Kendal Hartse (Cinderella, On a Clear Day You Can See Forever) shares what it's like to adjust back to life in New York after touring for seven months in the final installment of her Cabaret blog series.
I very nearly didn't go on the national tour of Cabaret. The only other touring experience I'd had previously was the 26th year of the non-union bus and truck tour of Cats. And while we put on a damn good production of Cats, dancing our faces throughout those split weeks and one-nighters, it was also one of the hardest experiences of my life professionally, physically, and emotionally. I didn't know if I wanted to go on the road again and open myself up to the possibility of having a similar experience. I wasn't sure I wanted to leave my apartment, my husband, or New York City from January to August.
Before I left, the usual fears were playing on a loop. “What if no one likes me, what if I get hurt, what if the hotels are terrible, what if I'm lonely all the time, what if I can't learn my track fast enough...” and on and on. I had a weird replacement experiment since myself and three other cast members learned the show and had a put-in right before an 8-week layoff. I rehearsed in Charlotte, NC in November, had 8 weeks off when I frantically practiced my violin every day and reviewed the choreography in my kitchen, and then started performances in Ft. Lauderdale, FL in January. I was so nervous.
I got to the Airbnb I was sharing with two of the other newbies. We rehearsed our choreography together in the living room, drove to the theatre, joined the company for brush-up rehearsals, then we were in the show and off to the races! We were welcomed into one of the most wonderful show families I have ever been a part of. People liked me, I made deep, meaningful friendships. I didn't get hurt. The hotels were mostly wonderful (with a couple glaring and slightly hilarious exceptions). I was lonely sometimes, but could always knock on a door or send a text and have a friend there in 5 minutes. I learned my track and thrived in the production. Touring with Cabaret for the better part of 7 months was a transformative experience for me. I had auditioned for the Broadway production of Cabaret in 2013, then again for the first year of the tour and was upset not to get them at the time. But if I had been a part of this show at any other time, in any other track, I would not have made the deep and lasting friendships I made on this tour. That, to me is the biggest gift of all. And I got to perform Cabaret. And performing Cabaret at this time in America was truly a gift. It is rare to be in a show that feels so of the moment and so necessary. It felt important to be telling that story every night, and I acutely feel the loss of it. I've always felt that closing a show is like breaking up with 20 people at the same time. There's the painful fact that you won't see each other every day anymore, that the thing you all loved is over, and that, while you'll still be in each other's lives, it won't really ever be the same. Closing a tour is like breaking up with 20 people that you'd moved in with.
Because touring is weird. It intensifies every experience from friendships to struggles to just day-to-day errands. It's hard to explain in a way, but it doesn't really feel like “real life.” You don't set down roots. It was initially disorienting to be away from my home, husband, and friends for such a long period of time, but eventually it becomes normal. Of course I pack up at the end of the week, of course I have to figure out a new theatre every week and meet new local crew. Of course these people are the people I eat and drink and live with. Of course this is my family. Then the show ends. And “real life” doesn't feel like normal anymore.
Coming home, while wonderful, has also been slightly disorienting. I gave myself a week to be a lazy slob when I closed this show. I don't have a new show on the horizon, my acting class isn't in session until the fall, and audition season won't pick up again for a few weeks. I'm forced into self care and introspection. Which is probably a good thing. It's given me the chance to slow down and really spend quality time with my husband, who I missed dearly. I've reconnected with my NYC friends and slowly started the ball rolling with getting new head shots, talking to my agents about upcoming auditions, and seeing my physical therapist, massage therapist, and acupuncturist. Letting go of some shows is harder than others. This one is hard, and I'm letting it be hard. I'm not rushing the process of missing the show and missing the people. Easing out of the missing can be hard. It's an acute feeling. I've made sure to be in communication with people I love from the show and have spent a lot of time with my closest friend from tour, Chris, during the post-closing week. In this sort of gypsy lifestyle we lead as actors, it can be easy to flit from one show to the next, form intense new relationships as we go, and then leave them behind. Being on the road can sometimes feel like it isn't “real life” since you aren't at home, but it's important to me hold onto the close and important friendships I've made on the road and make sure those people stay in my “real” life.
So to help ease back, this past weekend, I went away to visit a close friend who was house sitting in New Jersey with my husband Austin, and Chris. We cooked an incredible feast, drank all the wine in the house, and swam in the ocean the next day. I was able to bring my two worlds together, and it made me confident that I will be able to take the experiences of tour and everything I learned to continue to thrive in my “real life” so that when the next thing comes along, I will be excited and ready to jump back in.