How to Survive an Education Tour
If you work in live theatre long enough, the chances of landing an education tour are high. Such tours are often the backbone of regional theatre, and they can be great gigs. However, the schedules can be grueling, the work demanding, and the rate of burnout high. Here are a few things you can do to give yourself a leg up!
Pace yourself. Education tours often feature long days, lots of travel and multiple shows back to back. Building your stamina is crucial. There is nothing more miserable than trying to phone in a children’s theatre performance because you stayed out too late the night before–and kids will sense it a mile away. Do yourself a favor and prioritize sleep, hydration and nutrition. If you know you have multiple shows that day, don’t go crazy and blow all your energy out in the first show.
Figure out your morning routine. Not surprisingly, a lot of actors aren’t morning people. Figure out what you need to give yourself to make sure you can show up and be alert bright and early. If that means waking up an extra hour ahead of time to have a slow cup of coffee or do some stretches, it may well be worth it!
Meal prep. Also other stuff prep. Tour schedules pile on quickly, and it’s easy to fall completely out of your normal routine. Before you know it your last 3 meals have been fast food and you haven’t done laundry in two weeks. The quicker you find a way to organize attending to your basic needs, the easier it will be. Meal prep easy, transportable foods. Set out your clothes ahead of time and keep a strict laundry schedule. Your schedule and performance venues may be wildly variable so giving yourself consistency in other areas can be a big help.
What’s in your rehearsal bag? When you’re on the road and hopping between schools and venues, access to supplies might be limited. Make sure you’re packing a water bottle, some quick snacks that can give you a boost, phone chargers and whatever else you need to protect your sanity (a book or Nintendo Switch for long stretches of down time might be a lifesaver).
Lean on your tour mates. Remember you’re not in this alone. You have a whole cast and crew of people on the same crazy ride you are on. Invest in that community and help each other out. Go on coffee runs for each other, switch up who’s cooking or picking up dinner and have each other’s back if someone has a low energy day. Bonding with your team can be one of the best parts of any tour, and the more you come together and buoy each other up, the better it is for everyone.
Don’t be afraid to speak up. Even with the best of intentions, the organization of education tours can be rocky. Don’t fall into the trap of feeling like you should let things slide because you’re doing it for the kids. This is still a job, and professional agreements need to be transparent and continue to be honored. If practices start to feel exploitative or unsafe, it’s important to find a way to advocate for yourself and your castmates. Getting familiar with your theatre’s conflict resolution pathway ahead of time can make sure you have the right people to contact at your fingertips if need be.
Education tours can be hugely rewarding, exciting gigs and a great way to expand your skills as a performer. Going in forewarned and forearmed can make sure you have the endurance to book them for years to come!
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