The idea of touring sounds glamorous. It’s not exactly glamorous, but it’s certainly an adventure.
When I says ‘touring’ you may be thinking of music stadium tours, or perhaps if you know me better you might conjure up beautiful theatre tours with fabulous green rooms – that’s not what this is about.
This is about the ‘getting-your-hands-dirty-theatre-in-education’ type of tour. The kind of tour where, not only are you an actor, but you are also a teacher, a props master, a driver, a set handler and everything in between that is associated with putting on a show in a different place each day. Sometimes twice a day.
It’s a great way to hone your acting chops – being able to perform (yes, perhaps not the most eloquent of plays) to a rabble of kids who not only talk throughout the show but some jeer and make fun of what you say.
It’s tough but it certainly instils discipline in you – with ‘the show must go on’ mantra on replay in your head.
I’ve done plenty of touring. Crazy plays in Italian schools, open aired Shakespeare on rickety stages and educational pieces in prisons. Yes, I cacked my pants at that one.
All in all, it was an incredible experience because not only was I performing, which is the whole point of being an actor, but I was seeing some amazing places. I also had some fun times with the people I toured with – AND some not so fun times too, because three of you in a sweaty car and sharing a B&B room every night can bring up your shit.
But all in all, I remember my tours fondly.
I would never had visited the likes of Milan, Rome, Pisa, Venice, Udine or Sardinia had I not joined a TIE company. I learned to drive a left hand drive car, on the left hand side of the road no less, I saw the Sistien Chapel up close and personal, partied hard in a Milanese night club, ate pistachio gelato on the Spanish Steps, marvelled at the wonders of Cinque Terre and soaked up the modern art at the Peggy Gugenheim museum.
I would never have had certain experiences had I not accepted my first educational tour. I got terribly drunk on Pinot Grigio and Campari and ended up in A&E after falling over and banging my head, I stood in front of 50 inmates crying from the bottom of my soul as I mourned the loss of my characters daughter in a car accident due to a drunk driver AND I managed to move some to tears.
And I would never have had the opportunity to see some of England and Ireland’s most beautiful houses and estates had I not said yes to one of the most clumsily put together performances of A Midsummer Nights Dream – I also nearly broke my leg, had my heart broken like never before and learned to drive a Luton lorry.
There are many more theatre stories that are part of my acting past, some on tour, some in fabulous rep theatres, some in the most dingiest of darkest backstreet venues – like the time I played a whore in a musical at the Edinburgh festival. My twenties was my decade for fun, adventure and creativity through performance.
Elizabeth Gilbert talks about creativity in her book Big Magic. The main thread is that whatever is your art, just do it for the sake of creating art, whether that is to dance the night away, stand on stage baring your soul, or writing for the sake of writing. Do it, because it is the process of doing it that is the adventure.
No, I didn’t win an Oscar for my acting, but I have had the most incredibly time as I worked towards that goal. Who, knows what the future may hold, perhaps an Oscar IS in my future. I’m open to the possibilities. But I will continue to create, express and do what feels good in the moment. I hope you will too.