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Guest Blog Post: Todd Cerveris (War Horse)

“Really, Dad? Where are driving to THIS week?”

During our rehearsal period for the WAR HORSE tour, while we were still in New York, I went in for a routine doctor’s appointment. There were a couple tests that would need to be done within the next couple months or so, and my doctor handed me the prescription for the tests saying, “So I know you’re going out of town for a bit, it’s no rush. Just whenever you get back.”  I smiled, knowing his forthcoming reaction.

“You mean, in a year.  Yes?”  

He stared at me, his face blank. “A year?” he repeated. “Like twelve months? Like you’re not going to be back, at all? Yeesh, that’s like being a gypsy traveler or something.”

Yup – it’s exactly like that.  🙂

Every time we get into a new town, we have to re-invent the wheel. Where do we do our laundry? To what address can we have packages sent? Where do we walk our dog in the morning (yes, my wife – who actually plays my wife in the show – and I are driving the tour & we have our dog with us the whole way.) What time zone am I in and how does that change what time of day I make my weekend phone calls to my mom & dad? Everything changes.  When you’re ripped away from everything stable, everything predictable, everything normal in your daily routine, you begin to realize how much we live our daily lives according to scripts. And as actors, we’re all about scripts. So it’s ironic that we are then left to re-write the script entitled, “My Average Day” every week or three, whenever we move to a new venue, a new town, a new state.

And it’s not just a new geographical state. It’s a new state of mind. This is my fifth year of touring, professionally, and I still am surprised at how significant the differences are from city to city – in the responses to the show (which jokes elicit more laughter, what moments grab the audience’s attention the most), in the way that each new theater changes the feeling of a production’s staging, and in the way that moving to a whole new city keeps everything feeling so fresh and new .

It’s my third time performing in a national tour in Chicago. (I was in the national tours of TWELVE ANGRY MEN and SPRING AWAKENING before this.) And every time I come here – and I’m not just saying this, I promise – I am reminded of the pace and breadth of the city. In many ways, it’s the closest we’re likely to come to New York, in terms of the actual heartbeat & tempo of downtown. But it’s not the similarities to New York which grab me. It’s the things that make Chicago unique.

The architecture – my wife and I took an architecture river tour the last time we were here, and as beautiful as the city is to walk around, it’s even more so seen from a passing boat on the river. And while there’s plenty of beautiful new glass & steel towers, I find my eye is more often drawn to the anachronistic, the whimsical, and the way that the “old” Chicago is so well preserved amidst the development of the “new”.

The vitality & personality – it’s active here, but not manic. Some cities, you get downtown, get where you’re going, get out, and be done with it. Others just feel like they were ordered out of an urban planning catalog. Here, there is personality – in spades. I mean, a personality to the city itself. If you don’t know what I mean by that, you haven’t traveled enough. Chicago is a city with personality.

The people – they smile, here. They engage you. They’re forthcoming with their opinions and are interested in yours. Most purchases, at a deli or retail shop, have at least some element that isn’t just talk for its own sake, to lubricate the business transaction, but to actually share a smile or a good joke they heard earlier that day.

So, yeah – it’s good to land in Chicago and stay here for a few weeks. Three, to be exact; I wish it were longer. Not only because I really like visiting, not only because I think this is a beautiful place to be for the holidays, and not only because the audiences here are so gracious,… but because, at the end of the three weeks, we pack up, load out, and – that’s right – invent the wheel all over again!