There are few careers that are more difficult on a family than those that require you to be out on the road for long stretches of time. Missing birthdays, achievements, disappointments, and not being there to help your kids through them all can be difficult.
But the call of the road is strong for many, no matter the career.
For stage actors, regional and national tours are simply part of the job. Not everyone can visit New York and Broadway, so the national tours bring Broadway caliber performances to cities and communities across the country. Requiring the actors, musicians, electricians, behind the scenes staff, and more to hit the road for weeks or months at a time.
That’s especially true for the cast and crew of Guys & Dolls. The national tour is currently making its way through the U.S. and is stopping at the Keller Auditorium in Portland, Ore this week. For veteran stage actor and ensemble cast member Kelly Green, the show is the one that he just can’t turn down. Even knowing it means long bus rides, hotel rooms, and being away from his wife and three kids.
For our interview Green called from Fresno, California while the cast and crew were in town for a two night stop before heading off to Reno. With some time off in the morning, during our talk Green shared his passion for the stage, why he gave up the road after kids, and what keeps drawing him back after all these years.
“Guys and Dolls is an absolutely unique situation in that for me Nathan Detroit is the premier character actor’s role. There isn’t even another role as close to being fulfilling as Nathan Detroit,” Green said.
A member of numerous touring companies throughout his professional life, Green spent the early years of his career racking up the roles he coveted most. Which meant countless nights away from home and time getting short. “I got to the point in my career where I was getting older, my wife was getting older, and if we didn’t start having children we would have to make the decision not to and I’ve always, always, wanted to be a father.”
With a decision made, the lifelong actor was setting a new stage for himself and his family. “I was the one who said, ‘I gotta get off the road.’ My wife was a little aghast at the moment because she knows how much I get out of acting.” But the motivation for a career changing move was found in something missing from his own childhood.
“My dad’s a director of photography and he was very rarely home growing up. He’d be off shooting movies and I just remember how vacant that made me feel.” For Green, being at home and around his children daily during their formative years was not just necessary, it was mandatory. “Without a really balanced approach to being a parent it’s incredibly difficult for a child to learn boundaries, what is proper etiquette, on set behavior, all these things I knew I could teach just by having them around me.”
With a thriving and bountiful regional theater network in southern California, Green found himself being able to parent by day and star on stage at night. A life that lasted for years as he watched his three children grow up (two are teenagers, one on the cusp) around him. As they grew older he continued to enjoy the life regional theater provided, but there was someone who continued to call his name. Nathan Detroit.
Guys & Dolls is the quintessential Broadway show, with popular songs like “A Bushel and A Peck,” “Luck be A Lady,” “Sit Down, You’re Rockin’ the Boat,” and more that have bled into the mainstream. A show by any other name may not have the same magnetism for Green, making the decision to hit the road a careful and cautious one.
With the kids older and technology like Skype allowing him to check in and see them daily, the idea of going back on tour wasn’t as daunting as it once was. “We have scheduled times when I know I’m to call at a specific time,” Green said. “Usually I’m in contact with them two or three times a day depending on what my schedule is with the show.”
With smartphones and laptops easy travel partners, it’s much easier to be able to spend time together than ever before. “We spend a lot of quality face time with each child and then together as a group,” Green said. “Every child has slightly different needs and without being able to see their facial expression, it’s very difficult to be able to look at a text and and know the subtext behind it, whereas when you can see their face you can see if they’re being slightly melancholy or overjoyed. Sarcasm doesn’t go over well with the printed word I’ve discovered (laughs).”
As to whether he’ll become a mainstay on the road once again anytime soon. Green is quick to admit he’s happy with his life at home. But there is always a chance he says, just for the right role.
“If another show of Guys & Dolls goes on the road and they need a guy and cast me as that, I’ll go. But there are very few other shows I’d go on a national tour again for. Regional tours satisfies my soul, gives me an opportunity to extend awareness of who I am, but Guys & Dolls is probably the only show I’d do this for.”
Green has seen the lights, taken the bows, and watched the curtain rise and fall thousands of times. A well established actor, his most exciting role now is fatherhood and watching his kids follow in the footsteps of their father. “They’re also actors, extraordinarily gifted. My son actually books more jobs than I do at the moment,” Green said with a chuckle and pride only a father can share.
How do you stay connected with your family while on the road? Share your comments below!