I write this from the living room floor, surrounded by jumping sheep and shadow screens, half a tuba lantern and two deconstructed trees.
I think about all the times I toured with my dad, when the car would be full to overflowing with his show materials.
As little kids, traveling with my dad meant my sister and I were squeezed into the 1.5 back seats he'd leave open for us, in between show suitcases and bizarre objects that were some essential part of his next piece of magic. "No, not again!" my sister would exclaim, peering in through the car door, "there's plenty of room", my dad would respond, "and anyway, we can't really leave any of this behind."
My sister and I pledged that when we grew up we would never travel this way, "I shall have a bus!" I would exclaim, "I will take an airplane!" said my sister. And yet, here I am, surrounded by just as many - if not more - bizarre props and objects that I know are the building blocks of something truly magical, but to anyone else look like the sort of things you'd never dream of packing in a suitcase.
Another maddening habit of my father's was his propensity for trying out new material. This would result in him being completely immersed in new lines, techniques, and timing. Every time we stopped he would fit in a couple of minutes testing something out, rehearsing, asking "is this version better or is this version better? Or how about this?"
"Why can't you do one of your old bits?" I'd ask from the depths of the back seat, half buried in an enormous table he had recently built for a new knife-through-table act, "you have so much material that's already perfect!" "That's not what it's about," his voice would say from the front seat, over a small mountain of costumes that meant I couldn't see either him or the view out the windshield. "What's the point of doing something I already know, this is the perfect opportunity to take a little bit of a risk."
My dad used to tell us that we were the new and improved version of him. "You guys are amazing" he'd say, "I wish I was as amazing as you!"
My dad himself is a pretty amazing person, so this statement - to me - was high praise. Whether I'm any improvement is yet to be seen, but I do know that my similarities to my dad are striking.
My touring vehicle is almost a replica of my dad's, packed obsessively with heavier props on the bottom and a garment bag carefully placed on top. I load in all my essential show pieces to my hotel at night; do maintenance on props at the end of each day; spend hours surrounded by pots of glue, making the more ephemeral props that need to be reproduced fresh for each show. And my passion for trying something new, for pushing a bit that's already perfectly good to the next level, comes directly from my papa. My dad even travelled with a "tape box" with every kind of masking, scotch, or gorilla tape you can imagine. I travel with one of those too.
And like my dad urged us to do, I'm trying to find ways to improve on that legacy. I'm trying to find the absolute satisfaction in performing my old bits thousands of times, until I know them like the back of my hand. I'm trying to make time during tour not just to immerse myself in rehearsal and practice, but to explore my surroundings. I try to keep all the car windows clear, so that I can truly take in the landscape which I know will feed my soul just as much as performing does.
It's hard to quantify how lucky I was to grow up with a dad so cool, from whom I could not only learn a craft and a tradition, but who also urged me to follow my passion and create my own version of that life.