Saturday, December 5, 2009

I'll Be Home for Christmas snows a lot in Bozeman. In fact, it is snowing right now, so much that I can't see beyond two blocks away. Everything is just white. No mountains, no sky, nothing. We returned to Bozeman yesterday from being out on the road and there was still residual snow from the two feet we got weeks ago. It is really beautiful and I am trying to hold on to it because I know there is a good chance that we won't get snow in Indy on Christmas. Anyway, it is kind of cold - Bozeman had a high of 24 yesterday, but that isn't bad compared to where we were this week (Northern MT) where we had some 14 degree days. I guess it is just prepping me to go back to Chicago...

Speaking of which, I am kind of excited about. January will be the killer month, when cold hard reality sets in and I realize I have no job and no show. But until then, I am going to revel in the holidays and I am super excited to see everyone I haven't seen in three months and to go home for a couple weeks. I wish I could go back East to see everyone for a while and then come back out here and tour in January! But alas...

We had an extraordinary week - we were pampered a lot by Maxine and Wayne, who are the lovely parents of Jodee, who works for MSIP. They often have the cast over for dinner every tour, but we got extra lucky because they invited us over two nights in a row! Their house is beautiful - it is right outside St. Ignatius, MT - and they had they whole place decked out for Christmas. The first night, they served us a delicious pot roast with squash and even rhubarb pie! The second night, they made us an amazing chili with cornbread ( I think I ate 3 pieces) and I just ate cornbread with chokecherry preserves on top for dessert. I told them how much we all appreciated being in a home with decorations and music as opposed to a hotel room. Maxine seemed kind of shocked - she thought we would want some sort of entertainment when we came over, but we were all very content to sit in the living room and just listen to music and stare out the window or at the tree. I think it reminded everyone of being at their house for Christmas - and some of my cast mates haven't been home for 6 months because of the summer tour.

Looking at my time out here as a whole, I only have two regrets: one, I didn't ride a horse like I wanted to and two, I forgot my Elvis Christmas CD in Chicago.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Feel the Heat

Ok, first I have to apologize for how long it has been since I last has been a really long time. In my defense, my computer is down for the count, so I have been relying on the generosity of strangers (no, my castmates) for online access. And I have also just been really lazy.

It is crazy that I have only two weeks left here. I have spent the past couple weeks mourning the approaching end of tour; saying goodbye to the mountains, the Food Co-op, the animals, the quiet, the play, etc. And consequently, I think when it is time to leave, I will be ready. I also really miss everyone in Chicago, not the city so much as the people, and I will be really eager to see everyone and then head to Indy for Christmas.

Since it has been so long since I wrote, and fortunately amazing things happen almost every day out here, I will try to hit some of the highlights of the last month or so.

The first thing that comes to mind is the Glassblowing Art Program in Box Elder, MT. Box Elder is on a reservation and it has the BEST and most comprehensive Arts program I have ever seen anywhere. They have an Industrial Arts wing which teaches vinyl design, wood cutting, leather tooling, furniture building, computer repair, car repair, metal cutting, and welding. They also have a Creative Art wing which houses ( I think this is correct...) one of only three Glass Blowing programs in the country. They also have pottery, batik-making, wood-etching, drawing, painting, air-brushing, ceramics, I could go on and on...

But back to the Glassblowing - they have a studio with three stoves that are running the majority of the year and the head of the program, Tom , says "It's the hottest room in the whole state!" And it is true. These kids are slinging hot glass like it's not really really hot glass. When I first walked in, all I could think of was the competence my high school peers exhibited in the scene shop with a staple gun, and I was very much humbled and afeared. Basically, in a school where the attendance rate is not high, Tom's program keeps kids coming back day after day. As he put it, once you blow some glass and put it in the kiln to sit and cool, you gotta come back to retrieve your glass or it gets put in the scrap bin. It is this important draw that has brought in the funding to build the studio - he told us that most of the furniture (benches and tables) and the tools were handmade by he and the students. Everyone from the cast was so fascinated by the glass blowing that eventually Tom decided we should try and Laura was first up. Now, what was most amazing about this whole experience was the authority and competence that the students exhibited - Tom just sat back and let the students instruct us on what to do. And they were amazing! Tom basically had to kick us out of the school - we stayed the entire day - but he invited us back to retrieve our creations the following day. I didn't blow any glass, but I did end up with a creation that vaguely resembles a glass, so I totally lucked out!

