO-TIP #7: That’s just gross.
The next day, I STILL had that headache, and my lovely billeter, Carolyn, suggested it might be tension, nerves and the like, which makes sense, given the situaton. So she suggested I go have a nice hot bath to ease my muscles. Seemed like a good idea. And I hadn’t had a proper bath in probably two years! (There isn’t a tub where I live.) So I ran the water for entirely too long, had to wait at least half an hour for the water to cease being at scalding temperature, then submerged myself and tried to relax my weary bones and muscles. To some success.
Then… something dangerous happened.
As I stood up to get out of the tub, I immediately felt far too heavy, my head was swimming, and I immediately recognized that this was a trouble situation. Somehow, I managed to flick the fan on, stick my head under the shower, and turn the cold water on. Which was cold… for a moment, then I realized I had set it to hot accidentally… then I realized that I couldn’t stay vertical to turn the water back to cold and that I needed to get down to the ground now or I would fall down and smash my head on something, so I slunk down onto the fuzzy mat beside the bath, incapable of moving from that spot for several minutes, barely staying awake, not able to keep my eyes open.
Essentially, I passed out, or went right to the verge of doing so. Never had that happen before.
PRO-TIP #8: Don’t die.
Half an hour later, I was fine. No worries there. I think a combination of a strange sickness, all the hot water, and my naturally low blood temperature just meant that there was no blood in my brain at that point.
Later that day, I asked a kind gentleman which way it was to the bus stop, and he offered me a ride to the stop. He was driving off that way anyway, he said. He was giving a chipmunk a ride to the park anyway, so why not drop me off down the road? This is when he brandished a cage containing a trapped chipmunk. Part of an ‘infestation’, apparently. Anyway, at the bus stop, I realized for the first time that my headache may be accompanied by a fever.
So, my first few days were a little rough, physically. That said, all the performers around me have been no end of supportive, with hilarious NO Shows every night (not to be confused with no-shows or Noh shows), kind words, and an all around happy atmosphere. The incredible magician Keith Brown (whose business card is a playing card HOW COOL IS THAT), is even letting me use his bike to get around town! And now I am healthy! Yay!
Something that I find startling about all this is not just how grateful I am to be out here, but how grateful traveling is making me feel for everything I have at home in BC as well. I’m thrilled to be continuing my educational and adventurous experience here on the tour, but also suddenly SO EXCITED for all the amazing opportunities and people waiting for me back at home. Considering I am performing a play about a homesick man, perhaps this isn’t so strange. But still, the future is bright.
PRO-TIP #9: You’re never alone in your battles.
I have six more performances to go here in London, and then, off to Ottawa! Then Toronto! Then… a mystery spot (perhaps New York for a week), then Saskatoon.
Almost impossible to believe I have only been here for a week! Right, now it’s time to make some event pages for the other cities, head downtown, and hand out handbills in the hopes of finding a few more audience members to have some fun at my performance tonight.
I leave you with a comment left by a happy audience member: “It got me in the feels.”
As has this trip, for me, thus far.
(aka Andrew Wade)