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The Great Ivy + Bean Tour, Week Five: Michigan and Missouri

Well, New York, I'd like to say I'll miss you, but I'd be lying straight to your face.
(To the people of New York: please disregard the previous statement. I had the time of my life catching up with all of you before heading back out on the road. Stay safe and warm.)

The truth is, my time off was pretty great even though it was SO FRICKIN COLD AND SNOWY AND SLIPPERY THAT I HATED BEING OUTDOORS. Oh, also taxes and bills. Taxes and bills are stupid, too.

BUT I did my taxes and paid my bills and put up with the snow and the wind chills of many degrees below zero. My reward was spending time with great friends. I even saw my castmates a few times during our ten days off.

It's funny, I think everyone (including us) assumed we'd be like "Ok great BYE I'M SICK OF YOU", but we didn't feel that way. Honestly, I missed them. Having this amount of time off was disorienting simply because I wasn't constantly moving; for almost a week and a half, I had no idea what day it was, I got into strange sleeping patterns, and had more free time than I knew what do to with. But the most disorienting thing was not seeing those same eight people every day, and I missed them a lot.

Okay, enough of the mushy crap. Time to go.

Now, I don't know who came up with our travel itinerary to Michigan, but they should get slapped. Fairly hard. In the face.

My father travels a lot for his job; I can say with all confidence that the dude knows just about every airport there is and every airport connection one could possibly take to get somewhere. And when you confound my father with flight plans, you know that you are coo-coo pants.

Our Saturday travel plans were as follows: From La Guardia, we fly to Buffalo, New York; From Buffalo, we fly to ATLANTA, GEORGIA; From Atlanta, we fly to Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Anybody notice anything, oh I dunno, COMPLETELY RIDICULOUS about our journey? Cheaper flights be damned, what on earth makes anyone think we are going to make TWO connections during the strangest winter storm waves the South and East have seen in years?!? There is a very high possibility we'll be stranded somewhere and not make it to Michigan in time for our shows.

When are our shows in Michigan, you might ask? Sunday. As in the next day.

(Photo on right: Dylan and I in some rocking chairs at some airport. Which airport, I have no clue.)


The weather and plane gods were watching over us because our twelve-hour travel day went off without a hitch. I was a zombie by the time we arrived at our hotel in Kalamazoo, Michigan, but quickly got my second wind once we got to the hotel.

Because this week is my week for the single room.

Cue the Hallelujah chorus.

Backstory: since there are five ladies in the cast, every week we switch off who gets the single room. Our stage manager drew names out of a hat at the beginning of the tour, and mine was picked last in the single room lotto. No matter. It was worth. the. wait.

I could sit around in my underwear and eat Cheetos and watch TV until whenever I wanted! (I may or may not have actually done that.)

After waking from a great sleep, we all hopped in the van and drove to our next venue for a load-in before our show that afternoon. I didn’t think the venues could get any bigger, but the Miller Auditorium in Kalamazoo had to be the biggest. 3,497 seats, baby.

The Miller Auditorium in Kalamazoo, Michigan

The Miller Auditorium in Kalamazoo, Michigan

Besides the killer theater space, their green room had multiple leather couches and chairs that swallowed you up like a soft, cozy cocoon. The naps, oh the naps, they were the best.

As for our show, well… It was not the best.

Our ten days off were just long enough for my body to completely forget what I had to do during the show to keep myself from flat out gasping for air. Needless to say, the first ten minutes were a little touch-and-go. It got better and better as the show went on, but it was rough.

I was particularly bummed because my Aunt JoAnne and Uncle Ted came from Ann Arbor, Michigan with their granddaughter Riley. Of course, they were very complimentary and Riley looked like she had a good time, but I wish they had seen a better show from me. Okay, I’m done beating myself up about it! It was wonderful seeing them and the theater was a dream. On to the next!

Byron Center, our next stop in Michigan, was only about forty-five minutes away from Kalamazoo, which was a welcome change from our average travel time. The only thing we had to do the next day was load in to the space, and that wasn’t until the afternoon, so we spent the evening staying up late and watching movies together.

Our next venue was the Van Singel Fine Arts Center, which was attached to a high school. We assumed the theater would be smaller, but we walked in to a surprisingly big and beautiful space. Other national tours besides ours perform in the space all the time, and we could definitely see why.

Van Singel Fine Arts Center in Byron Center, Michigan

Their crew was gracious, kind and helpful, always asking if there was anything else they could do for us. They also fed us a great breakfast and lunch the next day, which, despite it being our first two-show day in a while, went much MUCH better than our last show, thank goodness. We have found our groove again!

We loaded our trailer in a snow/rain mix, which continued to fall throughout our drive to Springfield, Illinois, five hours away from Byron Center. Springfield was just the halfway point to our ultimate destination in Missouri, which we would travel to the next day.

Upon our arrival in Springfield, Missouri (yup, another Springfield, as if our life wasn't confusing enough), we checked into our hotel and headed right off to our next load in at the beautiful Juanita K. Hammons Hall.

Juanita K. Hammons Hall in Springfield, Missouri

The snow was still falling the day after our load-in. I watched the ticker filled with school closings from snow running at the bottom of my tv screen, and started wondering if any of these schools were supposed to come to the show that morning.

Yep, they were. And now they weren't going to be there.

So, in a theater that holds over two thousand seats, we performed to a group of MAYBE twenty six humans, which consisted of parents and their home-schooled kids. Even if they did laugh, the enormity of the space drowned out the sound. It was a quiet show.

Our next show wasn't until 7pm that night, which gave us about five hours to eat lunch and relax at the hotel. The cast and I ate some delish barbecue and made a quick Walmart run before returning to the hotel. I took a nap in my glorious king-size bed (single room for the win!!) and prepared myself for what might be another quiet audience.

Luckily, that wasn't the case. Our audience was big, beautiful and responsive. I loaded out of the theater that night breathing a huge sigh of relief.

The next day, we traveled to Brookfield, Wisconsin, which is very close to Milwaukee (about a seven-eight hour drive from Springfield). It was our first long travel day in a while, so we were all pretty sleepy by the time we arrived at the hotel. We were in pretty good spirits, though, because our next day was a glorious day off.

The cast went out for lunch and brainstormed what we were going to do with our day and evening while our van was getting a check-up. We decided we wanted to do something that was very Milwaukee.

So, obviously, we went to a brewery.

The Sprecher Brewery makes their own sodas as well as over a dozen tasty beers. I had a great time browsing the gift shop and touring the brewery itself, but my favorite part had to be the tasting room. After the tour finished, we were given the opportunity to try an unlimited amount of their sodas as well as four samples of their brews. We got a bunch of different kinds and shared them so we could get a taste of everything. After a few beers, a fun drinking game, and a photo in front of a giant beer barrell, we returned to the hotel. Don't worry, y'all, McLean did not partake in the beer tastings and was our designated (and damned beautiful) sober driver.

It was a great day.

Join me next week (or, ideally a few days from now when I should be posting this week's blog), when we travel into Cheese country and a few of us get food poisoning. Yay....?

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