Q:I've been cast in my first touring production. I'm very excited. It will also be my first time leaving the country! Getting to travel with my work as an actor feels like a new level of success for me. I really want it to go well. Any tips on touring, traveling abroad, mixing having fun with the business aspect of the trip?
Actor and career consultant Velina Brown.
A: Congratulations on booking your first tour! Very exciting indeed. Touring well is actually a skill set. Some people are naturals at it but for most the skills are developed over time. My artistic home, the San Francisco Mime Troupe, is a touring company and it just so happens that I'm writing this on a train heading to Nancy from Paris on a French tour with SF company Word for Word. So I have quite a bit of touring experience and I've been able to ask some friends and colleagues to chime in as well.
Ten Touring Tips from Actors for Actors
"Be self sufficient," Michael Gene Sullivan, head writer and touring veteran of the SF Mime Troupe, emphatically states. I try to be as self sufficient as possible. However, I do sometimes rely on others who have a better sense of direction than I do. I figure it's better to admit my challenges than try to be macho about something I'm bad at and possibly create more problems.
Don't over pack. Everyone says this. And the definition is relative. Some people have a tiny bag with a toothbrush and a change of underwear and consider having more than that over packing. This team tends to get ripe pretty quickly as they immediately run out of clean things to wear.Then there's the team that feels they've packed light if they only have one steamer trunk and then try to press those around them into service as their valet. I suggest inquiring about whether you will have easy access to laundry facilities at the various locations. If laundry is readily available you can pack for a week or two at the most and then do laundry as needed. If you've packed more bags than you can manage on your own, you've over packed.
"Respect the the timetable. Be on time", says Sue Harlow, coartistic director and France tour leader for Word for Word. When traveling as a group, everything takes longer than when you are traveling on your own. Therefore you can't cut your personal travel time as close. Don't have the group waiting for you, feeling stressed about whether you are going to miss the plane or train. They will have to leave without you. And that won't be fun for anyone.
Have cultural awareness i.e. study up on where you are going. Have a little language if you can. How do people dress? Be respectful of customs.
Try to experience as much as you can.
But also take care of yourself.Get your sleep. This can be tough when you are going through different time zones. My first week in France I struggled with terrible jet lag. Word for Word charter member and director Stephanie Hunt gave me a homeopathic sleep aid called Calms Forte by Boiron that immediately did the trick with no grogginess at all. I'd also advise bringing earplugs so that when you do finally get to sleep you aren't awakened at dawn by construction workers, leaf blowers, etc. Also, a sleep mask is great to block out the light if you need to sleep at odd times. Maintain a healthy diet.By all means experience the local cuisine. But also respect what your body needs to function well. Some places will have amazing, wonderful food. Some not so much. To tide you over in a pinch have some non perishable things like dried fruit and almonds. Stay hydrated.Always have water with you. Travel demands a lot of your body. Give it what it needs to keep you in good repair and your voice in good form.
Remember this is a business trip. Your first responsibility is to the show and to be able to do your best work every time. Anything that is going to have you arriving to the theatre on performance day torn up and hung over is obviously a no.
Respectful communication must be maintained. Traveling with a group can be demanding and stressful but do your very best to avoid taking your frustrations out on your fellow travelers. If a communication snafu does occur address it right away so that it doesn't fester. Good manners and a liberal use of "please, excuse me, thank you" keep people's feelings soothed and your pathways smooth.
Maintain an attitude of gratitude. My cast mate David Moore says he likes to remember, "It's a blessing to get to do this for a job."
Be a good ambassador.What I love the most about traveling abroad as an artist is the unique opportunity to act as a cultural ambassador. As you get to learn first hand about other cultures you also have the opportunity to let people know more about our culture than what they see in the evening news.