It is not always possible, but as an actor, if you get the chance to be a part of a traveling show, even a show you are otherwise not in love with, I advise you to grab the chance.
There are many advantages to being part of a show that is taken to several venues, in addition to the fun and adventure associated with road tripping and acting.
To begin with, it is the perfect way to put to the test something that I have often spoke about in my blog, and that is being ready to perform a show well under just about any conditions. Traveling to different venues keeps an actor on his toes, as it were, preventing him from becoming too comfortable with the specific stage, lights, house, or other accouterments of his home theatre. (Or anything theatre, if the show has no permanent home.)
A second practical advantage to most traveling productions is that they are stretched out over a longer period of time than your standard community production. While the latter is often only two weekends, the former, due to the logistics and expense often take place over the course of a month or more, with performances spread out. The longer you have to be in a show, and the more chances you have to go over it and perfect it, the better the product becomes. Like wine, many shows get better with age.
And finally, shows that are taken on the literal road provide a greater chance of getting to know one’s cast mates and crew. The nature of travel, and all of the benefits and disadvantages of the same, tend to enhance that sense of camaraderie and teamwork among groups of people engaged in a common task. I have said many times here and elsewhere that while bonding personally with fellow actors is not required, it certainly increases the chances of a show being excellent in all ways. And whatever makes the show better is good policy.
Of course, each of these things can happen in a standard show that does not travel. If they could not, there would not be much community theatre going on around the country. These advantages are not exclusive to a traveling show. However, they seem to be common threads in nearly all examples of road shows.
One of my greatest theatre experiences, one that convinced me I wanted to continue doing this acting thing far into the future of my life, was in fact a road show. Not only that, the production was a rather mediocre experience in many ways while we remained at our home theatre. The transcendent quality did not show up until we took it to other venues in the area. And I feel that is due in large part to the presence of all three of the facets of traveling shows I have mentioned.
They are not easy to come by at the community level. And of course this only works for specific types of shows; it works best for shows that have minimal sets. But such plays are out there. Companies that are willing to travel are out there. And if not, perhaps you can be the one who suggests such an idea to a local theatre production. You don’t have to travel to Europe for this to work. Any area in this country is full of city parks, community centers, and high schools that make perfect destinations for the traveling show. The extra work and expense can sometimes be more than made up for by the richness of the experience.
(Originally appeared on showbizradio.net on August 19th, 2009. Appropriate edits have been made.)