Lets see....Oh! Another fun story: I forget where we were driving to, but we left on Sunday night and spent the hour or so trip talking about Paranormal Activity ( a horror film that came out about a month ago). My understanding is that it's creepiness lies in the idea of ghosts making things move or turn on and off when no one is there. Some of the guys had gone to see it and we were talking about how terrifying it was and our love (or hate) of horror movies in general. It was all good fun until we got to our motel. I had a single that night, so after retrieving my bag from the van, I went to my door and put my key in. My door wouldn't open. I kept turning my key, back and forth, and I knew that the lock was moving because I could hear some hissing sound from inside the room when the lock retracted. I finally shouldered the door and it opened to a normal, dark hotel room. Except for the TV that was on with just static on the screen. I yelled for Steve, who was rooming next to me, and he came and was even more unnerved than I, considering he was one of the people who watched the creepy movie the night before. Therefore we decided we must immediately go round up everyone and make them scared too. So we did and they were. Most of the boys patted me on the back and told me, "Good luck with that." Finally Laura came and I closed the door so that she could walk in and experience it fully. Then I realized I had locked my keys in the room. So Steve was a saint and walked with me to the check-in desk ( which was NOT close to our rooms) and they gave me a new key. It was upon my second entrance into the room that I finally turned the TV off. When I had then turned on every single light in the entire room, I turned the TV back on and there was no static - just a regular old channel. That really creeped me out. Then I noticed the child-sized coffin-like bench that was in my bathroom. It had no apparent purpose. Just a creepy white wooden box attached to the wall. Then I made Chris and Laura and Steve come hang out with me all evening until it was time to go to bed. It was while they were there that we discovered the fine white animal hair that was all over every inch of my bed spread. So we pulled back the bedspread and discovered the highlight of the evening - a felted blanket with ducks on it with pink floral pillows, all covered with a hairy bedspread depicting hunting dogs. I would like to say I slept well, but I didn't - there were goblins having a picnic in the radiator all night - and it was ONLY loud when the lights were off.

Tomorrow we go to Missoula - I will try to be more frequent with my entries in the next two weeks.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Go Bainville Bulldogs!!!

Hmmm....let me think of the things I thought I would do in Montana....Nope, attending a Pep Rally was not one of them. But guess where I was last night??? The Montana Shakespeare in the Schools Company attended a Pep Rally for the Bainville Bulldogs Ladies Volleyball Team and Gentleman's Football Team. We performed at Bainville H.S. on Tuesday morning and they were an amazing audience! They laughed, they cried, they were totally with us. The students were incredibly well-spoken and engaged in the workshops and they invited us to eat breakfast and lunch with them.

As we were packing up, we had an invitation extended to us from Denise, a very involved community member who attended the performance, who invited us to spend the afternoon (and night) at her family's cabin. We were heading to Wolf Point for our Thursday performance and decided that we would have a much better time at the cabin than in the hotel. So we followed Denise to a remote cabin on her land and walked into a brand new, snack-stocked cabin right on the river! She and her husband built the cabin for guests - they both say they have been blessed with more than they need so they built this cabin to serve others. She told us to nap, explore, eat and make ourselves at home - her generosity and kindness was amazing. We spent 4-5 hours relaxing and enjoying the scenery before we went back to BHS to attend the pep rally and dinner to which we had been invited!

