We're home, and dispersed, and the project is over. Here's a little recap of our last few weeks:

Heading south from Washington, D.C., we picked up our newest crew member, the esteemed Matt Frost, from the airport in Richmond, Virginia. We spent a few days in the area re-working our plays. When we went down to three members, we had to partially recast two of our shows, and heavily revise our flagship piece, Pantalone Goes A-Wooing, to require fewer actors. In the new version, old man Pantalone became too weak to continue the adventure, so his clowning servant Arlecchino disguised himself as his master and went to woo the beautiful widow La Donna Lucia in his place. This allowed me (Forrest) to start out as Pantalone, duck offstage midway through to quickly change into La Donna Lucia, and rejoin the action to be wooed by an imposter of myself. Emily and Angie would stall onstage, finding ways to add in more funny bits, as I rushed to get changed. Two or three times a kind passerby even offered to zip up my dress for me! We made it work, but we were glad to get back to a four-person cast when Matt joined us, since our revised version presented some difficulties. The plot was harder to follow for audience members who started watching partway through and missed the reason for the disguise, and we had to cut a few good gags that required four people. When Matt joined us, we also completely changed the casting, so that we could explore playing different characters and try new things with the play.
We performed briefly in Richmond, but the farmers market was closed for the season, and the few spaces we found with foot traffic were private property where we couldn’t perform. So we said goodbye to Virginia and pressed southward.

We had a great weekend of performances in Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Durham, North Carolina. The weather and the farmers’ markets were good. Our favorite spot in the area was a community park and playground outside of downtown Chapel Hill. We went there Saturday morning to rehearse a little before going to the farmers market, but by the time we had finished a run-through of one of our shows, quite a few families had stopped to watch!  So we came back after the farmers’ market and ended up performing there three times over the weekend.

Upon leaving that area, however, our fortunes began to turn a little for the worse. We tried Greensboro, but the only place in town where we found folks to perform for was a private park, where we were told we couldn't perform. We moved on to Charlotte, but the weather had turned against us. Unsurprisingly, daytime temperatures in the forties and whipping winds strongly discouraged people from stopping on the street to watch our shows. Many of the farmers’ markets were also closing for the season, which made venues harder to find. Looking at the weather predictions, we had some tough decisions to make. We had planned on being home in Michigan by Thanksgiving, which was at that point just over two weeks away. We had also planned on making Atlanta, Georgia, the southernmost point in our tour. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t look like it was going to get much better, even down in Georgia.

Rather than continuing to perform in the cold, we decided to focus on preparing for a final series of indoor performances back in Michigan, improving our current show material and adding another play or two to spice up those last performances. So we spent a few days making our way westward through North Carolina, finding spaces in parks to work and rehearse. Our last weekend on the road was in Asheville, N.C., where we had a few fabulous performances at a farmers’ market and a park downtown. The weather obliged us one beautiful day, and the folks in Asheville were fun, receptive audience members. We made some new friends, and stayed Saturday night at The Landing, an incredible community in Asheville built on sustainability, gardening, circus arts and music. A wonderful group of people and a beautiful place.

On Sunday, November 17th, after spending most of a day exploring a rainy Asheville, we pointed the bus north. We had a stormy drive up through the Smoky Mountains, stayed over in Kentucky, and on Monday the 18th, two months and two days after hitting the road, we arrived back in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

We spent a few days at home rehearsing and planning for our final performance. One of our particular unique challenges for this show was how how to keep our seated audience entertained during costume changes between plays.  We brainstormed various possibilities for these interludes and settled on a few that spoofed our experiences on the road: hyping an acrobatics trick featuring our dietary staple, the peanut butter and jelly sandwich (the impossible trick was never performed); a parody of our living statue performance in Providence, and an “improvised” stand-up routine by the commedia servant character Zanni. 

We added a new play as well, in addition to the three we had been performing on the road. The Path of True Love allowed us to explore some traditional commedia characters that weren’t in our other plays: Isabella, the young lover, daughter to old man Pantalone; Franceschina, her maidservant and the cleverest of the bunch; il Capitano, the penniless con who pretends to be a great warrior; and Lelio, Isabella’s lover who shows up at the last minute to duel the captain. We had originally been hoping to do The Path of True Love on the road, but it required five people, and so it never came to fruition. Nathan in particular had done excellent work on the script already, adapting it from a longer play with more characters, so we decided we should drag him back for one last hurrah to play Lelio. Hidden in the audience in plain clothes, he jumped up from his seat at the climax of the play, sword drawn, to rush to the rescue of his love. Special thanks go to Drew Clark, who filled in for Nathan the night he couldn’t be there.

The performances took place in the Carrie Jay Studio in Dexter, where our friend Carrie teaches acting and voice lessons. The space presented its own set of challenges: the necessity of modulating our volume for the enclosed space and rearranging some of the action to fit the layout of the room. We had the new experience of having a door upstage center; when we perform out in the open, leaving “upstage” just makes us farther away from the audience, but still in full view. But if there’s anything we’ve learned on this crazy voyage, it’s the ability to adapt to any size and shape of space at a moment’s notice.

The performances went well; a good time was had by all. The following Monday we all got together to clean out our beloved bus, and then we said our goodbyes. Angie and Matt got on a train to spend Thanksgiving in New Hampshire with his family, and they’re planning on moving back to New York, where they both went to school, in January. Nathan and Robyn are back to working with Barefoot Productions in Plymouth, Michigan, and the Ann Arbor Young Actors Guild. Emily drove back to her family in Massachusetts and is exploring several options for her next adventures. And I’m here in Ann Arbor, with a brightly colored bus parked out front. And as soon as I’m done with this blog post, I’ll be getting down to business writing a paper on “A Practical Study of Nomadic and Street Theater Traditions.”

Thank you all for being a part of this magical adventure.

Yours truly,
The Vagaries


Giustino Cohen
12/03/2013 7:33am

Incredible! (That's Italian.) Grazie mille, e Buon Natale!

Jane Mitchell
12/03/2013 8:50am

Congratulations! What an adventure! You will most likely be absorbing the learning for a long time to come. Sorry I had to miss the Dexter performance, was preparing for a trip to Phoenix the following day.

Good luck on your paper! When to you return to school?


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