The Blanch Blog
Follow Kyle's thoughts on his artistic journey
As I sit here on the final day of my first season with Spencer’s Theatre of Illusion, I reflect on all the stunning scenery I've witnessed on the road this year. Even now, I am distracted by the beauty out the window of my room at the Windjammer Lodge situated on the calm St. Lawrence River in upstate New York. On the opposite bank is a Canadian factory of some sort, and the sun is setting behind billowing smokestacks. This is only one example of the awe-inspiring sights I've seen. I used to covet the plush, rolling fields of Ireland, the gargantuan mountains of New Zealand, or the architectural and historical beauty of Italy. Though, after this year, one of the most valuable lessons I've learned is appreciation of all the amazing sights and experiences the United States has to offer.
Recently we performed in Maine, and sadly, I never saw a moose. However, I did get to see some quaint port cities where whaling ships used to deploy and fishing is still a large part of life. It reminded me of the research I did while performing in Carousel, and how useful it would’ve been to see all this beforehand; there is nothing as valuable as real life experience.
Every time we stayed in a bigger city like Reno, Denver, or Seattle I said that I wouldn't mind living there; I just loved the bustling atmosphere and diverse culture—you meet so many interesting people. For instance, while staying in Salt Lake City for a week I met this nice Latter-day Saint at an art gallery who tried to convert me; after we chatted for two hours she gave me a Book of Mormon! On another occasion, I had drinks and played darts with some fun technicians from a theatre in Iowa City. The rum bar where they took me was a well-kept local secret and had all the elegance of a prohibition speakeasy. That’s why my favorite thing to do on my spare time was to explore the varying Mama & Papa shops or restaurants in town; you never know what you'll find!
I also enjoyed visiting the smaller, more historic towns, each boasting their own unique story. Grass Valley, California was a gold rush town, where every building’s cornerstone read 1849, 50, or 51. The hotel we stayed at was apparently built on a campsite for Chinese immigrants who were there to build railroads; their pictures lined the lobby and hall walls. Hence, on tour I heard many thrilling ghost stories about the theatres or hotels we were visiting. My favorite was the fancy General Morgan Inn located in Greeneville, Tennessee. Four ghosts are said to roam the creaky floors, one being the narcissistic general that the hotel is named after. He was killed in a Civil War ambush right on the front steps—a church down the street still has a cannon ball stuck in the bricks from that infamous skirmish—some people have claimed to see the general checking himself out in the mirrors of the inn. Of course we stayed at this haunted hotel on Halloween weekend, but there was plenty else to distract my attention from ghostly things. The leaves were at peak color, a beautiful stream meandered through town, under buildings, and down alleyways, children trick-or-treated on Main Street (I threw together a Greaser costume), and little museums commemorating John Adams’ hometown emerged on every corner. Whoever said America lacked a vibrant history was sorely mistaken.
By far, my favorite part of the job was the traveling days because that’s when splendor passed by the truck windows. The Wild West came to life as romanticized in those old, melodramatic western films, except the extravagance is definitely not exaggerated. The high deserts of Wyoming and the Dakotas were a sight to behold with so many types of rock that went on for miles. People had gotten out of their cars on the highway and written messages in the desert sand with rocks. Some were romantic, others inappropriate, some were elaborate artistic designs, or simply initials, and still others were illegibly washed away by the elements. I never knew what Dirt Devils were until I noticed a few small tornados of dust whipping across the barren expanse between mountains or cliffs. So many times my mind wandered to the sorry pioneers who had to brave this wilderness without the modern conveniences we have now. It makes a man thankful.
Furthermore, who would've guessed that The Great Plains is actually great? Certain days when the terrain was grassy with an occasional boulder protruding from the hillside I felt like one of the Riders of Rohan from The Lord of the Rings. Why didn't they shoot any of those movies on location in the US? Note: I especially liked the diversity of trees in Northern California. They grow so close to one another, yet no same species is beside itself: a palm was next to a magnolia next to a fur, next to an oak, spruce, pine, aspen… although I was the only one of our troupe who thought this was very interesting. But it was like God’s own natural landscaping!
Anyways, one day we stopped at a rest area in The Great Salt Flats of Utah. It looked like snow as far as the eye could see, but when we took off our shoes and waded in the shallow water, the crystallized salt exfoliated and massaged our feet. Salt Lake City was also amazing with the Wasatch Mountains on every side; I distinctly remember it being where we saw the first hope of spring after travelling in a harsh winter. For the longest time it seemed snowstorms followed us everywhere we went…even to Texas! But once we got to the ‘Promised Land’—as Brigham Young called it—the trees were blooming and the weather was finally comfortable.
All this is from only one year of traversing the United States! I feel like I could write a book on the endless beauty of America! Yet, I would have to travel the states for the rest of my life in order to see every marvel that lies hidden in our own backyard. At one point or another we all have recited the anthem ‘America the Beautiful,’ but how many of us actually understand the significance of the lyrics? Who among us can say they have seen for themselves the beauty of our country beyond the pictures in our history books? For this reason, I challenge everyone to travel America in its entirety before pining after the sights of other nations.
This is a safe zone for me to record artistic growth. This may include: character research, behind the scenes peeks, expounding on the places I travel, interesting interactions with other humans, lessons I've learned, advice for other artists, or anything that strikes me as inspiring on any given day!