I had a wonderful conversation with one of the parents, Marilyn. She has four kids at the school and she is a bus driver and substitute teacher! She told me that we made quite the impression on all of her kids and she wished she had seen the show. She told me that the school cut the Music program at the beginning of the year and it was really hard on the kids. When she approached the school board about the cut, they told her that they viewed Music Lessons as something for which a Private Instructor could be hired. Hmmmm....but sports are apparently NOT something that one could do outside of school... She and I discussed the strong, and wonderful emphasis on sports in the community (in many rural communities) that unfortunately often comes at the expense of the arts in the schools. I told her about the feedback I had received from several teachers, all over our tour, letting me know that the kids that participate in our workshops are often the kids that are silent and not engaged in their everyday class. Marilyn and I discussed how sometimes the arts are the only thing that can grab a kid's interest, just like sometimes reading or math engage a student. They are truly no less important.

The community of Bainville is so close knit -the dinner was a pitch-in and the kids were in teh kitchen, serving the soup entree! The teachers wrote and performed a Wizard of Oz - style sketch dedicated to the Bainville teams. Then the parents participated in a game show where the kids tried to figure out the definition for little-known words. We all had an amazing time - Tyler even started a cheer by yelling out "Go Bulldogs!" after the Volleyball coach gave her speech. From there, we drove to Wolf Point that night for our performance the next day. Denise stopped us before we left and let us know that anytime we are in Bainville, we have a home at the cabin. I'll always have a home in Bainville, MT.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Hobble Diamond Ranch

I just had, perhaps, the most amazing weekend of my life. First though, let me recap the week. We left on Monday, Oct 12th, and drove for four hours to Ten Sleep , WY and had various adventures around the state in Sheridan and Buffalo. I purchased a Western shirt with snap buttons ( just like my Pappa's) and two of the boys, Tyler and Chris, purchased cowboy hats which they proceeded to wear everywhere, including to bed. Needless to say, it was a good week.

Back to my life-changing weekend...on Thursday night we arrived for dinner to celebrate the first night of the Big Timber Arts Roundup. It is a weekend arts camp that brings rather affluent kids from Philly together with less-affluent kids from around Montana and they participate in painting, theatre, photography or writing all weekend long with professionals from each field. We, believe it or not, are the professionals for theatre and we get to perform our show and then work with the kids on Shakespearean scenes that they present at the end of the weekend. It was amazing. I don't think I can even describe to you what it was like. The food was exquisite - dessert at every hom made meal (it was very very dangerous and it had to end or I would have weighed 400lbs in a matter of weeks) and I don't think I was hungry once in the last 3 days - you eat when they tell you to.

I flipped my shit when I found out we were performing in a barn. A real barn. Not to be confused with a fake barn - it was a real functional barn. Montana Shakespeare in the Parks gave the camp their older summer tour set and they built it in the barn for us to use during the weekend. Friday night was our performance night and we spent a good part of the day getting to know the theatre students and then preparing for our performance. We ran thru the play and made adjustments to our blocking amidst mooing cows and barking dogs. I talked to Steve, the head honcho of the ranch hands, and he let me know that they were sorting calves this weekend, something that was usually already completed by Arts Roundup weekend. Hence the noise and commotion. I told him I loved all the bustle and he was just amused all day by our rehearsing. He was such a gentleman - he tipped his hat when he shook my hand and he told us to let him know if we needed anything. While the boys were running thru their fight scene - dodging the work dogs that thought the swords were part of an elaborate game of 'fetch' - Tonya and I snuck off with Jessie, the smartest 11 year old I have ever met, and visited the five draft horses whom we pet and fawned over for a while. Jessie's father and mother live and work on the ranch and he knows the ins and outs of the whole place.

I have to stop here and tell you that I fell hard in love with Hobble Diamond Ranch. I felt dizzy all day on Friday from how happy I was to be there. I started to tear up on several occasions because it was so unbelievable to be performing with this company - this wonderful group of people - in a barn with cows and horses and cats and dogs for these high-school students and the other artists and teachers. I was convinced for a full 24 hours that my calling in life is to work on a ranch...but I think my calling is to do Shakespeare on a ranch. How much closer to the original Globe can you get? The smell of hay and wood chips and the crisp cold open night sky air. We were all heady with the heat of lights and the smell of animal crap!

