Blackbirds of Broadway 1999 Tour
Living on the Road
How you live on the road can involve a lot of factors. Are you with a name band, a bar band, a Broadway show, or maybe the Circus? Circumstances may vary greatly. Performers on a tour of one-nighters might be given a daily food/lodging allowance called a per diem, and expected to take care of themselves. Others may be provided housing with kitchen facilities and be expected to buy food from their base salary.
Lounge & Bar Bands
Lounges that hire bands on a weekly basis may maintain a house or apartment where the band will live--even if that lounge is attached to a hotel. At the Sheraton in Greensburg, PA, members of Spectrum were housed in two mobile homes that were located on the parking lot of the hotel. At the 2001 VIP in North Myrtle Beach, the entire band lived together in a double-wide at the back of the property. This club had two rooms, and used two bands at a time. While we were down there, the band North Tower occupied the other double-wide. The Sheraton in Ocean City, MD is owned by one of the town's biggest landlords. Both a house and a condo were available for musicians at his club. Spectrum once played there for three weeks without a night off so that we wouldn't have to move out of the lodgings on Sundays. (the Sunday night band is also entitled to use the band housing) Note that private rooms are not guaranteed. In Spectrum, almost everyone shared a room with someone else. We had ten people and the housing had only so many rooms.
In most cases, big-name pop groups and touring shows from Broadway will stay in the better hotels. This is partly due to the income that these productions generate and partly due to the unionization of actors, musicians, technicians and stagehands. It's also important to understand that major tours are extremely tiring and stressful on all the personnel involved. Four-star and five-star hotels can make a big difference when you have a desperate and time-sensitive need for a healthy meal, a comfortable mattress, and hot water for the shower.
The Circus (Ringling Brothers-Barnum & Bailey)
There are actually two different units ('red' and 'blue') of the the Ringling Bros Circus. Both travel by train around the US. Accommodations are less than generous and are based on seniority. I once visited a trumpet player aboard the Circus Train, and found him living in a compartment that looked to be about 4x8 feet. (yes, his floor space was about the size of one sheet of plywood!). He explained that bigger compartments are granted for years of service, and that some performers had compartments that took up from 1/4 to 1/2 of the rail car. Circus people reside aboard the train both while in transit, and while in town. It is their home--period. When in Richmond, the RBB&B Circus Train has used both CSX's Brown Street Yard (just north of Main Street Station) and Norfolk Southern's outer yard which runs along Riverside Drive. Circus personnel are driven back and forth by shuttle buses.
The Blackbirds Tour
Many professional regional theatres retain housing for their performers. This is why TheatreVirginia and Theatre IV are able to put on shows with New York casts. Housing must meet standards set by their union, the Actors Equity Association. The Blackbirds Tour played regional theatres in the US, and housing was a unique mix of dormitories, apartments and hotels.
In Europe, it was much more of an upscale situation with the group staying in 4-star and 5-star hotels most of the time.
Follow these links to get some local flavor from the Blackbirds Tour. These pages are under heavy construction, so continue to visit as I get more photos and info.
Little Rock, AR
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