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Written on April 28th, 2012 , Uncategorized

Most of my blogs have been informative, with tips or structuring ideas, or different cultural/historical lenses on art and teaching. However, I write this one in Austin, TX, more than 1700 miles from home, having just had a conversation about the importance of reflection. Therefore, I present to you a short piece on the actualoldest profession (well, except the obvious ones related to food, shelter, and health), the life of a Traveling Player!

Between point A and B in a Jordanian desert

Ever since the sun set on separate fires, people—my people—have made they way from one grouping to the next, weaving the enchantment that is a performance. We often have a home fire, a community in which our relationships with others are more solidified and our responsibilities more divergent, but we are successful because we roam, and that open road/distant mountain/rippling sea whisper sweet nothings into our ears the whole time we are at home, calling us back out into the world.

Practically speaking, this way of life has several constants. One is that we work hard to offer an excellent smorgasbord of practices for the village or benefactor to choose from. This pallet often includes teaching, directing the locals in a production for a festival or holiday, dinner entertainment, providing a script for a speech or for others to perform, reading/performing other peoples’ writings, and having a prepared theatrical piece that can be performed in the street or on the stage. I LOVE this about my job. I love that my life is a mixture of all of these things, and that I am constantly challenged to improve on each front and, most importantly, be able to drop what I am doing to shift gears into another one of the items on the players ‘menu’. For example, this coming week I teach a student how to fall down stairs for a performance of Noises Off (which I am not directing) followed by a first rehearsal for a performance of Pirates of Penzance (which I am directing) on Sunday, a meeting on Monday in a city about 60 miles away about a teaching gig, rehearsal all day Tuesday for a physical theatre production with Kakeru, drive 4 hours to record a new book with Audible on Wednesday, performance on Thursday with Kakeru followed by an audition, record again for Audible again on Friday, and Saturday, fly to Seattle for a mixture of performance, clowning, and teaching in different West Coast areas over the following two weeks.

How unbelievably AWESOME is that?!?!?

Of course, not every week is like that. As has been true for all traveling players across time and space, many weeks are soooooo empty one can hear the crickets chirping. Those weeks are even more full of crazy things we will do for art. We work on new performance pieces, which means trading services in lieu of space rental for rehearsal, creating new props and costumes out of bits and pieces of things like colanders, dowels, and duct tape, and writing writing writing, often on the backs of napkins or our hands or a paper towels to catch our ideas that come most frequently at the most inconvenient times.

I'm flying!!

We must also, like our historical ancestors, get really really creative with ways to reach new markets and benefactors, like costuming up as characters from our own shows or as famous characters, or doing something completely fun (but for free) on YouTube, or dreaming up and testing out new ‘products’. Some of my best new ideas and most fun projects, like MysteryGrams, have grown out of these times that are fiscally barren.

What else is always on the Traveling Players plate? Constantly preparing for the next gig, the next opportunity, which may mean doing research for a piece (always), or perhaps taking classes or attending a conference to improve our skills (I do both, and am also currently learning the uke), or becoming a part of a guild or guild-like organization, whereby helping the group is also helping the self (I belong to a few).

Luckily, the research, conferences, outreach, and sometimes even the fun crazy free projects to maintain sanity and maybe get some exposure also involve travel, and once again we are on the open road, feeling the freedom of movement and the hunger of distant lands. Ultimately, traveling players are people who not only need to travel to succeed, but who need to roam and adventure on a very deep core level. As my dear friend Pete once said to me, “If they ever made a book of your life, it would be a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book!”

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