As an actor, I loooooove working out of town. BYYYYEEEE.
I love trading the often chaotic rhythms of the city for something a bit calmer, greener, and seemingly simpler, especially during the heat waves of summer. (The last place me and my swamp ass want to be is squeezing onto an E train.)
Ever since I was in college, summer stock and regional theatre have become the greatest romances of my musical theatre career taking me to the Catskills, White Mountains of New Hampshire, beaches of Florida's Treasure Coast and New England, and the most charming of Main Street USAs where I've raided all the consignment and coffee shops. After all, I believe these temporary flings keep my relationship with NY ever the more healthy. To love it, I got to leave it.
That's why this year when I found out I booked a short and sweet 4-week contract as my biggest venture out of town for the summer, I knew I had to make the most of it. I immediately declared those 4 weeks of theatrical employment my WORKCATION, and parked my "clown car" full of all the balls I usually juggle off to the side. I was going to make these 4 weeks feel like summer camp!
When I coach other actors, I often have them look at auditions, rehearsals, performance schedules, and the transitions in between as different seasons cycling within the actor lifestyle, all requiring different energies. Auditioning can often feel like winter, fertilizing invisible seeds and hustling to stay warm while rehearsals feel like a playful spring blooming into a summer of 8 show weeks under bright lights. So when I bleed my non-stop go-go-go auditioning energy into rehearsals and then a performance contract, I often don't take advantage of the very thing I worked so hard to get. I miss the hidden gift of the worckation; I miss the magic of slowing down.
So how does one make two weeks of rehearsal and two weeks of performances feel reminiscent of a vacation? Here are some of my wins from my recent stint out of town that brought me back to New York beyond refreshed, and a lot more tan!
(Tara's Workcation Definition: When your travels are devoted equally to enjoying and enhancing the work and your craft as well as rest and rejuvenation)
Prepare in advance.
The obvious, but I could not swear by it more.
As soon as your contract is signed (if not sooner), get your hands on a script/score and get thee to study hall. Get off book, coach your songs, employ Google and Youtube as your dramaturge, whatever you need to do the mental memorizing work so you can be present in the rehearsal process. Think of it this way: when you travel to a foreign country, it makes all the difference when you are familiar with the language and maps before you land. Your experience only becomes deeper, and stress stays less and less out of the picture.
Press pause and unplug.
Man do I miss the days of AIM away messages.
One of the best things I did for myself while recently out of town was put up an "out of office shingle" on my parallel coaching career, and replaced social media scrolling with foam roll rolling (love that rhyme), morning journaling, and bedtime reading. I gave myself once a day check in with my inboxes, a longer period to respond, and unsubscribed and unfollowed anything/body that didn't light me up. It was just the digital detox I needed. In NY, I'm often multi-tasking and skimming more than sinking into all I'm consuming. Doing this allowed the show and my new show family to come first without ever a bombarded brain. HEAVEN.
Make self care the real star of the show.
During a short rehearsal into performance process like this, your energy and instrument are your most valuable possessions. Protect them and say no to anything that drains or depletes them.
On this past contract, I slept like a log, steamed like a beast, got biweekly massage therapy down the street, and took yoga every damn day (at a studio where you came out of savasana to fresh coffee waiting for you at the top of your mat!) The trust in my stamina and zest this gave me were irreplaceable.
Make space for small things you don't normally do or have been aching to do.
Like lazily lounge on a beach, compliment strangers walking their dogs, write handwritten letters to loved ones, take goat yoga, wander and window shop without time constraints, picnic barefoot in parks or gardens, read that mammoth of a book you've always wanted to read, go to breweries, go kayaking, organize a cast cabaret, etc. Often I asked myself, "can I do this, or do I usually do this in NY?" If the answer was a resounding no, off I went!
Let a night (or two or three) feel like an old school sleepover.
Most people will never live with the people they work with, but not show people. We are bunk bed souls, constantly shipping off to summer camp set ups in cast houses or living next door to one another in hotels. Doing things this summer like staying up late dancing down the hallways, holding my breath playing Jenga, and taking many moonlight strolls on the beach made me feel like a teenager again. I also came back to NY richer in good people and friends than I was before. And that makes me smile most of all.
Don't you dare miss Mother Nature doing her thing.
Best show in town, and you won't even spend a dime! Give yourself a front row seat to a sunrise, sunset, and/or glittering night sky without skyscrapers blocking your view, because when was the last time you did? :-)
Theatre folk, I love what we do.
May your work as an actor continue to open up your suitcase and fill it with new memories that make you YOU. Here's to many winning workcations to come!