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The Great Ivy + Bean Tour, Week Six: Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Birthdays

It was another action-packed week for the Ivy and Bean warriors.

Actually, it wasn't as crazy as other weeks have been. Regardless, it was full of brand new adventures. So let's get to it, shall we? Ok great.

After a lovely day off in Milwaukee, our only responsibility on Sunday was loading into the Wilson Center. It wasn't huge, but it was beautiful, almost reminiscent of a church that's been turned into a performance space.

The Wilson Center in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

We were fortunate in that we did not have to contend with any winter weather on Monday, so both of our shows were packed and full of excited kids. Something happened during our second show that hadn't happened before, though.

We broke. Hard.

For the non-theatre-speaking folk, "breaking" refers to completely breaking character onstage. Usually when it happens, an event occurs that no one is prepared for and one of the actors attempts to stifle a genuine laugh--this usually doesn't work; it can cause a chain reaction, causing multiple actors to break as well. You've seen it on Saturday Night Live, it's probably one of your favorite things to see on that show.

So, I'm about to come on for the big climax-witch-reveal-craziness near the end of the show, and before I come on, I can already see Dan and McLean hiding their faces from the audience because they cannot contain themselves. I don't even know what happened for them to start, I was running around backstage at that point getting ready to re-enter. Regardless, when I finally re-entered behind Dan, he completely lost it. Which made me ALMOST completely lose it. I said all the right lines and sang all the right words, but I couldn't get the smile off my face. There were moments I tried to stop, forcing myself to scowl (I was supposed to be scary!), but that just made it worse.

Our stage manager was not pleased. I mean, I totally get it- it's unprofessional, and it probably looked really bad, but we had never done it before, and we would never do something like that on purpose, and we were all very apologetic. Also, no offense to the writer of the books or the show itself, but the kids still had a great time! Who's to say they even noticed?!? It's not like we laughed all the way through the death scene in Romeo and Juliet at Lincoln Center. Ok ok ok enough. It wasn't going to happen again.

Our day wasn't over yet. After we performed, we loaded out of the Wilson Center, drove to Green Bay (only two hours away, thank goodness), and loaded into our next space, the Weidner Center.

What is up with all these W's?? Sorry, y'all, everything has started to run together. I'm surprised I know what time it is let alone what state I'm in.

Okay, so we drove to Green Bay and we loaded into a gigantic theater in a gigantic building.

Super dramatic shot of the Weidner Center in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

The theater holds a little over two thousand seats, and the style of the balconies made it look even grander. The floor below the stage was devoted to symphony storage and rehearsal space. All of the dressing rooms (as well as a full laundry room) were three floors below. A bomb could've gone off outside and we would have been completely oblivious. It. was. insane.

After two sweaty shows that morning, traveling in a van, loading into the theater, washing everyone's costumes and re-curling my wig, I was ready for bed, especially because I knew I would have to perform two shows and load out the next morning. I passed out early and woke rested and ready to go.

It was after the shows that things got a little bananas.

I hit my second wind by the time we returned to the hotel after loading out of the Weidner Center; the shows went well, the weather was lovely, and we had a whole day off the next day to explore Green Bay before traveling again. Sydney, Dylan, Dan, Jake and I grabbed some dinner at the Mexican restaurant that was attached to our hotel. We had eaten there the day before and really liked it, plus they always had a special going for food, so we thought why the hell not?

We didn't realize anything was wrong until a few hours later, when Sydney said she wasn't feeling well. We thought maybe after some ginger ale and relaxing that all would be well, but that wasn't the case. The poor thing was up all night sick to her stomach.

It hit me the next day, around six in the morning. The boys, somehow, were spared the worst.

I spent my day off in bed sipping on ginger ale and working my way through a plain hamburger bun. The whole time I kept thinking man, I am so lucky this happened today and not the day before. Same for Sydney, too! If the actor playing Ivy as well as the understudy for all the female roles are out because of food poisoning, there's a chance the show wouldn't have happened. Fortunately, we didn't have to worry about it.

I was bummed because I missed a day with my cast. While I was in bed, they traveled to a wildlife sanctuary close to our hotel. I asked them to send me photos, which was nice, but also made me a little sad. I wish I could have been there and shared it with them, especially because they were going to see a lot of ducks and geese, which always reminds me of Fisher.

Here's a photo that Melissa took while she was there. So gorgeous, right? Damned food poisoning.

By about eight or nine that evening I was starting to feel a little more like myself. I was still eating very light, not ready to try anything beyond some crackers and water, but I was well enough to sit up and watch a movie with some of my cast. We all sat around Melissa's computer and watched "Whiplash", which, despite all of the anxiety I was feeling from the story itself, was a great movie.