After the performance, I approached and hugged cowboy Steve and asked him if he liked the show - I assured him that he was allowed to be perfectly honest. He looked up at the ceiling in thought and said, "You know, I did like this one. I don't usually understand what the hell you all are saying, but this one I did understand. Most of it." He told me, "You guys did real good" and it made my year.

There is so much more to this weekend than I can possibly write. I made some great friends from Philly - Lisa, Katie, and Matt - they are just awesome people and wonderful teachers and very talented artists. And the students were amazing - they were willing to take risks and play and they were so smart! I got to work with Tonya on a scene with Brigit and JoJo - the Desdemona and Emilia scene from Othello. They did such a beautiful job and the most amazing thing they did was listen to one another - something that professional actors often can't do if their life depended on it.

This weekend made me so proud to do what I do. More proud than any other time in my life. I feel like I have found happiness - I found the answer. Doing Shakespeare in the middle of nature - our monologues were answered with moos and barks! It was perfect. I feel like I have grown up - I have completed a right of passage that didn't come for me in college. And I feel like this weekend really bonded us as a company - as we crossed the Hobble Diamond threshold for the final time on Sunday night, I felt a sadness and longing in the van - a quiet contemplation for all the wonderful things we shared over the weekend.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Chocolate Milk and Sloppy Joes

It has been cold and snowy all week - on Thursday I announced to everyone that it felt like the week before Thanksgiving. I had a strong wave of homesickness and I was seriously craving pumpkin pie and apple cider. Now it just feels like January - it was 2 degrees here last night and it might just get up in the 40s on Monday. But it is beautiful. The snow here stays white for a long time because there aren't as many cars and not so much smog. We had a 3 hour drive back to Bozeman from Wyoming on Thursday and we decided to go through I have never been there before and I hardly saw the tip of the iceberg, I know, but it was stunning. And we lucked out - we saw a couple hundred bison - two separate herds - plus we stopped for a bison crossing the street and he stared at us (which was a little scary) and we took pictures of him. We also saw a bald eagle, a coyote, antelopes and a beautiful herd of elk. Elk are so magnificent - their coloring and their size is just unreal. I was holding out for a moose, but I guess I will have to wait for Maine next year.

Tour was super fun this week - very tiring and a lot of work, but very fun. I really loved Wyoming - a lot of people with very different life perspectives from me (many, many anti-Obama bumper stickers) but incredibly nice and gracious to us travelers. For the most part, everyone is so grateful to have us there because they have seen the summer shows or they know kids who have seen previous fall tours. Two women we met at the Elk Horn Grille were very dismayed that our show wasn't announced in the local paper like in past years and they were asking us if the Preschoolers would be able to see it. We said we didn't know who would be in our audience, but it was a rather intense show for preschoolers. The next morning we played at Meeteetsee High and lo and behold, all the kids K-12 were there to watch. It was really interesting playing to seniors and kindergartners - if the high school kids did something, than the younger kids would do it ten-fold. So there were a lot of kissing sounds, giggling, and meowing during the Tybalt scenes. One of the teachers at Meeteetsee told us that this was her favorite day of the year and she had coffee and spice bread for us when we showed up at 7. I don't think I have ever felt more appreciated as a storyteller than in these schools. I mean, there are almost always going to be some kids that don't care and are just happy to be out of class, but there are so many of them that are enthralled and excited because there is no local theatre for them to go see. When we ate lunch with the kids, some of them had the idea of we ended up spending most of the period signing our autographs on napkins with dry erase markers amid chocolate pudding and blue Jello. I met the cutest 2nd grader named Mark who wouldn't talk at all to start with and by the end of the period he couldn't stop. He really liked the play, especially the sword fighting. And he told me that he is allergic to milk. And the sun. We ended up having to escort our Juliet out of the lunch room for fear that the children would overtake her - I am amazed we haven't ended up with a 1st grader hiding out in the van.

