©Megan Elyse Fulmer 2014
The high ceilings ring with the sound of Dinah Washington’s voice echoing through a cafe in Memphis, Tennessee. You sip your morning latte as you take a glimpse out of the antique windows that surround the building from floor to ceiling. You write poetry and lyrics in your journal while enjoying this local cafe as you do in every city. Your words help you work through the relationships in your life that are open with no label, and allows your writing to express yourself more eloquently. Continuing hobbies and activities outside of the show makes you feel grounded, so you sip your coffee and let the words flow from pen to paper.
The beauty of equity touring is in the schedule that allows you to explore. In the past, you weren’t in a city long enough to fully discover what makes it so wonderful. You research the must see sites nearby, and form a list of activities that will keep you busy each day before the show. Other castmates have done their research as well and plan to join you on a few excursions. Some castmates have toured through this city before, so they know all of the sites they want to revisit, or venture through for the first time. Since you travel to each city on a Monday, you usually take that evening to get groceries for the week in order to save money on some meals, and use Tuesday to rest before soundcheck and opening night. Your personal challenge: how much can you accomplish Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday before heading into a five-show weekend?
The thin white curtains can’t hide the radiant sun peering through your hotel windows on a Wednesday morning. While you’d usually find a pitch black room ideal, this week you don’t mind the sun’s assistance to the soothing build of your alarm; you don’t want the daily adventures to take away from your morning writing. You play some new Emily Estefan music, primp for the day, and walk to your Memphis morning hotspot. After completing lyrics to a new song, you walk back to the hotel, and join a group of 13 people to explore Graceland, the home of Elvis Presley.
Even though you hold a tablet connected to headphones that produce the voice of John Stamos as your personal tour guide, your good friend Corrado has taken it upon himself to act as the group’s guide through Graceland. He’s been to Graceland a few times before, and has read many books about Elvis Presley’s life. His wealth of knowledge and ridiculous fun facts resonate through the hallways causing a group of eight people to follow your group of thirteen. These tourists truly believe Corrado has been hired to guide them as he leads you room to room in his all black suit. You and the cast follow and laugh in disbelief. That day you coined the phrase, “Who needs Google when you have Corrado!”
After three hours away from the group, you meet again at the theater. Each lady in the dressing room shares their journey of the day. You and the three ladies at Graceland share your newfound respect for Corrado’s brain with the rest of the women. Laughter rings through the space and follows down the stairs into quick change alley. Throughout the show, you find moments offstage exchanging new inside jokes with the ones you shared your day with. The show continues to fly as the joy of the day soars with you and the cast through every number.
Frank Sinatra floods the cafe this Thursday morning inspiring another lovely lyric session. You clear your mind to prepare yourself for a heavy day at the Lorraine Hotel. The extreme contrast from yesterday’s adventure to today’s walk through racism calls for a morning of mental preparation and a box of tissues. You join your castmates Willie and Jasmin for this next history lesson.
You walk inside the Lorraine Hotel to see the museum informing patrons of the journey from slavery, through segregation, to the day Dr. King was shot. You see a model of the bus Rosa Parks sat on. You make your way to the top of the hotel, as Willie leaves for the day. You and Jasmin are left staring at the inside of the room where Dr. King was shot. You and Jasmin take your time, walking outside and across the street to enter the building the Dr. King’s assassin shot from. You two spent a total of five hours sinking into the horror that still scars our country. You both walk away with a heavy heart, but thankful that you have each other to lean on through the tears.
At half-hour until show, and you find your way to Jasmin’s dressing room. She thanks you again for being with her through the Lorraine Hotel, and invites you to join her, Ariel, and Deborah’s dresser, Roni for high tea at the Peabody Hotel tomorrow afternoon before the show. You’ve never done high tea before, so you say, “Yes, I’d love to,” and continue your pre-show preparation.
For your last free day before the show, you take yourself on a date to the Stax Museum of American Soul Music to soak up all of the wonderful sounds Memphis brought to the world. The moving music was the pick me up you needed after yesterday’s excursion. You couldn’t wait to tell the ladies all about it at tea.
You enter the Peabody Hotel and see the famous little birds that waddle across the lobby. You find the other ladies and walk towards your table for tea. You see Roni everyday, but haven’t had the opportunity to fully connect with her. You were unaware of all the tea that would spill from her lips about her history in the industry. She wore a cross that was given to her by her good friends Bebe and Cece Winans. Roni shared stories of her time styling Whitney Houston herself, and the years she spent styling Prince and Sheila E for their biggest concerts. Ending your history week with the history of Roni’s inspiring career was the most uplifting tea Jasmin, Ariel, and I could’ve imagined. We made a pact to never give up on the goals we’ve set for ourselves.
After a Saturday morning of writing before a two-show day, your mind clears in order to mentally prepare your body for an intense four-show weekend. Between your personal rituals and the wonderful moments you’ve shared with many members of your cast, you walk into the dressing room before each performance feeling closer and closer to your cast. Those bonds carry over to interactions onstage, filling each performance with more energy than the one before. Sharing the beauty of each city helps you learn more about your country and makes memories that bring your tour family together.