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The Great Ivy + Bean Tour, Week Four: Georgia and Florida and a Happy Birthday

So we’ve escaped disaster and stared right into the face of the completely unexpected and said “IVY AND BEAN WILL OVERCOME!”

(we never actually said that out loud, not really sure if we ever said it to ourselves either)

After our Rochester shows, the original plan was to start traveling to Macon, Georgia; we were going to spend the next few days making our way down the east coast at a nice and completely doable pace.

Did you forget that we didn’t have our trailer, Rhonda? Oh, reader, you make me laugh. I’m laughing now.

It’s stopping me from crying. Kidding. Not really. Anyway.

The first stop on our original travel schedule after Rochester was Pittsburgh. BUUUUTTTT thanks to our horrific luck last week, we had to travel to New Jersey, where a rehabilitated trailer named Rhonda awaited our arrival in a mall parking lot.

I’m gonna go off on a tangent here, because life is just silly. The mall we just so happened to be meeting the tow truck with Rhonda was the Rockaway Mall, a place that still has some of my oldest and most favorite memories of my early years living in Jersey.

On Saturdays after I was an altar server at church back in the day, my mom and I would go to the Rockaway Mall, eat cheese fries from Nathan’s and buy me some bell-bottom jeans from Limited Too or entirely too many earrings from Claire’s Accessories. And here I was, well over a decade later, unloading a truck full of suitcases, road boxes and set pieces and re-loading them into our trailer in that same mall’s parking lot.

My hands where splintered and scratched from the road boxes, I almost slipped and fell in the ice patches, and my big suitcase was pretty damp because the truck probably had a leak, but the memories of my mother across the table from me, laughing and eating cheese fries, stopped me from a fit of frustration and tears.

Our traveling stops had to be altered since we were no longer following our original travel plan, which our stage manager Alfredo quickly worked out for us. And after two six-hour travel days, we arrived in Georgia.

Do you know what a sunny, friendly, warm Georgia looks like to a bunch of disgruntled New Yorkers? It looks like awesome. That’s what it looks like. Frickin’ awesome.

Our hotel was right next to Mercer University’s campus, and I had a great time exploring the campus with some of my cast before our load-in at the theater. We would later return to campus that night for Mexican food and pitchers of frozen margaritas. Mmmm margaritas.

ANYWAY. Theater. We’re here for performances, not guessing which frat house on their campus was the party house (My guess is all of them). The theater we had the privilege to perform in was the Grand Opera House.

Grand Opera House lookin' pretty grand in Macon, Georgia

Guys, seriously how the in hell did I get this gig where I get to perform in spaces like this?

Thankfully, our performances were travesty-free. Nobody got hurt, nobody’s mic went dead, I caught my wand and the kids cheered. Great! Now what?

An eight-hour drive to Florida.

I will say, though, that we just kept getting happier and happier as the scenery changed from farms and cows to palm trees. The temperature in Florida during our stay was 70-75 degrees. Suck it, New York!

Our first stop in the great state of oranges was Coral Springs, which is very close to Miami. We stayed there for two nights, which gave us the opportunity to load in to the theater the day before our performances. Our load-in was pushed back to 9pm, which (A) was super weird because it was so late and (B) gave us the opportunity to go to the beach.

The beach, you guys. THE. BEACH.

If you guys need me, I'll be here. In my dreams. Bye.

While our friends in New York were bearing down for another snow storm in below-freezing temperatures, I was sipping on a Mango daquiri, laying in the sun and dipping my toes in the ocean while I watched my friends play frisbee in the sand. I was the happiest. I mean, after all of our crap luck last week, we deserved the sun and sounds of the ocean.

After a lovely couple of hours on the shore, the whole crew geared up for our latest load-in yet, and by the time we had unloaded, set up the props, costumes and set pieces, we were dozing off in the green room while our stage manager was working on light cues. It wasn't until after midnight that we arrived back at the hotel.

The original performance schedule the next day was a 10am show and an 11:45am show. It was our quickest turn-around yet; our show is a little over an hour long, and since we started ten minutes late, we had about fifteen minutes in between to reset the whole stage and props, and that didn't even include a moment to sit and eat. Thankfully our stage manager Alfredo pushed back our second show to 12, which is quick, but totally doable. Both shows went swimmingly (albeit they were super sweaty-- Florida is humid, y'all), and we were loaded out and on the road to Tampa by the early afternoon.

Due to rescheduling, we had the next day off in Tampa. It just so happened to be Valentine's Day.

This was a Valentine's Day for the ages, y'all.

It started off with sleeping in (GOOD GOD SLEEPING IN YESSSSSS), and waking up to a smiley Melissa in the bed next to me. I asked her to be my valentine. Sorry, Fisher.