On Sunday, we have a four hour drive ahead of us to Ten Sleep. We aren't coming back to Bozeman next weekend, so it will be two weeks on the road. We are going to a ranch and staying for 4 nights to do Literary Roundup, which I don't know a whole lot about, but when I do I will let you know. As I understand it, there are groups of kids that choose to study theatre, music, art, etc at this camp on a ranch. And the ones that choose theatre spend the weekend with us - we perform the show and we direct them in Shakespearean scenes that they all present to one another at the end of the weekend. It sounds like a lot of fun, and I am hoping I can ride a horse while I am there.

There is something really fun about living off of what you can carry in your suitcase - it just makes everything more simple. It is really nice to go into a different location every day and do the same thing with the same people. And it is never really the same, because every show is different and every school is different. On Friday we performed at Bozeman Public Library for some Home-Schooled youth and the ceiling wasn't high enough for our balcony railing to fit. So that was an adventure. And on tour, you know there is a place to sleep and there is stuff to eat - we live off of Continental breakfasts and school lunches - I have had sloppy joes and chocolate milk twice this week!!!

It was really great to be back at the dorm in Bozeman this weekend and we celebrated one of our own's birthday with a big ziti dinner and going out about the town. I was very pleased to have finished Eddie's Bastard - what a great book! - and am now onto Little, Big which I have been told I will love. It sounds like we may go back out to Norris Springs this evening. It will be much, much harder to get out of the water, but I think it will be fun to go when it is so cold outside.

Sunday, October 4, 2009


Okay, I apologize for the lack of updates of late - last week was our third week of rehearsal and tech week so we were rehearsing 8 hours a day and also had our 'tech' which was figuring out sound cues and who was running which cues etc. We also added our beautiful costumes and figured out how our set comes down and packs up. The way the sets at MSIP work blows my mind: the scenic designer comes up with a design that must be able to endure being taken down and put up 5 times a week and it all goes together WITHOUT TOOLS! We use bolts, wingnuts, and pinned hinges to hold everything together, including the balcony that people jump and walk on. If that doesn't impress you, this should: it all is designed to fit within a certain cubic space in the back of a massive flat bed pickup truck. Apparently the sets in the summer work the same way, except that they are three times as big and so they add a trailer to the whole thing called 'the whale.' So all of our set, sound equipment, costumes and other items (first aid, hair and makeup) fit into the truck or our 15 passenger van and that is what we cart around from town to town.

We are leaving Bozeman for the first time in about two hours to drive to Columbus, MT where we will be giving our second school performance tomorrow morning. It was incredibly weird to pack a suitcase for 5 days out of the limited amount of stuff I brought. I definitely won the packing game - I brought very little - but as a result have picked up some stuff while I have been here. It is super dry and for the first time in my life, conditioning my hair has become a must and it is just very strange to be somewhere that dry after living in Chicago where it seems like there is always moisture in the air.

Speaking of moisture, it has been spitting snow all day, which is very pretty. Doesn't look like it will stick . We did have a snow that stuck on Sept 30th - I woke up and looked out at everything covered with white and was absolutely shocked. Hopefully we will get some sort of autumn before winter really settles in, but we shall see. I am reeeaaally glad I brought my down vest and have been getting my money's worth out of it this last week. Naturally, since it started snowing, Laura (our lovely Juliet and my partner in crime) and I went to get yarn to start knitting Christmas presents and have been doing that all weekend.

