Since returning to freelancing three years ago, I've primarily worked out of town. Over time, I've collected a variety of standard things I take with me, to help my place feel more "home-y." Some are things that were suggested to me by other theatre friends, others are things I've come to like on my own. I thought I'd share a few with you. If I'm only gone two weeks, I take less...mostly. The last two jobs have been ten and seven weeks long, though, and for each job I sort through some "on the road" boxes at home to decide what I might want for a particular gig.
First and foremost, provided housing can be sterile and impersonal...and often physically hard. It's a lot easier to clean things with wipeable surfaces and less padding, I understand. To help me relax, I pack a light fuzzy blanket, a "Housing Sweet Housing" pillow cover my mother made me, and of course, Eeyore.
I also pack at least one fuzzy fleece (regardless of the time of year) and a pair of slippers. Early on, a friend recommended I get a lightweight bathrobe that could double as a jacket, and I have definitely appreciated it. I also ALWAYS pack a swimsuit, regardless of if I know I'll use it.
For familiarity, I pack a photo of my husband, along with a card he's sent me in the past, as well as a small hand-turned wood goblet my father made. I don't like to sleep with my wedding ring on, so it always goes in this cup on the nightstand, whether I'm home or on the road. I'll also try to buy a potted plant early in my time there - the more colorful the better. If it dies within a few weeks, oh well - it was likely the same price as cut flowers. If it survives, it can make a nice gift to a local co-worker.
Depending on my kitchen facilties, I have a box of items to sort through before leaving home. When I work an Equity gig, we are guaranteed to have (exactly) 4 plates, a colander, salt and and pepper, and a few other basics. Some items I tend to pack are:
- Vegetable Steamer
- Vegetable Peeler
- This OXO 3-Blade Spiralizer - very portable and makes eating vegetables fun
- Waiter's Corkscrew and Wine Stopper
- Wine Aerator (can make the lowest budget wines taste so much better!)
- This colorful cutting board - my ASM and I spotted them this summer and knew we had to add to our collections
- Beer and/or Can Koozy
- Oven Mitt(s)
- Sharp Knife
- Tupperware or similar Glassware with a cover; I also went in with an actress on a set of three glass bowls with lids several years ago - the one I received often travels with me, and I've used the lid as a small microwaveable plate as well
- If it's not an Equity gig (opera or ballet, for instance), I may pack a travel picnic case I have with service for four
- This trip I'm trying a new idea, using a Dollar Tree pill container for my spices.
- If I drive, I've been known to bring a Crockpot as well as an Ice Cream Maker...especially for summer stock
- Cleaning Items - I try to pack small/travel size versions of:
- Dish Soap
- Clorox Wipes
- Bottle Brush
- Laundry Detergent Pods (much easier to pack than liquid, and I don't usually need an entire new bag each gig)
- A handful of trashbags on the chance they're not provided
Other items to help my stay include:
- Hangars (there are never enough...also a much-appreciated suggestion from a friend)
- A craft project or two - my current ones lately vary between a handful of jewelry making supplies, colored pencils, and my knife and mat for Scherenschnitte; I know others who take knitting or crocheting
- Multiple phone charging cables - long ones especially for housing when the outlets are often not handy
- Multiplug outlet strip
- Roku Express+ - the "plus" can work with old TVs as well as HDMI; as for Channels, in addition to Netflix, I pay for CBS All Access, can access extra content through my home account's cable login, and I love that I can catch my favorite Denver newscaster on Next with Kyle Clark including via live feed when the timing works out. Unfortunately, I did come across one hotel that had removed HDMI plug in options, so it doesn't always work.
- Target's Up & Up TSA Compliant Liquids Bag - I actually combined the bottles from two sets, and in addition to normal items, one has my spray OxiClean for laundry; I also packed two each of shampoo and mouthwash - three weeks in (of seven) I think I'm going to be just fine on the amount I packed
- Foldable/Pop-Up Laundry Basket and Lingerie Bags
- Reusable shopping bags
- Booklight - whether it's for housing or to read my script/score, I travel with a light source - usually one of the following:
- My various Tile fobs/devices - I rely on them in every day life, but especially when I don't have a set place to lay down my keys when on the road; I can also often check on my luggage during layovers, as the Bluetooth has worked from cargo on many occasions
- Broncos gear if it's football season (I'm currently in Patriots territory, so I'm wary); Eeyore has his own set, and my crafty mother also made me a banner when I was out of town during the 2015 Super Bowl, which we won...
I rely on theatres to supply needed stage management supplies, but there are select items that I like to have my own version along (and if they'll restock, even better). I received this fantastic travel SM Kit from my assistant stage manager Maggie this summer, and I have a variety of things in it for my own use. I'm still playing around with what stores where, but I adore having just the right amount of things in an easy to pack container.
In addition to the matching cutting boards mentioned previously, Maggie and I also both have:
- Swingline High-Capacity Three-Hole Punch - after two different gigs where I eliminated the punch due to last-minute weight issues, and swore "never again," this will now ALWAYS travel with me
- Wiztem Rosemary Book Stand (Thanks, Maggie, for already having researched the best options for max size versus weight!)
- Our own Headsets; I have both the Telex PH-88 and the Clearcom CC-27 - I wish the latter was made for right ears, as well as for those of us with smaller heads
- We also both have travel Steamers for clothing wrinkles; she brings hers along much more than I do
If I drive, I bring my guitar. If I'm out of town, I've often found someone has one I can borrow. Most of my music is on my computer, and I may pack a tuner and capo if I think a local one will happen. Like this trip!
I also highly recommend the Roadside America website and app for finding fun places as you journey. Eeyore gets many of his fun photos from locations we discover through it.
I think I'll save specific stage management items for a separate future blog post. Meanwhile, what do you like to take with you when out of town?