We found a lot of great eats and shops within walking distance of our hotel, including a delicious brunch spot (shout out to Sydney for finding it!) and bookstore full of first editions and rareties. I found a first edition of short stories, poems and photos about birdhunting for Fisher's birthday gift, and spent the rest of the early afternoon walking along the water with the girls of my cast.

Be our valentine, Tampa. You won't regret it.

We all went back to the hotel shortly after to decide what we wanted to do with the rest of the day/night. The girls and I had toyed with the idea of going to see the "critically acclaimed masterpiece" Fifty Shades of Grey on it's opening day, and after looking up some times at the movie theater close by, we decided it would be a great idea to sit and laugh in the dark together.

A few things: (A) that movie was TWO HOURS LONG. Who did this move think it was, Lincoln?? Hey, Fifty Shades, you are not an epic; you are a poorly-written book (I quickly learned there were three books in total, which I thought was both hilarious and sad) that Salman Rushdie claimed "made Twilight look like War and Peace". Ouch. (B) If you haven't seen it yet, I suggest doing what we did--drink and eat candy throughout. The movie theater was selling glasses of cheap champagne, single-serving bottles of wine, even liquor. This made the experience bearable and even more hilarious. Although, I have to say, my favorite was spending down-time with all my ladies and Dan, who was the only man in our group brave enough to come along. We're still quoting the crappy one-liners.

(Quick apology to those out there who really liked the books and movie. Whatever rubs your buddha, y'all, go for it.)

It was a little after seven at night when we got out of the theater, so we started looking for food nearby. And then we found a pirate parade.

I'll say that one more time. We found a pirate parade.

Our first view of Pirate Parade Madness.

Less than a block away from the movie theater, an entire street was blocked off and flanked by the people of Tampa, dancing and shouting and waving at the cars and floats. Guys and gals in full pirate gear were tossing beads and small frisbees at the crowd as they passed by. It was like a Buccaneer Mardi Gras. Too much fun.

When the parade was over, we started walking the street, still looking for food. Our stage manager texted us and let us know he was at a bar nearby dancing with some of this friends. Obviously, we decided to let dinner wait a bit longer and danced our butts off for a good forty-five minutes. We emerged sweaty and starving and ready to go back to the hotel. I spent the remaining minutes of Valentine's Day skyping with Fisher. Such a great day.

Our hotel in Tampa was literally right across the street from the Straz Center, our next performance venue.

The building itself housed a conservatory and five performance spaces, all of which were full of actors and audiences the day we performed. Our home at the Straz was the 1,042 seat Ferguson Hall. She was a beauty.

Ferguson Hall in Tampa, Florida

After our performance, instead of a traditional meet-and-greet with the audience, we were escorted to a young girls 8th birthday party, which was also going on in this gargantuan building. We ate a cookie cake with children while actors in full-opera costume were walking the halls and warming up for Rigoletto. It was strange and lovely.

We said goodbye to the birthday party, loaded up Rhonda, and drove an hour and a half to Orlando. Now, before we started the tour, our stage manager let us know that, if we all decided as a group that we wanted to go, we could pay for an extra night at a hotel, stay in Florida for an extra day, and go to Disney before we flew back up to New York for a ten-day break.

Of course we all said UH YEAH DUH.

I was an idiot and didn't check to see how much money Disney would cost. I couldn't afford it.

That doesn't mean my day off wasn't amazing, because it was. Seriously. I played mini golf with Dan and drank rum by a pool in the sun. The rest of the crew who got to go kept us posted with photos and videos, which gave me plenty to smile about. Seeing them happy is my happy place.

We didn't want to travel to New York the next day. The thought of traveling to a frozen tundra after spending days in the palm trees was, well, it was stupid. Just plain stupid. But the time had come to go back to the big apple, and after two planes and an hour delay in our connection city, we were back in New York a little after ten that night.

I was worn out, but my night wasn't over yet. I still had to set up a surprise.

The day before we arrived back in NYC was Fisher's birthday. I wasn't there, of course, but I still wanted to do something special for him. So when I first got my tour schedule months ago, I didn't tell him about my ten-day break in February; I gave him another set of dates and then acted like we added more shows to the tour so my arrival at home was completely up in the air. I'm so sneaky, you guys.

So I'm in a car on my way home and text him to ask if a gift I had sent him ever arrived. He said he didn't see a package or a "Sorry We Missed You" slip, and I pretended to be a little perturbed. I waited until I was out of the car to call him, hoping that he wouldn't hear my voice right outside our bedroom window (ok so I'm not so sneaky). He answered and I said something like "um, it says online that it was delivered, can you check outside again, maybe they hid it somewhere on the front porch?"

He opened the front door to me at the bottom of our porch steps with a big stupid smile on my face. I wanted to have something in my hands besides my backpack and suitcase, like flowers or a balloon, but he didn't care. I pulled off the surprise, and spent the rest of the evening feeling like a million bucks.

Until I promptly passed out fifteen minutes later.

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