Touring the Bard: All The World’s A Grave
Touring the Bard in America.
There are not many days when I feel blessed to be either me or an Actor but today seems to be the exception. Let me explain.
Being an Actor does sometimes usher in a few blessings, not many I admit however there are a few. I have been fortunate for the last six months to be touring the United States with a classical theatre company out of New York. Normally one gets to spend an entire season in some dreadful English seaside backwater or a pleasant but freezing cold Scottish community. This year, thank God, I have been able to escape post-Brexit Britain and land feet first in post-Obama now present day Trump America. (I keep reminding people that we live in interesting times.)
Now, bringing Shakespeare to the US might seem at first glance to be a bit of a challenge but I found to my surprise that no matter how badly I adlib Shakespeare’s verse (its hell to learn) people seem to greatly appreciate the chance to leave their homes and observe some live theatre.
I must admit the East Coast of America does not fill me with warm and happy thoughts, never the less (and rather surprisingly) I do thoroughly appreciate sitting in an Actors people carrier and looking out the window at the Mississippi River or the charming orange trees of a Florida fruit orchard. Yes, there are many perks to being an Actor on the road and being able to see the beautiful landscape of the United States is one of them.
This particular tour has been a fascinating adventure. Once we had mercifully left Wisconsin and New Jersey behind myself and my colleagues were able to gracefully take in the rolling hills and mountains of Colorado Springs. I say gracefully with a touch of irony as the stage management department were driving us at high speed because they wanted to make it to the cannabis dispensary in the next state before it closed. Never the less it always strikes me as sad when I am enjoying these journey’s that the vast amount of people from my country of origin (UK) seem to think that America only consists of either New York, Las Vegas or LA. Granted if you are a so called ‘Professional Gambler’ there might not be much else to do in the US except visit Sin-City, but believe it or not there is a rich and glorious history to the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.
The first stop of my tour was particularly interesting as it was in Katonah, NY State where my fellow Thesp’s and I started out from. Katonah, I found to my surprise was the home of the ‘Steps Programme’, where 2 men Bill Wilson and Dr Bob Smith began the world-wide movement of Alcoholics Anonymous. Little did I realise that my colleagues and I were rehearsing just down the road from the very first and original meeting place and home of this extraordinary organization. Moving off I found that to be travelling for at least six hours to our next venue would be no difficulty at all as the scenery always seems to make the hours fly by. The Mid-West seemed to have been papered over by hundreds of Trump-Pence billboards which made me realise (early on) that Hillary Clinton was not going to become the first Female President of the United States. Sad to say in almost four to five months of touring across the US myself and my colleagues only came across one (yes, ONE) Clinton-Kaine poster.
As we travelled further south the sensibilities of the local population began to become apparent. On the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration, my colleagues and I were trying to check into our hotel while surrounded by jubilant locals who kept loudly proclaiming “Thank God that child eating terrorist isn’t President!” At which one of my fellow Actor’s replied ‘Didn’t Hillary and Obama kill Osama Bin Laden!?’ The look that we received from the celebrating crowd was enough to make us all depart as quickly as possible to our rooms. Once my colleagues and I were out of ear shot we all mutually agreed that perhaps we should all keep our opinions to ourselves. That night I watched on Netflix’s the movie RACE WITH THE DEVIL and prayed that the good and local people of Avon Alabama would not do to us what was done to Peter Fonda. (Incidentally it’s a great movie!)
That aside I decided to put all that was both Brexit and Trump out of my mind. Life was good! IS GOOD!
Trust me, when you are touring the United States all one needs to keep oneself sane is a good hotel, a local Walmart or Walgreens and Haagen-Dazs Ice cream. Simple pleasures help make the road a simple, happy and bearable pleasure.
Glendora, California was a beautiful experience especially as I got to observe and help the local’s fish off the pier and catch bucket loads of fresh mackerel. Albuquerque gave us the opportunity to visit the BREAKING BAD set, be photographed outside ‘Saul’s’ office and visit the Los Pollos Hermanos Chicken restaurant. In Palm Beach, a very grateful (and wealthy) local dermatologist took us all to dinner, spent a fortune on us all and then even (when leaving) stopped by the restaurant’s crab station to examine the moles on the neck of one of the Actor’s, (what more could you ask!)
In Wilmington, the performance was brought to a halt when someone in the cheap seats yelled out “Is there a Doctor in the House!?” No, it was not a critic or the ghost of Shakespeare turning in his grave but a member of the audience who was choking on her curly chips and Diet Mountain dew.
In all, it has so far been a fascinating and enlightening tour. Come March I will be wondering whether to brave returning to post-Brexit Britain or to stay on in the US. I might travel to Grand Fork’s ND where my daughter lives and watch her and her sisters fight over their Grandmother’s hover board (Christmas present) or… Who knows!!!?
Whatever happens, I intend to be back touring across the US come July this year (2017) in William Shakespeare’s HAMLET. No doubt our audience will be eagerly awaiting us again and wondering how on earth non-profit theatre companies can continue to tour when President Trump has cut all the Federal funding for them.
It’s a great country. A beautiful country and as I keep reminding its citizens, bar the world ending, America will have a new President in either four or eight years time.
Also by Lincoln Hudson:
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