The secret to surviving a long touring job
By Katherine Lunney
I have been lucky enough to be gainfully employed as an actor for months on end, in shows which have toured the UK and also shows which have toured internationally. Along the way I have learnt the things which work for me, to help me enjoy my time on tour and also to make the most of the opportunity. It can be a long time to be away from your loved ones and home comforts, to be thrust into the close proximity of extroverted actors whether you like it or not, and the job itself can be exhausting. So here are my hints and tips on surviving a tour:
1. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
This is much easier said than done. When you are on a tour with the same people, both at work and in your downtime, it can be easy to let little things mount up and drive you crazy, or you suddenly find yourself crying at your cast-mate because you are adamant that it was your turn to have a room to yourself. When these obstacles arise, or you feel your hackles being raised, try to take a step back and ask yourself ‘Will this matter to me tomorrow? Will this matter to me in a month? Will this matter to me in a year?’ and soon you’ll find yourself calming down. Also, sometimes just saying the truth out loud in a friendly way can help make the thing that’s driving you crazy become a fun in-joke for the tour; “Why do you say back in the day all the time? You’re only 21?! When was ‘back in the day’” and next thing you know it becomes funny every time they say it.
2. Find joy in the job
It’s the reason you’re there, we presume, to perform and connect with a new audience each time. So remember that, sometimes it might be just trying to play a different intention in a scene, or playing around with a new accent as one of your smaller roles, or reconnect with your character by going back to reading the script or original text after it’s been a few weeks/months and you no longer think about what you’re saying. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your cast mates if you want to look a section which worked in rehearsals but doesn’t seem to be working anymore, sometimes they’ve been thinking the same thing and you could solve the problem together.
3. Give yourself a break
It is absolutely fine that you are lying on your Travelodge bed watching Homes Under the Hammer at 11am eating breakfast biscuits and having a cup of tea. Don’t judge yourself. You need that break. You didn’t check in to the hotel till gone midnight because you did a show, a get-out and then a drive, so of course you deserve this rest and no, you are not a terrible person for not getting up and going for a run around the car park with your athletic cast-mate. Equally, if you find yourself struggling to read a book but craving another episode of Queer Eye whilst you’re travelling in the van; that’s fine! Treat yo’self! And do whatever you need to feel rested, recharged and able to do another show tomorrow.
4. Remember your friends and family
This might be creating a WhatsApp thread with your friends back home to keep them updated with pictures and anecdotes from your trip and keep up to date with their news, it might be scheduling a good time to chat with your mum each week, or asking your family to send you videos of them so you can watch them when you’re homesick. Equally, if they can, encourage your friends and family to come to see your show so they can understand why you have disappeared for this amount of time and what you’ve been up to. It also gives you something to look forward to throughout the tour if you know that every few weeks you are going to see a friendly face.
5. Do things that you enjoy
When I’m away on tour I try to take the opportunity of my days off to do the things that I enjoy but don’t always indulge in when I’ve got free time at home; visiting art galleries and museums, searching for the best independent coffee shops, eating beautiful pastries, going for a long run through the local area, or finding a local AcroYoga class. It means that even if I haven’t been enjoying the shows that week, I’ve been enjoying the experiences that the job is allowing me to have. I connect with the things that make me who I am and not just be defined by my job.
This one can be a killer and can take up a lot of your free time if you let it. I always bring a freezer bag filled with liquitab laundry pods on tour so my clothes smell like home and a small tube of travel wash so I can wash socks & pants in the hotel room if it’s necessary. If you search for the student area of wherever you are, that’s usually where you’ll find the reasonably priced self-service launderettes. Try to avoid going to a dry-cleaners as they’ll charge you a fortune. However, if you’re in an interesting city and want to make the most of your time off, it’s worth paying the extra couple of quid to get a service wash where the launderette will wash and dry your clothes for you, so you don’t have to sit in there and wait.
7. Keep a Diary
This is one of my biggest regrets as I am awful at remembering where I have been and what I did or saw there, and I wish I’d kept a diary on each of my tours. So it’s my new resolution for my current touring job that I will keep a proper diary this time.
8. Final hints and tips
Take an eye mask and earplugs with you, and a scarf which can double-up as a pillow. Don’t take any clothes or jewellery that mean a lot to you as you may lose them or they may get ripped/ruined. Take packets of ibuprofen, paracetamol, first defence flu remedy, Jakemans throat sweets and Lemsip. Pack a small bottle of bubble bath so that you can treat yourself to a luxurious bath when you’re lucky enough to get one in your hotel room. Download plenty of podcasts and movies/TV shows. Bring a travel charger with you, and a universal adaptor if you’re going abroad.
Katherine Lunney is currently playing Amelia and Bianca in an international tour of Othello with TNT Theatre.