But - back to Friday. Friday was our first school performance at 8:45 am which meant we were there at 7am which meant we left at 6:40am which meant I got up at 5:30am. Which was a shock to my system after 10am rehearsals and being up until midnight the night before. Nonetheless, we got into their beautiful gym and set up everything for the first time and things went fairly smoothly. The show was great and we only had one minor setback - one of the actors came off stage, high on life from her scene, and knocked the sound computer off of the table. All of our sound went out and didn't come back on until someone had the ingenious idea to reboot the computer so that we had the last two sound cues. But in the meantime, we got very resourceful and old school and used an actual bell to make the 'bell sound cue' and our voices to make 'voice sound cues.' Back to basics.

The kids were pretty amazing - I realized that I don't think I have ever performed in front of a more appreciative audience. Of course there are always going to be some kids that are just glad to be out of class and don't care where they are, but for the most part they were thrilled and excited to see this play. Their teachers had done a great job prepping them for us and they were familiar with the story and even called us out on some of the stuff we had to cut for the sake of time. The teaching afterwards was kind of scary for me, but I know it will get easier - I just need to be confident that I know what I am doing. We were invited to stay for lunch and I was bowled over by the food! These kids have a salad bar and fresh spinach and it was pizza day!!! And if you eat all of your 'growing food' (aka pizza and salad) then you may have a brownie. Truly, the food was fantastic (especially compared to the crap I ate in school) and it is all made on site, not frozen, and meets certain health recommendations like having multi-grain and a vegetable and fruit. The principal told me that it is a program predominantly in rural Montana schools where there is a small enough student body for one to cook. I gave the kids the "In my day..." speech about overcooked green beans and iceberg lettuce being the only green thing in the lunch room when I went to school and they looked at me and laughed.

I met a 4th grader named Eliza and we were both very excited that someone else had our names. In the talk back, one of the kids asked us all what our first play was. My answer, of course, was The Sound of Music in 4th grade and I heard a giggle erupt from the middle of the audience. I later found out, when I was approached by a gaggle of 4th graders, that the school musical this year is The Sound of Music - it went something like this, "We are excited because you said your first play was The Sound of Music when you were in 4th grade and we are in 4th grade! and we are doing The Sound of Music this year! And you were in 4th grade and we are in 4th grade! isn't that cool?" And it is.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Sky is Green and the Grass is Blue

We finished our first week of rehearsal and we have about two thirds of the play up and on its feet. Bill gave us a piece of advice to chew on that I greatly appreciated, "Nothing you do in this play is going to be as brilliant as these words. So don't act like they are getting in the way of your performance." And he is very right and we needed the reminder - I needed the reminder. Its not that you think you don't need the language, its just that you get very involved in the emotional track of your character and their background and blah blah blah and then you forget that everything you really need is right there in the moment in the specific words you are speaking. I guess I get caught up in thinking, 'This language is hard for people to understand so I am going to overcome it so that the story will be clear.' When really Shakespeare chose those specific words for a reason and they tell the story very well on their own.

Anyway, last week was really fun - I had a lot of free time. I went to Bikram, rode my bike, we went to Norris Springs - and it was amazing. Norris is a hot spring about an hour outside of Bozeman where they have live blue grass music and sell local food (meats and produce). So you sit in a wooden pool of hot water coming right up from the ground, listen to great music, and eat good food. Only 5 bucks to get in and the food and booze is very reasonably priced. Suck on that, Chicago bars!

We also had plans to go hiking, but we all stayed out too late on Sat night and then woke up sick with various forms of the common cold on Sunday. It also dropped from 82 to 55 degrees F over night and that didn't do a lot to help anyone feel better. It officially feels like fall, which I guess it officially is the Autumn Equinox - the leaves are coming down, the air is crisp and it just smells great outside. But I hear it is supposed to be in the 70s here tomorrow. I gotta get my horseback riding in before it gets too cold. And I want to float down the river too...

This week is going to be busier than last. We have gone back to 8 hour rehearsal days with an hour for lunch and Wed, Thurs, and Fri are going to be dedicated to Workshop workshops where we learn how to teach the high schoolers neat things. I am mildly nervous about this part, but I have been reassured that it is sometimes the best part of the tour. And then a week from this Friday, we have our first performance. Yikes.

