One of the things that I was immediately impressed with about the prep for my Australia trip was the lack of things I had to worry about.
“What airport do you want to fly out of?”
“Ummm…Kalamazoo, if it’s possible…”
“You got it! Your visas will be emailed to you soon.”
“Wait, I don’t have to apply for those?”
“Nope! It’s covered.”
“What about travel insurance?”
“Covered! Details are coming.”
“How many suitcases can I bring…?”
“What’s the luggage fee?”
“BUT I STILL HAVE CONCERNS AND QUESTIONS AND AUUUUUGH!!!” *
“We’re having a one day meeting/training here before you leave the country!”
The way this process usually works is that people interested in joining Haunt Team USA head to Ohio for a two-day “boot camp” in which candidates get into costume and practice the types of things they will have to do in Australia. It’s a tough, intense audition. People that end up going don’t always get selected their first time through the boot camp. But it is, hands down, the absolute best way B&B can prepare their team, and we’re at a disadvantage because we aren’t getting the benefit of that training. Instead, we’re having a very abbreviated ‘here’s what you need to know’ intensive workshop.
That meeting was when I first met the people I’d be living with for about a month…JS, the oldest member of our team as well as the most extreme of us (think Rob Zombie covered in gore with a heart of gold and you’ve sorta kinda got JS in your mind), W, the youngest member of the team with the most experience for this gig (this would be his 7th show in Australia!), and R, W’s girlfriend (an Aussie and a sorta-team-member). We spent maybe 5 hours going over the gritty details of what we needed to know to be really prepared for this upcoming adventure. B&B do an outstanding job of prepping the members of Haunt Team USA, and their notes include a suggested shopping list, as buying groceries is something you might only get one chance to do so.
B1 focuses a lot on buying groceries. “Grab two carts. Fill them. Spend $100 for each person. Have your list ready ahead of time. Buy anything you think you might want, and then take turns cooking meals for the group.” He makes it very clear that the best way to get through this venture is to work as a team.
He warns us that good insoles will be your best friend. Also, frozen bottles of water might just save your life. Oh, and bring things you don’t mind not bringing back with you.
“Haunted houses are still new in Australia. The audience there is not like what you find here. They will scare differently.”
We’re given instructions on how to manage ticket collecting at the door…told to try to defuse situations at the haunt rather than be aggressive about them…told to watch out for Vietnamese gangs that might try to steal tickets from us.
And also? Fear the daystar.
“There’s no ozone layer over Australia,” B&B warn us.
“Ummm…say what now?”
“No, really,” R chimes in. “It’s a serious thing.”
B&B, as well as W, share stories of sunburn – “My eyelids got burned!” is one in particular that terrifies me – that make me want to run from the room screaming in terror. I can get more surnburn in 30 minutes than most people will get over an entire summer. Finally! Something I can for real legit worry about: How will I ever survive nearly a month without being burned to a crisp??
In the midst of my worry, it’s suggested I go get the metric poop ton of costuming I’ve brought along with me to go over character ideas with B2 while B1 continues to talk to the rest of the team. Part of the interview process for this gig was sending photos of myself in varied haunt costumes, and I thought I was more or less prepared costume-wise, but in my panic over sunburn and heat stroke, I’m already eliminating about half of what I’ve brought with me. (Admittedly, part of my problem is that my focus has always been more on operations than on performing; so, although I have characters, haunt acting is secondary to me.) B2 patiently dealt with my panicked self as I babbled my concerns at her, threw costuming all over her living room, and whittled my choices down to three. B2 then had a photographer-friend shoot some pics of me to be considered for use for a booth display B&B were taking to TransWorld in a few weeks…
Next was dinner, and then an extended bit of chatter after everyone but me had left (extended, in part, because I friggin’ love B&B and hadn’t seen them in much too long)…which means I got home ungodly late. But it was worth it. Because now not only did I feel more prepared, but – as previously mentioned – I now had something to actually obsess about…sun protection!
Back at home to repack my suitcases a few dozen more times over the next week, and then….to the airport we go!
* I wasn’t entirely this bad. I think. Probably.
…No, I was totally insanely bad.