About the author:
Elizabeth Broadhurst plays Mrs. Banks, the mother who has serious nanny needs for her two children in the national tour of Mary Poppins. Despite getting to wear gorgeous Victorian-era costumes and living in a pop-up book house, the most “supercal” thing about Broadhurst is that she’s performed in Mary Poppins over 1,000 times! Approaching her fourth anniversary with the Disney musical, the actress penned a retrospective for Broadway.com, looking back at how she turned her downtime on tour into a way to fundraise for charity. And all it took was a hot glue gun and a spoonful of sugar.
“How do you do it? How can you still be on tour with the same show after almost four years?” This is the question I get all the time from friends and family.
I’ve done over a thousand performances of Mary Poppins as Mrs. Banks. While that might shock people, it’s nothing when I think of my friends who have done six, 10 or more years of a long-running show. Yet people still want an answer from me on how I’ve been with the show for so long, so I say, “Projects, crafts and party planning.”
The show and work routine don’t change much on tour. Sure, cast members come and go, we change cities and climates, but our work life stays the same.
To counteract any monotony, I involved myself in the art of party planning, celebrating company members’ milestones, honoring the change of seasons and even creating events to distinguish one week from the next. Yes, it was easy to use the kids as an excuse to celebrate, having toured with two children-heavy musicals—Mary Poppins and Annie. But let’s face it, what adult doesn’t want an excuse to dress up, decorate and have a party?
Projects are key on the road to keep your mojo going. For example, some people get their master’s degree, design a house, plan their wedding or write a book. I have found projects that bring people together on tour can help create a happy and vibrant work environment, which translates onstage and off.
Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids is an amazing opportunity for a company to come together. The organization uses the resources within the theater industry to help those living with HIV/AIDS. This is how the Spoonful of Sugar ornament came to be.
During the 2009 holiday collection for Broadway Cares, I was inspired by my production stage manager who told me about all these creative ideas she had seen done for fundraising in her past shows. People had made wristbands, lunch boxes, cookbooks and aprons. “We need something like that!” I thought. Thus, the Spoonful of Sugar ornament was born. It started as a metal spoon with a hole at the top, jewelry beads and glue for sugar and a construction paper tag that said “Mary Poppins 2009.” Who bought this strange kindergarten-like project? Everyone! We couldn’t keep up with the demand. We made and sold 400 spoons that season at $20 a piece.
The spoon ornament has grown over the years, touched by the creative hands of cast and crewmembers to make it the best looking, most cost effective and crafter-friendly project it can be. We have holly, ribbon and Martha Stewart glitter! During last winter’s collection, we sold 1,900 ornaments and we anticipate exceeding that number this year. What started as a small crafting project with my husband and most dedicated friends in my VRBO vacation rental now brings everyone to a large conference room in whatever hotel we are staying at to create an intense production line. We set up stations, listen to Christmas music, order pizza and craft till the wee hours of the morning. The pride, camaraderie and enthusiasm this project creates are priceless.
My answer of how to keep it fresh and to survive years of the same routine on tour (besides glitter, crafting and party planning) is to find something that brings enthusiasm to your life and for the people around you. Tour life is not easy. But I get by with a little help from my friends.
See Broadhurst in Mary Poppins at Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center from January 1 through January 6.