But it will be fine! No worries! Me worry? Not me. I think my throbbing headache has finally abated for the day. I went to the gym (we get free memberships!) and spent a significant amount of time in the steam room and sauna and that really seemed to help.

I'm gonna hop off to bed now and will try to get back to write later this week.

Love from Montana to all!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Practice, practice, practice

So, we are approaching our fourth day of rehearsal and it is a blast! I have to say, I was having difficulty acclimating myself to the new people and surroundings but rehearsal was the great equalizer and reminded me why I am here and helped me focus myself. I think I was in this weird place of feeling like I was on vacation, but knowing that I was here to work.

I am having such a good time in rehearsal - everyone is hard working, fun, and good at what they were hired to do. Everything I heard about working with Bill is true - he is amazing about giving us time to work and he treats each character like they are the main character of the play - basically, the fact that he is an actor is very apparent in his direction and I LOVE that. I think some people are a little apprehensive that we only have three weeks of rehearsal, but compared to the last couple shows I've done, that feels like luxury! And we have a fantastic production team - the model of the set is great and our costumes...Oh my god, our costumes are so pretty. Especially mine. The period is Italian Regency (Napoleonic) and for those of you to whom that means nothing (like me at first) think Jane Austen. So I have a beautiful long-sleeved dusty pink dress with a gold sleeveless top layer. And it goes with my hair splendidly if I do say so myself.

Plus I am living life on easy street because I don't have a lot of scenes, any big monologues, and I am not in any fights. So I have rehearsed for only about 3 hours each day. I am sure I will be doing stuff backstage during the actual production - when we tour, we run our own sound, lights, move sets, etc. But right now i am really digging the free time. It is something I never get in Chicago - it's always 'What auditions are coming up? What agencies are casting? Why don't I have any monologues that don't suck?"

Oh, and I solved the Bikram problem. One of my castmates mentioned that he had borrowed a bike from the generous artistic director and so I inquired as to doing the same. I was fortunate, and got a bike, put air in the tire and purchased a lock and helmet. It is stuck in a low gear and probably needs a tune-up, but it is totally rideable and I am ever so grateful to be able to get around. So yesterday I rode the 2.5 miles to the Bikram studio and signed up for a month. I had a really terrible class. The altitude ( I am assuming thats what it was) really made it difficult to breathe and I had to sit out for about half of the postures. Also, the stench in the room was pretty unbearable - I am used to our spotless, and sometimes carpetless, Chicago studios, so this was quite a shock. And then the bike ride back was pretty close to pure hell.

So I wasn't surprised when I couldn't get out of bed this morning. At least I know I did something right in class - it really felt like I just stayed horizontal and panted for an hour and a half. I was too much of a pansy to go back today...I actually was tempted to not go back at all, but my lovely Bikram mentor (Ian Daniel McLaren) wrote me an email addressing all my issues that convinced me to go back - the main thing he said was that if I could adapt to class at 4900 ft, I would rock when I get back to Chicago.

I have been pretty useless today...and ravenously hungry. I just stuffed my face with thai curry out of a box and hummus. And I think Laura and I are going to go to the ice cream store down the street which has come highly recommended. We really felt like we should get out and explore a little while it is still light, and what better way to do that than get ice cream? And while we are on that subject, I am proud to announce that I am officially in a healthy Body Mass Index range! 6 lbs from my goal weight and then the challenge will be staying there.

Okay, catch ya later. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 13, 2009


Wow...I am starting a blog. And I am in Montana. If I look out my bedroom window right now, I can see mountains. And clouds. We arrived at the University last night and those of us that drove from Chicago were the first ones here. Three other people are coming from home as they just got done with the Summer tour (six months on tour - they are crazy cool!) and then two other people are driving in from Chicago and should get here today. So I am sitting in my lovely graduate apartment living room, drinking coffee and trying to recall all the awesome things that happened on the trip up here.