I was still taking it easy the next day, which was a big travel day to Richmond, Kentucky. With gas and food stops, we were in the van from nine in the morning to nine at night. By the time we reached the hotel that evening I was tired, but I felt good. The drive wasn't bad at all, my stomach was settling, and I was looking forward to being in the same place for a few days. For the first time on the tour, we had two days off in a row.

Let the birthday weekend begin.

My beloved Bean, Melissa, turned twenty-two on one of our days off in Kentucky. Good Lord, that makes me feel old. Anyway. Through our travels, Melissa developed a love for the cows grazing in the pastures along the interstate. Sydney, the magical planner of just about every awesome thing we do on days off, tried to find a farm where Melissa could go and milk a cow. Turns out, because it's a food product and must remain sterile, there was no way we were going to milk a cow. The milkfarm on Eastern Kentucky University's campus, however, was willing to give us a tour of their farm so we could meet the animals.

Picture seven New Yorkers putzing around on a farm, walking through big muddy puddles (and cow poop) in the rain. Laughing yet? You should be.

Our first stop with our trusty tour guide, Rick, was to the young dairy cows outside. They each had their own fenced-off space containing some grass and a shelter big enough for them to walk around in. There were a few different breeds, from the classic black-and-white Holstein to the Brown Swiss, which is the breed in the picture to the left.

This cutie kept trying to suckle on my fingers when I would reach for her head to pet her, so after a while I just stopped fighting it. It was a ridiculous feeling, almost tickling. I managed to pet her a couple of times on the head in between the giggles.

We visited the full-grown dairy cows next. They were busy nibbling on corn feed while Rick explained when they fed and when they were milked. They were wary of us mostly, but some felt comfortable enough to poke their heads out and say hello. Each had their name and their birthdate written on their ear tag, and to my surprise, one of tags I saw had Lauren written on it. Yup, there's a cow with my name in Kentucky.

The next stop was probably the ladies' favorite. After the dairy cows, we moved on to the pigs. We walked through a few different rooms containing the adult females and lone male before we entered a room where two females were nursing their litters of two week-old piglets. Our tour guide Rick walked right up to the stalls, picked up one of those adorable babes and, grinning, said those magic words we were all waiting for:

Who wants to hold 'em first?

I was standing directly behind Rick, so I was lucky enough to be first in line.

The only requirement for holding an adorable baby pig is to hold them tightly; they feel safe, and they won't squirm. This little guy was passed around six different times, and he never squealed. He barely moved once our arms were around him. It was, hands down, the cutest couple minutes of my time on tour. I'm so so SO grateful that I was able to have an experience like this with my cast. It didn't matter that we were cold and very wet from walking around in the rain, we left the piglets with big stupid smiles on our faces.

We moved on to the beef herds outside, but didn't stay too long because the rain had picked up.

Our last stop at the farm was meeting the sheep and a few bulls that are housed separately from the rest of the sows. Okay, bulls are terrifying. They already look big from the safety of a car, but they are frickin' HUGE in person. We were maybe two feet from them when Rick told us that bulls kill more humans than ANY OTHER ANIMAL COMBINED.


After being sincerely freaked, we moved over to the other side of the barn where the sheep were kept. It was there that I locked eyes with what I would probably consider to be my spirit animal.

The alpaca, ladies and gentlemen.

One of the two alpacas watching over the sheep.

For those that haven't heard me say this before, I refer to the hair on my head as an alpaca. A lot. When it's clean, it's just an alpaca. When it's dirty, it's a dead alpaca. If you asked me why I chose this particular animal, I wouldn't be able to answer. I think my only reasoning is that the word itself is awesome and the animal itself is also awesome. Regardless, my heart skipped a beat or two when I saw them.

Don't be fooled by their cuteness, though. Alpacas kick and spit just like llamas. As much as I wanted a photo with one close by, I really REALLY didn't want a giant gob of spit shot at my face. Turns out, the two alpacas protect the sheep in the barn from wild dogs. How cool is that?!? Alpacas are badass, you guys.

We headed back to the hotel damp, muddy and smelling of manure, and spent the next hour or so laughing and sending each other the photos that we took of one another at the farm. Even now, days later, we're still saying "YOU GUYS REMEMBER WHEN WE HELD THAT BABY PIG?!?!" What a wonderful day.

On Melissa's actual birthday (the next day), the girls and I bought a pie and some flowers (because every girl should have flowers on her birthday, even if she's living in a hotel), and took her out to the fanciest of all eateries, Hooters.

Nope, not a joke. We ate wings and Melissa hula-hooped while a lot of other busty gals sang to her. It was perfect. Happy Happy Birthday, my dear Melissa.

Tune in for next week's blog, when the gang attempts a record eight shows in four days.

Pray for us.

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