We were on the road at about 10:30 on Thursday morning. We stopped and had a late lunch on the banks of the Mississippi and ended up staying the night in Blue Earth, Minnesota - home of the Jolly Green Giant! The statue was very cool. We explored the town, looking for dinner and it was at this point that I realized what a city girl I am.

Now, I have always considered myself fairly used to rural - I grew up visiting a rather remote rustic cabin in Maine every summer and going to our family farm out in rural Indiana. But....I was rather shocked when we went into a Jubas (grocery store) in Blue Earth and there were no prepackaged salads. What? That's right, no prepackaged salads. We ended up just snacking for dinner and watching Project Runway in our hotel room.

Minnesota was beautiful - but South Dakota was my favorite state of the trip. First off, I finally feel like I am in on the joke about ridiculous billboards. It really makes the drive so entertaining to see billboards about "10 ft Prairie Dog" and "Prehistoric Indian Village." We also stopped and had breakfast at Wall Drug in Wall, SD which boasted "Free Ice Water" and "5 Cent Coffee" and I can say that they weren't lying. When we first got into SD we stopped at this remote location that had young bison (most of us had never seen a real bison) and inside the connecting store they also had bison jerky. By this point, everyone on the trip knew of my love for jerky. Tyler actually went out to look at the bison while gnawing on his jerky, which I pointed out was a little messed up...The adjoining store was definitely for tourists - but it was from another era. There were old newspaper articles about cowboys and Indians and clippings with pictures of scalped settlers all set against a background of bison pelts postcards and t-shirts with '25 reasons a handgun is better than a Woman." There were also ancient mannequins in little booths that moved and played music when you put a quarter in. We indulged in one called 'Big Sam' and a large black gorilla played the piano while singing. It was fun, if not a bit terrifying.

Besides the jerky, we had bison burgers for lunch. They were Delicious. Maybe better than hamburgers....and a lot leaner. And the rhubarb pie was also stunning. I had another crowning city-girl moment when the waitress asked me what dressing I would like on my salad and I answered, 'Balsamic vinaigrette." She kind of looked at me - trying to ascertain whether I was stupid or just clueless - and said, "We have some oil and vinegar at the salad bar." And that was great. So whenever we stop at a gas station, someone in the caravan will say, "I was gonna see whether they have balsamic vinaigrette here." Haha.

We stayed in the Badlands on the second night in these amazing little cabins that have been around since the 20s. It was breathtaking - I absolutely felt like I was on another planet, if not in another country. I wish I could post some pictures, but I forgot the hookup for my camera and computer - so I will have to wait. We explored some of the landscape and watched the sunset from up on some of the peaks. We spent the evening watching one of my fellow actors do magic - he is amazing - and snacking for dinner. We all turned in very early and got up at 6am so that we could see the sunrise as we drove through the Badlands. It was very foggy, but so dynamic. I kept thinking about dinosaurs as we drove through - it looked so prehistoric. Definitely someplace I plan to come back.

We spent a hot second in Wyoming on the third day and then we were in Montana and the landscape changed dramatically - it is Gorgeous! The driving got real exciting (apparently MT didn't have a speed limit until recently and now it is 75mph) and I am pretty sure that I want to read a book about Lewis and Clark after seeing some of their landmarks. Bill suggested, 'Undaunted Courage.' We arrived in Bozeman around 5pm Mountain time and unpacked, played on the swings, went to the grocery store, realized we were all too fried to grocery shop, and then got dinner at the nearby pizzeria. It was there that I discovered a new beer I really like - Moosedrool. The name alone is admiration-worthy.

I had planned to go to the Bikram studio today, but it is 2.5 miles away (too far to walk, especially after class) and there are only two classes - 9am and 4pm. So it looks like I will be practicing in my room without heat, which sucks, but I can deal. Other than that I plan to work on my lines, do some research, meet the rest of the company and maybe some more exploring. We are gathering for a party tonight but the day is ours.